In our daily meditation yesterday, we talked about God giving Rhema words of life that come to us as God speaks through His Word, or sometimes through what is preached or taught. Here is part of what Paul the apostle wrote about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, calling it the word of knowledge:
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance (i.e., word) of wisdom, and to another the utterance (i.e., word) of knowledge according to the same Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7-8 ESV).
A word of knowledge is an insight given to a believer into another person’s past which ministers God’s present love into their current problems and struggles. A word of knowledge reveals heartfelt secrets that only our omniscient God could know for the purpose of displaying God’s care and concern for that person’s needs. “A word of knowledge is usually defined within charismatic circles as the report of a specific piece of information that a person could not possibly have known naturally” (Adrian Warnock).
Some churches believe that such gifts of the Spirit have passed away, but when you examine the ministries of some of the great leaders in church history, you find them walking in such giftedness without ever drawing attention to the Holy Spirit’s work in giving it. For instance, there is none more famous in Baptist churches than Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 –1892). Spurgeon himself wrote about occasions where the Holy Spirit gave him words for people while he was preaching. He writes,
“There were many instances of remarkable conversions at the Music Hall; one especially was so singular that I have often related it as a proof that God sometimes guides His servants to say what they would themselves never have thought of uttering, in order that He may bless the hearer for whom the message is personally intended. While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, “There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!” A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, “Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?” “Yes,” replied the man, “I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and, under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place; Mr. Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon, he pointed to me and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir. I should not have minded that, but he also said that I took ninepence the Sunday before and that there was fourpence profit out of it. I did take ninepence that day, and fourpence was just the profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterward, I went, and the Lord met with me and saved my soul.”
Spurgeon elaborates that his experience of the word of knowledge (not his term) was not uncommon in his ministry:
“I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends,” Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.” And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbors with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, “The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door.”
Charles H. Spurgeon, The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Vol. 2: 1854-1860 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1899), 226-227.