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

What all of this suggests is that when the church, the believing community, is seen to be the arena of God’s supernatural activ­ity, people are bound to take notice. Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the context of “signs and wonders”—whether they precede, accompany, or follow—it is obvious that something extraordinary is going on. At Pentecost with the speaking in tongues “all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (Acts 2:12); at the healing of the lame man “they were filled with wonder and amazement” (Acts 3:10). Such amazement, perplexity, wonderment, betokening a shock­ing sense of supernatural presence, prepares the way for the powerful ministry of the word.

It is significant to note again the prayer of the community of disciples following the prohibition of the council about testifying to Jesus: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are per­formed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30). The prayer of the disciples is for the speaking of the word to be accompanied or followed by healing, signs and wonders. Such visible demonstration of the supernatural activ­ity of God will confirm the message, and make many come to a living faith. So whether preceding, accompanying or following, the occurrence of miracles underscores the reality of the pro­claimed word as the power of God unto salvation.

 

The power of God to heal continues to be manifest in the early Christian community. The sick of Jerusalem are brought in great numbers to the body of the disciples, many hoping for at least the shadow of Peter to fall upon them (Acts 5:15); and then people begin to come from surrounding towns and villages and “bring­ing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed” (Acts 5:14-16). Likewise in the ministry of Philip at Samaria “the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did. For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were para­lyzed or lame were healed” (8:6-7). Peter, later, in the town of Lydda, speaks to a man named Aeneas, bedridden and para­lyzed: “‘Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord” (9:34-35). In the case of Paul who spent two years in Ephesus proclaiming the word, the Scripture adds: “And God did extraordinary miracles37 by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12). Paul min­isters later at Malta to Publius’ father who “lay sick with fever and dysentery”; Paul “visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him.” Thereafter “the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured” (28:8-9). Such incidents demonstrate over and over that the power of the Spirit makes for abundant healing.

A number of matters in these instances of healing may be reflected upon. First, there is again the close connection between the proclamation of the word and healing. In one case (Samaria), it is hearing the gospel in conjunction with seeing healings occur that leads to the multitude giving heed to what is said; in another case (Lydda), seeing the healing is itself the direct cause of people coming to faith. Second, in another situation (Jerusalem), healing refers to the cure of the sick and deliverance from “unclean spirits,” thus both physical ailments and spiritual bondage. Third, there is evidently no limitation to the kinds of sicknesses healed—as if perhaps healing occurred to the psycho­somatic but not the organic. The sick, whatever their infirmities, were healed. This calls to mind the earlier words about Jesus, that He healed “every disease and every infirmity” (Matt. 4:23). The same is true for His Spirit-filled followers who minister in His name. Fourth, in two of the cases (Jerusalem and Malta) all were healed; in another (Samaria) many were healed—many who were paralyzed and lame.

On this last point let us comment further about the totality of healing in two situations above, and its partiality in another. One of the most significant and exciting aspects of the gift of the Spirit is the fact that it makes healing possible for all. “They were all healed”—the sick, the afflicted, the tormented—is a beautiful testimony to what the Holy Spirit can do through one like Peter who is an open channel and instrument. It remains a testimony to this day that the power of God to heal is still present wherever His Spirit abounds. Even as salvation—the forgiveness of sins—is available to all, so is healing of all manner of physical, mental and emotional ailments. There only needs to be, as in the New Testament time, persons filled with God’s Spirit who in proclaiming the gospel of new life in Christ also minister healing in Jesus’ name. Believing that God wills both salvation and health for all men, the Christian witness of our day needs boldly to engage in this total ministry.

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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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