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

The event of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is clearly proclaimed in Acts 2:22-32 as background for the sending forth of the Holy Spirit. Peter speaks first, briefly, of the life of Jesus: “a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs …”; next of the Crucifixion and death of Jesus: “you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men”; and then, at much greater length, of the Resurrection: “But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death …” etc. It is only after all this that Peter comes to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Years later, Peter is again preaching, this time to the Gentiles at Caesarea, and, as at Pentecost, he rehearses the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection (Acts 10:34-43). Shortly thereafter “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (Acts 10:44). It is again apparent that the whole cycle of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is background for the giving of the Holy Spirit.

But what is more deeply involved in this recounting of the story of Jesus is the declaration of God’s work of redemption. This is far more than the narrative of an extraordinary life, of a person willingly dying a horrible death and of God miraculously raising someone from the grave. That in itself would be a vivid and memorable story, and might afford an example of heroic living and God’s blessing on it. However, it is much more: it is God’s plan of salvation—”Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23)—being worked out in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is victory over sin and death; the Resurrection is raising up of life; and the exaltation is the triumph of Jesus over all dominions and powers.

It is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, wherein God’s plan of redemption is fulfilled, that precedes the giving of the Holy Spirit. Without such redemption being wrought, the way would not be prepared. But with the victory won through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit may now be sent.

We have mentioned earlier the error of those who would view the gift of the Holy Spirit as only peripherally related to the person of Jesus Christ. Now, we must emphasize, it is also a very serious mistake to think at all of the gift of the Holy Spirit except against the background of the work of Christ. It is because of what God has done in and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that the Holy Spirit is sent forth. The gift of the Holy Spirit follows only upon the work of redemption.

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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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