A Theological Pilgrimage: Chapter 1
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
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15 | 16 | Conclusion
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RENEWAL IN THE SPIRIT
It is indeed an exciting time to be alive in the church! For there is
taking place in our day a dynamic movement of the Holy Spirit for renewal.
This is happening here and there in many Protestant denominations and
in Roman Catholicism. What is occurring can only be described as the
resurgence within the forms and structures of Christendom of the vitality
of the early Christian community. It is an extraordinary renewal through
the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
When it happens we find ourselves almost overwhelmed at the marvel
of it all. It is hard still to believe that life can be so pervaded
by the reality of the Spirit! There is a kind of awesome delight, a
rejoicing in God, a sense of His vital presence as Father, Son, and
Spirit. Something has happened by His Spirit that has made it all stand
out with intense vividness. At the same time we find ourselves renewed
as a fellowship of the Spirit in ways wonderful to contemplate. What
a joy to discover afresh some of the profound depths of the praise of
God in the context of a deepened love and unity! How the ancient Scriptures
likewise have come to life as fellow witnesses to God's present action,
and the whole realm of understanding of the truth of God has opened
up! How strange and wonderful again to contemplate ways in which the
Spirit of God is moving upon the inner life of the expectant community,
and bringing forth powers that have long lain dormant or ceased to be!
What new opportunities for the church to minister to mankind under the
impact and direction of the Holy Spirit, and to be built up in its own
life and fellowship! It is truly a wonderful day to be alive when such
things are happening in the church of Jesus Christ.
What follows is but a further reflection on some of these matters.
There may be repetition, backtracking, reflections of various kinds
here and there. But it is hoped that the reader will catch something
of the joy and excitement which many of us share.
Let us speak first of this renewed sense of the reality of God. He
may have seemed absent, distant, even nonexistent to many of us before,
but now His presence is vividly manifest. Suddenly God is here, not
in the sense of a vague omnipresence but of a compelling presence. Still
more, it is as if one were now submerged in the flowing stream of God's
reality! Or, to change the figure, it is as if one knows for the first
time the wonder of an atmosphere so laden with the divine Reality that
everything around becomes glorious with the sense of God's ineffable
But it is the marvel not only of God moving without but also within!
It were enough weight of glory perhaps to become alive to His compelling
presence, but there is also His movement through the whole of one's
existence wherein there is the indescribable knowledge of being somehow
filled with His divine Spirit. It is as if, after many years of now
and then sensing His presence (but always in a fleeting fashion), the
full reality has broken through! It is amazing- -as well as overwhelming-
-but at last something like the glory of God which filled the tabernacle
of old, comes now to fill the tabernacle of His human creature.
At the same time we strongly affirm that this movement of the Spirit
centers in Jesus Christ. For we find it happening in the fellowship
of those who have heard the good news about Jesus Christ. He through
whom we have received forgiveness of sins is Himself the mediator of
this plenitude of the Spirit. Many of us were long-time disciples of
Christ- -though this was not always the case- -but, in any event, there
is conviction that only against the background of what God has done
through Jesus Christ is the Spirit now so abundantly poured out.
Jesus Christ is Lord! Not only in the sense that we are committed to
Him and seek to serve Him, but because the Holy Spirit is also His Spirit,
and this Spirit is now freshly moving in our midst. Lives have been
strangely enriched by the abundance of His Spirit- -the Spirit that
worked in and through Him, the Spirit that both conceived Him and possessed
Him. The Lord is not only the distant one "at the right hand of
the Father"; He is not only the One who has brought us into a new
life orientation; He is also the One who has visited us with His promised
Spirit. The Lord is also the Spirit- -and the plenitude of the Spirit
is the fullness of His presence and grace!
This means that Christ is alive indeed! Not only is this so because
of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, but because
it is through His living reality that the Spirit has come. If the resurrection
had before been a doctrine to be believed- -on the testimony of Scripture
and the church- -it is now a certitude, confirmed by His presence in
the Holy Spirit. If there were doubt that the resurrection signified
anything other than the memory of a challenging life that death could
not overcome, then such doubt has been totally erased. For what has
happened is that Christ has come to possess His own- -and in that possession
through the Holy Spirit we can but cry forth the certitude of the reality
of the living Lord.
But there is one further word of witness about Jesus Christ. It is
in the very knowledge of Christ's presence in the Spirit that we all
the more yearn for His advent in the body. Come, Lord Jesus! Not because
He is absent does this cry go forth- -but it is because He is present
in living experience that the yearning is all the more intense to behold
Him in His full glory. Further, this hope for the future is built on
more than a memory of the past or even a promise that He will come;
it is grounded in the full assurance of His presence even now and the
knowledge of being carried forward by Him into a yet moreglorious
But again what so surprises us is a new awakening to the fact that
God really is Spirit! The former attitude of many that God was a Being
somewhere far removed- -a kind of transcendent Other- -has been radically
altered. For there has been brought home to us the deep certainty that
He also has made Himself wholly immanent in the Spirit. Here truly is
mystery and wonder! It is more than having our being in God, it is God's
having His being- -through imparting His being- -in us. God has by no
means ceased to be other than man, but in His own grace He has invaded
His creation and pervaded it with His fullness.
Here indeed is a miracle comparable to the Incarnation! To know God's
coming in the Spirit is not, by any means, to testify less to the mystery
of the Word made flesh. That God did become man for the sake of the
world's redemption is mystery beyond human comprehension. And this will
cause wonder and joy throughout the ages to come. But here is surely
no less a wonder: that this same God also in the Spirit comes to possess
His people. God is thereby- -beyond being wholly other than us (as Father)
and wholly one of us (as Son)- -wholly in us and through us (as Spirit).
Here by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is the miracle that
carries creation into a new dimension of reality- -and the end is not
To sum up: we have then the assurance that after whatever has been
known and experienced in regard to God as Father and Son (or Creator
and Redeemer) that something additional has become remarkably vivid.
For God is at work beyond creation and redemption to bring about a new
order in the Spirit.
What we next attest is that the community of faith has taken on a
new and exciting meaning. Something has happened which has vastly deepened
and heightened this as a fellowship in the Spirit. Many of us had known
a fellowship of commitment and concern, but here was something that
suddenly opened up whatever we had experienced into a fellowship in
which the Spirit imbued all.
Now in the communion of the Spirit there is a continuing mood of praise
and thanksgiving to God. If there is any one expression that
breaks forth again and again, it is "Praise the Lord!" Many
of us to be sure had often in the past read this expression in the Psalter,
sung it from the hymnbook, and used it variously in worship. But now
it has become the deeply felt and joyously expressed verbalization of
a way of life in which the Lord is constantly being praised and glorified.
Or maybe the expression at times is simply "Thank you, Jesus,"
because His presence is intimate and real, gracious and good. Constantly
those who know this rich fellowship in the Spirit are blessing the name
of the Lord, and discovering that the more the praise and the magnifying
of His name occurs, the more fully life expresses its reason for being.
Again in this renewal which the Spirit is bringing we are beginning
to realize afresh something of a deeper love for one another
in the Lord. Here is fellowship in depth wherein through the praise
of the Lord there is all the more a love for the other person, and a
yearning to share in all things with him. Here is communion that becomes
a kind of union of one person with another through the Spirit where
ties of love transcend all human relationships. "Brother,"
"Sister"- -terms that had before been foreign or formal to
us in the fellowship of faith (and seemed proper only in human, family
relationships)- -now become the natural expressions of a profoundly
felt communal love. Further, there is a deepened desire to make whatever
one has in time, abilities, possessions totally available to the other.
It is hard to count anything as really one's own when in the fellowship
of praise to the Lord we recognize His goodness in things both great
and small- -and that His Spirit is constantly multiplying gifts and
And, once again, in the fellowship of the Spirit what great joy
is to be found! This is embedded most profoundly in that compelling
sense of the reality of God's presence. Here are faces lighted with
heavenly luster, hearts leaping up in newfound gladness, and through
it all there is known joy beyond measure. This joy is profoundly inward
joy- -that the earth cannot give or take away. It is (as in one of the
songs sometimes sung) "joy unspeakable and full of glory, and the
half has never yet been told!" Something has happened that has
transformed a community of faith from the stance of looking to God-
-and knowing some joy surely in acclaiming His wonderful deeds- -to
a community through whom God lives and moves and multiplies His own
joy and gladness! In this there is also abundant rejoicing in the presence
of the neighbor, for in him God is also encountered- -and the joy, even
the laughter, of eternity!
Then, again, what is remarkable is the freedom that abounds.
In the fellowship of the Spirit there is no sense of coercion, for example,
even in terms of "I (you) ought to do this or that," but only
freely- -willed activity. No one is made to feel obligation or pressure
of any kind, for where the Spirit is there is freedom. People come and
go at pleasure, they participate only as they are led by the Spirit,
and there are no strategies for getting things done. And in the time
of prayer and praise all moves as the Spirit directs: each one in the
Spirit making his own contribution- -and the only leader of the meeting
is the Lord. What an amazing situation: whether it is testimony or Scripture,
prophecy or intercession, song or silence- -all occurs in complete freedom.
Each person is heard as seriously as another, not only because of respect
for the individual but also because the Lord as the Spirit is making
known through this person His will and way.
Another aspect of the renewal of the Spirit within the fellowship is
the atmosphere of peace that prevails. This is something almost
indescribable in its heights and depths. The tensions and frictions
that are so often operative in human communities are both confessed
and transcended in the communion of the Spirit. Here is more than peace
through mutual respect, or even through a willingness to forgive the
faults that appear. It is the peace wherein the Spirit of God moves
into all the harsh and abrasive spots and communicates the divine calm.
When someone perhaps begins to sing, "I have the peace that passes
understanding down in my heart," and others pick up the refrain,
there is quiet but sure testimony to the wonder of the peace of God.
This is no pseudopeace where harsh reality is anesthetized by
pious sedatives. Instead, it is peace which, even in the midst of storm
and strife, makes for a kind of infinite calm. Sometimes, especially
after the praise of God has been sounded forth in the Spirit, and wave
upon wave of heavenly melody has echoed through the room, there is such
peace at the conclusion as truly to surpass imagination. It is the peace
And this leads to one other thing: the deep and stirring spirit of
unity. In the renewal of the Spirit factionalism, division, party
spirit of all kinds are overcome under the impact of the Holy Spirit.
Here is not a monotonous uniformity wherein all do and say the same
thing, but a situation wherein the Spirit weaves together the various
strands, the shades and hues, the divergencies and differences into
a pattern of incomprehensible unity. The most scattered and seemingly
disorganized expressions either quietly pass away if they bear a divisive
stamp, or if they are of the Lord they are marvelously blended into
an unexpected wholeness. How glorious is the unity of the Spirit in
the bond of peace!
A further word or two might be added about the altogether remarkable
unity that the Spirit brings about among those who wear various denominational
labels. In the renewal of the Spirit it simply does not make any difference
what the church affiliation may be, for no tradition of the past is
able to subordinate the prevailing presence of the Spirit of unity.
Protestants of many stripes- -Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists,
Baptists, Church of Christ, Lutherans, and on and on- -find in this
fellowship of the Spirit such an intense oneness that customary rationales
for separateness (theological, ecclesiastical, liturgical, social) collapse
under the impact of the Spirit.
This fellowship in the Spirit, however, is by no means confined to
Protestants, for this higher unity transcends even ancient differences
between Protestants and Catholics, and we find ourselves coming together
in deep solidarity. How amazing is the discovery that the same thing
which has so recently happened to us has also been happening to them,
and as we come together in churches and homes we are one in the Spirit-
-one in the Lord! Yet Catholics and Protestants alike find themselves
inspired with fresh zeal for the sacraments, the worship, the practice
of their own denominations. How extraordinary it all is!
