1 Corinthians 12:7-11 (NIV):

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

What is the difference between a message of wisdom, a message of knowledge and a prophecy in the context of the gifts of the Spirit?

  • @user38524-See updated Answer to this important Question by Ray Grant, one who has been blessed by being ministered to by these awesome ministries!
    – ray grant
    Jul 23, 2023 at 22:14

3 Answers 3


The simplest way to answer this question is to quote their contextual lexical meanings. We have the three words of 1 Cor 12:7-11 as follows (from BDAG)

  1. Wisdom σοφία (sophia) occurring 51 times in the NT - BDAG gives three basic meanings but only the first of which concerns us here. Within this first meaning, BDAG has two sub-meanings of which the second is relevant:

(1) The capacity to understand and function accordingly, wisdom, ... (b) transcendent wisdom (a) wisdom that God imparts to those who are close to God, eg, Matt 12:42, Luke 11:31, 21:15, Acts 7:10, Rev 13:18, 17:9, etc. ... As a spiritual gift the λόγος σοφίας (1 Cor 12:8) Paul differentiates between his preaching to unbelievers and immature Christians and Σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις 2:6a; the latter he also calls λαλοῦμεν Θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ set forth the wisdom that come from God as a mystery V7.

  1. Knowledge γνῶσις (gnósis) occurring 29 times in the NT - Again, BDAG provides three basic meanings for this word of which the first is relevant here.

(1) comprehension of intellectual grasp of something, knowledge, eg, Rom 11:33, 1 Cor 8:1, 7, luke 11:52, 2 Cor 6:6, 2 Peter 1:5ff, 1 Peter 3:7, 2 Cor 4:6, 1 Cor 1:5, Rom 15:14, 1 Cor 13:2, 2 Cor 8:7, etc. ... Although here γνῶσις and σοφία are almost synonymous, Paul distinguishes between them in 1 Cor 12:8; he places γνῶσις between ἀποκάλυψις and προφητεία 14:6, and beside μυστήρια 13:2, and thus invests them with the significance of extraordinary mystical knowledge, a meaning which the word has in H. Greek, especially the mystery cults. ...

  1. Prophecy προφητεία (prophéteia) occurring 19 times in the NT - Again, BDAG provides three basic meanings (extremely close in this case) of which the second is relevant here:

(2) the gift of interpreting divine will or purpose, gift of prophesying, eg, Rom 12:6, 1 Cor 12:10, 13:2, 8, 14:22, 1 Thess 5:20, Rev 19:10.


The three spiritual (supernatural) gifts described in 1 Cor 12:7-10 can be summarized as:

  1. Wisdom: sagacity of judgement and discernment
  2. Knowledge: comprehension of the divine revelation
  3. Prophecy: Communication of the divine will to others

The last of these is reasonably well understood. The distinction between the first two is more difficult. The overly simplistic way to immediately grasp the difference is: knowledge is an understanding of something but that does not impart the wisdom of which way to actually decide to turn.


Difference between wisdom, knowledge, and prophecy?

Knowledge: accumulation of information and facts.

Understanding: It is the one who can see how one fact relates to another.

Wisdom: A person who has wisdom is able to combine knowledge with understanding and put them to work in a practical way.

A practical application of this is Jesus' parable of the two men , that each built a house. Read Matt 7:24-27

Matthew 7:24-27 (NASB)

The Two Foundations

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and [a]acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell and the [b]floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not [c]act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell and the [d]floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and its collapse was great.”

The one-man is described as wise, and so thinking ahead of the consequences, wisely build his house on the rock with good foundations. The other although knowing the facts went ahead and build his house on the sand and so when the rain came and the winds blew, the house fell. The scriptures refer to the wise person as using, sound or practical wisdom:

Proverbs 3:21, 23 (NASB)

21 My son, see that they do not escape from your sight; Comply with sound wisdom and discretion, 23 Then you will walk in your way securely, And your foot will not stumble. Prophecy:


1/ A Divine command,

Ezekiel 37:9-10 N (NASB)

9 Then He said to me, “Prophecy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘The Lord God says this: “Come from the four winds, breath, and breathe on these slain, so that they come to life.”’” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

2/ A Divine revelation- Prophecy who slap you.

Luke 22:63-64 (NASB)

63 The men who were holding [a]Jesus in custody began mocking Him and beating Him, 64 and they blindfolded Him and repeatedly asked Him, saying, “Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?”

