Words of Wisdom and Knowledge (12:8)
So let's begin by studying the nine gifts Paul lists in this passage.
"To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit...." (12:8)
Paul begins his list with two gifts related to a "word" (KJV), "message" (NIV), "utterance" (NRSV). The Greek is logos, a very common noun, "a communication whereby the mind finds expression, word." It is used primarily of oral expression, and could well mean, "message."
Paul mentions two varieties: wisdom and knowledge. In English we differentiate between these by saying that knowledge is related to knowing facts or having understanding, while wisdom is knowing what action to take in a situation. Greek seems to be similar. "Knowledge" is gnosis, "comprehension or intellectual grasp of something," while "wisdom" (sophia) is "the capacity to understand and function accordingly." You can probably imagine a person who is a genius so far as intellect is concerned, but an infant with his ability to live a normal life, that is, wisdom with regard to relating appropriately to family, to work, to neighbors, etc.
Here is what seems to make sense. The word of knowledge is a supernatural ability to know something that helps you minister to a person. This is more than an acute ability to "read" people -- though God uses that too. It is supernatural, something you wouldn't have known otherwise.
You can see Jesus modeling the gifts of the Spirit for us. Unlike some people who see Jesus' miracles as unique and impossible for anyone but the Son of God to perform, I see Jesus as our exemplar in ministry, who ministered supernaturally because the Holy Spirit was upon him (Acts 10:38; Luke 4:14) and because of his intimate communication with his Father (John 5:19). In fact, he told his disciples that they "will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father...." (John 14:12) "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7).
We see the word of knowledge in Jesus' ministry in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. He told her,
"You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband." (John 4:17-18)
The result of him sharing this information with her was her belief that he was a prophet, and her evangelization of her whole town.
I've seen the word of knowledge used in conjunction with ministries of counseling, exhortation, and healing. Yes, some abuse it and try to counterfeit it, but that doesn't mean there isn't a true gift of knowledge
Jesus models the word of wisdom in his confrontations with the Pharisees. They try to trick him into taking a position on Roman taxation. He asks for a denarius coin, inquires whose image is on the coin, and replies, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:18-22). It was an amazing answer to a trick question. Another example is Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11).
In our day we see an occasional situation where God shows someone in the church what action to take that is unexpected and profound. Perhaps this is a gift needed by church leaders so that they might guide Christ's church well.