Nor ought we to fail to mention at this juncture that all of this is
likewise bringing about a unity with the "third force" of
Christendom, the Pentecostal churches. In many ways the Pentecostals
have been the forerunners of us all in witnessing to this renewal of
the Spirit. So it is with joy that Protestants and Catholics reach out
united hands saying from the heart, "Thank you," and together
sit down with these long "separated brethren" (separated from
Protestants and Catholics alike) in the unity of the Spirit. Praise
Now another matter to be mentioned is the way in which the Bible has
taken on vital meaning, becoming indeed a quite contemporary document.
What may have been thought of as a kind of external rule or norm of
Christian faith, or merely a historical witness to God's mighty deeds,
has become a coordinate testimony to God's amazing activity. There is
a newfound delight in reading here and there in Scripture and saying,
"Why, of course ... I don't know why it seemed so strange and distant
before." Some things that had been viewed as belonging to God's
past work (if not to pious legend) now stand out as compellingly vivid.
It is as if a door had been opened and, walking through the door, we
find spread out before us the extraordinary Biblical world- -a world
with dimensions of angelic heights and demonic depths, of Holy Spirit
and unclean spirits, yes, even of God and Satan. Nor is this a trip
into illusion or into things proved fanciful by our modern "enlightenment."
It is the opening of the eyes to dimensions of reality only vaguely
The Bible truly has become a fellow witness to God's present activity.
What happens today in the fellowship and in individual lives also happened
then, and there is the joy of knowing that our world was also
their world. If someone today perhaps has a vision of God or
of Christ, it is good to know that it has happened before; if one has
a revelation from God, to know that for the early Christians revelation
also occurred in the community; if one speaks a "Thus says the
Lord," and dares to address the fellowship in the first person-
-even going beyond the words of Scripture- -that this was happening
long ago. How strange and remarkable it is! If one speaks in the fellowship
of the Spirit the Word of truth, it is neither his own thoughts and
reflections (e.g., on some topic of the day) nor simply some exposition
of Scripture, for the Spirit transcends personal observations, however
interesting or profound they may be. The Spirit as the living God moves
through and beyond the records of past witness, however valuable such
records are as model for what happens today. For in the Spirit the present
fellowship is as much the arena of God's vital presence as anything
in the Biblical account. Indeed, in the light of what we may learn from
this past witness and take to heart, we may expect new things to occur
in our day and in days to come.
This leads to a further exciting thing about this fellowship, namely,
that one is always looking forward from the biblical record.
We do not expect the days and years ahead to be but repetition of the
past or the present, for we live under the word that "greater works"
(John 14:12) than even our Lord did are to be expected. In an age fast
leaving the past behind and rushing toward a new millennium- -with almost
breathtaking discoveries in science, ventures in space, and so on- -the
community looks forward also to new spiritual breakthroughs carrying
us far beyond what can be dreamed of now. If there stands at the end
the final Advent of Jesus Christ and "a new heaven and a new earth"
(Rev. 21:1), what happens between now and then in preparation for such
is the ultimately important thing. Thus do we look every day for the
new in anticipation of the final consummation!
Something was said earlier about the opening of our eyes to dimensions
of reality only vaguely surmised before. We may now add that one of
the great joys that comes to those in this renewal of the Spirit is
the way in which the Spirit so enlightens the understanding as to bring
assurance about many things. It may be a matter of depth apprehension
when in the Spirit there is a profound certitude in many areas of faith:
the indubitable conviction, for example, of belonging to Christ and
participating in His salvation. Here is not only a belief in Christ,
it is also a full conviction. This does not mean that faith has passed
into sight; but faith has become certainty. Or this enlightenment may
refer to the future whereby there is imparted through the Spirit the
full assurance that what is promised at the "end" is going
to take place. This is due to the fact that the Spirit, who is the inward
"earnest" or pledge of all Christians, now opens our eyes
to behold with awe and gratitude the riches of the inheritance which
is yet to come. All in all, it is not necessarily as if one sees what
he had not seen before, though this may be the case. Rather, it is as
if what was vague and fleeting, somewhat dim and unclear, now becomes
full of substance. In all humility and joy there breaks forth the simple
utterance: "Now, at last, I know."
Nor is this a gnosis (higher knowledge) belonging to a presumed spiritual
elite. Here is nothing esoteric for which only certain ones, ushered
into celestial mysteries, are qualified. Indeed, there is nothing seen
or heard or known that was not there already, the common heritage of
all the children of God; but here is the marvel of it all breaking
through in vivid form. Nor can there be any claim to have achieved something
wherein there may be boasting, for nothing has been achieved- -it has
all come as a gift of the gracious Lord.
In addition to this spiritual enlightenment in terms of understanding,
there is the realization of extraordinary power. Almost incredible
to relate, it is not other than the immeasurably great power that raised
Christ from the dead and enthroned Him at the right hand of God that
now becomes operative in human life. Here are resources of strength
hitherto unrecognized or untapped that suddenly begin to flow- -surely
not from our own potential (for who could possibly have such?), but
through the Spirit of the living God moving in and through the human
depths- -"the inner man." Here is power breaking in and out
of the conscious and subconscious depths of the human spirit that, while
making use of human channels, transcends every human possibility.
But how can it really be described? It is as if one were passing from
a situation of relative impotence into a dynamic world wherein God's
own activity flows through the totality of existence. For when the Spirit
of God begins to move upon and within the spirit of man, it is like
a driving wind blowing through every fiber of the human personality,
like a blazing fire igniting the speech of man to proclaim God's deeds
abroad. It is Acts 1 and 2 all over again! It is, to be sure, a different
cast, a different scene, a different millennium- -and people obviously
not existing in the same proximity to the original event of Christ's
death and resurrection, nor called upon to be the original witnesses
to God's mighty deeds- -but visited by the same power that broke out
in the primitive Christian community.
This leads in turn to an extraordinary manifestation of the Spirit
of God- -like wind and fire- -possessing the inmost being. It is the
breaking forth of the praise of God from the depths of the human spirit.
Suddenly we find to our own astonishment that this praise, carried by
the divine Spirit and welling up through the human spirit, transcends
all that human language can express. Here indeed is the Spirit Himself
speaking through the human spirit and the utterance coming forth is
not the language of man but the language of the Spirit! This is the
glorifying of God in "tongues"- -in speech not of human devising
but brought about by the Spirit of the living God. And in this spiritual
praise there is the overwhelming sense that no richer worship of God
could possibly be offered, for in it the Spirit is communicating directly
through the human spirit the profoundest adoration of Almighty God.
What joy follows, as the praise of God, pouring forth from the human
spirit, is in turn offered up by the mind- -and heavenly language blends
with earthly in paeans of blessing and thanksgiving! Indeed, the whole
being- -spirit and mind, body and soul, feeling and will- -is so swept
by the high wind of the Spirit as to be carried up and out into new
dimensions of living for the praise of God's glory. How vast and marvelous
this power of the Spirit to break through long existing barriers!
But there is not only power to praise God with the total being, there
is also power to speak forth His word so that it comes with full conviction.
Formerly many of us had sought to bear witness to Jesus Christ but had
found our words and actions of insufficient weight and consequence.
While there may have been sincerity of effort and some success in terms
of others hearing and responding, lives were not being changed. Transformation
brought about by Spirit and word, wherein the heart of the "righteous"
as well as the "unrighteous" is broken open and remade in
its center, simply had not been happening. But now, by God's grace,
the power of the Spirit has come- -and the word is going forth to change
lives. Not by any means that all to whom the word will henceforth be
spoken will be profoundly affected- -for there always remains the freedom
to resist- -but the possibility at last is here! Nor is there any guarantee
of invariably ministering in the Spirit, for the Spirit is never a human
possession (He may possess us but not we Him) and needs to be sought
continually. But now that the original barriers to His activity have
been breached, there are human channels newly open to His working. And
what a difference it does make to witness for Jesus Christ in the power
of the Holy Spirit!
What is further amazing is the way in which God confirms this witness
by "signs and wonders." Now and again there is not only life-
-giving proclamation of the message but also accompanying it are extraordinary
occurrences including the deliverance of people from evil powers, the
healing of cases of hopeless illness, and (some say) even the raising
of the dead. This is a world of God's miraculous activity, surely represented
in the New Testament, but just beginning to become actual for some of
us today. These "signs and wonders" we now know to be confirmations
of the word; and if they are very rare or nonexistent, it would seem
questionable whether the witness is going forth fully in the power of
the Spirit. Are lives being radically transformed- -a miracle in itself-
-if there are not also such signs as deliverances from evil possession
and the healing of the helpless and hopeless? Now in the power of the
Spirit "signs and wonders" are reappearing, and the gospel
is being remarkably confirmed!
Surely, however, there is more here than confirmation of the word proclaimed.
For these are not only confirming signs, they also in themselves represent
ministry to a vast area in which there is desperate need today. But
here, hitherto because of insufficient resources of power, we have by
no means fulfilled our responsibility and opportunity. This is not to
say that we have not generally supported and sought to further the work
of healing through physicians, hospitals, clinics of various kinds,
and stood behind efforts of psychiatrists, psychologists, agencies for
dealing with mental and emotional problems; however, there are many
situations beyond the competency of medicine and psychology. There are
profound human needs that only the power of the Spirit can reach and
resolve- -and now we know such power is available! For we are beginning
to see things happen whereby health and deliverance are coming in conditions
of hopeless plight. What then is opening up today is not only fresh
confirmation of the gospel through "signs and wonders" but
also more complete ministry in Christ's name.
There remains another important aspect of this power of the Spirit.
Not only does the Holy Spirit bring forth a wholeness of divine praise,
a witness to the word in full conviction, and a more total ministry,
but there is also an enabling to stand firm against manifold forces
that threaten. The Holy Spirit is the power of boldness to proclaim
God's truth without hesitation and fear; it is also the courage to move
ahead regardless of opposition and even persecution. Here by the Spirit
is not a natural virtue of fortitude, but the strength of God that nothing
can daunt and overcome.
Let us return now to the exciting renewal of the Christian community
as fellowship of the Spirit. We have spoken earlier about certain matters
such as the spirit of praise and thanksgiving, love, joy, freedom, peace,
and unity which prevails in the fellowship. Now let us comment further
on some of the ways in which the Spirit actually functions in the community.
Here I refer to the operation of the Spirit whereby, for the upbuilding
of all, there are various manifestations of the Spirit. Some
of this has been mentioned in passing; here we may note in more detail
One of the extraordinary ways the Spirit functions and manifests Himself
in the fellowship is through utterance of spiritual wisdom and/or
knowledge. Reference has been made before to the matter of spiritual
enlightenment (wherein there is discernment and assurance) which comes
about through the movement of the Holy Spirit and occurs to all. Here,
however, I am referring to special moments when a word may be spoken
by someone that provides deep spiritual understanding. This happens
not as the expression of natural prowess, but through the Spirit's own
activity. Accordingly, it may occur with the ignorant as well as the
learned, the "foolish" as well as the wise. In fact, such
spiritual utterance is altogether a gift of the Spirit, and operates
through those who are so gifted.
In this regard it may happen that those least qualified (according
to ordinary judgment) in terms of a word of wisdom and/or knowledge-
-and who accordingly have little to boast about- -are the very ones
through whom the Spirit brings forth truth. As they speak, perchance
in halting manner, sometimes improper English, even inaccurate quotation
from Scripture, the Spirit may be heard in the fellowship.1
Here is charisma unrelated to office or ability and, by its occurring
among the least, the fellowship is reminded that all of the glory belongs
A further word should be added about the range of this spiritual utterance.
