I was always taught that the gifts of the Spirit were only for those who have first received the Spirit. The Scriptural justification given was usually an appeal to 1Corinthians 12:13, where in the context of discussing spiritual gifts Paul said, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.” Paul went on to compare the church to a human body, arguing that each person has a function in the body of Christ based on His spiritual gifting. It is argued, then, that if one has not received the Spirit, He is not in the body of Christ, and thus does not have a spiritual gift. I think this interpretation is mistaken both exegetically and logically.


Exegetically, Paul does not make the point those who advance this idea claim he is making. He does not argue that one must be in the body of Christ in order to have a spiritual gift. He simply notes that of those who are in the body of Christ because they have received the Spirit have a spiritual gift as well. The only thing we can gather from the text is that having the Spirit is a sufficient condition for having a spiritual gift; we cannot conclude that it is a necessary condition. While all those in the body of Christ have a spiritual gift, that does not preclude anyone who is outside the body of Christ from having a spiritual gift. Having the Spirit may be the norm for those who have a spiritual gift in NT times, but it does not mean there can be no exceptions.


Logically, it is clear that the gifts of the Spirit are not predicated on one’s possession of the Spirit. The OT saints operated in the gifts of the Spirit even though they were not filled with the Spirit. One may counter that the spiritual gifts Paul spoke of are different than what we see operative in the OT, but why should we believe that? How does an OT miracle differ from a NT miracle? How did one’s ability to discern different spirits differ in the OT from the NT? Only two of the nine spiritual gifts are unique to the NT period (different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues). The rest were exhibited in days of old, and thus there is no reason to think that one must have the Spirit to have the gifts of the Spirit. Again, that may be the norm during the current dispensation, but there is no good reason to believe it is a hard and fast rule.