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

To summarize: this universalizing of prophetic utterance is a very important aspect of the gift of the Holy Spirit. It signifies that all persons who receive this gift may be spokesmen for God.24  It is not that they become persons of superior knowledge or virtue; rather, they become channels for God to speak His word. Whether it is to proclaim the way of salvation or to exhort believers,25 it is wholly a matter of God speaking through them. Hence, traditional distinctions of class, sex, race, or education all fall away—as God has free rein in people’s lives.

Prophetic utterance, it should be added, is not the same as teaching. There is no suggestion that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit grants to all the possibility of teaching. For teaching is a function that, while surely needing the guidance of the Holy Spirit, calls for some native capacity plus preparation, study, careful training and experience. It is a task of such fearsome responsibility that James warns: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). Prophesying, on the other hand, and prophetic utterance in general, is the God-given possibility for all who are filled with His Holy Spirit.

It is also to be observed that prophetic utterance may come forth with a “Thus says the Lord” and the message delivered in the first person, for example, “I speak unto you …,” or it may be given as a message about the Lord, His will, intention, etc. But in either case the distinctive feature is that the speech, while uttered in the common language, is God-inspired, that is to say, it is not the result of human reflection but comes directly from God through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks through the human spirit in the known tongue and declares a divine message.26

Prophetic utterance occupies the place of highest significance in the life and ministry of the church. While it may be divinely inspired speech proclaiming God’s truth to the world (as we have noted)—and therefore quite important—it occupies a critically vital role in the life of the community of faith. Paul writes the Corinthians: “Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). And the reason for this is that “he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Corinthians 14:3).27  Accordingly, prophecy, which has this distinctive function of edifying the body of believers, is much to be desired.

It is apparent that the universality of prophetic utterance, made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit, makes both for proclamation of the gospel and the upbuilding of community life. Therefore, the word of God may go forth with increased power and effectiveness.

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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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