By no means does it apply only to "things spiritual," that
is, to deep matters of faith. Doubtless the Spirit operates most profoundly
there, for in the fellowship frequently those who are so gifted by the
Spirit do unfold mysteries about the ways of God, for example, in incarnation,
redemption, and sanctification. But as God Himself is not limited in
concern to mankind's salvation but is involved with the totality of
things, even so, utterance by the Spirit (better perhaps than "spiritual
utterance") may relate to many other matters. In the fellowship
it often happens that the word of wisdom and/or knowledge is spoken
in relation to some material need (a job, a house), perhaps desire for
direction, even in so small a matter as something lost that seems important
to locate. It may be a word of guidance in economic, social, or political
affairs- -not necessarily in broad detail but just that word which points
the way ahead. What is important is not the full picture (for which
natural wisdom and intelligence are the God- -given means) but simply
that "Spiritual" word which provides more than human light
Now all of this is so new and different from ordinary ways that we
have a hard time adjusting to it. This is especially true if the word
comes with unexpected, even undesired, content. "This good brother
or sister really knows little about my situation; why should I listen?"
And of course not every utterance spoken as a word of wisdom or knowledge
will be that, for there is no guarantee in the fellowship that only
the Holy Spirit is at work. Thus there must be a weighing of
things said- -by the Spiritual community. But quite often the problem
is not that of the presence of a "foreign" spirit; it is,
rather, the difficulty we naturally have of hearing a word that may
not altogether please, especially if it comes from those who seem to
possess little or no talent for understanding the complexity of human
affairs. It is indeed a new world; but the opportunity for moving ahead
under the impact of divine direction is- -despite all danger and difficulty-
-truly a challenging one!2
Let us pass on to two other manifestations of the Spirit in the fellowship,
namely, the effecting of healings of various kinds and the performance
of extraordinary deeds of deliverance. Since reference has already
been made to the confirmation of the proclamation of the gospel by "signs
and wonders," we will not need to add very much. Our concern in
this instance, however, is not with witness to the world but with what
happens in the fellowship for the upbuilding of the community.
Again, what a strange, new world we have entered! In an amazing confirmation
that extraordinary healings of body, mind, and soul did not end with
the New Testament community, the fellowship of the Spirit is finding
today in its midst the Spirit at work performing mighty deeds. The same
Lord who cured the helpless and hopeless and wrought deliverance from
oppressive forces is at work through His Spirit accomplishing like deeds
of might and compassion. He has given His Spirit and through the movement
of that same Spirit in power He is at work to make His people whole.
Here we are having to learn much (almost as neophytes) in matters of
the Spirit. We now know that the world of extraordinary healing, mighty
works of deliverance, and so on, ought never to have become alien to
us. It surely was not thus to primitive Christianity. We now realize
how much we have been blinded by a modern world view that intellectually
and empirically views all that happens- -or may happen- -as belonging
to the realm of natural forces. So, despite at times its being a slow
process (especially since we have so much rationalism and empiricism
in our blood), and our frequent falling back, we are beginning to move
ahead in this world reopening before our eyes. It was true after
all- -what we read in the New Testament! By the Spirit of God people
really were healed of all manner of diseases and ailments; they
actually were delivered from forces of evil beyond the reach
of natural means. For such is happening again in our midst.
For example, in the fellowship manifold healings are taking place.
Numerous are the occasions when persons, simultaneously with their movement
into the dimension of the Spirit's power, have received instantaneous
healings of longsuffered ailments. This occurs quite often without
any specific ministering of healing- -or even an expressed desire for
this to happen. Rather the very power of the Spirit engaging the total
person- -psyche (soul) and soma (body)- -often brings
about "impossible" cures. The Spirit operative in the whole
person inevitably affects every dimension of existence, and the result
may be that of extraordinary healing taking place. From the viewpoint
of the Spirit there is nothing really incredible here because such occurrences
are signs of the dynamism of the Spirit. From the natural perspective,
however, these healings are occasion for wonder because there is no
way of accounting for them. Powers are at work through the dynamic movement
of the Holy Spirit. Thus miracles now and again are bound to happen.3
In addition (to these initial healings) many today are being healed
of various diseases in the fellowship of the Spirit. One regular aspect
of the gathering is prayer for restoration to health of those ailing.
And, again and again, there is the joy of seeing the sick (including
the medically incurable) made well. Often those present with ailments
come forward for prayer. This may be offered by the laying on of hands
and some such declaration as, "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth,
be made whole!" On occasion there is also anointing with oil as
prayer for healing is offered. And God richly blesses as the Spirit
of Jesus Christ reaches out to the faith of those asking. Once again,
as of old, He makes them well.
We find also in the fellowship that often certain persons are particularly
used by the Spirit as vehicles for healing and deliverance. They are
"gifted" by the Spirit for this purpose. Strangely enough
this gift seems to have little or no relationship to their natural talents,
interests, or training4-
-though it may come to them in the context of a strong desire to be
of help to the sick and ailing. Such gifted persons (humbly amazed that
God should so use them) often will minister for the whole group, and
frequently follow up by visitations to hospitals and homes. They live
in a world of miracles- -and never cease to be channels for new ones
The word "deliverance" has several times been used, so a
note of explanation should be added. Here there is a kinship to healing,
since the result is that of return to normalcy. However, "deliverance"
refers not so much to making well as to breaking free from dominating
forces. Now and again people will be present in the fellowship who are
bound by powers that have them under control. They simply cannot break
free- -whether it be from an addiction of some kind, a deeply ingrained
anxiety, or from irrational drives that frustrate their efforts to live
in freedom. In many cases this is something more profound than a psychological
problem, hence, although there may be some relief found in working through
the situation, bringing its complexity to awareness, and perhaps seeking
out a supportive group, they are still essentially in bondage. For the
problem is not basically on the level of psyche but of pneuma
(spirit). The human spirit is possessed by a "demonic" spirit;
and until this is dealt with, there can be no deliverance. The only
force capable of dealing with the demonic spirit is the Holy Spirit,
and by the Holy Spirit (we are finding afresh) such oppression can be
relieved. Now it is not an "In the name of Jesus, be made whole!"
but "In the name of Jesus, let him go!" It is a battle enjoined
against "principalities and powers"- -and we are seeing the
marvel today of many a deliverance by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Again, as in the case of healing, some persons in the fellowship are
called particularly to "deliverance ministry." The group often
does function as a whole, and together will pray for someone's release;
but because of the nature of the situation- -involving sometimes a long
and arduous struggle- -individuals (or perhaps two or three) may act
in this capacity. This, of course, is not determined by the fellowship,
but, as with all other activities, some persons are gifted by the Spirit
and called for this weighty task. What a joy it is to know that today
the Spirit of the Lord is anointing people to do what He anciently did,
namely, set persons free from their torturous bondage! And though it
often seems a battle to the death (with no little agony and pain), we
are grateful for those upon whom the Lord lays this fearsome responsibility.
We could go on, but perhaps this is enough concerning healings and
deliverance. We have much, much to learn- -but none of us questions
that the "impossible" in these areas is happening. Praise
Finally, we may consider the way in which the Spirit is manifest in
the fellowship through prophecy and tongues. Some reference,
in a different connection, has already been made to these matters; however,
there are some things that need to be elaborated further.
If there is any area of surprise for all of us, it is surely here!
What has been said thus far about extraordinary operations of the Spirit
(words of wisdom and knowledge, healing and deliverance) is surely not
without the new and strange, but here we find things in many ways even
more startling. For now we come to manifestations of the Spirit that,
while using mind and speech, transcend both, and represent in startling
fashion direct communication between God and man.
As far as the upbuilding of the fellowship is concerned, prophecy stands
out as the most significant of all the Spirit's operations.5
Certainly the fellowship as the body of Christ, if it is to fulfill
its function of praise to God and witness in the world, needs constantly
to be edified. This edification- -or upbuilding- -through prophecy consists
of consolation, encouragement, stimulation, exhortation, strengthening.
It may come in terms of judgment as well as blessing; however, in all
things it is not for breaking down but for building up, for it is God's
word to His people for the living of their lives before Him.
Now let us speak further about the startling element in prophecy, namely,
that in it God's word is directly spoken! It is not that through prophecy
there is a key to the knowledge of future events, so that we may have
our curiosity satisfied. What is amazing here is not that we are given
to know certain happenings ahead of time, but that in human language
God's voice is heard! To be sure, the word of God may contain reference
to the future- -for it is a word that probes the whole human situation-
-but it is not esoteric knowledge. It is the illumination of life in
all of its dimensions by the light of God's own revealing.6
In prophecy God speaks. It is as simple and profound and startling
as that! What happens in the fellowship is that the word may suddenly
be spoken by anyone present, and so, variously, a "Thus says the
Lord" breaks forth in the fellowship. It is usually in the first
person (though not always), such as "I am with you to bless you
. . . " and has the directness of an "I- -Thou" encounter.
It comes not in a heavenly language, but in the native tongue of the
person speaking and with his or her accustomed inflections, cadences,
and manners. Indeed, the speech may even be coarse and ungrammatical;
it may be a mixture of "King James" and modern; it may falter
as well as flow- -such really does not matter. For in prophecy God uses
what He finds, and through frail human instruments the Spirit speaks
the word of the Lord.
What is distinctive in prophecy is that the words do not issue from
human reflection or premeditation. Indeed, there may have been much
time given to prayer, study of Scriptures, waiting upon God; but when
the word of God goes forth it is the operation of the Spirit upon and
within the human mind so that the message spoken, while in the language
of man, is the direct utterance of God. The prophet does not know what
he will say in advance of saying it, nor can he be sure just when the
moment will come- -or even if it will come- -but he speaks when
and as God wills. Thus in the fellowship there is no scheduling of prophecy:
it just happens!
All of this- -to repeat- -is quite surprising and startling. Most
of us of course were familiar with prophetic utterance as recorded in
the Bible, and willing to accept it as the word of God. Isaiah's or
Jeremiah's "Thus says the Lord..." we were accustomed to,
but to hear a Tom or a Mary today, in the twentieth century, speak the
same way ...! Many of us also had convinced ourselves that prophecy
ended with the New Testament period (despite all the New Testament evidence
to the contrary),7 until
suddenly through the dynamic thrust of the Holy Spirit prophecy comes
alive again. Now we wonder how we could have misread the New Testament
for so long!
Perhaps a further word is in order here. Preaching, we also recognize,
is not prophecy- -nor is teaching. In the past if we had not thought
of prophecy as ending with the Biblical canon, we often tended to identify
it with the office of preaching or teaching. Preaching, however, is
the proclamation (kerygma) of the good news; it is the heralding
of the faith to the world. Teaching is instruction (didache)
in sound doctrine, and is necessary for maturing in the faith. Both
therefore are quite important- -but they are not prophecy (propheteia).
Now it may well be that the preaching of today, which is often addressed
more to the community of faith than to the world, has in it prophetic
elements, and at times prophecy will break through. However, preaching
as ordinarily done, whether in terms basically of Scriptural exposition
or analysis of the human situation, does not as such represent God's
direct address to man. Teaching, even less direct than preaching, is
essential to the life of the community, but is at some remove from prophecy.
