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Rodman Williams: The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today: Purpose, Part 1

It is apparent that the gift of the Holy Spirit is for that power which enables the ministry of Jesus to be carried forward. It is not power in a general sense—that is, an increment of supernatural strength that could have many uses—but power for ministry that flows from the Father through the Son. As such, what Jesus did—and even more7—will be done through His disciples upon the earth. What a prospect this opens up!

Hence, though the response of man to the gift of the Holy Spirit is the praise of God, and therefore directed upward, the purpose of the gift of the Spirit is the service of man, and therefore directed outward. It is the power of God through Jesus Christ enabling His ministry to be carried forward and fulfilled.8

This brings us next to the recognition that the power given by the Holy Spirit is first of all power for being witnesses of Christ. We have earlier recalled the words of Jesus: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you …” Hence there is close connection between the Holy Spirit and power. Jesus immediately continues with the words: “and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Thus a close connection is affirmed between power and being witnesses.

In the book of Acts with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as we have noted, there is the response of praise and Peter’s explanation of what has just occurred (Acts 2:1-21). This explanation climaxes with the words, “And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Thereupon Peter begins to proclaim the gospel, and his whole message is one of testimony to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is throughout a matter of bearing witness, of testimony, with the climax being the resurrection. The words are unmistakable: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32). The proclamation is witnessing proclamation; it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit—and the results: “there were added [to their number] that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

The gift of the Holy Spirit, therefore, is power for witness that leads to salvation. It is effectual witness—witness that brings about the knowledge of what God has done in Christ (Acts 2:22-36), the conviction of sin (those who heard Peter’s message were “cut to the heart” [Acts 2:37]), repentance and forgiveness (“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” [Acts 2:38]), and thereby the receiving of salvation. It is life-giving, life-renewing witness brought about by the power that comes through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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Category: Spirit, Winter 2003

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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