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

Thus, as Jesus unfolds the mystery of the sending of the Holy Spirit there is a progression from the Father to the Son. The Father is primary in all activity, and therefore ultimately He gives or sends the Holy Spirit,6 as the first two Johannine passages disclose; however, even in these two the Son is intimately involved, for it is at His request that the Father sends the Spirit, and He does so in the Son’s name. But once it has been clarified that the Father is the primary actor, Jesus moves on to state that it is through Himself that the Spirit comes. Then follows the beautiful transition in the third passage where Jesus says that He (not the Father this time) will send the Spirit but that the Spirit is “from the Father.” Here the extraordinary balance is shown: for while it is Jesus finally who sends the Spirit, nonetheless the Spirit is from God, the Father. Having stated in the three passages these relationships between the Spirit and the Father, and only against that background, does Jesus finally say—with no reference to the Father—that the Son will send the Holy Spirit.

One additional point before reflecting further on the sending, or giving, of the Holy Spirit, is that Jesus, in one of the Fourth Gospel passages, speaks of the Spirit as proceeding from the Father: “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26). Thus not only is the Father the primary agent in the sending of the Spirit, but He is also the source of the Holy Spirit: the Holy Spirit “proceeds” from Him. This procession of the Spirit from the Father is important to recognize; for it emphasizes that when the Holy Spirit is given, it is a continuation of the eternal procession7 of the Spirit from the Father. Thus the Holy Spirit goes back to the eternal source of all things. The Holy Spirit is from God, the Father, and is therefore Himself also God. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit is sent to the world, nothing less than the eternal God Himself comes.

To return now to the sending of the Holy Spirit: we may say that both the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit8  in the sense that the Father sends the Spirit through the Son. There is no sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father except through the Son, and therefore the Holy Spirit who is sent by the Father is received only through the mediation of Jesus Christ. Thus, in the ultimate sense, the Holy Spirit is sent from the Father, but in a proximate sense He comes from the Son.

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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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