Surely what is needed today- -and we are seeing it happening- -is not
a displacement of preaching or teaching, but the return of that which
is still more basic: the prophetic function within the fellowship
of the Spirit.8
It was earlier mentioned that prophecy is addressed to the community
of faith for its upbuilding. However, we have noted on many occasions
that, coincidental with this edification, prophecy often has a profound
effect on those present who are not truly believers. As the very word
of God, it so much conveys an impression of God's reality and presence
that persons now and again are brought under conviction, cry out for
help, and thereby enter into a new life in Christ.9
Thus prophecy indirectly becomes proclamation and evangelism.
Because of the high-powered nature of prophecy- -it is important to
add- -the fellowship finds it imperative to weigh judiciously what is
said. Prophecy can by no means be taken casually. Since it is verily
God's message to His people, there must be quite serious and careful
consideration given to each word spoken, and application made within
the life of the fellowship. Also because of the ever present danger
of prophecy being abused- -the pretense of having a word from God- -there
is need for spiritual discernment.10
Some in the fellowship may recognize through the Holy Spirit that a
given "Thus says the Lord" is not truly of the Lord, and therefore
stand against it. Here a delicate balance is needed between complete
openness to the word and sensitivity to its distortion. But even with
all possible dangers attendant, no one who has experienced prophecy
can question its tremendous value for the church of today.
Finally, though all may prophesy, we find that some persons especially
exhibit this manifestation of the Spirit. In the fellowship it is not
unusual in a given time of worship for two or three persons (sometimes
one after another, or at irregular intervals) to prophesy. These may
be men or women, young people or old- -as the Spirit enables.11
Again (as with the other manifestations of the Spirit described) there
are no prior qualifications, and those who may seem outwardly least
to exercise profundity of utterance are often the ones so gifted. Somehow
God's ways are just not our ways!
Now we come to tongues.12
Already reference has been made to the "language of the Spirit"
wherein the praise of God is uttered in words far beyond human capacity.
At that point, however, nothing was said about the place of this language
in the fellowship.
We may begin with the recognition that as background for the gathering
of the community they have incalculable value. First, as we prepare
ourselves spiritually ahead of time, prayer in tongues makes for personally
heightened edification. Here is speech addressed not to men but to God.
Here is worship in spirit through the Spirit. Here (and we will never
cease to be amazed at it) the tongue moves in customary manner, but
every sound, every syllable, every sentence is produced not by our own
devising but by the eternal Spirit Himself. Here is expressed in the
most intense, deepest, and highest possible way the unutterable yearnings
of the soul of the Christian to give praise and blessing to the God
who made him, who redeemed him in His Son, and who has poured forth
His own Spirit. What marvel, what joy! This is speech that can never
really become commonplace- -and, in reference to the fellowship, the
rich presence of God known in such prayer of the Spirit makes for immensely
Second, even if there should be no outward expression of tongues in
the fellowship, we find that quiet praying in the Spirit14
during the meeting helps to maintain an openness to God's presence and
a readiness for His word and will to be carried out. There is also the
sense of much greater power and effectiveness when at last one begins
to utter a prayer with the mind that has been undergirded by prayer
with the Spirit.
However, in addition to background, we find that tongues may also have
an important place in the meeting of the fellowship. For in the fellowship
there are those particularly gifted by the Spirit in this regard, namely,
for the upbuilding of the community. Since tongues declare variously
the wonders and mysteries of God, when they are understood, they vastly
enrich the community. As this is utterance by the Spirit, the truth
spoken is of signal importance.
But how can this be, since tongues are not in the common language of
the community? How can any one understand? The answer- -again marvelous
to relate: they may be understood through interpretation given by the
Holy Spirit! Interpretation is another gift or manifestation of the
Spirit,15 and when there
are those present able to interpret,16
the meaning of what has been spoken can immediately follow. If there
is no one present having this gift, then obviously tongues cannot edify,
and it is far better to forego them altogether, looking instead to prophecy,
teaching, and the like. If, however, interpretation occurs, tongues
have no less value than prophecy, for once again there is direct utterance
of the Spirit of God. Indeed, this is no small thing- -and it has been
for many of us a source of continuing marvel to hear tongues interpreted
in the Spirit and to sense the overwhelming import and impact of divine
mystery being communicated to man!
It should be added to what has been said about tongues in the fellowship-
-and their operation through certain gifted persons there- -that tongues
are primarily for devotional use. Since they basically build up the
believer in his faith, most persons pray in tongues privately (or with
a few others) and find great joy and strength in so doing. Praying with
the Spirit becomes the fruitful base for praying with the mind, and
it is in the alternation and interplay of these two dimensions of prayer
and praise that spiritual growth and maturation takes place.
A final word might be said about something quite akin to speaking
and praying in tongues, namely, "singing in the Spirit." This
likewise may be done privately and represents also rich background for
singing with the mind. However, because our concern here is with the
life and upbuilding of the community, we shall make a brief comment
about singing in the Spirit in connection with worship.
Since every gathering of the fellowship is essentially for praise and
adoration, blessing and thanksgiving, music is, of course, one of the
most elevated of all expressions. Thus in worship, ancient hymns of
the church, psalms from the Old and verses from the New Testament, and
popular choruses that have become freighted with spiritual meaning are
sung by all assembled. Occasionally words will be sung out (perhaps
a bit of Scripture, maybe an ejaculation of praise) by some person in
the common language but in a free manner- -based on no fixed music from
the past- -and others soon join in the newly formed melody. Indeed,
there may be long periods of joyful, lilting music, quite unplanned,
moving back and forth through psalms, hymns, choruses, and the like-
-as the Spirit guides the meeting. But the climax is the moment when
not only is the melody given by the Spirit but also the language,
as words and music sung by the assembled worshipers blend into an unimaginable,
humanly impossible, chorus of praise. Here is "singing in the Spirit"
at its zenith- -the sublime utterance of the Holy Spirit through the
human spirit to the glory of Almighty God.17
Having discussed some of the operations of the Holy Spirit in the
fellowship, we ought to stress that all of this exists for one purpose
only, namely, the building up of the body of Christ. All the gifts and
manifestations mentioned are important, and none dare be discounted.
If there are some who declare that there is no need of healers and prophets,
or healers and prophets declare that they have no need of others, the
body is hurt thereby. If there are those who would seek to bypass, disregard,
or even check some or all of these manifestations, such persons surely
must give justification by the Spirit of God. It is rather in a readiness
for all of God's gifts that the body truly is blessed and built up for
a more total ministry. Accordingly, it would be hard to overemphasize
the importance of complete openness and receptivity to the Spirit's
What is happening today among people in the fellowship of the
Spirit is quite the opposite of being hesitant in the area of the
Spirit's manifestations. For there is a growing desire to be a channel
for the varied operations of the Holy Spirit. This is quite important
for, though these workings are gracious deeds (gifts) of the Holy Spirit,
they do not happen if the fellowship is basically closed to them. These
gifts are to be sought after and gladly received, not for pride's sake
or personal boasting, but because they are God's own offering to the
community of His people. So the fellowship earnestly desires the charismata
of the Spirit, that God may in all things be glorified.
One more word about the fellowship of the Spirit- -and this in relation
to the world. All that has been said earlier about the fellowship in
terms of the praise of God, love and concern, abundance of joy, newfound
freedom, profound peace, deep and lasting unity, is too good to keep!
Indeed, it is surely not the will of Him who has made such blessings
possible to confine them to the few, but to make them available to all
mankind. Thus while at the same time the community is being built up
through the multiplication of the gifts of the Spirit, it is greatly
concerned to share what it has found with the whole world. What has
been said earlier about the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of power to witness
is therefore fundamental. The community can never exist satisfied in
itself to know the wonder of God and His ways, but in the power of the
Spirit proclaims the word of life to all who will hear, so that people
everywhere may share in the goodness and glory of God!
Now we turn to a consideration in this chapter of how this
renewal through the Holy Spirit has been coming about. Variously we
have sought to relate ways in which this movement of the Spirit has
brought a lively sense of the reality of God- -as Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit; the fellowship of faith has taken on new dimensions of praise
and thanksgiving, love of the brethren, freedom, peace, joy, and unity;
the Bible has unfolded with amazing contemporaneity; vistas of understanding
and power have opened up; likewise, the community has become the scene
of extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit. But, except indirectly,
nothing has been said about how all this has happened. Obviously, this
final matter is of no small importance.
Here there are a wide variety of testimonies- -and in large part this
is due to the fact that we are talking about the Holy Spirit. To try
to track the Spirit is a little like tracking the wind; it is indeed
hard to accomplish! "The pneuma blows where it wills...."18
There is about the Spirit an unpredictability, a freedom that makes
suspect any claim that "this is exactly the way it always
happens," etc. The Spirit has a way of moving not according to
our plans and schemes but according to His own sovereign intention.
So the dynamic movement of the Spirit cannot be charted but occurs in
an unlimited number of ways and situations. Blueprints are out!
Also, persons and groups who share in this renewal represent a broad
range of experience, variegated backgrounds, and many cultural differences.
And, as already noted, the religious spectrum of church affiliations
is by no means limited to a few traditions. Even people who may be closely
related in terms of background, tradition, and communal life may still
pass through exceedingly diverse religious experiences. So even if the
Spirit did not operate freely in many ways, there would continue to
be manifold expressions of the Spirit's movement in the lives of individuals
But having said all this- -and without seeking to fix a pattern- -we
may now go on to affirm that the movement of the Spirit (about which
we speak) is wholly related to Jesus Christ and our faith in Him. It
is not some operation of the Spirit in the broad universe which may
have reached us in some mystical moment; rather it happens through the
Spirit mediated to us by Jesus Christ. In a variety of ways, but none
the less truly, we had at some time recognized Christ's claim upon us,
been convicted of our unworthiness, and entered into a life of witness
in His name. There may have been no "great light" from heaven,
no cataclysmic conversion, but we did come to a life-changing acknowledgment
of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and were sealed by His Spirit. That
very moment for some of us was the occasion in which we experienced
the dynamic movement of the Holy Spirit. For others this was not the
case; it happened later- -perhaps only a short time thereafter, maybe
days, months, even years. But whenever it took place, it was related
to Jesus Christ and His coming to us in our faith and repentance.
One thing is surely true, namely, that this dynamic movement of the
Spirit occurred in the context of openness and expectation.
For though the Spirit cannot be patterned or programmed, it is certain
that He will not force His way, but moves where there is a readiness
for His activity. He does not batter down closed doors, but flows freely
and mightily wherever the barriers are removed. Indeed, it was for many
of us the admission of our poverty and need, the realization of the
inadequacy of our witness, the surrender of the citadel of mind as well
as heart- -none of which was easy- -that finally made way for that climactic
moment when the Spirit of God moved like wind and fire. When at last
we could be empty before Him, He swept through our whole being.
But also there was a kind of intense yearning for more of His
reality and presence. To be sure, there was much variety- -all the way
from an almost unconscious sigh to a "Come, Holy Spirit, come!"
In any event there was a hungering and thirsting after God beyond all
earthly desires, and often a profound yearning to praise and magnify
His name in a total kind of way. So there was much time devoted to persistent,
importunate prayer-asking, seeking, knocking- -that His power and presence
might be manifest and His name truly glorified. When the time had fully
come, He did not fail to answer.
Another thing, significant for many of us, was the willingness- -after
a struggle- -to be ministered to by others. We came to realize
that, despite our commitment and dedication, we really needed help.
For it was borne in upon us that some people whom we encountered were
walking in a dimension of the Spirit, evidenced through their joy in
the Lord, abundant love, eagerness to witness (and much else), that
we knew little about. So, at the humbling of pride and vanity, we sought
to learn from them, even be instructed by them. Yes- -and for some of
us this was the hardest- -we finally became willing for them to pray
for us, even lay hands upon us, that we might be granted the renewing
of the Holy Spirit. This for many of us was a turning point- -even a
breakthrough- -as we submitted to their ministry.
