THE WORD OF WISDOM
by Walter Beuttler
Consulting first of all the dictionary for a definition of ordinary, natural wisdom, we find that it is “the faculty enabling one to make the best use of knowledge,” or “the faculty of using the best means for the best ends.” “The word of wisdom” is a manifestation of the Holy Ghost through a Spirit baptized believer, giving in the language spoken by the individual, an utterance of divine and SUPERNATURAL wisdom. Its source is not the human intellect, but Christ “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom”, Col. 2:3, even that wisdom by which he made the heavens, Psa. 136:5, for which the human body becomes a channel of expression through an operation of the Holy Spirit. This wisdom is not merely abstract, i.e., existing in mind only, but being “the WORD of wisdom,” it is an UTTERANCE of supernatural wisdom. Its fundamental difference from natural wisdom, no matter how well developed or sanctified that may be, lies in its supernatural character of origin and manifestation. It is given in a time of crisis when ordinary wisdom would be entirely inadequate and serves as a most effective defense as well as a simultaneous counter attack against the cunning devices of men.
The use of “the word of wisdom” as a defense is contained in a reply Jesus gave to his disciples. “They will deliver you up to synagogues and to prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my sake. Make up your minds, however, not to prepare a defense beforehand, for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to withstand or reply to.” Luke 21:13-15, (Wey.). Using this passage in connection with one of its actual fulfillments as recorded in Acts 6:8 to 7:60, we see three basic facts relative to “the word of wisdom” that stand out in clear relief from the surrounding detail.
First, we have one of the circumstances under which “the word of wisdom” may be expected to operate, namely, a crisis affecting the kingdom of God. The real issue involved in such a crisis is not so much one of believers vs. unbeliever, as it is one of God vs. Satan, both working through human agents. In such a case Satan is the complainant “one who enters a formal complaint before a magistrate”, and God is the defendant “one against whom an action is brought.” This is well illustrated in the case of Stephen when he was brought before the council and accused by false witnesses, Acts 6:11-14.
As a second point, we see the attitude that we are to take in such a crisis, which must be passive and not active. This requires faith under such circumstances, for it is much harder to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” than to engage in activity. The easier, though unsuccessful method, would be to devise our own strategy through an elaborate defense. But faith is essential to the manifestation of “the word of wisdom” as well as to that of the other gifts of the Spirit. The disciples were not to prepare a defense because it lay not in their ability to effectually do so. Their own wisdom was not sufficient, and had they made plans anyway, God’s channel would have been obstructed and together with their unbelief, prevented Him from giving them an utterance of supernatural force and character. That He was not speaking of a wisdom latent within them is clearly expressed in the statement “I will give you utterance and wisdom.”
The use of “the word of wisdom” need not be confined however, to a crisis brought about by legal action such as is referred to in Luke 21. Its scope of usefulness extends far beyond that as seen in the life of Jesus, of which his answers on the tribute money, Luke 20:19-26, and on the woman taken in adultery, John 8:1-9, are outstanding examples. In the first instance Jesus was in danger of getting into a legal tangle, in the second instance he was in danger of getting into an ecclesiastical tangle. These crises were specifically designed by his enemies with Satan providing the inspiration. The seriousness of their nature is better understood when some of the circumstances connected with them are taken into consideration. We should also remember that these crises did not arise on account of a careless or willful departure from the will of God. Where such is the case, the promise “I will give you a mouth and wisdom”, could not be any more applicable then the promise “They shall take up serpents”, Mark 16:18, when a poisonous snake is deliberately chosen for a sensational demonstration.
The question about the tribute money was not raised for information, but was used only as a pretext to “entangle (to ensnare) him in his talk.” Matt. 22:15. This they wished to do because he had told them the truth, Luke 20: 9-18, and “they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.” Luke 20:19. Their hypocrisy referred to in Mark 12:15, is demonstrated by their flattery, “we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth.” Matt. 22:16. Their craftiness cited in Luke 20:23, is expressed in their words; “neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.” Matt. 22:16. With this statement they sought to elicit from him the very answer which they desired “so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.” Palestine was then a Roman province and had Jesus given them the faintest chance to accuse him of insubordination, they would have caused his arrest and led him triumphantly into the prison cell. Likewise, when they brought the woman taken in adultery, their motive was “that they might have to accuse him.” John 8:6. They hoped that he would abrogate the law of Moses on this question. In view of the fact, that the law of Moses was the law of God, Jesus could not deny that an adulteress should be stoned, but in view of salvation through faith in a substitute that was to come, he could not affirm it. But in both instances there was given Him a supernatural answer by “the word of wisdom” that has been the admiration of men for nearly two millenniums. In both cases, the crisis not only ceased to exist, but the enemies were non- pleased and went away in utter defeat through a manifestation of “the word of wisdom.”
The third point is the outstanding effect of “the word of wisdom” on the opponents which is one of inability “to withstand or reply.” In the case of Stephen “they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake.” Acts 6:10. In the case of the question on the tribute money “they marveled, (“to be affected with astonishment and surprise”), and left him, and went their way.” Matt. 22:22. And in the case of the woman taken in adultery, they were “convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last.” John 8:9. These three instances of the occasion, operation and effect of the manifestation of “the word of wisdom” clearly reveal the twofold use of the valuable gift as an impregnable defense and as an irresistible attack. However, the usefulness of “the word of wisdom” is not limited to private encounters with wicked men, but is also a divine and essential equipment for anyone occupying the office of “government” (lit. to steer, pilot, direct), I Cor. 12:28. The public meeting provides an important sphere of usefulness for the exercise of this gift and is at times wholly dependent on spirit-gifted pilots for its successful conclusion.
The mention of a personal experience along this line may be helpful to clarify the nature of “the word of wisdom” and emphasize the necessity of such divine equipment. I was in charge of a meeting where the congregation was divided because of certain doctrinal view-points. In the course of one of the testimony meetings, a sister arose and made a lengthy discourse about her erroneous beliefs and with it challenged me publicly for a show-down. While she talked it became apparent that I was compelled to make some statement, although realizing that unless this statement was exactly what it should be, irreparable harm might be the result. Being utterly at a loss to know what to say, I asked God in my heart to keep her talking until I could think of an answer. This being of no avail, and realizing that I was at my wits end, I said again to the Lord, “this is your meeting and I am helpless to do anything about it.” Presently the sister sat down and to my own surprise, I received a brief and unpremeditated answer which was very simple and did not touch the doctrine in question at all. As a result, the whole situation was saved and the meeting continued without any further difficulty.
There are doubtless many and varied circumstances in which “the word of wisdom” may be expected to be manifested, but it will always be characterized, first; by a need; second by a supernatural unpremeditated utterance of divine wisdom, and third; by the outstanding effect of this utterance. God does not leave us helpless at the mercies of our enemies, therefore, “to one is given by the Spirit, the word of wisdom.” I Cor. 12:8.