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

The book of Acts, accordingly, is far more than the acts of men—or “Acts of the Apostles.”3  For though men are everywhere involved, it is basically the acts of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Spirit that stand forth. God is present in a compelling manner; the sense of His presence and action is markedly known and experienced. All that happens finds its source and direction from Him. That God is real is the basic fact in the life of the early Christian community.

Now what has been said about the experienced reality of God in the early church is again being confirmed in the contemporary movement of the Holy Spirit. A spiritual breakthrough is occurring wherein people are being made profoundly aware of the divine presence. Through the outpoured gift of the Holy Spirit, God in His divine reality is manifesting Himself. That God is real is being affirmed by countless thousands, not as simply an affirmation of distant faith, but of vivid, undeniable experience.

Living in a day of the “absence” of God—the “eclipse” of God, even the “death” of God4—this spiritual breakthrough is a tremendous fact.5  For the unreality of God has become the actual situation for vast numbers of people. This is the case not only for the secular world but quite often for people inside the church. It is a matter of the Real Absence rather than the Real Presence. Often even when the gospel is preached, the Bible fully accepted as the Word of God, the sacraments regularly shared in, there is little spiritual vitality. This may be the case also for churches that lay much stress on evangelistic and missionary activity; there is little spiritual vitality. This may be the case also for churches that lay much stress on evangelistic and missionary activity; there is little excitement about the presence of the living God in the midst of His people. But now through the outpouring of God’s Spirit, all is changing for many persons: there is spiritual rejuvenation, renewal—an overwhelming sense of the divine presence.6  For God is possessing His people in a profound manner, pervading the heights and depths of creaturely existence, even through the conscious to the subconscious life, and becoming the recognized primary actor in all that takes place.

Thus the community of believers, experiencing the divine visitation, is becoming much like the early church. As at Pentecost, people are declaring with full fervor the mighty works of God, they are witnessing to the gospel with tremendous enthusiasm and boldness, and signs and wonders are occurring on every hand. They are looking to the Holy Spirit for a “Thus saith the Lord,” and like Peter, Paul, and others, they are hearing a word and moving by divine direction. When God is real and powerfully present, all of life is set in a different key—and the church becomes afresh the church of the living God.

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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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