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The Word of Knowledge

OK, this might be a bit controversial, as I’m going to challenge a charismatic shibboleth…

I have had a blog entry in preparation for a couple of years now on the meaning of “word of knowledge”, as I am not sure that the what charismatics tend to use this phrase to mean is what Paul means when he uses it. Many charismatics use “word of knowledge” to refer to supernaturally obtained knowledge about a person. For example, when Jesus says to the woman at the well, “you have five husbands”, this would be seen as a “word of knowledge”. Personally I think that this would more naturally be called a gift of “prophecy” (Gk: propheteia) or even “revelation” (Gk: apocalypsis).

What’s more, there are some concerns I have with the way this gift is used. Very often it takes the form of announcing a specific fact about a non-specific person in a meeting. In other words, it starts with “there is someone here who…”. Now all the examples of “words of knowledge” that can be found in the Bible were directed specifically at the person they relate to. This meant they could be tested, at the very least by the recipient of the word of knowedge. And where Christians use any spiritual gift, that gift should be tested.

I think this non-person-speicific approach can result in “words of knowledge” that are very vague and therefore can be seen as a risk-free form of prophecy, where there is no come-back if it misses the mark. I sometimes hear what I call “words of statistical probablity” e.g. “there is someone here with a bad back” in a room of 500 people. People argue that it causes faith for healing to rise in the hearers. I would say that I have spoken to many for whom this type of utterance leads to skepticism. I have seen non-Christian magicians wow gullible people with probability tricks – “does the name ‘Steve’ mean anything to you?”. I’m not saying that God can’t give a specific prophecy without telling the prophet who it is for, but it just strikes me as out of keeping with the biblical precedents we have.

Anyway, I am not convinced we have enough exegetical material to know exactly what Paul means when he talks about a “word of knowledge”. It is only mentioned briefly in passing (1 Cor 12:8), and not given a definition. The Greek word for “knowledge” (gnosis) could refer to natural knowledge – the type you get by studying and learning, but also could refer to supernaturally revealed knowledge (hence the “gnostics”).

So which is it? Let’s survey the places the word occurs in 1 Corinthians to see whether it refers to knowledge obtained by natural means (i.e. being taught), or by supernatural revelation.

1 Cor 1:5 in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge – probably natural knowledge

1 Cor 8:1 we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. – again probably natural knowledge

1 Cor 8:7 However, not all possess this knowledge. – again natural knowledge (also 1 Cor 8:10,11)

1 Cor 12:8 to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit – the verse in question. not enough information from the context to decide

1 Cor 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. – could be either in this context.

1 Cor 13:8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. – OK, now we have the feeling that Paul can use “knowledge” to refer to some kind of supernatural revelation. Surely we will not all be ignoramuses in heaven.

1 Cor 14:6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? – I’ve seen lots of attempts to differentiate between these four terms. I have no idea who is right. Here’s my suggestion. Paul is saying: “revelation or knowledge … in other words … prophecy or teaching” i.e. revelation is another word for prophecy and knowledge is another word for teaching. Its only a guess though.

1 Cor 15:34 For some have no knowledge of God. – this is talking about personal knowledge rather than factual so doesn’t help us

I won’t bore you with all of Paul’s other uses of this term (and there are a lot), but suffice to say that on the whole when “knowledge” refers to knowledge of factual information rather than personal knowledge of God, its source seems to be through natural means. So someone teaches us doctrine, or we study the scriptures ourselves, and we come to have knowledge – knowledge of the truth about God, about doctrine, about the mystery of salvation. In other words, with the exception of 1 Cor 13:8, it seems Paul does not usually use knowledge to mean “something that I didn’t learn from any person or book – God dropped it into my head”. Prophecy or revelation are the words to describe that. What’s more, the knowledge Paul is usually talking about seems to be doctrinal in nature – which again is out of keeping with the idea of facts about people being the normal content of a “word of knowledge”.

So on balance I am tempted to think that the gift of knowledge refers to some who has a working understanding of the Bible and a good grasp of theology, who edifies the church by explaining things to people, whether it be one on one, in a small group context, or in a teaching ministry. They bring a “word of knowledge”, by applying that knowledge in a way that teaches people, and gives them insight to see and appreciate how the Bible applies to them, and to understand God and the gospel better. This is not a dry intellectual gift – the Holy Spirit is impressing these truths on them as they study the word so they can share them with others.