But we should not fail to add that this movement of the Holy Spirit
also occurred for some of us under the growing conviction of serious
need in the church. There was our own personal realization of the
lack of "fire" in our witness for Jesus Christ, and we saw
little more of it in the church around us. Outwardly the church was
carrying on its mission, but there was serious inner weakness evidenced
by sharp factionalism, confusion about purpose, and slight impact upon
the world. Further, it seemed not to matter whether one was on the side
of evangelism or social action, old confession or new, ancient liturgy
or experimental forms (or various combinations thereof), there was still
little deep and abiding fellowship among the brethren. Where was the
joy in worship (genuine- -not formalized or forced), the passionate
love of Jesus Christ, the intense yearning for "the Spirit of unity
in the bond of peace"? Where was the lively sense of God's presence
and power, so real that people would be overwhelmed with the weight
of His glory? One looked and looked: God might not be dead, but His
people were gasping for breath. If only the wind of the Spirit might
blow...surely His people could live again.
One final thing that drove some of us onward was the vision of
a world filled with the knowledge and glory of God. We sensed that
somehow the vague, even uncertain, yearnings of mankind for the reality
of God (however named), for participating in the ultimate mystery suffusing
the universe, for knowing the eternal in the midst of time, must find
an answer. And we had seen enough of the glory of God in Jesus Christ
to make us yearn that that glory might envelop all. We believed, to
be sure, that in the "age to come" it would all be fulfilled,
but should not the "powers" of that age be operative now?
Could there not be a conjoining of the natural and the supernatural,
the immediate communion of God with man in this world? Was this not
the way, the only way, to universal brotherhood among men- -where Christ
is enthroned as Lord and where men are ruled by the sway of His inner
Spirit? With some such vision before us of the knowledge and glory of
God we were driven to more earnest questing.
And now we say with great rejoicing: this day is at hand! How good it
is to be in the fellowship of faith! For the church of Jesus Christ
is the arena in which the renewal in the Spirit is occurring. Therein
all people may know the wonder and greatness of God.
Now I am eager to move on to some theological implications
of what has been written in the previous pages. And here the attempt
will be made to show that this dynamic movement of the Holy Spirit-
-with all its wonder and excitement- -makes for fresh ways of theological
Actually what has happened to those of us who are also called to particular
theological responsibility is that we have found ourselves having much
difficulty articulating it all. We have tried to make use of given theological
patterns, but have found them frequently wanting. But again- -and to
our surprise- -we have found old formulas taking on new meaning, and
this has truly been a delight! In the latter instance it is as if something
long dormant, in coming to life, has suffused energy through the whole.
In any event, we now find ourselves being challenged to renewed theological
We may begin by noting the fact that the dynamic movement of the Spirit
does not fit very well into traditional theological categories. Our
inherited theology- -in both historical Protestantism and Roman Catholicism-
-has dealt in various ways with the work of the Holy Spirit, for example,
in creation (as "Lord and Giver of Life"), in the Incarnation
(as the divine power of conception), in regeneration (as bringer of
"new life"), in sanctification (as the Spirit of holiness),
in word and sacraments (as inspirer, sealer, and so on), and in the
final redemption (as perfecter). But none of these categories adequately
expresses this movement of the Spirit.
Let us look more closely. Perhaps among the categories just mentioned
this movement of the Holy Spirit might seem to be closely identified
with regeneration. For Christian theology has traditionally held
that "new birth" is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit
awakens faith in Christ, convicts of sin, and brings about repentance.
It is He, therefore, who unites the believer to Christ; this, accordingly,
is the beginning of a new life. Without the Spirit, Christ remains distant
and the effects of His redemptive work are not appropriated by us. By
the action of the Spirit, however, Christ is no longer afar but comes
to dwell within the heart. It is by this work of the Spirit that the
transition occurs from non-Christian to Christian existence.
Now this is all very important. We must return to it shortly since
it is essential to the dynamic movement of the Spirit. But our point,
for the moment, is that we have not been talking about regeneration
or becoming a Christian. It has been stressed that this movement of
the Spirit is something that has been happening to Christians, to believers.
To be sure, those involved may or may not have been exceptionally good
ones, but that is irrelevant. It has occurred to people believing in
Jesus Christ; thus, despite the felt poverty and need (as earlier described),
it is scarcely a matter of regeneration.
What then about sanctification? Here we might seem to come
closer, for sanctification is often thought of as the particular work
of the Holy Spirit. Almost by definition the Holy Spirit- -the Spiritus
Sanctus- -sanctifies. It is He who, having mediated a new life in
Christ, now sets us apart for the service of God, and perfects in us
His own holiness. Thereafter, day by day, despite the struggles with
the flesh, the Spirit is able to overcome, and we grow in the likeness
of Jesus Christ.
Now who could gainsay the importance of this? Every Christian is called
upon to a life of faithful commitment to the Lord and to wrestle daily
with the barriers that stand in the way of growth in holiness. But this
movement of the Spirit is by no means identical with sanctification
nor is it, as such, concerned with the area of Christian maturation.
One further possibility might be to think of this new movement of
the Holy Spirit in terms of confirmation (one of the sacraments
in the Catholic tradition and a rite in many Protestant churches). Here
one is on rather difficult ground because confirmation itself has been
variously understood, and in many churches it has no place at all. In
general, however, it might be said that confirmation is viewed as the
strengthening of a person in his faith, the renewal of his baptismal
vows, and perhaps some increment of the Holy Spirit whereby he is better
able to live the Christian life.
Here we might seem to be still closer, for there is the laying on
of hands (by the bishop or minister), the context of prayer, and often
reference to reception of the Holy Spirit. There seem to be two differences,
though, from what has been earlier described: first, there is more stress
in confirmation on "increase of grace" than on the movement
of the Spirit in a new dimension; second, there seldom seems to occur
experientially for those confirmed a vital renewal through the Spirit.
Confirmation (however it may have been understood originally19)
can scarcely qualify to comprehend the extraordinary reaches of this
present dynamism of the Spirit.
So traditional categories- -such as regeneration, sanctification,
confirmation- -do not suffice; hence, we must turn in another direction.
Here the question concerns the larger theological arena: the significance
of this movement of the Spirit and its implication for the whole of
theology. We may find ourselves exploring some new ground.
In order to get at a proper answer regarding this dynamic movement
it may be helpful to recall again that we are talking about something
happening to believers. Here it is quite important to stress that believers,
Christianly speaking, are more than those who give assent of the mind
to some kind of faith statement. They are also more than people who
seek to follow God's commands, or to pattern their lives after the example
and teaching of Jesus Christ. Believers are those who have heard the
call of God in Christ, have received forgiveness in His name, and have
become tabernacles for His Spirit. To be a believer is to enter into
a new way of life which centers wholly in Jesus Christ.
The status of the Christian believer in relation to the Holy Spirit
is that he has been "born of the Spirit." He has passed out
of death into life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
and as a result the Spirit of God dwells within. This indwelling of
the Spirit is not to be understood as a natural fact of human existence.
God is surely everywhere present, and man may be said to have his being
in God, but only man in Christ is one in whom Christ's Spirit resides.
The hardness of a person's heart sets a barrier against the presence
of God's Spirit; so, until this is broken open and forgiveness received,
there can be no inwardness of the Holy Spirit. It is accordingly through
faith in Jesus Christ that the Spirit moves into the center of human
existence- -the human spirit- -and sets up a totally new situation.
It is quite important to stress at this juncture that there is no point
in talking about the dynamic movement of the Spirit except against the
background of this faith in Jesus Christ. There must be that kind of
faith- -to repeat- -which appropriates what God has done in Christ.
Such appropriation cannot be automatically assumed merely because someone
is a Christian by name or is attached to some Christian community or
organization. Only as a person hears the word of the gospel in faith-
-the word that smites the heart thereby bringing about conviction of
sin and guilt- -and repents of the evil in which he is bound, does he
become a new person in Christ. There is a narrow pass to go through
(which only the grace of God makes possible), but through it one must
go if he is to know salvation and have the Spirit of God dwelling within.
At the risk of too much emphasis here, let me repeat how important all
of this is: it is meaningless to reflect upon the movement of the Spirit
unless the Spirit is an inward actuality. To put it another way: only
the man of the Spirit- -"spiritual man"- -is able to begin
to comprehend what this is all about.20
The "natural" man, whether outside the church or in the church,
can only be completely baffled by the movement of the Spirit; and the
result quite possibly is that he turns away- -maybe even adopts a negative
attitude- -because he is not in a position to understand.21
Thus a word of rather blunt counsel: if a person does not have the Spirit
of Christ, let him not seek to judge that for which he has no capacity.
However, it is far better that he should become a man in whom the Spirit
dwells- -Christian man, "spiritual" man- -and have the spiritual
antenna by which he can receive the things of God.
Theologically what has just been said may be expressed in language
earlier used, namely, that regeneration (new birth, conversion) is the
presupposition for the movement of the Spirit, and again, in reference
to sanctification, that the Spirit of sanctification has been given.
Thus regeneration and sanctification (in the sense of the presence of
the sanctifying Spirit) are the ground, the basis, the framework in
which and out of which the movement of the Spirit may come. Also, to
be sure, justification is to be presupposed, for it is through the declaration
of forgiveness that one is accepted as righteous ("justified")
and the Spirit of regeneration and sanctification is at work.
This last statement leads to a further word about justification and
its relationship to the movement of the Spirit. I am quite convinced
that a major problem is the way in which justification is frequently
misunderstood, so that there can be no adequate comprehension of sanctification-
-and much less of the movement of the Spirit. The term "justification"
in this connection may not be employed; perhaps the language will be
that of "God's free grace," or "total forgiveness,"
or "complete acceptance," and to be a Christian (from this
perspective) is to live as a "free man" unburdened by the
past, accepted in the present, and open to the future. Now all of this
is very good if it grows out of a faith in Jesus Christ wherein
there is true repentance- -a turning in deep contrition from the old
to the new- -so that the talk about justification, or acceptance, is
not simply a cover-up for staying the same, but represents the coming
to be of a new reality. "Justification" that "justifies"
the sinful status of man is not Christian justification: it knows nothing
of God's righteousness, and is ill-equipped to talk about sanctification
at all.22 A fortiori,
the movement of the Spirit cannot even come into sight.
Justification- -properly understood- -is inseparable from regeneration
(and sanctification in the primary sense). For there is no genuine appropriation
of God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ that does not also signify the
emergence of a new man. This means that not only is he a forgiven sinner,
living by God's continuing grace, but he is also one in whom God has
begun a new work through the Spirit that comes to dwell within. To be
sure, this new man remains a sinner needing constantly to be sustained
by God's mercy in forgiveness, but he is also not the same person he
was before. Further, he now has the awesome responsibility of showing
forth God's holiness and righteousness in all of his life.
Now- -with this excursus on justification done- -let us go back to
the earlier statement about what must be presupposed to talk about the
movement of the Spirit, namely, justification, regeneration, and sanctification
(in its beginning). Without the transition into a new condition, a new
being, a new reality which these terms signify, we are not operating
from a basis that makes either comprehensible or possible the talk about
a dynamic movement of the Spirit. Only when this transition has occurred
are we ready to proceed further with theological reflection.
