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

This brings us back in our reflection to the exalted Jesus. For the Son through whom the Holy Spirit comes is the One at the Father’s right hand. He who has been exalted by the Father to the place of honor and majesty sends forth the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit thus comes from heaven to earth: even from the Lord Jesus.

The coming of the Holy Spirit accordingly is not a divine event to which Jesus may be only peripherally related, but a coming in which He is the essential channel. The Holy Spirit, though distinct from Jesus, is the Spirit issuing from Jesus. He is sent by Jesus. Thus it is not as if the exalted Jesus were one force among many from whom the Spirit might come. “All authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18) has been given the exalted Lord, and from Him alone does the Holy Spirit go forth.

Now to return to the contemporary scene: the central focus is the exalted Jesus. Wherever people today speak of the gift of the Holy Spirit it is invariably against the background of Jesus as the channel or medium. The focus is not on the Holy Spirit, but on Him through whom the Holy Spirit comes.9  There is, to be sure, the recognition that ultimately the Spirit comes from God, the Father, but in no way so that the exalted Jesus is secondary or unessential. The contemporary spiritual renewal is Jesus-centered (or Christocentric) through and through.10

C. The Work of Redemption

Finally, the background for the gift of the Holy Spirit is the work of redemption. What God has wrought in Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world is essential preparation. The gift of the Holy Spirit follows upon the completion of God’s gracious, redeeming work in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.

We have been observing that the Holy Spirit is sent forth from the exalted Jesus at the Father’s right hand. Now we move on to the recognition that this exaltation is of the risen Lord. The statement, earlier quoted, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God …he has poured out this … (Acts 2:33) is preceded by “This Jesus God raised up …” (Acts 2:32). Hence, it is to be emphasized that the Holy Spirit does not come from the eternally glorious Son of God11  but from the One who has been raised from the dead and exalted to the Father’s presence. It is this exalted Jesus who sends forth the Holy Spirit.

Now we need to look back past the Resurrection to the whole cycle of Jesus’ birth, life and death. For the exaltation of Jesus is of One who was willing to forgo His heavenly glory, be born in human flesh, suffer at the hands of ruthless men, die on the accursed cross, and experience the agonies of hell itself. Such was His incomparable act of self-humbling from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell. It is this Jesus, who knew humiliation vaster than the mind can begin to comprehend, who was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of the Father. This exalted Jesus pours forth the Holy Spirit.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2002

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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