What prompted me to finally post about this was that I listened to Mark Driscoll preaching on 1 Cor 12 (listen here), and he takes a similar line, arguing that the person with this gift is a “book geek” who loves to study and research, and is over the moon at the arrival of a new parcel from Amazon. People with this gift assimilate loads of information and like to hear all sides of an argument. They become a “google for Jesus” as people come to them to ask difficult questions and they love to explain what they have learned in a way that is accessible. Although its a long sermon, its well worth listening to. He also explains in it that his position on the gifts is that he is a “charismatic with a seatbelt”, and his definition of how you know whether you are in a charismaniac church is hilarious (11 minutes in to the sermon). The discussion of the gift of knowledge is towards the end of the sermon.

Anyway, whatever the gift of “knowledge” really means, I like the idea of studying to be a “google for Jesus”. I think that kind of describes a lot of Christian bloggers – theology book lovers who are looking for people to share what they have read with.

http://www.wordandspirit.co.uk/blog/2006/08/11/the-word-of-knowledge/

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Familiar Spirits

I was trying to figure out how many times that I had preached at my former church and I think that I have over 1,000 times not counting revivals and mission trips plus the Monday nights in Tuscaloosa. In addition to that, I also have attended hundreds of charismatic church services and sat in class every day for two years in a Charismatic seminary.

I have a tremendous amount of experience in the Charismatic Movement which is based on the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. In the Charismatic church you have the running, dancing, falling out, tongues messages, mail readings, supposed faith healings, words from God, personal prophecies, words of wisdom and on and on. It is a common experience in the Charismatic church to have someone come up to you and speak into your life. I have had this happen to me so many times that I cannot remember. I have had dozens of church members and ministers come up to me and say, “God told me to tell you…………….” or “Thus saith the Lord………..”.

Think about it. Joe the plumber comes up to you at church and tells you that Almighty God Lord Jehovah has personally spoken to him about your personal life. Or you walk into a meeting and the prophet calls you to the front and starts telling you, in front of everyone, your junk. I have had more than one prophet “read my mail”. It use to fascinate me how these people were able to hear from God.

Trouble is that I became close and intimate friends with several people that moved in the gifts. One person told me that they could “read people’s mail” even before they were saved. My wife Coni can do it. That’s one reason why I could never cheat on her. She would know. She knows everything it seems.

But is she hearing from the Holy Spirit or a familiar spirit? I had another popular minister tell me that his ministry was partly “Mental” which was his way of saying he manipulated people. Often in the prayer line he would grab people by their head and scream JESUS. It would scare the crap out of them. The adrenalin rush would over ride the symptom, and he knew it. He had a routine, of putting pressure on people by standing them up and asking if they had been healed. Of course, peer pressure and manipulation would influence them to testify that they had been healed. I have been to this ministers meetings many, many times and have never seen a single real healing outside of a stomach ache.

I have had other minister friends look me right in the eye and tell me exactly what was going on in my life. In each case, I can debunk what happened. My personal life is all over the Internet. I have been on TV and in the papers. I always shared my heart from the pulpit, and my Cd’s are all over the world. It would be very easy to read my mail.

I firmly believe that much of what happens in the Charismatic church is emotion, learned behavior, peer pressure, mass hysteria and fearfully, Familiar Spirits.

I did a word study on Familiar Spirits. You can Google it and read many articles. Familiar comes from a Latin word that means family. It was thought that certain sorcerers, witches and wizards could have a household spirit to help them with charms, healings and knowing mysteries. This is in the Bible too. Familiar comes from the Hebrew word “OB” which means: a leather vessel, like a wine pouch. They believed that people could be vessels to spirits.

I believe that many people in the Charismatic Church have opened themselves up unto demonic deception and activity by seeking words from Prophets and such. I believe that it is a dangerous thing, to have a mere man tell you that he is speaking on the behalf of God with personal information about your life. These situations are almost always in a public setting.

I wonder, if I have the Written Word of God and the Holy Spirit living inside of me, why should I listen to what some yahoo has to say to me? I will not receive any “word” from anyone. I will receive biblical preaching, biblical counseling, biblical teaching, but I will never ever again subject myself to the mutterings of so called and self anointed prophets.

I know many people who are wasting their time holding on to some word some preacher gave them about something. I met one minister that pastors 30 people in a country church. He has had 30 people for like 30 years.

Nothing wrong with that, but he got up in front of us and said that God told him he would have a thousand people in his church. Well, he is getting on up there in years, so I hope it happens in a hurry. I have seen so much abuse and manipulation in this movement. Oh I wish I had a dollar for everyone that has told me that God has spoken out loud to them. I would build a mega church in Sudan! I could write about this subject all night long. more later.

http://faithpreacher.blogspot.com/2008/10/familiar-spirits.html

 

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