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

We close this chapter on the theme of the praise of God as the ultimate human response to the gift of the Holy Spirit. Praise be unto God for all His mighty and wonderful works!





1. The Greek word is megaleia.

2. Megalunonton. It may be noted that the same Greek root is found in Acts 2:11and 10:46megal—which connotes mightiness, magnification. Thus in both Jerusalem and Caesarea they “magnify” the “magnificent” works of God.

3. For example, the hymn of Charles Wesley beginning, “O for a thousand tongues to sing My great Redeemer’s praise” exhibits this intense yearning.

4. Many of the things said in the paragraph above are reflected in the contemporary spiritual renewal. Two illustrations may suffice, the first from a former Roman Catholic layman, Larry Tomczak: “As thanksgiving and praise erupted from within, a profound sense of God’s presence began to well up in me. I felt the rapturous and exultant joy of the Lord surging through me, and the more profuse my praise, the more intense became my desire to magnify the name of my Savior. I grew impatient with the inadequacy of the English language to fully express all that I was feeling, how much I loved God. Then, just at the right moment, new words began to flow from my heart… I could not restrain my tongue, and my lips began to stammer, as a new language hopped, skipped and somersaulted from my mouth. The language was foreign to my ears, a heavenly language only God could understand. It was praise that had surged through my whole being to seek expression through the Holy Spirit in a new transcendence” Clap Your Hands! (Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1973), pp. 112-113. More briefly, words from a Reformed pastor, Harald Bredesen: “I tried to say, ‘Thank you, Jesus, Thank you, Jesus,’ but I couldn’t express the inexpressible. Then, to my great relief, the Holy Spirit did it for me. It was just as if a bottle was uncorked, and out of me poured a torrent of words in a language I had never studied before. Now everything I had ever wanted to say to God, I could say.” Yes, Lord (Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1972), p. 59.

5. C.S. Lewis in his address entitled “Transposition” (in Transposition and Other Addresses [London: Geoffrey Bles, 1949]) describes how a transposition occurs whenever a higher medium reproduces itself in a lower. If viewed merely from the perspective of the lower, the higher may be completely missed. Concerning glossolalia (speaking in tongues) “all non-Christian opinion would regard it as a kind of hysteria, an involuntary discharge of nervous excitement” (p. 9). However, ” …the very same phenomenon which is sometimes not only natural but even pathological is at other times …the organ of the Holy Ghost” (p. 10). “Those who spoke with tongues, as St. Paul did, can well understand how that holy phenomenon differed from the hysterical phenomenon—although …they were in a sense exactly the same phenomenon (p. 17). Lewis later speaks about “the inevitableness of the error made about every transposition by one who approaches it from the lower medium only” (p. 19). “Transposition” accordingly is an excellent term to express what happens when the Holy Spirit, the higher medium, is expressed in the lower, the human spirit. For the vehicle of expression, human language, becomes transposed into a new dimension of utterance.

6. The word translated “utterance” is apophthengesthai, literally “to speak out.” Apophthengesthai is a term used of “the speech of the wise man [in Greek literature] …but also of the oracle-giver, diviner, prophet, exorcist, and other ‘inspired’ persons …” (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, article on apophthengomai.) This “inspired” speech is given by the Holy Spirit through the lips of men.

7. I do not mean to say in the paragraph above that only a miracle of understanding is involved; there is also clearly a miracle of speech. It is by no means enough to say that whereas the disciples may have spoken their own language (Aramaic), each in the crowd—miraculously—heard his own tongue being spoken. There is both a miracle of speech—other, different, spiritual tongues—and a miracle of understanding: each made possible by the Holy Spirit.

8. See, for example, Spoken by the Spirit: Documented Accounts of “Other Tongues” from Arabic to Zulu, by Ralph W. Harris (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1973).

9. Thayer in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament has two headings under heteros (“other”) referring to (1) Number (2) Quality. “Number” would point to other tongues as additional; thus in the case of Acts 2:4, the speaking of additional languages (such as Arabic, Greek and Chaldean); “quality” would signify difference in kind—”not of the same nature, form, class, kind” (Thayer).

10. So does Paul write the Corinthians: “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:2). Here clearly “a tongue” is not a human language—”no one understands him.” Incidentally, the KJV reads, “For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue …,” while adding a word “unknown” not in the Greek original, conveys a proper understanding of what “a tongue” is. It is not a foreign language, but an “other” language, known to God alone, and only by interpretation to men (see 1 Corinthians 14:5, 13, 27-28). Thus, there is no basic difference between tongues, or glossolalia, at Pentecost, in Caesarea, Ephesus and Corinth. So writes Philip Schaff: “The glossolalia [on the Day of Pentecost] was, as in all cases where it is mentioned, an act of worship and adoration … The Pentecostal glossolalia was the same as that in the household of Cornelius in Caesarea after his conversion, which may be called a Gentile Pentecost, as that of the twelve disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus, where it appears in connection with prophesying, and as that in the Christian congregation at Corinth” (History of the Christian Church [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910], Vol. 1, pp. 230-231).

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Category: Fall 2002, Spirit

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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