Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.Deuteronomy 34:9
Impartation isn’t a word that every Christian tradition uses, but every Christian tradition does it in one form or another. To “impart” means “to give, convey, bestow, release, transmit, or confer.” For example, “The teacher imparted knowledge to her students.” Or, “The spices imparted flavor to the dish.”
Impartation carries with it the idea that something of value is being released or transmitted from one thing and given to another thing, or from one person to other people. Within the Body of Christ, there are at least five different kinds of impartation that exist for different purposes. With each of these five we’ll examine the primary mechanism used for impartation, the purpose of that type of impartation, and identify those who do the imparting.
1. Impartation of Truth
Primary mechanism: teaching
Purpose: Upgrade for our mind/thinking
Who does it? Anyone can impart truth, but some are particularly gifted who have the gift of teaching.
The impartation of truth can be seen in nearly every Christian tradition. Teaching and preaching are the primary ways that truth gets imparted either through a sermon, seminar, or bible study setting. The apostle Paul charges his protege Timothy to do just that:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.2 Timothy 4:2-4
2. Impartation of Wisdom/Character
Primary mechanism: modeling
Purpose: Upgrade for our actions/decisions
Who does it? Anyone can impart wisdom, but some are particularly gifted with wisdom and are more seasoned with life experience.
The impartation of wisdom and character happens primarily through modeling wise living and wise decisions. It happens by spending time with people who have learned important lessons from life experience. It happens less by instruction and more through conversation and life together. It’s about watching someone live well and imitating what they do. Paul said it this way to the Corinthians:
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.1 Corinthians 11:1
3. Impartation of Life/Courage
Primary mechanism: encouragement/affirmation
Purpose: Upgrade for our heart/confidence
Who does it? Anyone can impart life with their words, but some are particularly good at it who have the gift of encouragement.
The impartation of life and courage happens through the spoken word, specifically, words of affirmation and encouragement. Words are often more powerful than we realize. James 3 reminds us that words can build up and tear down. The proverbs remind us that words can impart life or death:
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.Proverbs 18:21
4. Impartation of Authority
Primary mechanism: impartation prayer/laying on of hands
Purpose: Upgrade for our responsibility/authority
Who does it? Anyone can impart authority, but it most often has to come from those already in authority who are raising someone else up.
In most Christian traditions this kind of impartation is most clearly seen in the ordination ceremony of new pastors. Often, a group of elders will lay their hands on a young pastor who is being ordained into vocational ministry and will impart or confer their blessing and authority onto the young minister. While most people assume this is just a ceremonial rite of passage, throughout scripture we see the laying on of hands confer a real transference of authority. In other words, this isn’t just for show. Something is really being transferred in the spirit realm. We not only see Moses do this with Joshua (Numbers 27:18-20) but we also see this happen with the deacons in the early church.
“…choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.Acts 6:3-6
5. Impartation of Anointing/Spiritual Gifts
Primary mechanism: impartation prayer/laying on of hands
Purpose: Upgrade for our spiritual gifting/anointing
Who does it? Anyone can pray to impart increased anointing and spiritual gifts because, ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit doing it, but some are particularly gifted who have the gift of impartation.
While most Christian traditions understand the reality and importance of the first four types of impartation, only a few actually understand and practice this kind of impartation. I have personally been on the giving and receiving end of this kind of impartation (mostly the receiving end) and it is very real and very powerful. With this kind of impartation, there is a transference of anointing, power, or spiritual gifts when one person lays hands on another (sometimes a transference of all three!). We see this kind of impartation happen both in the Old and New Testaments and we need more of it in the Church today. Here are some samples of it happening in scripture:
Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him.Deuteronomy 34:9
The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.”
So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.1 Timothy 4:14
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.2 Timothy 1:6
Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. These two went down and prayed for them so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. (For the Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then Peter and John placed their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the Holy Spirit.Acts 8:14-17
Just as some people are particularly gifted with teaching or wisdom or encouragement, the same applies here. Some people in the Body of Christ are particularly gifted with impartation. What it means to operate in any spiritual gift is that the Spirit seems to move more powerfully when a person is operating in a gift than when they are not. Again, we see this truth play out with teaching and leadership and other spiritual gifts.
But the same applies to those who are gifted with impartation gifts. When a person who is gifted in this way prays for the impartation of anointing to happen or the impartation of gifts to happen, the sheer volume of impartation that happens in the room is more. This is why, if we want powerful teaching, we need to sit under a person gifted with teaching gifts. And if we want wisdom, we need to be around people gifted with spiritual wisdom. Likewise, if we want to receive an upgrade in our spiritual gifts, power, or anointing, it is helpful to receive prayer from a person gifted with impartation.
There may be more than these five types of impartation, but these five are extremely important for the Church today. If we want to raise up the next generation to live like Jesus, it’s going to take a Church that is able to impart all of these things in all of these ways.