Paul made a very interesting statement connected to the concept of impartation.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established – 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Romans 1:11-12 (NKJV)
Prior to defining impartation I want to look at the fruit of it in Romans 1:12, the phrase translated as “may be encouraged together” is a single compound word in Greek and this is the only occurrence of it in the scriptures.
συμπαρακαλέω sumparakaleō verb Comfort together.
In the New Testament it occurs only in Romans 1:12. Here Paul used it to express this common meaning, “That I may be comforted together with you . . . . ” Since this example is in the passive voice, it could be translated “that I may receive comfort (or strength) together with you.”
The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Sigma-Omega.
The idea Paul is expressing is that through impartation there would be mutual comfort received, that is, Christ’s body would be strengthened. A key factor in receiving from the Holy Spirit through others is hunger. However, Paul first ties impartation to being ‘established,’ that is to be strengthened or confirmed. So there is a connection between impartation and establishment or strengthening, and the fruit it His body being built up.
Paul’s statements below are connected to the concept of impartation. Even though he does not use the word here he is describing the reality of impartation.
19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV) 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. 1 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 1:27-2:3 (NKJV)
How was Paul laboring for the Galatians? Two ways really, he was standing in the gap in intercession. Seeking through prayer to bridge the gap between where they were and where they needed to be and he was sharing spiritual truth with them through his letter. These were both means of impartation to bring them to maturity.
In the Colossians passage above Paul speaks if his readers maturing through his preaching and teaching and then describes his travail for them, he is referencing intercession. So with different language he is laying out the same process he did for the Galatians. My point? The life of Jesus can be imparted to us for spiritual growth in a variety of ways.
In my own experience impartation works most effectively face to face through sharing and through the laying on of hands and praying. Paul described this as well.
14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 1 Timothy 4:14-15 (NKJV)
Something was imparted to Timothy through prayer and prophecy and he was now responsible to steward this gift. Paul was well aware of this through both knowledge and experience.
1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. Acts 13:1-3 (NKJV)
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out Acts 14:14 (NKJV)
In Antioch, prior to being sent out (the word apostle means ‘sent one’) Paul and Barnabas were both called to be apostles but functioned as prophets and/or teachers as the text above says. When they were sent out they were now commissioned as apostles and a chapter later referred to that way. Some authority was imparted through the laying on of hands.
So part of spiritual growth in our lives is connected to impartation. A key qualifier for receiving impartation is recognizing the need. A pattern in Paul’s ministry from beginning to end was that he sought prayer and ministry from others. If we read his letters chronologically, the first one being Galatians, Paul comes across as a bit arrogant, yes an apostle but not yet fully mature in Jesus. At the same time he had a depth of relationship where Jesus was being revealed through him to others and his behaviour sprang not from pride but from his passion for the gospel. Still by the time we arrive at his last letter, 2 Timothy, we find a much more humble apostle. My point, the early church leaders where still fallible people growing in maturity, a key being continued growth in Christlikeness over their lifespan. Growth rooted in impartation.
For us to grow we need a heart to receive. Many years ago I read a story that illustrates this well, there are various versions of it. A professor heard of an old man who, though not well educated, was well known for his wisdom. The professor arranged an appointment with him because he said he wanted to learn some of his wisdom. When they sat down together the professor talked a lot about what he knew and the wise man listened. After a while the old man offered the professor tea. He began to pour and when the cup began overflowing the professor said, “Stop, the cup is too full.” Yes said the wise man, just as you are too full of your own opinions. If you want to learn you must first empty your cup.”
I had an experience like this a couple of years ago. A fellow from another province was here to learn about some of the things we do at the office where I work. He met with some of us individually and he and I had an appointment so he could learn about my work area. At the end of our 30-40 minute meeting I knew a lot about him, his background, and his work, he knew very little about mine! I never offered him tea as he already had coffee!
I’m not claiming to be the wise old man but I do know some things and have some expertise. However, my general approach is to open doors for people and invite them in, they choose whether or not to enter. I have had a few people over the years ask for perspective on something then talk endlessly, their behaviour clearly contradicting their stated desire. On the other hand I have had the opportunity to mentor and invest in many lives and deeply appreciate it. I enjoy teaching not because I like being at the centre of attention, I often find it uncomfortable, however I put up with it because I enjoy seeing people learn.
My qualifier is that the reason I now have something to give is that I have received a lot from others! I have studied the scriptures, listened to and learned from others, and I been prayed for by many others. I sought out mentors both in my career and in my spiritual walk and I always seek to remain teachable and to learn. Even where I work my supervisor is a couple of years younger than me but I greatly respect his leadership and have learned a lot from him the past few years, some of it painfully! He is by no means perfect but my focus is not on where I may think he needs to change but on what I can learn from him to improve my own leadership.
So, is our cup sufficiently empty to receive from those whom He sends to teach us? Do we need impartation?