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

Let us say further that it makes little practical difference whether one affirms that the miracles in Acts (and elsewhere) are simply legendary accretions to the record—and thus really did not happen—or that they did happen then but no longer occur in our time. Both views deny the reality of the living God who is always free and able in any time to perform His extraor­dinary works through men. The “Bible believer” who affirms that miracles were for then but not for now is actually farther removed from a living faith than the “liberal” who has not gone so far as to lock the power of God into past history. Both, how­ever, need to hear the words of Jesus: “Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12:24).

Fortunately the spiritual renewal of today has recaptured the early church’s belief in and practice of mighty works. Miracles are no longer thought of as belonging to past history or as being merely legendary additions to the bib­lical witness; they belong to the life of the believing community and to the proclamation of the gospel.35 “Expect a miracle” is a commonly heard expression—and those who expect God to perform mighty works are not disappointed.


The performance of mighty works, made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit, includes a wide range of extraordinary phenomena. We shall note two of these in particular, beginning with healing.

In the ministry of Jesus, as is well known, next in importance to His preaching and teaching was His ministry of healing. For example, “He went about all Galilee, teaching in their syna­gogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people” (Matt. 4:23). Another text reads: “The power [dunamis]of the Lord was with him to heal” (Luke 5:17); and thereupon he healed a bedridden paralytic. This dunamis of God is precisely what Jesus promised His disciples would be theirs through the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so it was—and is.

As we look again at the record in Acts, it is relevant that the first specified mighty work is that of healing. Following the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the formation of the Christian community (Acts 2) is the narrative about the healing of the lame beggar at the gate of the temple (Acts 3:1-8). Peter speaks to the man: “I have no silver or gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (v. 6). Thus it is the combination of the power of the Spirit (“what I have”) and the name of Jesus Christ that leads to the miraculous healing.

What follows is quite significant. Peter addresses the assem­bled crowd, amazed at the healing of one they had seen many times begging at the gate, and tells them that “the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:16). These words lead to the procla­mation of the gospel to the crowd—“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord …” (3:19). There­after, taken into custody by the Temple authorities who in­quired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”, Peter “filled with the Holy Spirit” replied, “… be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well” (4:7-10). Peter con­cludes with the message of salvation: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).

What is particularly important in this narrative of miraculous healing is the way in which it becomes the occasion for procla­mation of the gospel. Indeed, as a result “many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand” (4:4). Thus, it is similar to the Day of Pente­cost when miraculous speaking in tongues became the occasion for drawing a crowd together, and consequent preaching of the gospel led to the salvation of some three thousand (Acts 2:41). “Signs and wonders” thus are shown not only to be confirmations of the word (as we have seen); but also they are occasions for the word. They set forth visibly, tangibly, undeniably that an in­explicable power is present and at work, making way for the message of salvation.

It is apparent that the performance of such a mighty work as healing is vitally connected with the preaching of the gospel. It is not merely the matter of healing being an additional thing—as if the commission were to preach and heal. The Good News, to be sure, does include healing; hence, a missionary outreach that does not have concern for peoples’ bodies is inadequate. However, the relationship between preaching and healing is more inti­mate than that. Healing, as well as other “signs and wonders,” is not just supplemental, it is instrumental. It can become the avenue for the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ.36

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Category: Spirit, Spring 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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