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

As a result of this, prayer and praise fellowships, renewal communities, and transdenominational Christian centers have developed in many parts of the world. Some are communities of shared goods and properties, of a daily common life together. Some fellowships exist within the more traditional church structures and seek to exercise a renewing influence, others exist alongside (para-congregational), or function totally separate therefrom. But wherever such communities are found, it is essentially the same spirit of praise, fellowship, witness and concern.64

The reaction, it might be added, from those observing is often either one of attraction or opposition. Some find themselves strongly moved by the sight of people praising the Lord, meeting together many hours in lively prayer and expectation, showing great concern for one another. They have yearned for such a deeper fellowship, and want to become a part. Many have grown weary with traditional forms and seemingly lifeless patterns of religious activity, and here they sense life, power, vitality. Thus do persons in the renewal find favor (cf. Acts 2:47) with people around, and many are added to their number. But others manifest opposition to the movement. Sometimes this comes from the world at large that has little use for anything deeply religious and spiritual, but most often it comes from within an established church order. The renewal, in this case, is viewed with suspicion, even as a threat to some, and attitudes vary from cautious tolerance to strong opposition. These differing reactions—from attraction to repulsion—suggest that something is occurring in the fellowship of the Spirit of unusual significance for the whole church.

It seems quite possible that this renewal in the Spirit is the most profound ecumenical development of today. This development has witnessed many attempts to bring churches together, to get beyond the scandal of division, and to recover that oneness which the church at least verbally affirms. And there have been varying degrees of success: formations of councils, mergers of some churches and surely many prayers for unity. Indeed, there is a growing sense that division is intolerable, that it is a huge obstacle to faith, and that Jesus’ prayer that “they may all be one …so that the world may believe” (John 17:21) must somehow find an answer. Such is the growing ecumenical concern: and its solution, we affirm again, is to be found only in and through the renewal of the Holy Spirit.65  As people, as churches, as individuals are profoundly renewed by the Holy Spirit the whole situation is transformed from a search after unity to its realization.

Surely hazards mark the way. For example, people renewed in the Spirit may allow a party spirit to set in, thus draw back into denominational enclaves or groups that no longer fellowship with others, or begin to emphasize certain minor doctrinal points to such a degree that the unity of the Spirit is increasingly broken. Sometimes spiritually renewed groups set themselves apart from other groups, and follow a particular leader or teaching, no longer recognizing the unity the Spirit has brought about. Indeed, there are hazards—and situations that need repentance and correction. However, the overarching fact is that through the renewal of the Spirit there is a new and profound gift of unity that alone can bring into fulfillment the genuine oneness of the body of Christ. When this is realized afresh, and is acted upon accordingly, the prayer of the Lord may find its ultimate fulfillment.

It would seem appropriate to conclude with the words of Paul that “God’s love has been poured into our hears through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). For truly when through the gift of the Holy Spirit the love of God is shed abroad in the hearts of all, then there is a profound creation of fellowship, sharing and unity with one another. Through such God-given love we become the koinonia of the Holy Spirit.

 

PR

The Epilogue and Bibliography appearing in the Fall 2004 issue concludes the series.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today: Epilogue and Bibliography

Notes

14. The RSV reading “when we believed” as earlier noted (Chapter 5, fn. 10, in the Summer 2003 [6:3] issue of the Pneuma Review, p. 15-16) is misleading. “Having believed” or “believing” is preferable.

15. Such cleansing of the heart therefore obviated the necessity of circumcision. Or, to put it a bit differently, what really counted was not circumcision of the flesh but circumcision of the heart. And God Himself had performed the operation!

16. For Roman Catholic beginnings see The Pentecostal Movement in the Catholic Church by Edward D. O’Connor. Also see Catholic Pentecostals, which contains much of the story.

17. For example, the Kathryn Kuhlman meetings in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and elsewhere during the 1960s and seventies were notable examples of how teaching of the gospel was certified by the witness of healing. The climax of the meeting was not the various manifestations that occurred but the call to salvation. When that call went forth, amid the almost overwhelming signs of God’s powerful presence, great numbers of people would come forward to receive salvation. See Kathryn Kuhlman, God Can Do It Again (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1971), especially “Miracles Do Happen,” pp. 7-26.

18. RSV has “spirit.” Upper case seems preferable (as in KJV).

19. The Greek word translated in the RSV as “sonship” is huiothesias, literally “adoption” (as in KJV). Believers are “sons of God by adoption” (unlike Jesus Christ who is eternally the Son of God), and thereby can address God as “Father.”

20. The biblical expression is “abba! ho pater!” “Abba” is an Aramaic word that expresses an intimate family relationship of child to father. In English the closest similarity might be “daddy” or “dad.” However, since there are some connotations of this common family term that seem not altogether fitting in relationship to God, it is probably best to translate simply as “Father! Father!” while bearing in mind the intimacy of this new relationship.

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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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