A frequently asked question in Christian circles is, "Does everyone have spiritual gifts?" Let's get the answer from the Bible, and if the answer is yes, then why aren't the gifts of the Holy Spirit being taught?
Paul asks, "Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts …" (1 Corinthians 12:30-31).
Some have read Paul's words and asked, "Does everyone have spiritual gifts or not?" However, Paul has already alluded that everybody CAN have spiritual gifts by saying in verse 31, "But earnestly desire the best gifts."
Paul also writes, "How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, EACH OF YOU has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification" (1 Corinthians 14:26, emphasis added).
Paul's questions in verse 30 (above) are addressing the fact that not everybody operates in the nine gifts despite the fact that they can.
So, why doesn't every Spirit-filled Christian walk in the nine gifts of the spirit? It's mostly because of fear arising from a lack of knowledge.
Fear will stop you in your tracks just when you need to be stepping out in faith!
Our human nature tends to avoid the unfamiliar, especially when it causes us to feel uncomfortable.
The solution is to gain knowledge as it will dispel the fear. Then with experience and growing confidence we can exercise the gifts and fulfill God's calling.
Stepping out in the gifts for the first time is similar to getting onto a bicycle for the first time. Both require knowledge and momentum.
Once you are knowledgeable about the gifts, you can gain momentum by stepping out in faith while knowing that your Heavenly Father won't let you fail. Any lingering fear will be replaced with confidence.
We read in Scripture, "To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us KINGS AND PRIESTS to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 1:5-6, emphasis added).
However, Hosea prophesied, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being PRIEST for Me …" (Hosea 4:6).
It couldn't be clearer.
Does everyone have spiritual gifts? Yes, but we cannot easily receive God's gifts to operate in our priestly calling if we don't have knowledge of what they are and how they operate.
Once we learn the basic principles of the gifts of the Spirit and build confidence, we'll experience success in receiving them. Operating the gifts will become as familiar as riding a bicycle, and once you've done it, you'll always be able to do it.
But, you must first learn the basics and acquire some hands-on experience before you can go deeper. Thankfully, the Lord Himself gave some to be teachers for the equipping of the saints (that's us) for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).
We read in Isaiah, "Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10).
Paul considered it necessary to teach on the gifts. He writes, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant" (1 Corinthians 12:1).
Instruction in the gifts of the Spirit is necessary if we will avoid misunderstandings in their operation. Too often, well-meaning believers become overconfident and run with the gifts while making errors. All the while, they influence others who in turn make the same errors. Soon, needless ignorance has created hurt and havoc within the Body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit's desire is to manifest His presence, but far too many followers of Christ ignore His promptings to step out in the gifts. So what happens? They sit quietly in their seat, always waiting for the leaders to do the work of ministry.
Meanwhile, the leaders busy themselves in ministry while ignoring their calling to equip the people for the work of ministry. It's the opposite of what God intended.
We read in Scripture, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13).
So why isn't this happening? Both the leaders and the congregation are held captive to their fears and misconceptions because they lack knowledge and understanding.
Failing to do the works of Jesus, people will leave the dry meetings thirsty for the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit. Read what Isaiah prophesied:
"The harp and the strings, the tambourine and flute, and wine are in their feasts; but they do not regard the work of the LORD, nor consider the operation of His hands. Therefore my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst" (Isaiah 5:12-13).
Now, let's reread the above Scripture while substituting "church services" for the word feasts, and "spiritual gifts" for the word hands.
"The harp and the strings, the tambourine and flute, and wine are in their [church services]; but they do not regard the work of the LORD, nor consider the operation of His [spiritual gifts]. Therefore my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst" (Isaiah 5:12-13).
Ouch! Does it remind you of some services you've been in?
Sadly, far too many church leaders have neglected to teach on the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, and some have simply refused to do so. Why? There are several possible reasons:
NONE of the above can justify Christian leaders to neglect training their congregation in the proper operation and function of the nine gifts of the Spirit.
Jesus says, "'But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in'" (Matthew 23:13).
Back to the question: Does everyone have spiritual gifts?
The answer is a resounding YES!
Leaders, now is the time to introduce your congregation to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and if you find that you're unable, then bring in a teacher of the Word who's experienced in the gifts.
Accept that there will always be errors made when people are learning to exercise the spiritual gifts. It's inevitable. Even those seasoned in exercising the gifts can make mistakes on occasion.
Paul writes, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (1 Corinthians 13:9-10).
Until Jesus returns at the last trumpet to establish His Kingdom, and we're all changed in a moment to an incorruptible state, we can only exercise the gifts of the Spirit IN PART because in our current natural state we haven't the capacity to comprehend the full nature of God.
However, I firmly believe that God supplies us with knowledge on a need to know basis. If there's something of importance that we need to know and we've opened our minds to receive it, rest assured that the Holy Spirit will reveal it to us.
Scripture says, "[We] have TASTED the good word of God and THE POWERS OF THE AGE TO COME" (Hebrews 6:5, emphasis added).
Imagine. As we exercise the gifts of the Spirit, we're only experiencing a TASTE of the special abilities of the Kingdom to come. Until then, we must faithfully exercise the special abilities (gifts) of the Spirit in part.
Meantime, the answer isn't to clamp down on the gifts by simply ignoring them, or by preventing their operation because of the possibility of errors; that's error in itself.
The answer is to offer instruction and opportunity for the gifts to be exercised, and provide correction in love when it's required.
Does everyone have spiritual gifts? Paul the Apostle thought so. He strongly encouraged the operation of the gifts by EVERY member of the congregation. And whenever he encountered errors, he taught proper usage of the gifts.
Paul writes, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant" (1 Corinthians 12:1).
The Greek word ἀγνοέω (agnoeō), meaning ignorant, means by implication, to ignore through hesitancy, or reluctance. We are often fearful and reluctant to receive something when we lack information and don't quite understand what it is.
Finally, there are always some church leaders and congregations who steadfastly oppose the gifts of the Holy Spirit because of long-held personal beliefs, or their strong denominational position. In their spiritual blindness, they cannot accept truth, and I can only offer Paul's sage advice:
Paul writes, "But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will" (2 Timothy 2:23-26).
After it has been revealed through Scripture that the answer to the question does everyone have spiritual gifts is yes, some well-meaning Christian will ask, "Okay, I agree the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit are in the Bible and that Paul encourages Christians to walk in them, but do I really have to? Why place so much emphasis on them?"
Usually, the person asking the question hasn't any issue with the fruits of the Spirit or the five ministry gifts. What's often concerning them is an uneasiness about the supernatural nature of the gifts, and their responsibility to exercise the gifts.
Believers should never be indifferent or fearful of the supernatural when it's impossible to be a follower of Christ without embracing it.
Belief in Christ's virgin birth, His sacrificial death on the cross, His physical resurrection from the dead, and His bodily ascension into Heaven are all obvious supernatural events central to one's salvation.
Ignorance breeds fear and once believers gain a proper understanding of the gifts, especially the gift of discernment of spirits, they will no longer fear the supernatural realm, and they will more eagerly embrace the gifts and do the works of Jesus.
Does everyone have spiritual gifts? The answer is YES! We really need to drop every excuse and face the reality.
After discussing the spiritual gifts, Paul says, "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 14:37, emphasis added).
Paul considered the nine gifts of the Spirit necessary to the believer's walk in Christ, so let's be diligent to learn about them.