How does God distribute spiritual gifts?
Question: "How does God distribute spiritual gifts?"
Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12 make it clear that each Christian is
given spiritual gifts according to the Lord’s choice. Spiritual gifts
are given for the purpose of the edification of the body of Christ (1
Corinthians 12:7; 14:12). The exact timing of when these gifts are given
is not specifically mentioned. Most assume that spiritual gifts are
given at the time of spiritual birth (the moment of salvation). However,
there are some verses that may indicate that God sometimes gives
spiritual gifts later as well. Both 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6
refer to a “gift” that Timothy had received at the time of his
ordination “by prophecy.” This likely indicates that one of the elders
at Timothy’s ordination spoke under God’s influence of a spiritual gift
that Timothy would have as an enablement for his future ministry.
We are also told in 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 and in 1 Corinthians 14:12-13
that it is God (not we) who chooses the gifts. These passages also
indicate that not everyone will have a particular gift. Paul tells the
Corinthian believers that if they are going to covet or long after
spiritual gifts, they should set aside their fascination with the
“spectacular” or “showy” gifts, and instead strive after the more
edifying gifts, such as prophesying (speaking forth the word of God for
the building up of others). Now, why would Paul tell them to strongly
desire the “best” gifts if they already had been given all that they
would be given, and there was no further opportunity of gaining these
“best” gifts? It may lead one to believe that even as Solomon sought
wisdom from God in order to be a good ruler over God’s people, so God
will grant to us those gifts that we need in order to be of greater
benefit to His church.
Having said this, it still remains that these gifts are distributed
according to God’s choosing, not our own. If every Corinthian strongly
desired a particular gift, such as prophesying, God would not give
everyone that gift simply because they strongly desired it. Why? Where
would be those who are needed to serve all of the other functions of the
body of Christ?
There is one thing that is abundantly clear, God’s command is God’s
enablement. If God commands us to do something (such as witness, love
the unlovely, disciple the nations, etc.), He will enable us to do it.
Some may not be as “gifted” at evangelism as others, but God commands
all Christians to witness and disciple (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). We
are all called to evangelize whether or not we have the spiritual gift
of evangelism. A determined Christian who strives after learning the
Word and developing his teaching ability will become a better teacher
than one who may have the spiritual gift of teaching, but who neglects
In summary, are spiritual gifts given to us when we receive Christ, or
are they cultivated through our walk with God? The answer is both.
Normally, spiritual gifts are given at salvation, but also need to be
cultivated through spiritual growth. Can a desire in your heart be
pursued and developed into your spiritual gift? Can you seek after
certain spiritual gifts? 1 Corinthians 12:31 seems to indicate that this
is possible - “earnestly desire the best gifts.” You can seek from God a
spiritual gift and be zealous after it by seeking to develop that area.
At the same time, if it is not God’s will, you will not receive a
certain spiritual gift no matter how strongly you seek after it. God is
infinitely wise, and knows with which gifts you will be most productive
for His kingdom.
No matter how much we have been gifted with one gift or another, we are
all called upon to develop a number of areas mentioned in the lists of
spiritual gifts...to be hospitable, to show acts of mercy, to serve one
another, to evangelize, etc. As we seek to serve Him out of love, for
the purpose of building up others for His glory, He will bring glory to
His name, grow His church, and reward us (1 Corinthians 3:5-8;
12:31-14:1). God promises that as we make Him our delight, He will give
us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4-5). This would surely include
preparing us to serve Him in a way that will bring us purpose and
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How does God distribute spiritual gifts?