We are now ready to address ourselves theologically to the question
of Christian existence and this movement of the Spirit. Here we assume
that God's redemptive deed in Jesus Christ has been appropriated in
faith and repentance, that regeneration has taken place, that there
has been a transition from non-Christian into Christian existence. Against
this background, in this situation, the dynamic movement of the Spirit
occurs. How are we to understand this as Christians?
Here we may encounter the difficulty of the unfamiliar and the strange.
This is a different kind of problem from the one already discussed,
namely, that talk about "spiritual" matters is incomprehensible
to the "natural" (or "unspiritual") man. It is no
longer a matter of something totally outside comprehension, for Christians
as "spiritual" persons are in the realm where the movement
of the Spirit occurs. They have spiritual antennae and therefore cannot
be altogether outside the range of perception, yet the Spirit's operation
may still be quite unclear, strange, and hard to grasp. It is as if
there were a whole world of the Spirit's activity stretching out ahead,
but one may not yet have made the trip. However truly the "spiritual"
man is at the right point of viewing, he may yet be quite uncertain
of it all.
In this situation there is quite possibly one of two reactions. On
the one hand, a strong desire may be elicited to look further into what
all this means. Indeed, the pulse may beat faster at the realization
that there lies at hand something for which there has been deep, perhaps
hitherto unrecognized, yearning. Hence, despite unfamiliarity about
it- -and maybe hesitation- -there is a compelling urge to move ahead.
On the other hand, there may be, despite the sense that there is something
real, a turning away. This may occur for a number of reasons:
for example, fear of what is unusual, extraordinary, mysterious; long-time
Christian existence that has become rather routine and lethargic, and
is not sure exploration is worth the effort; anxiety at what such a
venture would mean in terms of status (what would other people
think?). So there may be an attempt to "tune out"- -and forget
it all. Indeed, the same person may for a time go through both of these
reactions- -attraction and repulsion- -for it is not easy to venture
into ways relatively unfrequented. But now and then there is a breakthrough,
and subsequent wonder that there could have ever been hesitation to
Now we must return to the question of how as Christians we are to
understand this dynamic activity of the Holy Spirit. There is some difficulty
in finding the right language because we are talking about a movement
of the Holy Spirit and not a result or effect (such as incarnation or
regeneration). Further, since we are seeking to deal with that which
moves into the realm of the less well-known, even the extraordinary,
there is more than the usual difficulty in discovering adequate ways
Perhaps the best way to begin is once more to say that this movement
of the Spirit happens only among those who believe in Jesus Christ.
The Spirit of Christ comes to those who believe, and thereby they are
"spiritual" persons. This is an aspect of the work of redemption
wherein God calls us in Christ, freely forgives us in Him and seals
us with His Spirit.23
In all of this the Spirit is active, applying the work of God in Christ
and making new life an actuality. That much we need to say by way of
review- -all pointing up the Spirit's activity in relation to the work
But (and now we come to the new) here is a movement of the
Spirit beyond redemption! And it is based on the fact that, by
virtue of the Spirit's activity in relation to the work of Christ, a
situation is present laden with dynamic possibilities. For the Spirit
who comes as token and seal of God's work in and through Jesus Christ
may act in such fashion as to possess human existence, and thereby
move upon, into, and through it in totality. This may be viewed on the
one hand as an inward action whereby the Holy Spirit indwelling the
human spirit moves from the depths to the heights of creaturely reality,
thereby fully claiming the human vessel. From another perspective it
may be seen as an external movement whereby the Spirit comes upon the
human creature and moves from the heights to the depths of the prepared
vessel, thereby penetrating it through and through. As a result of this
movement within and without24
all of life is bathed in the presence and power of the Spirit. Here
indeed is a renewal of the whole human situation!
We may now proceed to speak of this external movement of the Spirit
as effusion, the inward as pervasion. Or we may make use
of such Biblical language as "outpouring" of the Spirit for
the former, "filling" with the Spirit for the latter,25
both markedly vivid pictures of the Spirit's unlimited operation externally
and internally. A deluge "from above," a flooding "from
within"- -such is the Spirit's dynamic operation! Or to change
the figure, "wind" and "fire," blowing and blazing-
-and who can tell whether without or within?26
Obviously no imagery27
really suffices because the movement of the Spirit cannot be adequately
described. But the exact wording is clearly not important as long as
it points to the magnitude and comprehensiveness of the divine possession!
Let us push on- -theologically. It would seem evident that we are called
upon to recognize a major activity of the Holy Spirit beyond the sphere
of redemption. Indeed, this may well be underscored as the major
activity of the Spirit. For as significant as is the Spirit's role in
bringing about faith in Jesus Christ, convicting of sin, initiating
new life, such is all focused on Christ's redemptive work. Therein He
applies, makes subjective, what God has done in Christ. Now, though
we by no means leave Christ behind (for the Spirit is likewise the Spirit
of Christ), we are talking about the activity of the Spirit which, while
presupposing redemption, is no longer auxiliary thereto but moves freely
in another dimension. This, I would urge, is that climactic activity
of the Spirit which is most properly His own, whereby He moves in freedom,
pervading and filling human reality. As a result there is the initiation
of a new world of the Spirit wherein God and man are in such dynamic
interaction that new powers are released to praise God, to witness in
His name, to perform "signs and wonders"; there is a new sense
of His immediate presence whereby His joy, peace, and love become radiant;
also there is the commencement of the transformation of all things into
the likeness and image of God!
Now I do not believe that the activity of the Spirit in pervading
and filling (with these accompanying results) has generally stood out
in theology with sufficient clarity. In our various doctrinal traditions
a number of things have been in the way. For example, we have so tended
to subordinate the activity of the Spirit to the work of Christ in redemption-
-whereby (as just noted) the Spirit is viewed largely in terms of His
applicative instrumentality- -that any further activity is less well
at the other extreme, we have (in some traditions) tended to lay such
strong emphasis upon the work of the Holy Spirit as making men "partakers
of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) that His work is viewed largely
as that of the deification of man. In this case the work of Christ is
actually subordinated to that of the Spirit, so that the Incarnation
of the Word is the instrument of the Holy Spirit to transmute humanity
into divinity. Again, in certain traditions, the activity of the Holy
Spirit is viewed basically as that of the process of sanctification.
Here there is a much closer approximation to what is central; however
(as we have emphasized), sanctification as process is not the
"dynamic movement" itself but only an effect. Elsewhere the
Spirit is thought of largely as inspirer of Scripture, "soul"
of the church, or the anointer of offices.29
But whatever the element of truth in all these understandings- -and
to be sure there is much- -none of them focuses on the peculiar and
dynamic movement of the Spirit upon and within the community of faith.
And the result- -a quite disturbing one- -is that the believing community
may still be existing without the actualization of its potential. This
is not to deny that such a community is the people of God, called into
being by His word and Spirit, and living by His grace; such is to be
vigorously affirmed. But the release may not yet have occurred
where the Spirit from "on high" and from within moves mightily
to actualize the vast potential. The Christian community (the community
of "saints"- -"spiritual" people), despite the fact
that the new has come, may not yet have entered upon the fullness of
what is available. Latently it is all there, but it has not yet come
to manifestation. The situation, thus, is one laden with vast possibility,
but the "happening" whereby it takes on dynamic actuality
may not have occurred. The explosive power has yet to break loose!
What this chapter is really attempting to set forth is "a theology
of explosion"! It is based on the conviction that many of us have
lived long as Christians, have shared variously in many of the important
activities of the believing community, and have generally not been unmindful
of its life or worship, its service and sacraments, its responsibilities
and challenges, but the power has been bottled up, energies unreleased.
However, there is more than we ever deemed possible! "More"
is scarcely the word, for when the power of God begins to pour out of
the heights, emerge from the depths, flow through the whole, such forces
become operative as to go beyond quantitative measurement. To be "filled"
with the Spirit of God is not so much to have something "more"
as it is to be in the new, wonderful, and at times fearful situation
of having the Spirit of God break into the whole round of existence
and pervade it all. As a result of this- -yes, explosion- -what may
be violent at the beginning can become the steady and driving power
of a mighty dynamo- -the Spirit of the living God.
Let me seek to summarize a bit at this point. What I have been attempting
to stress is that the theological implications of this dynamic movement
of the Spirit are of no little significance. At the critical center
there is the knowledge that something has happened for which one has
difficulty finding adequate theological language or ways of relating
it to various doctrines of Christian faith. I am quite convinced, however,
that something is being recovered, generally long hidden, that can make
for a vital renewal of the church.
What is opening up in our day is a dimension of the Spirit's activity
that calls for fresh thinking about many matters and for a willingness
to be led into deeper understanding. The chief problem could be simply
the failure to recognize this dimension or- -what amounts practically
to the same thing- -to assume that it is already operative. Such an
assumption is found, for example, wherever it is held that the Spirit
is God's gift to the church and "Pentecost" (as symbol of
the effusion of the Spirit) is something that is related only to the
church's original coming to be. In that case, since Pentecost is viewed
as constitutive of the life of the church, it would be improper to suggest
that Pentecost may have yet to occur. Thus this dynamic dimension of
the Spirit's activity drops out of sight as completely as if it were
not recognized at all. Why be bothered about some effusion of the Spirit
when it has already taken place?30
Alongside this failure is another which, while recognizing the need
for an outpouring of the Spirit, still does not adequately comprehend
what it signifies. Sometimes it is said that the church needs a fresh
"baptism" of the Spirit, and by this is often meant a kind
of spiritual pickup, a move ahead with increased commitment, a rededication
to witness and service. But, however much the church may need these
things, this dynamic movement of the Spirit is far more radical, even
more revolutionary, than merely an increase of some kind in spiritual
vitality. Nor does it happen to the "church" as an institution,
but to people, in people, who (if and when it takes place)
are projected into a dynamic realm, scarcely beforehand imagined, of
This is exactly what is seldom understood. As long as the movement
of the Spirit is thought of in terms only of something happening to
an institution, or to people, as a kind of tonic, nothing significant
is going to occur. Indeed, even the symbol of Pentecost can be misused
so as to suggest only an external addition to faith. But- -and it cannot
be emphasized too strongly- -the effusion of the Spirit is profoundly
existential and personal. It is no mere supplement, but the movement
through the whole being (community and/or individual) of a mighty power
that renews the total situation.
It is a whole new world! So much is this the case that some who talk
about the desirability of an outpouring of the Spirit would be quite
shocked if it really happened! For this is a world in which the Spirit
is so profoundly and mightily present that people may communicate with
God in a new language of the Spirit, prophesy with authority in His
name, discern the counter-world of evil forces and dare to exorcise
them, have the faith to lay hands on the "incurably" ill and
declare their healing- -on and on. Do many people want their ideas that
such things belonged only to apostolic times exploded? Do others, who
are quite convinced that all of this represents a mythological world
view and primitive practices long ago superseded, want such rationales
swept away? Accordingly it may even be wise for such persons to investigate
a great deal before they talk (or pray) much about an outpouring of
the Spirit. Still, wherever there is willingness, sincerely and expectantly,
to move ahead, the new world of extraordinary and startling things may
again become an actuality.
It is also a new world in the realm of what begins to happen in bearing
witness to Jesus Christ. For what is primary in this effusion of the
Spirit is the anointing of people so richly with the presence and power
of God that they are witnesses to Jesus Christ. Here are people
whose existence is so marked by His love, joy, and peace that they show
forth (not just talk about) what life can really be like. Others sense
it and know it- -and yearn for something of that same fullness of joy,
profound peace, surpassing love to become a reality in their own lives.
