In most cases, it seems that the New Testament paints a picture of a permanent possession of spiritual gifts. The passage by Paul refering to parts of the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 fits in with this idea. An eye does not become a hand, nor does a hand become an eye.
Paul also talks about possessing spiritual gifts when he says in 1 Corinthians 13:2 “If I have the gift of prophecy”. In the next chapter when Paul requires there to be an interpreter present for when someone speaks in tongues (1 Cor 14:28), he assumes that the church will know whether someone with the gift of interpretation in present, which implies that that gift would have been used over time by that person. He also says in 1 Corinthians 14:37 “If anyone thinks he is a prophet”, he realizes that some in the Church of Corinth have been functioning in the gift of prophecy for some time, frequently enough to think of themselves as a prophet. All of these verses above would point to a gift being permanent.
Paul again talks about ‘having’ a gift in Romans 12:6 and tell Timothy (1 Tim 4:14) “do not neglect the gift that is in you” again indicating that Timothy had that gift over a period of time.
So we see in the New Testament that generally people who receive spiritual gifts, have them over a period of time and are usually able to continue using them over the course of their Christian life.
However there are some gifts that maybe exercised fairy frequently, but still cannot be operated at will.
For example we see with the gift of healing, there are people who have the spiritual gift of healing and who operate in this gift frequently, however healing depends totally on God’s sovereign will in answering prayer for healing. So there are times when that person will pray for a sick person, and they will not be healed, yet on the other side there are occasions when someone without the gift of healing prays for a sick person and they are healed. The Holy Spirit can empower us at time to work even in areas which are not our spiritual gifts.
The same could be said for the gift of evangelism. There are gifted evangelists; however it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and regeneration, so a evangelist may pray and preach, but only God can save a sinner. Yet again, even if we are not called to be evangelists, the Holy Spirit can empower us as we seen last week ‘to share Christ boldly’.
We can see in the above examples that some particular gift maybe given for a unique need or event. For example the return of Samson strength for one final moment of his life (Judges 16:28) or the manifestation of the Spirit given to Stephen at the end of his life (Acts 7:55).
A spiritual gift can also be non-permanent in the sense that a gift can be taken away making it not permanent if a person neglects their gift or grieves the Holy Spirit (and seen with Samson). Again we have Paul warning Timothy of this (Timothy 4:14) and maybe also Jesus in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:29)
Finally, we can see in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, that in some sense all spiritual gifts are tempory since they are only for this age, and will be superseded by something far greater at the time of Jesus’ return.