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Rodman Williams: The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today: Effects, Part 1

For example, in the case of Peter’s ministry it is clear that the reality of God’s presence pervades everything. In his message to the large Jewish audience in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-39) he speaks of God with authority, of Jesus Christ with the assurance of personal knowledge, of the Holy Spirit with the certainty of profound experience. He later pronounces healing in the name of Jesus Christ as in the name of one who powerfully and personnally present (Acts 3:6), and “filled with the Holy Spirit” he does not hesitate to proclaim salvation even to the rulers, elders and high priests (Acts 4:8-12). So real is the presence of God in the community of believers that Peter declares that to lie about a certain matter is to lie against God—”You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4). Further, the witness of Peter and the others about Jesus is known by them to be a co-witness with the Holy Spirit—”We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given” (Acts 5:32). Also, the Holy Spirit, prior to Peter’s going to Caesarea, speaks directly and personally to him—”the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down, and accompany them without hesitation; for I have sent them'” (Acts 10:19-20).

Likewise, from the outset of Paul’s ministry there is a compelling sense of God’s reality. The personal self-disclosure of the risen and exalted Lord to Saul of Tarsus—”I am Jesus” (Acts 9:5) and the ensuing experience of being “filled with the Holy Spirit” (9:17) made of Saul a man whose life and activity thereafter were dominated by the reality of God’s living presence. “Immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God'” (9:20); and this proclamation, like all else Paul thenceforward did, stemmed from the indubitable certainty of God’s pervading presence and action. One telling illustration of the presence of God in Paul’s missionary activity is that wherein the apostle (with Timothy) is led by the Holy Spirit to cross over from Asia Minor into Europe. First, he was “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia,” and, second, when he purposed to go in another direction, “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:6-7). Therein is unmistakable testimony to the reality of the divine presence and direction in whatever Paul did. Throughout Paul’s ministry there is a continuing sense of the activity of the Holy Spirit.2

The book of Acts is the record of a church intensely aware of the presence of God. When the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch meet together, the Holy Spirit is markedly present—”While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'” (Acts 13:2). When the apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem convene to make a decision about the matter of Gentile circumcision, they send a letter which includes the words: “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden” (Acts 15:28). Throughout, it is a church—whether in Jerusalem, Antioch, or elsewhere—moving and acting in the reality of God’s spiritual presence.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2004

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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