Thus it is that the embodiment of the reality confirms the testimony
to Christ and gives it the ring of living credibility. Accordingly,
witness to Jesus Christ goes forth in power- -as the One through whom
forgiveness comes and the gift of the Spirit. What then is new
is not simply that the word is spoken with more effectiveness, nor even
that the word is accompanied or surrounded by deeds of concern and compassion
(as important as both are), but that the word issues from the reality
of those who demonstrate the abundant life in the Spirit.31
Perhaps the most exciting thing about this new world is that through
the effusion of the divine Spirit there is the realization of a new
immediacy between God and man. The "strange" signs- -such
as prophecy, healing, miracles, exorcism, speaking in tongues, discernment
of spirits- -are only strange so long as there has not yet been an interpenetration
of the divine and the human, the supernatural and the natural. When
this occurs- -bringing about a new immediacy between God and man- -then
what is alien to ordinary existence becomes (without losing its wonder)
a part of the regular ongoing life and activity of the community. It
is also this very interpenetration that brings together divine and human
joy, the peace of God and peace of man, the love of God and human love-
-and the result is that of an inexpressible participation in God's own
reality. This does not mean human deification, for we never cease to
be men. But it does point to the wonder of life in which the love, peace,
joy (on and on) of God so commingle with their human counterparts that
all of existence is thereby irradiated.
Again, this new world of the interpenetration of the spiritual and
the natural not only brings into play spiritual powers but also enhances
natural capacities and functions. By no means does the natural become
less important, but it is given fuller power and direction under the
impact of the Holy Spirit. The mind takes on keener awareness of the
true shape of reality; the feelings become more sensitive to the moods,
the concerns, the hopes of the world and of people; the will finds itself
strengthened to execute with more faithfulness and determination those
ethical actions to which it gives itself. Thus through the conjoining
of the spiritual and the natural, in which strange powers penetrate
and invigorate the natural realm (the vast area of the intellectual,
the aesthetic, the moral), there is a renewal and advancement of the
whole human situation.
Finally, this is a new world wherein there is the dawning of a profound
and lasting unity among brethren. For in this movement of the Spirit
what is implicit in the Christian community becomes explicit: not only
the immediacy of God with man but also man with his neighbor. Here truly
is the transcendence of ancient walls of creed and tradition, race and
nationality, cultural, economic, and social differentiation by the overarching
Spirit of love. Thus does the moving Spirit, interfusing and pervading
all, bring about lasting unity in the bond of peace.
Now we must treat another important matter not yet considered, namely,
the theological implications of the situation in which the dynamic
movement of the Holy Spirit comes about. It was mentioned earlier that
this happened with some persons many years after an earlier crisis experience
of lifechanging significance, with others after a relatively short
time of being Christian, and with some it occurred coincidentally with
the faith and repentance wherewith a new life began. Mention was also
made of prayer and- -in many instances- -the laying on of hands. It was
further stressed that this movement of the Spirit was by no means coerced,
but was God's own gracious doing. What, theologically, does all this have
Answer in part has already been given by talking about the presupposition
of the redemptive work of God in Christ and its appropriation through
faith and repentance. Therein forgiveness of sins is mediated, and the
Holy Spirit, as seal of God's grace, comes to dwell within. Without
this occurring (God's redemptive work, faith, sealing of the Spirit)
there is no dynamic movement of the Spirit. The reason is evident: this
very movement is a continuation- -with or without delay- -of what has
already happened. The Spirit, given in faith, now moves to lay claim
to the whole of human reality.
Now this movement of the Spirit, as noted, may occur simultaneously
with faith and repentance. The Spirit who comes to seal the divine redemption
and to dwell within may, in the same action, move mightily to possess
the whole of the human vessel. If this happens one would have to say,
theologically, that regeneration and the "effusion" of the
Spirit, though pointing to two different aspects of God's deed and human
experience, are chronologically one. Since, however, it is by no means
the case that the "filling" with the Spirit invariably occurs
at the moment of regeneration, it is apparent that, while affirming
continuity, one must also recognize the possibility of temporal separation.
Thus obviously there is diversity, but no contradiction between the
In the case of chronological separation (which is quite common) it
should be stressed that this does not mean that during the intervening
time (hours, days, years) there is a kind of substandard Christian existence.
Many of us can recall quite clearly a previous day when the grace of
God in Jesus Christ, His mercy and forgiveness, was appropriated in
true contrition, and we knew the joy of being alive again! Thereafter,
whatever the "ups" and "downs," the failures and
backslidings, times of emptiness and even despair, we continued to know
something of God's faithfulness and by His grace that we were Christians.
Thus during this time it was not a question of low-level faith (whatever
that might mean), semi-conversion (again, meaning what?), or nonspiritual
Christianity (an impossible contradiction). In fact, the whole emphasis
ought to be put the other way: it is because one is a Christian
(not semi- or anything else) that he or she is in a position to experience
the movement of the Holy Spirit.
We are now ready to consider further the questions of difference in
timing. How, theologically, is one to deal with the fact that the Holy
Spirit is "poured out" on some at the beginning of their Christian
existence, upon others later? A partial answer surely lies in the freedom
of the Spirit to act when and how He will, and in the wide variation
among people in patterns of faith and life. However, we have also spoken
of such matters as openness, expectancy, prayer, and the laying on of
hands. Is it perhaps that the readiness of a person makes an important
difference? The answer, I believe, is Yes. But before elaborating this
further, we need to consider the relationship between God's free action
and human receptivity.
Here the important theological point is that there exists a beautiful
harmony between God's free action in the Spirit and our openness to
it. The Spirit is a gift and therefore cannot be bought; consequently,
there is no earning the Spirit by any amount of prayers, vigils, and
the like. The Spirit also moves freely and cannot be compelled or coerced
by any human contrivance- -no matter how astutely performed. But for
the very reason that the Spirit acts graciously in freedom, He will
not grant a gift where it is not wanted or asked for, nor will He break
through barriers that resist His coming. Thus only the open and expectant,
the eager and hungry, the askers and seekers (not because of what they
do but because of their very readiness) receive God's blessing. Even
then no expertise in timing is possible (as if to say that it will occur
after "x" number of days of prayer, "y" number of
spiritual hunger pangs, "z" number of requests), for when
the Spirit moves there is a suddenness, a wholly unexpected character,
which sets at naught all schedules and plans.32
Also one can never know when those last barriers are down and the whole
person is prepared for the Spirit's movement. It is only by the event
itself occurring that there is evidence that the Spirit has now found
From what has just been said it is patent that the human readiness
side is important- -even if one can have no prior knowledge of the time
of fulfillment. Now I should like to add that this readiness factor
also represents a kind of total letting go. That is to say, combined
with openness, eagerness, and the like, there is the surrender of all
that one is and has to the movement of God's Spirit. There must be the
forfeiting of any claim upon one's life and reputation, future and success;
it is the offering of self as a total sacrifice.33
This includes more than the dedication of one's conscious existence
through an act of will; it also refers to the large, even hidden, area
of one's unconscious life. In the latter case especially, there is a
letting go wherein the Holy Spirit moves through the subconscious depths
and, even temporarily bypassing the conscious mind, gives expression
to the praise of God; or the Spirit may make use of the conscious mind
to declare God's truth.34
None of this occurs easily, even for the long-time Christian, because-
-whatever the testimony of the inward Spirit (maybe even His groans
at times!)- -it is extremely hard to let go. The fact is that a conscious
act of will cannot possibly release the unconscious energies of the
Spirit: thus there is no simple way. All (a very important "all")
that can be done is to offer the self- -body, mind, and even the tongue-
-so that the Spirit of God may have full possession. Wherever
the Spirit finds the way prepared, He will move in strange and wonderful
The human readiness factor may also partially35
explain why it is that some persons at the moment of their faith in
Jesus Christ experience the dynamic movement of the Holy Spirit. If
they come to faith against the background of a long search for truth,
perhaps even years of prayer and devotion- -making for an openness of
the whole self- -it is quite possible that at that very time the Spirit
will be poured out.36
Or it may be the case that there has been no obvious search for God,
no particular evidence of prayer and devotion, but there is a kind of
childlike lack of pretension, a "whole-souledness." In either
event, beyond the Spirit's sealing of faith in Jesus Christ (which happens
to all who truly believe), He takes possession in a total kind of way.
Such persons are ready- -the barriers are down and God moves mightily
upon and through their whole being.
Now a further word about the laying on of hands. It has been mentioned
in passing that, in some instances, the movement of the Holy Spirit
occurred in the context of prayer and the laying on of hands. This is
to say that it was not always just the preparation of persons themselves
(as individuals or as groups), but there was also the ministry of others
in praying for and placing hands upon those who have yet to experience
the effusion of the Spirit. For many of us this laying on of hands was
quite important as background and further preparation. It was our acknowledgment-
-by no means always easy- -of the need for willing submission to the
help of others and thereby of receiving God's blessing through them.
Let me quickly add that wherever this laying on of hands occurs it
is not, as such, a sacramental action.37
It is rather, the simple ministry by one or more persons who themselves
are channels of the Holy Spirit38
to others not yet so blessed. The "ministers" may be clergy
or laity; it makes no difference. In fact, it has been the humbling
experience of some of us who are clergymen to have laymen place hands
on us to receive this fullness of the Spirit. Obviously God is doing
a mighty work today bound neither by office nor by rank.39
Finally, it should be stressed that the laying on of hands is by no
means necessary for the outpouring of the Spirit. Many persons have
received this gift without any physical contact- -sometimes alone, sometimes
in a group. Prayer may or may not have been the immediate context, though
surely there was openness. They simply were ready (and who knows what
all was involved?), and God willed to renew them with His Spirit. So
it is that the Holy Spirit, acting with or without human means, remains
the free and sovereign Lord.
does not discount the possible advantages of further training and schooling
to make such people more proficient, but the point here is that such
is not the fundamental thing.
preceding several paragraphs on word of wisdom and word of knowledge
represent a broader understanding of those two manifestation gifts than
I later came to have (cf. with Renewal Theology, 2:348-58).
word "miracles" is, I believe, important to use. The word
so translated in most English versions of the New Testament as "miracles"
is often dunameis, "powers." So we could simply speak
of "powers" at work, making for healing. However, since these
"powers" are never viewed as natural to, or inherent in, the
human situation, one would constantly have to bear in mind that they
are "Spiritually" based (that is in the Holy Spirit), and,
therefore, are other than ordinary powers of man such as intellect,
vitality, will (even at their maximal functioning). Only such a word
as "miracles" seems capable of expressing this difference-as
"signs" of the Spirit's functioning and "wonders"
to those who first behold them. It might be added that "miracles,"
"signs," and "wonders" are often closely associated
in the New Testament. For example, Acts 2:22 (KJV): "Jesus of Nazareth,
a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs (dunameis
kai terasi kai semeiois)."
a parallel to what was written earlier about the utterance of Spiritual
wisdom and knowledge being, at base, unrelated to natural capacities
may also occupy this high position, if interpretation follows
(see 1 Cor. 14:5).
hardly need comment that what passes for prophecy in the popular mind
is far removed from prophecy as it occurs in the fellowship. The tremendous
boom of interest in astrology, fortune-telling, seances, etc.-all having
to do with presumed knowledge of things to come or things hidden-is
actually a modern-day gnosticism, even a counterfeit knowledge. It has
nothing to do with the living God, His presence among His people, His
grace and judgments-but leads into snare and delusion. Indeed, we find
in the fellowship that one of the most urgent things that has to be
done by those who wander into such paths is to abjure them utterly in
the name of Jesus Christ. Incidentally, both Old and New Testaments
totally condemn the whole perverted realm of spurious prophecy, visitation
upon "mediums," soothsaying, practice of magic, and the like
(see, e.g., Lev. 19:31; 20:6-8; Deut. 18:9-22; 2 Kings 21:1-9; Jer.
