In my previous post, I asked the question, “Is an apostle a super-Christian with all of the spiritual gifts?” Using Paul as an example (primarily because we have more information about him and his life in Scripture), we see that while Paul is identified as an apostle and identifies himself as an apostle, he actually exhibits almost all (if not all) of the spiritual gifts through his life.
So, does the scriptural example of Paul indicate that an apostle is some type of “super-Christian” who is imbued with all spiritual gifts, and perhaps even that the spiritual gift of “apostle” actually encompasses all other spiritual gifts?
I don’t think so. In fact, I believe that Paul is an example of how God works through all of his children who yield their own will and desires and submit themselves to him. You see, in Scripture, while only a few may be given a particular spiritual gift, it is not only the people with that spiritual gift who are responsible for and able to serve in that manner.
What do I mean? Well, this is easiest to see in the spiritual gifts of serving, giving, and encouraging. While only some followers of Jesus are given those spiritual gifts, all followers of Jesus are exhorted to serve, give to, and encourage others. Thus, these types of service are not only for those with the particular spiritual gifts. It’s even easy to see that evangelism (i.e., proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ) is not only left up to those who have been given the spiritual gift of evangelism (i.e., the evangelists).
What about other spiritual gifts? Consider the spiritual gift of teaching. If only the person with the spiritual gift of teaching (i.e., the teacher) was responsible for and able to teach, then every believer would not be exhorted to teach. (See Matthew 28:19-20 and Colossians 3:16 for two examples.) Paul even says that all are able to prophesy, not just those given the spiritual gift of prophecy. (See 1 Corinthians 14:31, where the “all” who are able to prophesy is parallel to the “all” who learn and are encouraged, and Paul’s encouragement to all believers in Corinth to “earnestly desire to prophesy.”)
I think the same parallels came be drawn to the other spiritual gifts as well, even the spiritual gift of being an apostle and of shepherding.
In other words, like Paul says that the end of 1 Corinthians 12, no, all do not have the same spiritual gifts, but all can serve in many different ways as God directs them and provides opportunities. When we yield to God, we do not have to wait for a “teacher” to begin teaching. We do not need to look for someone who is an “apostle” to travel somewhere away from home. We do not have to wait for a “pastor” before we begin caring for people. God can (and does) serve other in these ways even through his children who are not gifted in those ways.
In Scripture, we can see the examples of God doing this through his children – especially in the life of Paul, although also in the lives of others. In the same way, we can trust that God will use us and others to serve as he needs us to serve even if we may not be specifically gifted in that form of service.
So, I would conclude that the gift of “apostle” does not include all spiritual gifts. Instead, while God may give one of his children only one spiritual gift (or certain spiritual gifts), he can and does use them to serve others through many other different ways (as we see in Paul’s example).