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

It is evident then that the Spirit-filled community of over five thousand was truly a koinonia of the Holy Spirit. It was a community united in prayer, in witness, and in fellowship. When any potential source of disruption might come in—such as the dishonesty of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10) and the murmuring of certain Hellenists59 (Acts 6:1-6)—the matter was promptly dealt with, and the koinonia maintained. The result: “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).

Now let us seek to summarize a few things. While the disciples were all Jews at this stage, they were from across the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern world,60 they were Greek-speaking and Hebrew-speaking, they were men and women, they were laymen and priests, they were apostles and brethren in general: an immense variety of backgrounds and former loyalties, but now all were in one accord. They studied together, prayed together, broke bread together. They went to the temple unitedly, and also from house to house. Their commitment to one another was so intense that they no longer were claiming possessions as their own, but were selling and sharing wherever there was need. They were of one heart and one soul—and great grace was manifest in all they did. In every way it was the koinonia of the Holy Spirit.

It might be added that their community life was one of constant praise to God and of great favor among the people. The earliest account mentions their “praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47). Their joy in the Lord and liberality of Spirit were very attractive—so much so that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (2:47 also). But along with this there was growth of opposition among the religious leaders and ever increasing threats and persecution. Finally, with the killing of Stephen a “great persecution”61 began, and all the disciples, except for the apostles, were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. This by no means signified any less praise of God, joy in the Lord, or favor with the people in general, but it did mean that no longer could they attend the Temple together and share as a total body in one place. Still, wherever they went, and whatever the opposition, they continued to be one in Christ—the koinonia of the Holy Spirit.

Now it would be too much to say, or suggest, that there was invariable harmony or unity thereafter. For with the distance from Jerusalem, no longer the daily presence of the apostles, and most of all the dimming of intensity of the Spirit’s presence, some disharmony and disunity were sure to come about. Factions and party spirit would appear in churches here and there. However, insofar as this happened, they were no longer really “spiritual people,”62 no longer flowing in the Spirit of Christ, no longer what the Lord intended. Still, if they could remember who they were and be renewed in Spirit, once more they would be truly the koinonia of the Holy Spirit.

Along this line Paul writes to the Ephesians that they should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), and he concludes his Second Letter to the Corinthians with the prayer: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship [koinonia] of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). This unity which has come from the Spirit, this koinonia which the Spirit has brought about—such is to be zealously maintained and earnestly prayed for. These words of Paul are in line also with the great concern of Jesus expressed in the last prayer for his disciples “that they may all be one …I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one” (John 17:21, 23). It is in the unity of the Spirit that such oneness is a reality.

Now it is time to return to the contemporary situation. What we have seen in our own day in the movement of the Holy Spirit is the renewal of fellowship in depth. People have found themselves drawn together in a profound unity of worship, community, study and witness: the koinonia of the Holy Spirit. Such fellowship goes so much deeper than anything they had ever known, that they continually marvel at what God has done.

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit there has been a personal renewal of unmistakable quality, but at the same time it has been a community renewal of extraordinary character. People have been brought by the Spirit into such a mutual relationship that they know they belong to one another. It is not as if there were no sense of community before, but this has a richer quality. Now with a fresh enthusiasm and joy in the Lord they have an intense desire to be together, to enjoy one another’s company, to hear what God has to say through a brother or sister, to minister to one another, to share whenever there is need. So full of the Lord’s presence is the gathering of the community that nothing else is comparable to it; and the time spent with one another seems as no time at all. Frequency of gathering together, extended hours of meeting, going from house to house for prayer and fellowship: all are a part of the present renewal.

Further, people caught up in the renewal of the Spirit come from a multiplicity of backgrounds. Nations around the world, denominations from across Christendom, people of many races, ages, and cultures—all are represented in the present renewal. While some fellowships are more limited nationally, denominationally, age-wise and so on, the genius of the movement is clearly the way it essentially transcends all ordinary groupings. It is not unusual to find Protestants of many kinds, Roman Catholics,63 Eastern Orthodox, and people formerly with no church background, all together in the same koinonia of the Holy Spirit. This, however, is not a unity based on a lowest common denominator of religious belief, but on the fact that all have been brought by the Spirit into profound and transforming relationship with one another.

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Category: Spirit, Summer 2004

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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