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Rodman Williams: The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today: Background

Thereafter, on the same day the promise is likewise extended to Peter’s audience and to their children, and to those of other times and places. So says Peter: “You shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him” (Acts 2:38-39).

Finally, turning to the Epistles we find two references to the promise of the Holy Spirit. First, Paul writes in Galatians about receiving the Spirit (Galatians 3:2) and then adds, a few verses later, words about receiving “the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14). Second, Paul writes to the Ephesians that they were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (literally, “the Holy Spirit of promise”—Ephesians 1:13). So in these two letters, written to communities of Christians who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is described as the “Spirit of promise.” Hence, once again it is the divine promise, the promise of God, that stands behind the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What is exciting about this promise is that it was by no means limited to the New Testament period. As we have noted, Peter declares it is “unto you and to your children and to all that are far off,” hence people of all places and generations. The promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit therefore belongs to us also in our time.

This last statement brings us to the opening words in this book, namely, that many people in our day are claiming a like experience of the gift of the Holy Spirit. If this is the case, there surely stands behind them the divine promise. Their experience of the Holy Spirit therefore is grounded firmly in the never failing promise of God.1

B. The Exaltation of Jesus Next, the gift of the Holy Spirit comes from the exalted Jesus. This is the Jesus who has been exalted to the right hand of the Father; it is He who sends (or pours) forth the Holy Spirit. The centrality of the exalted Lord Jesus is accordingly critical to a proper understanding of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Here we must take our direction from the New Testament, for the Old Testament prophecies do not include reference to a Messianic figure who will be communicator of the Spirit of God. The most direct New Testament statement concerning the role of the exalted Jesus is that found in Acts 2:33 (quoted in part above): “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this … Jesus, the risen Lord, had said just before His ascension: “Behold, I send [or “send forth”]2  the promise of my Father upon you …” (Luke 24:49). Thereafter Jesus, risen from the dead and exalted at the Father’s right hand, sends forth the Holy Spirit.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2002

About the Author: J. Rodman Williams (1918-2008), Ph.D., is considered to be the father of renewal theology. He served as a chaplain in the Second World War, he was a church pastor, college professor, and key figure in the charismatic movement of the 1960s. Beginning in 1982, he taught theology at Regent University School of Divinity in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and became Professor of Renewal Theology Emeritus there in 2002. Author of numerous books, he is perhaps best known for his three volume Renewal Theology (Zondervan, 1996).

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