Led by the Spirit

10. Gifts of revelation

Summary of the gifts of revelation

a. Message of Wisdom
… supernatural revelation of divine purpose.
b. Message of Knowledge
… supernatural revelation of facts in the divine mind.
c. Distinguishing of spirits
… supernatural sight into the realm of spirits.

Luke 21:14 (NIV) But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

The message of wisdom (a gift of revelation)

The place of wisdom

Prov 4:7 (NIV) Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

We should note that wisdom is the first of the gifts mentioned in 1.Cor.12. This confirms the Scripture quoted above as to its place. Wisdom is linked with understanding i.e. knowledge. A perversion of wisdom can enter without knowledge being present. To exercise wisdom without the broadening influence of knowledge brings forth fanaticism

The influence of this gift in the spiritual life can hardly be overstated. It is needed in all our ministry and is to be sought after earnestly as it will enrich and bless the church.

What kind of wisdom?

The unlearned often suggest, that this message of wisdom is a natural result of the maturing mind sanctified to the service of God. Such a view would necessitate the argument that the gift of tongues was merely a linguist’s gift consecrated to God. Experience clearly denies this. Paul, who was a great scholar makes the point clear.

1 Cor 2:4 (NIV) My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,

A definition

The gift of a message of wisdom is the supernatural revelation of the mind and purpose of God, communicated to man by the Holy Spirit.

Illustrations of the uses of the gift

This is much needed for effective preaching of the Word of God. The church is greatly blessed when the Holy Spirit moves through the preacher to show a small portion of the wisdom of God. It surely operated in the preaching of the Apostle Paul. (c.f. the first three chapters of Corinthians.)

In Apostolic Ministry: consider how often the leaders of the early church needed this gift in directing the affairs of the church. (Acts.15:28 could have been an example.)

In Oversight Ministry: this is a precious gift for those who are required to care for the personal needs of the flock and problems of the flock of God.

In Business Matters: a great need for those given the care over the temporal matters of the church. Consider the first deacons chosen for this work.

Acts 6:3 (NIV) Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.

In Emergencies: always there is the possibility of receiving from the Lord a “word of wisdom” that will dispel the confusion, resolve the uncertainty and reveal the method of solution.

Not permanent

The gift of a message of wisdom is never permanent as a gift in the sense that one person has an unfailing fount of wisdom at all times and in all circumstances. It is a short WORD of wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit to the spirit, or mind of the believer, to meet a special need. Some may have this gift operating more frequently or more consistently than others; but each time it is manifest it is a new flash of divine wisdom, a quick revelation of the Spirit, given in response to faith, for the benefit and profit of some member(s) of the body of Christ.

1 Cor 12:7 (NIV) Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

The message of knowledge (a gift of revelation

A fragment of knowledge

This second gift of revelation is closely related to the message of wisdom. God is all knowing, as He is all-wise. In Christ are hidden all wisdom and knowledge.

(Col 2:2-3 NIV) that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, [3] in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to take a fragment of that knowledge of all things and impart it to a member of the Body of Christ, as and when the occasion requires. This is a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit, giving knowledge of people, things, events and happenings, which could not be gained in any other way.

Knowledge joins with the gift of wisdom in the following, very excellent, definition.

“Wisdom is knowledge rightly applied”

This thought needs to be kept in mind when we are used by the Holy Spirit to bring such gifts to the church.


i. The “Message of Knowledge” is a supernatural revelation by the Holy Spirit of certain facts from the mind of God to His spiritual children. It is not the giving of human knowledge, but a fragment of God’s divine knowing.

ii. It is NOT knowledge that may be acquired either by study or consecration. It is knowledge miraculously conveyed. This knowledge comes in the same way as speaking in tongues. Tongues is an utterance miraculously given.

iii. It is not the gradual accumulation of facts about God or man, but a divinely granted flash of revelation of things completely hidden from human senses and faculties.

iv. It is not an acquisition, but a gift.

v. Not a faculty but a revelation. The faculty is God’s ability.

vi. The message is miraculous with no admixture of the natural.

vii. Not a vocal gift. It becomes vocal when being shared with others. Note that this sharing is not always called for by the situation. Sometimes it is better to remain silent.

viii. We contribute nothing. It is our calling to receive in faith.

