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


The introduction from Professor Williams’ book, The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today, about the greatest reality of our time.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today: Preface


An exploration of “the gift of the Holy Spirit” in first-generation Christianity means turning basically to the New Testament record. Non-canonical writings, such as those of the Apostolic Fathers, are of some help, but we are on sure ground only when we listen to the New Testament witness. For it is here that primitive experience of this gift is set forth with authority and challenge.

If it is true that the experience of the gift of the Holy Spirit belonged to the first Christian generation, then whatever the exact nature of that gift, it will directly or indirectly inform the New Testament throughout. However, our focus will be largely on the portion of the New Testament, namely the book of Acts, that specifically records the giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit. Other New Testament materials of course have relevance—the Gospels pointing forward to the gift and the Epistles representing persons and communities who have already received the gift—but it is only the book of Acts that records the actual experience.

In turning most often to Acts we shall find ourselves considering several accounts of the giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit. These will include accounts of the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-21), the people in Samaria (8:5-24), Saul in Damascus (9:1-19), the Gentiles in Caesarea (10:1-48) and the disciples in Ephesus (19:1-6).1 There will be reference also to other incidents that may less directly refer to the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As was suggested in the preface, we shall be dealing with first generation Christianity and the gift of the Holy Spirit from a perspective of vital existential concern. It will be our purpose to learn all we can about the New Testament witness as it relates to contemporary experience.





1. In two of these accounts the language employed does not include “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” “receiving the Holy Spirit,” etc. However, it is obvious that the whole story of Acts 2:1-21 is that of the gift of the Spirit being received. This is presupposed later in Acts 2 when Peter speaks of the gift of the Spirit also being promised to his audience (vv. 38-39), and is specifically referred to in Acts 10 when Peter speaks of the Gentiles at Caesarea as “people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (v. 47). In the case of Saul of Tarsus, though gift language is not employed, he is said to experience being “filled with the Holy Spirit” (9:17). We shall later note how this is one of the general expressions that relate to the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today: Background (Chapter 1)


The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today by J. Rodman Williams, was published in 1980 by Logos International. Used by permission of the author. Reprinted in Pneuma Review with minor updates from the author.

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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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