3/ Jesus reveals to the Samaritan woman things about her past.

John 4:17-19 (NASB)

17 The woman answered and said to Him, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this which you have said is true.” 19 The woman *said to Him, “[a]Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.

4/ Foretelling the future.(Predictions are numerous in the scriptures.)

Isaiah 24:3 (NASB)

3 The earth will be completely laid waste and completely plundered, for the Lord has spoken this word.

Jeremiah 2:4 (NASB)

4 Hear the word of the Lord, house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel.

Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB)

God’s Final Word in His Son

1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us [b]in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world.

  • Just to make sure, do you consider this definition of "word of knowledge" a particular case of prophecy?
    – user38524
    Jan 2, 2021 at 14:37
  • Spirit Realm Investigator This knowledge was miraculous, beyond the scope of the learning that was available to all Christians. For example, the apostle Peter may have used "word of knowledge" when handling the case of Ananias. The spirit of God revealed to Peter what he could not otherwise have known​—that Ananias had secretly lied to the congregation about a financial matter.​(Acts 5:1-5.) This miraculous gift " word of knowledge" was available to help the young Christian congregations in the first century, it is not available to Christians today-it is not a particular case of prophecy. Jan 2, 2021 at 18:26
  • 2
    it is not available to Christians today - I'm pretty sure many people would disagree with this statement based on their personal experiences.
    – user38524
    Jan 2, 2021 at 18:35
  • 1
    @OzzieOzzie has the perfect come? “but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:10‬ NO! as such neither have the gifts stopped. Has the end of the age come? NO! we are still in the church age, as such the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation. The issue is “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days... having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:1, 5‬ these are the days when denying of the Spirit’s power is in bloom among professing forms of godliness preachers. Jan 2, 2021 at 19:12
  • 1
    @OzzieOzzie - in case you feel like watching a couple of testimonies: 1, 2.
    – user38524
    Jan 5, 2021 at 2:36

Biblical Examples Perhaps the best way to understand these Gifts of the Spirit is to (1) first realize that they are supernatural, God-given ministries. These are not just natural gifts a person was born with.

(2) Then another way to comprehend the nature of these giftings is to see how they operated in the New Testament. For example:

(A) Wisdom – Words of truth that are God-sent, God-originated

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power...We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not with the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age who are coming to nothing. No, we speak the of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Corinthians 2:4-7)

(B) Knowledge – A knowing of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And ability to address them, correct them, expose them, etc. (Or encourage the fearful, distressed, etc.) The actions of Peter exposing Ananias and Sapphira my fall under this category.(Acts 5:3-4)

An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside Him. Then He said to them... (Luke 9:46-48)

Others tested Him by asking for a sign from heaven. Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them... (Luke 11:16-17)

(C) Prophecy – The foretelling of the future; or, as in the O.T., the giving of a Word of God to a decadent people, unjust society, or doomed nation.

During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and through the Spirit predicted a severe famine... (Acts 11:27)

But I say to all of you: in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26:64)

Overlapping Since all these charismatic gifts are from the same Spirit... by the same Lord... and the same God working all of them there may be some overlapping in definition. (1 Cor. 12:4-6) Theologians can at times, be too technical, and scrutinize, or analyze ad infinitum and lose the overall "spirit" of the blessedness of the charismatic benefits!

But the Church has been immeasurably blessed by the outpouring of these gifts over the centuries, and their operation among the saints!

This salvation... announced... confirmed... testified to by signs, wonders, and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to God's will. (Hebrews 2:1-4)

  • @agarza-If I were quoting a commentator, I would use normal type face. But to set them off, when quoting Scripture, I always use italics. This highlights the Holy Writ. But you keep changing my italics to normal type! Is there a grammatical explanation for this?
    – ray grant
    Jul 24, 2023 at 20:51
  • The blockquote already differentiates regular text from something that is quoted, even if you are quoting the Bible; there is no need to add italics. In addition, for those individuals that have a visual impairment that uses a screenreader, marking something in italics triggers emphasis to them; which is not needed in a blockquote. Something similar happens when entire paragraphs are bolded; this can add confusion to those that are visually impaired.
    – agarza
    Jul 26, 2023 at 0:22
  • 1
    @agarza-Thank you for your response, and needed information.
    – ray grant
    Jul 26, 2023 at 21:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.