Potential misunderstandings

i. The Message of Knowledge is sometimes confused with theological knowledge. However a profound and diligent study of the bible will not reveal the things shown by this gift.

ii. Similarly, neither a long and faithful service, giving a real and precious knowledge of the Lord, or a rich experience of His ways can result in the revelations given by the “Message of Knowledge”. Being old in years, or rich in experience is not relevant to the miracle of revelation given through this gift. The example of Samuel and Eli shows how this can be so. (1 Sam.3.)

iii. Some have suggested that the knowledge is natural ability, natural learning and natural enlightenment. If it were any of these the word “spiritual” gift would not be used as these are “natural” accomplishments. This knowledge will never make a scholar, and a scholar by scholarship will never attain to this knowledge.

Some examples of the Gift

i. Peter knew by revelation that Annanias and Sapphira had sinned.

(Acts 5:3 NIV) Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?

ii. Timothy was given a message of knowledge concerning the end times.

(1 Tim 4:1 NIV) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

Some ways in which God reveals God’s message

i. Visions: When the ordinary consciousness and perception of natural circumstances are withheld, and we become aware of a “picture” or “vision” imparted by God.

ii. Dreams: The story of Joseph. (Gen.37. Acts.2:17.)

iii. God acts upon our mental faculties: There is an inner illumination of the mind and we become conscious of the inner revealing God’s purpose.

(Gal 1:12 NIV) I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Distinguishing between spirits (a gift of revelation)

Revealing all things

This gift completes the three revelation gifts. Everything within the realm of knowing is embraced by these gifts. Past, present or future, both in the earthly and spiritual realm are open to the Holy Spirit’s revelation. Knowledge of facts, purposes, motives and destinies, be they of man, of the divine, or of satanic origin can be laid bare. Within the reach of these great “searchlights” of God lies all the knowledge of God. If the Holy Spirit so wills, there is nothing that God knows that may not be revealed through one or more of these three gifts.

Seeing into the spiritual

Distinguishing between spirits is entirely supernatural. It differs from the Messages of Wisdom and Knowledge in that its OBJECT as well as its operation is supernatural. This is seen in the name, DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN SPIRITS. The other gifts are equally supernatural in operation, but are not equally supernatural in the things they reveal. (i.e. their objectives.)

Distinguishing between spirits gives a supernatural insight into the hidden realm of the spiritual existence. The gift conveys information that could not be had apart from this endowment. As it operates in the church, we are given insight into the source and nature of any manifestation or spirit influence whether divine or satanic, as the Holy Spirit guides and equips during spiritual warfare.

(Eph 6:12 NIV) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Note: This gift is NOT discernment, but “Distinguishing between spirits” There is no such thing as the gift of discernment.

What it is not

This gift is not the revelation of a person’s thoughts or heart. We need to understand that there are many persons who have great “natural” ability in perceiving wrong motives or weaknesses of human character in others. This is the development of ordinary human powers of intelligence and judgement. Others are able because of a sensitive nature to perceive emotional characteristics more clearly than most. There is no need for a miraculous gift concept to explain these cases.

Fields of study such as psychology are based on such knowledge of human frailty and behaviour. Such ability and knowledge can help us to live more comfortably with one another but we must not be deceived into thinking that this is in some way a “gift” of the Holy Spirit. Such human knowledge is fallible and subject to error as is all human kind’s knowing.

Some ways in which the gift may be seen in the church

In matters of doctrine and ministry the Holy Spirit may reveal ungodly spirits.

2 Cor 11:13-15 (NIV) For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

As the church moves to set the captive free in the ministry of deliverance, this gift is often given as seen in Paul’s experience.

Acts 16:16-18 (NIV) Once we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

A caring ministry

In the ministry of this gift great care must be taken not to in any way allow a judgemental attitude to enter in to the relationship and to keep our hearts clear of a critical spirit. To move in the love of Jesus and with tenderness and compassion is to be at one with the Holy Spirit’s intent that the person might be set free indeed.