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

The gift of the Spirit accordingly makes for an “anointed” witness. Even as Jesus was “anointed with the Holy Spirit and power,” so are all who receive the gift. There is a certain indefinable, but quite apparent, difference between one who witnesses without such an anointing and one who does. In the former case there may be fervency in spirit, but not in the Holy Spirit; there may be earnestness to bring people to salvation but without convicting power of the Spirit; there may even be the response of many to the message proclaimed but without undergoing a genuine transformation of life. Through the gift of the Spirit persons are anointed for bearing witness to Jesus Christ.17

This brings us to the next consideration that the gift of the Holy Spirit makes for the universalizing of prophetic utterance. When the Holy Spirit is poured out, and people receive this fullness, they are enabled thereby to prophesy. No longer is this a possibility for the few but becomes the possibility of all.

In an early period of Israel’s history, Moses had expressed the wish that the people of God might all be able to prophesy—”Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets” (Numbers 11:29). This wish becomes a matter of future declaration in the words of Joel: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy …” (Joel 2:28). Finally, the wish and declaration come to fulfillment in the book of Acts as Peter, explaining to his Jerusalem audience what has just happened, says: “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy'” (Acts 2:16-18). Peter, while affirming that the words of Joel are now fulfilled, namely, the universalizing of prophecy among all God’s people, is yet more specific: not only will “sons and daughters” prophesy but also “menservants and maidservants.” The universalizing of prophecy is threefold: first, it now goes beyond one race, the Jews, and includes all races and nations; second, there is no sexual exclusiveness, for both male and female will prophesy; and third, class differentiations disappear, for servants themselves are also now able to speak prophetically. All this is possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It would seem apparent that Peter’s own words to the gathered multitude in Jerusalem, first, describing what has happened to him and the other disciples (Acts 2:15-21) and, second, proclaiming the gospel (Acts 2:22-36), are prophetic utterances. His message begins thus: “Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed [“spoke out to”]18 them, ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words'” (Acts 2:14). Here Peter, an uneducated, common man19—a rough fisherman—speaks as he has never spoken before. He addresses the whole nation of Israel, as gathered in Jerusalem, and does so with the authority, forcefulness and wisdom that could only come from the full anointing of the Holy Spirit.

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2003

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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