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Imparting of Spiritual Gifts

Does the Assemblies of God believe in the practice of some believers who suggest that they are able to lay hands on people in prayer and impart specific spiritual gifts to them?

The practice of supposedly imparting spiritual gifts to believers by the laying on of hands is not a new phenomenon in Pentecostal circles. The Assemblies of God, during the 1940s, faced a near division over the teaching. The teaching and practice were key issues in a short-lived movement called the New Order of the Latter Rain.

This false practice, which typically begins with the laying on of hands is usually accompanied by prophecies about gifts of the Spirit and ministries that God has supposedly bestowed there upon the recipient. Such a practice is wrongly thought by participants to be superior to the usual ordination practice of prayer and laying on of hands for the ministry because such prayers involve no prophetic designation of the ministry and gifts the ordained person should exercise.

According to Scripture, however, the Spirit, and only the Spirit imparts gifts to Spirit-filled believers. “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” (1 Cor. 12:8-11).

When the Spirit bestows a gift, subsequent ministry will confirm that something supernatural is at work, not just a heightened natural talent. For a human to announce that a gift has been given may encourage the supposed recipient to do things in his or her own natural abilities rather than through the supernatural empowerment of the Spirit.

The most effective empowerment by the Holy Spirit happens when the recipient is not thinking of what he or she can do in behalf of the Spirit, but is obviously used by the Spirit in a supernatural manner that goes beyond any human talent or planning. Those who practice the laying on of hands along with an assumed prophetic utterance that names gifts given to the recipient run the risk of making the “spoken word” equal with Scripture. Paul told the Corinthian church that after a prophecy “the others should weigh carefully what is said” (1 Cor. 14:29). Just because a person is used by the Spirit to speak divine words for a specific occasion is not justification for that person to speak routinely, supposedly for the Spirit, in predictive prophecy. As the Spirit uses a yielded vessel in one or more of the gifts of the Spirit, the body of Christ will recognize and give affirmation to the Spirit gifting. Predictive prophecy about imparted gifts discredits the working of the Spirit when those gifts are not then seen in operation. Only the Holy Spirit can give supernatural gifts. There is no record in Scripture of humans prophetically imparting spiritual gifts.

A 1949 General Presbytery committee report observed in the Latter Rain departure from biblical teaching and practice a tendency to exalt the human spirit with messages announcing power, prominence, success, and spiritual gifts. The Assemblies of God believes that the Holy Spirit imparts spiritual gifts and then confirms the gifting by supernatural evidence following. Although we are to be vessels yielded to the prompting of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit does not rely on human announcement to proclaim the gifts He gives as He alone chooses.

The above is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching.