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Rodman Williams: The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today: Effects, Part 2

We might do well also to mention the words of Paul to young Timothy, his child in the faith: “Hence I remind you to rekindle45 the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6-7). The gift of God, the Holy Spirit, may now and again need to be fanned to a flame, but whenever or wherever this happens, any spirit of timidity will again become the Spirit of boldness—the “spirit of power and love and self-control.” Boldness in the gospel proclamation comes from the gift of God; so, should it wane, by the rekindling of the gift there will again be courageous witness.46

The boldness brought about by the Holy Spirit is a boldness unto death. It is a boldness, a courage, that lacking all shame and hesitation can say with the Apostle Paul: “It is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage47 now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). It is a boldness that does not exclude martyrdom.

Finally, and climactically, one of the great effects of the gift of the Holy Spirit is the deepening of fellowship. When the Spirit is given, both individual and group are so profoundly united as to create a fellowship of great love, sharing, community. It is the “koinonia”48 of the Holy Spirit.

On reviewing the account of what happened in the early church, there is an unmistakable stress on community. Before the Day of Pentecost, as we have noted, the disciples were “with one accord” (Acts 1:14) in prayer and when the day arrived they were “all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). The sense of unity is obviously intensified with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). Thereafter when Peter delivers his sermon it is not simply as an individual spokesman, but “standing with the eleven” (Acts 2:14) he addresses the crowd. A new and transcending koinonia has been brought about by the Holy Spirit.

Next, when some three thousand persons hear the word, are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,49 the text immediately reads: “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NASB). Here is a tremendous sense of togetherness—in study, breaking bread, prayer—that the Holy Spirit had brought about. One of the key terms is “fellowship,” or “koinonia”; and the fact that they devote themselves to koinonia signifies their profound new commitment to one another.

This commitment to one another is shown concretely in what follows: “all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have50 need” (Acts 2:44-45, NASB). This beautiful spirit of sharing and fellowship is shown also in the next statement: “And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together” (Acts 2:46, NASB). They sold property and possessions wherever there was need; they opened their homes to one another: thus were all things in common.51

The number of disciples now increases to about five thousand (Acts 4:4). But the spirit of unity only deepens. Two examples follow: first, after Peter and John report back to the company the threats of the Jewish council, the disciples “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24, KJV). With one voice52 and with complete unanimity—one accord53—they pray to God for boldness to continue to witness while the Lord heals and performs signs and wonders. Second, just following this prayer, wherein they are “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:31), their unity is powerfully described: “Now the company [or ‘multitude’]54 of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one [was saying]55 that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). Again, the commonality of possessions is expressed, but this time against the background of an intense unity in spirit: one heart and soul. It would be hard to imagine a more graphic or more extraordinary statement of unity than this—in that many thousands of people are involved.

A beautiful expression follows: “great grace was upon them all” (4:33). And this great grace is demonstrated further: “For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of lands or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need” (4:34-35, NASB). While the language does not imply that people sold everything they had (only lands and houses are mentioned), it does suggest a readiness to commit their most valuable possessions.56  Nor is this a profligate selling of properties—as if there were some special virtue in getting rid of earthly things57—but a selling for the purpose of bringing the proceeds to the apostles58 that every need might be met.

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Category: Spirit, Summer 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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