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

But, in accordance with the words of Joel and the affirmation of Peter, it is not one man only who is now anointed to speak prophetically but all of those who have received the fullness of God’s Spirit. The mention of the eleven other apostles standing with Peter signifies that through Peter, as the mouthpiece, all are speaking. But this is by no means limited to the twelve apostles, for on a later occasion after Peter and John have been released from the Jewish council that had threatened them and they have returned to their own people,20 the company of those gathered pray for courage “to speak [God’s] word with all boldness.” As a result, “when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29-31). Since the company of believers by this time includes many others than the apostles, it is clear that the prophetic word is being voiced by the larger Spirit-filled community.

In this same connection we turn again to the disciples at Ephesus. We have already observed that when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, all of them spoke in tongues. They all prophesied, for the text reads in full: “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit, came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all” (Acts 19:6-7). So all prophesied—in accordance with the words of Joel and Peter. What they prophesied is not stated,21 but that the Ephesians are further evidence of the universalizing of prophetic utterance is apparent.

Mention might be made also of the daughters of Philip who on one occasion were said to prophesy. Luke writes concerning Paul and his visit in Caesarea that “we entered the house of Philip the evangelist …and stayed with him. And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied”22 (Acts 21:8-9). This incident is directly in line with the words of Joel, repeated by Peter at Pentecost, that “your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17). Philip himself was a man “full of the Spirit” (Acts 6:3, 5), hence he had experienced the outpouring of the Spirit. Thus, not only was he used by God to bear witness to the gospel, (as, for example, to the Samaritans and the Ethiopian eunuch—Acts 8), but also all four of his daughters were overflowing with prophetic utterance.

In the letters of Paul frequent reference is made to prophecy and prophesying. There are places where Paul speaks of prophecy as a particular gift. For example, in Romans 12 he delineates various “gifts” (charismata) that “differ according to the grace given to us” and immediately adds “let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith” (v. 6). In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul again lists a number of charismata, each being apportioned by the Holy Spirit, including prophecy—”to another prophecy”; and further on in the chapter he rhetorically asks, “Are all prophets?” (v. 29). However, despite these words, Paul later says, “You can all prophesy &#8230″ (1 Corinthians 14:31). A careful study of the Pauline text makes clear that prophesying may: (1) be a particular manifestation of the Holy Spirit when the fellowship gathers for worship and ministry—and thus limited in exercise; (2) be performed by one who holds the office of a prophet, and thus again limited in exercise; and (3) in principle, be done by all—”you can all prophesy.”23  It is this universal note which, without denying certain limitations, informs the New Testament witness.

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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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