A gift is a gift
Last time we saw how the gifts of the Spirit are just that – gifts. They are not, nor can be, a payment, a reward or ours to have ‘by right’. If you receive a present on your birthday you neither offer to pay for it nor see it as a reward for the way you have behaved. You certainly have no ‘right’ to it; it is a measure of the giver’s generosity and love for you. So how are they given? There are various ways.
1. Sovereignly by God as He wishes
1 Corinthians 12 is probably the most often cited reference when considering spiritual gifts. Paul opens the chapter by telling the Corinthian church that he does not want them to be ignorant about spiritual gifts and goes on to show how they are needed for the health of the whole body. In 1 Cor 12:4-6 he speaks about the great variety of gifts, ministries and effects, all being under the watchful eye of the Trinity. Then in 1 Cor 12:11 we read that the Spirit distributes the gifts as he wills.
Another example is seen from the record of the launch of the church in Jerusalem. Much of the early life and practice are described in Acts 2. Starting with the day of Pentecost we find in that it was the Spirit who gave them utterance as the disciples spoke in tongues on that memorable occasion (Acts 2:1-4).
2. In response to prayer
We are exhorted to ‘desire earnestly’ spiritual gifts, but ‘especially that you may prophesy’ (1 Cor 14:1). The passage suggests that this earnest seeking and desiring should be through prayer. For example, ‘Let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret’ (1 Cor. 14:13), interpreting a tongue being one of the gifts.
3. Through impartation by others
Writing to the church in Rome Paul says ‘I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you …’ (Rom. 1:11). He also wrote to Timothy exhorting him to ‘kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands’ (2 Tim. 1:6). In the Old Testament we have an example of impartation through relationship/discipling/association, namely Elijah to Elisha following Elisha’s request ‘let me inherit a double portion of your spirit’ (2 Kings 2:9-10).
Who is eligible?
Referring again to chapter 12 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians it seems that every baptised-in-the-Spirit Christian should be exercising at least one gift, for we read, ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good’ (1 Cor 12:7). So, all who are baptised in the Spirit are equipped to manifest the Spirit for the benefit of others. Indeed, that is why we should be baptised in the Spirit; we are not equipped to live full Christian lives without the Spirit dwelling in and operating through us.