Q&A: All Nine Gifts?

All Nine Gifts?

Question

Can one man have all nine gifts of the Holy Spirit?

Answer

The short answer, from my perspective, is that there are more than nine gifts, and no one has them all.

Check out the answer I wrote for the question "Have the Gifts of the Spirit Ceased?" While that wasn't your precise question, it is good background for this discussion.

My own view of the gifts is that they are not limited to those listed in Scripture (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; 14; Eph. 4). Rather, I believe that the fact that we have different lists with different items indicates that each list contains only examples of the kinds of gifts the Holy Spirit gives. None of these lists claims to be exhaustive, and none is a "master list" which includes everything that appears on all the other lists. I believe that the Holy Spirit can and does gift Christians in any way he sees fit.

For me, the real question is "How does God determine what a fitting gift is?" As we look at Scripture, we find a number of different examples of gifts, as well as a few gifts that we can't define today (e.g. no one really knows what Paul thought a "word of knowledge" was; 1 Cor. 12:8). But in all cases the purpose for gifts is the building up of the church (1 Cor. 12:7). It also seems clear from Scripture that a spiritual gift is not a natural or learned talent or ability, at least not in the one gifted. That is, the gift may mimic a natural talent or ability, but in the case of an actual gift this talent or ability is bestowed by God's supernatural intervention. This doesn't rule out the possibility that God may require a person to go through a learning process (such as learning how to pastor, for example; Eph. 4:11). It simply means that God so superintends that learning process that the pastor learns and performs in a way that he would not have been able on his own. In other cases, God simply bestows a talent or ability that has not or even cannot be learned, such as prophecy or healing.

In my mind, anything can be a gift so long as the Holy Spirit bestows it, and so long as it serves to build up the church. If this is correct, then not all gifts are identifiable as such. When a gift mimics a natural talent (like teaching), it may not always be possible to determine whether or not it is a gift or a natural talent. Moreover, while it would be possible for God to gift a person with every natural and supernatural ability, we have never seen an example of such a person, and there would not seem to be any reason for such gifting (setting arguments regarding Christ's gifting aside for the present discussion). In fact, that kind of gifting would work contrarily to another stated purpose of the gifts: interdependency (1 Cor. 12:12-25). That is, God has gifted us so that we will all need each other. If one person had all the gifts, that person would seem, in some ways, not to need certain other people. But God's gifting does not work in this way, which indicates that no one has so many gifts that he or she no longer needs the gifts of others.

Further, Paul rules out the possibility of there being modern apostles when he writes that apostle is the highest gifting (1 Cor. 12:28), but then states that the highest gift the Corinthians should hope for is prophecy (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1). When we learn that the requirements of apostleship include that a person have seen the resurrected Christ bodily, have been directly trained by Christ himself, and have been outwardly called directly by God (Acts 1:21-25; 1 Cor. 9:1), it becomes evident that there are no apostles today. And when we learn that Paul was the last apostle (1 Cor. 15:8-9), as one "untimely born," it would seem fairly evident that he foresaw no apostles after him. If there can be no more apostles, then there certainly can be no one today who has all the gifts.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.