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

In the case of the Samaritans, while it is Philip the evangelist who proclaims the gospel so that they come to faith and baptism, it is Peter and John who come down from Jerusalem to lay hands on them for the Holy Spirit. The reason for this would seem to be that the Samaritans might receive the same empowering for witness that Peter and John had received at Pentecost and thus become also a vital part of the witnessing community. It is not so much that the Samaritans become thereby incorporated into the Jerusalem church12 as it is that they are invested with power necessary for the ongoing mission of the gospel. Since Jesus had said to his disciples, “You shall be my witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), reference to Samaria could signify not only a people to whom witness is to be made but also by whom it is to be continued.

This would seem to follow logically from the principle, which now needs to be enunciated vigorously, that the Holy Spirit is a “missionary spirit”;13 that wherever He comes upon a people they are driven beyond themselves into a witness for Christ; and that they become participants thereby in the continuing outreach of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Even as the Holy Spirit is a “proceeding” Spirit,14 so those who are anointed by Him cannot possibly remain confined in their faith but must “proceed” forth to tell the Good News everywhere.

Thus in the book of Acts there is an ever-widening missionary circle: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Caesarea, Ephesus—all representing further outreach of the gospel—and additional areas that through the gift of the Holy Spirit become participant in the witness to Christ. Hence, though nothing is said directly in the biblical narratives about the Samaritans, Caesareans and Ephesians bearing witness to the gospel, the fact that they also receive the Holy Spirit—the “missionary Spirit”—would suggest that they too become proclaimers of the Good News.

In moving to the contemporary scene one finds a renewed emphasis on the gift of the Spirit and power for witness15—and the Spirit as a “missionary Spirit.” Persons who have received this gift thereby become Christ’s witnesses in a fresh way, often their very being and manner so filled with God’s presence and power that others are profoundly affected thereby. The witness is primarily that of being rather than word: by the gift of the Spirit they become transparent for the Divine, channels of grace and power. Also words and actions are laden with new potency so that there is both wisdom and incisiveness in testifying to the gospel. In some cases people may have borne witness to Christ for years with varying degrees of success, but now there is a further breakthrough that brings about deep and abiding results.16  The “missionary Spirit” is present—as many demonstrate in their daily work or in their carrying the Good News both far and wide.

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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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