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

Thus the experience of Saul of Tarsus was like that of the disciples at Jerusalem who were also filled with the Spirit. It came from the exalted Lord Jesus in each case, and prepared both the disciples and Saul for the work that lay ahead. Indeed, it was the gift of the Holy Spirit promised by God to all He calls to Himself. Accordingly, being “filled with the Holy Spirit” in these two cases is clearly identical with the experience of the Samaritans, the people at Caesarea, and the disciples at Ephesus. It was the initial experience of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.

There is one other report in Acts of a being “filled with the Holy Spirit” that might likewise relate to such an initial experience: “The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52).32  This text refers to those in Antioch of Pisidia who had been disciples for some time.

Outside of this, other references in Acts to “filled with the Spirit” concern persons who have earlier been filled. It is said of Peter, when he later addressed the high council of Jews, that he, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” spoke to them (4:8), and that afterward when Peter and the company of disciples prayed for boldness to speak the word “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit … (4:31). Saul of Tarsus, now called Paul, is described as “filled with the Holy Spirit” as he discerns the evil intentions of Elymas the magician and speaks against him (13:9). It would seem from these passages that in addition to the initial experience of being filled there may be subsequent fresh fillings with the Holy Spirit.33

There is also reference to a condition of fullness: some persons are said to be “full of the Holy Spirit.” Stephen and Barnabas were described as men “full of the Holy Spirit and faith,”34  and the requirement for those elected to serve tables (including Stephen) is that they be men “full of the Spirit and of wisdom.”35  Indeed, it is also important to note that Jesus Himself, just following His baptism by John, is described as “full of the Holy Spirit”: “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan …” (Luke 4:1). The language of spiritual fullness bespeaks God’s abundant gift of the Holy Spirit.

Thus along with the initial reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit which is described as “filling” in the case of the first disciples and Saul of Tarsus,36  there are later repetitions of being filled as well as emphasis on continuing fullness. Hence, the concept of filling is quite complex in richness and meaning.

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Category: Spirit, Summer 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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