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


In the preceding paragraphs several references have been made to casting out demons or evil spirits. We earlier called attention to one case (at Jerusalem) where healing refers to both the cure of the sick and deliverance from evil spirits; however, in the other two instances related (Samaria and Ephesus), a distinction is made between healing the sick and the expulsion of demons. This distinction is also apparent in the Scripture quoted42 concerning Jesus’ ministry where it is said He both cast out demons and healed. It may also be pointed out that in Mark 16:17 a differentiation is made: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons … they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover.” Thus we may say that among the mighty works made possible by the exalted Lord’s gift of the Spirit is deliverance.

Let us view this matter in more detail. It might be helpful to begin in the book of Acts with one particular example of what casting out of evil spirits, or deliverance, entails. Paul and his companions going to the place of prayer in Philippi are daily followed by a slave girl who “had a spirit of divination.”43 She cries out for many days, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” Paul, increasingly annoyed, finally takes action: he “turned and said to the spirit, ‘I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’” The result: “it came out that very hour” (Acts 16:16-18).

This account is not unlike that of various incidents recorded in the Gospels where people with such a spirit frequently cry out in recognition of Jesus, and deliverance thereafter occurs. For example, in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, a man with an “unclean spirit” cried out: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Jesus thereupon “rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him” (Mark 1:23-26). This incident makes a profound impression on those who observe: it is “a new teaching with authority”44 (Mark 1:27).

It is significant that in both the accounts of Paul and Jesus, the spirit45 in the person recognizes the truth at hand (“these men … proclaim to you the way of salvation”; “you are the Holy One of God”); but it is actually a foreign spirit occupying a human person, from which one needs deliverance. This foreign spirit is obviously supernatural, having instant recognition of divine presence; in that sense it is a “spirit of divination.” It is also an evil spirit, making the girl a slave girl, and so binding that, in the case of the man with an “unclean spirit,” it convulses him in being cast out. In both instances the spirit cannot with­stand the impact of Jesus, or the name of Jesus (which Paul invokes), and immediately comes out.

It should be added that the same spirits referred to elsewhere are frequently shown to be tormenting and disruptive. They may be the deepest cause of physical or mental disability, even to the point of self-destruction.46 Hence more is called for than healing, which is a matter of mending what has been broken or diseased, whether of body or mind. What happens in demonic possession is deeper still: it is a matter of the human spirit being taken into bondage by an alien power. Thus there is a pernicious force at work, often affecting mind and body so disruptively that the only way to healing is through deliverance. Moreover, the only way whereby deliverance from such evil may come is through the presence or name of the Holy One who has the power and authority to deliver from even the most vicious tormenting spirit.

Let me summarize a few points. First, such possession only comes to light in the presence of Jesus Christ. Whatever may—­or may not—have been the outward expression, the evil power which has lurked deep within the human personality is aroused at the coming of the Holy One. Hence, when one anointed with Christ’s Spirit is ministering in His name, there are times when this very ministry precipitates a crisis in one who is demon possessed. Though such a person may have long turned away from truth, and his inner spirit taken over by this alien spirit, now there is sudden, even startling recognition. For the dimen­sion of perception has now become totally a spiritual one—spirit knowing spirit—the one possessed with evil crying out in recog­nition of the Spirit of holiness. This may not be a verbal recog­nition—“I know who you are”—but usually some kind of an outcry or startled attitude betokening recognition of a divine presence. For the inward spirit of evil knows when the Holy Spirit is at hand. At least for the moment all the veils are dropped in the presence of the holy God. Second, not only is there inward recognition but at the same time there may also be inward torment. The demonic spirit, now exposed, feels the awful impact of the Holy Spirit. No longer hidden within the human personality but standing out, it finds almost unbearable the divine presence. It seems as if the Spirit of holiness is bent on torturing the possessed person—thus eliciting the response mentioned earlier: “Have you come to destroy us?”47 Of course, there is no intentional torment; it is simply that the Holy Spirit, like a hot flame of purity, burns into all that is evil. Third, deliverance may now follow. The alien spirit that has long dom­inated a person is exposed; it feels the torment of holy presence and is ready for being cast out. The evil spirit is now dominated by another spirit, the Holy Spirit, and is totally subject to the word that casts it out: “Come out of him, in the name of Jesus Christ.” The departing spirit may so convulse a person as to seem like the destruction of death;48 however, it is verily the moment when a person experiences the marvel of deliverance into a fresh life.

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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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