23:9-40; 27:9-10; Isa. 8:16-22; Mic. 5:12; Acts 16:16-18).
is unmistakable that prophets and prophetesses functioned in the early
Christian community (e.g., see Acts 11:27: "Now in those days prophets
came down from Jerusalem to Antioch"; 13:l: "...in the church
at Antioch there were prophets and teachers"; 21:8-9: "Philip
the evangelist... had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied";
21:10-11: "...a prophet named Agabus came down...and said, 'Thus
says the Holy Spirit'"), and that the apostle Paul strongly encourages
prophecy (". . . earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially
that you may prophesy" 1 Cor. 14:1) and warns against its disregard
("... do not despise prophesying" 1 Thess. 5:20). There is
no suggestion anywhere of prophecy ceasing (1 Cor. 13:8: "as for
prophecies, they will pass away" refers of course only to the end
when we see God "face to face").
the Ephesians letter the order of "gifts" has prophets before
evangelists, pastors, and teachers (see Eph. 4:11), and in both Romans
and 1 Corinthians the "gifts" or "appointments"
list prophecy prior to teaching (Rom. 12:6-7; 1 Cor. 12:28).
meaningful now are the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians! "...if all
prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all,
he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed;
and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God
is really among you" (14:24-25).
the matter of pretense in prophecy recall the scathing indictment of
the false prophets about whom the Lord says (through Jeremiah): "I
did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet
they prophesied." They "prophesy the deceit of their own heart,"
they "use their tongues and say, 'Says the LORD,'" etc. (Jeremiah
23 passim.) Our problem is not quite the same as Jeremiah's since only
certain ones were called to be prophets then, and people were at the
mercy of a few who might abuse the office. With the Christian community,
however, all people may prophesy (see preceding note from 1 Cor. 14),
and thus we are in the new situation of the community having to exercise
spiritual judgment among its own members. Paul speaks of one of the
gifts of the Spirit as "the ability to distinguish between spirits"
(1 Cor. 12:10), and this coming just after a reference to the gift of
prophecy (same verse) may well refer to the Spirit's operation wherein
some-for the edification of the whole-are gifted particularly to distinguish
true from false utterance.
the experience of many of us, women and young people quite often exercise
this particular gift. I am not sure why this is the case, unless the
Lord likes to use those less often viewed as the authorities
to speak His word! There is New Testament precedent here, to be sure,
for example, Acts 2:17: "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions," and 21:9 (noted earlier)
where reference is made to "four unmarried daughters, who prophesied."
Paul also gives instruction, in 1 Corinthians 11:5, to "any woman
who prays or prophesies."
what follows we shall be using interchangeably for "tongues"
such expressions as "speaking in tongues," "praying in
tongues," "praying in the Spirit," "praying with
the Spirit," and "language of the Spirit." This, I believe,
is proper in that tongues are speech addressed to God, therefore prayer;
they are spoken in (or by) the Holy Spirit and with the spirit (not
the mind); they are language (even if unknown) and not nonsensical utterances.
It might be of interest for the reader to note how Paul, in 1 Corinthians
14:13-15, shifts rapidly from the terminology of "speaks in a tongue"
to "pray in a tongue" to "pray with the spirit."
Also that it is a "language" is suggested in preceding verses.
am referring here not only to individual preparation. Often it is the
case that married couples, two or three friends gathered together, or
a small group will spend time ahead praying in the Spirit. In so doing
there is greatly multiplied the sense of God's presence and power that
carries over into the gathering of the fellowship.
one has become accustomed to praying in tongues aloud, which is as the
breath of the Spirit articulating itself, it soon becomes a possibility
for one's own breath, moving across vocal chords and tongue, to manifest
the Spirit's breathing, and thereby for prayer to go on quietly, yet
lies on the boundary between prophecy and tongues. It is solely for
the purpose of expressing what is said in tongues, but since it is in
the common language of the community and is spoken in one's own manner
without premeditation, it is akin to prophecy. Interpretation is not
translation, and so the interpretation following a tongue may vary from
it considerably in length. The only important thing is that the meaning
speaker in tongues may himself also have the gift of interpretation,
and, if so, there is no problem: he can immediately (by the Spirit)
interpret what he has said. If he does not have the gift, he holds in
check his utterance until an interpreter is present; otherwise, there
can be no edification. Paul suggests (in 1 Cor. 14:13) that "he
who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret."
the letters to the Colossians and Ephesians Paul writes of "psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs." "Let the word of Christ dwell
in you richly...and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Col. 3:16); "...
be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all
your heart..." (Eph. 5:18-19). These "spiritual singers, songs
inspired by the Spirit. According to the Expositor's Greek Testament,
"the adjective pneumatikais is attached to the odais
not merely to differentiate these odai as religious and not secular,
but to describe them as inspired by the Holy Ghost" (Eph. 5:19).
The Jerusalem Bible interestingly comments that these "spiritual
songs" (translated in Col. 3:16 as "inspired songs to God")
"could be charismatic improvisations suggested by the Spirit during
liturgical assembly," hence obviously of a quite different order
from the usual hymns and anthems in worship. This is exactly what we
have found about singing in the Spirit, namely, that it is singing "inspired
by the Holy Ghost," "charismatic improvisations," and
therefore a marvelous climax to the psalms and hymns (choruses, melodies,
etc.) in which we all share.
may be translated "wind" or "Spirit" in this quotation
from John 3:8.
do not here go into the origins of the practice of confirmation. That
the sacrament points to a historic concern of the church for something
beyond baptism (with its relationship to regeneration) is not unimportant,
and that formally it is connected with a forward step in Christian life
is also significant. The only point made here is that what we have been
variously describing for many people as renewal through the presence
and power of the Holy Spirit seems to have little or no relation to
their confirmation-or lack of it.
Paul writes: "...we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom
but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who
possess the Spirit" (1 Cor. 2:13). One who possesses the Spirit
is called a "spiritual man [pneumatikos]" (v. 15).
continues: "The unspiritual ["psychical" or "natural"]
man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly
to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually
discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
there is talk about sanctification, it quite often becomes little more
than the old terminology used (with some obvious difficulty) for talking
about obedience, service, life in the world, etc.
the previously used language of justification, regeneration, and sanctification
in its beginning is appropriate.
course spatial language is inadequate to deal with the Spirit. Words
such as "external" and "internal" may, however,
convey something of the uncircumscribable nature of the Spirit's movement.
"outpouring" of the Spirit, see, for example, Acts 2:17-18,
33; 10:45 (cf. also Titus 3:6 and Rom. 5:5); for "filling"
with the Spirit see, for example, Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9, 52
(cf. also Eph. 5:18).
what follows any one of these terms or images may be employed to represent
the wholeness of the Spirit's activity. Hence if "effusion"
or "filling" or "outpouring" or "pervasion"
(or other similar terms) is used, there is no intention of speaking
only of what happens "from above" or "from within."
Such a limitation is impossible anyhow. Every such activity of the Spirit,
however named, includes the other, for there is no external movement
that is not internal and vice versa.
in the main tradition of theology, especially in the West, this has
actually meant if not an essential subordinationism (in terms of Trinitarian
theology) a practical one. The Holy Spirit, by dogmatic definition,
is "consubstantial" with Father and Son, and proceeds from
Father and Son. But this very procession (which makes possible the "dynamic
movement" of the Spirit), in its singularity and end, has been
dealt with less than the work of Christ and the place of the Spirit
in connection therewith. On the matter of viewing the Holy Spirit as
applicative and instrumental I would especially call attention to Professor
Hendrikus Berkhof's The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit where he
writes: "This is the main pneumatological trend in ecclesiastical
theology. The Spirit is customarily treated in noetical, applicative,
subjective terms. He is that power which directs our attention to Christ
and opens our eyes to his work. The main result of his work is the awakening
of faith in Christ. His work is merely instrumental....So the Spirit
is a second reality beside Christ, but entirely subordinate to him,
serving in the application of His atoning work..." (23). Berkhof
expresses dissatisfaction with this long tradition and urges that "the
Spirit is far more than an instrumental entity, the subjective reverse
of Christ's work." I gladly confess to having received helpful
insight from what Berkhof has said in this connection.
this connection see the next chapter on "A New Era in History."
In the Book of Acts the effusion of the Spirit-whether worded as "baptism,"
"outpouring," "falling upon," "filling,"
"coming upon," etc.-occurs a number of times and to different
people. See, for example, Acts 1:5, 8; 2:4, 17-18, 33; 8:16-17; 9:17;
10:44-45; 11:15-16; 19:6. It seems evident that one of the very things
the writer of Acts wants to avoid is any easy assumption that the Holy
Spirit has already come and been received. See especially Acts 19:2-"Did
you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
It hardly needs to be said that no community demonstrates this in every
word and deed. Love, joy, peace are not invariably evidenced-and so
there is need of God's continuing forgiveness and renewal. But this
does not justify an attitude that would say it does not really
matter, that Christ is what we are not, etc. It is we who, in
the language of Paul, are "known and read by all men" (2 Cor.
It might be helpful to recall that the effusion of the Spirit at
Pentecost was not forecast for Pentecost! According to Acts 1,
the disciples were not told that if they would pray ten days, on the
tenth day (Pentecost) the Spirit would come. They were simply told that
"before many days" (v. 5) it would happen. When the event
occurred, it came about "suddenly" (Acts 2:2).
I know of no word in the New Testament that more beautifully expresses
this than the entreaty of Paul: "I appeal to you therefore, brethren,
by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice..."
Tongues represents the first of these, prophecy the second. When one
speaks or prays in tongues the mind is not functioning. Concerning the
former Paul says (1 Cor. 14:13), "If I pray in a tongue...my mind
is unfruitful" (akarpos)-"inactive" [Phillips],
"lies fallow" [NEB], "barren" [JB]. Thus prayer
in tongues is other than rational or mental prayer. (Incidentally, Paul
does not for that reason discount the value of such prayer; for he adds
[v. 15]: "What am I to do? I will pray with the spirit and I will
pray with the mind also." It is true that Paul does want to discourage
those who would put all their emphasis on speaking or praying in a tongue,
and says that "in church I would rather speak five words with my
mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue"
[v. 19]. However this statement, referring to a situation in church
where an "outsider" [v. 16] could not understand [hence it
is better in that case to forego incomprehensible utterance], does not
intend to discount the importance of tongues. How could it when Paul
has earlier [v. 5] said, "I want you all to speak in tongues"?)
The very unfruitfulness or inactivity of the mind at the moment of tongues
is sign that the Holy Spirit is speaking through the human spirit utterances
too profound for conceptualization, and signifies the vast movement
in a person's subconscious depths into a new key of divine praise and
do need to repeat here other factors such as the freedom of the Spirit,
individual differences in personality, religious tradition, culture,
classic case of this in the New Testament is surely that of Cornelius
the Roman centurion (Acts 10-11). He is described as "a devout
man who feared God with all his household, gave alms liberally to the
people, and prayed constantly to God" (10:2). It was upon such
a Godfearing man (with a Godfearing household) of singular
devoutness and constant prayer that, at the same moment of his coming
to faith in Christ, God "poured out" His Spirit (see especially
earlier discussion of "confirmation" (pp. 75-76).
is the basic consideration, not the matter of "apostolic succession."
Whatever the merits of "apostolic succession" for the validation
and order of ministry, this is not our concern here. The important thing
is that those who minister (whether in or out of such a "succession")
have themselves experienced the movement of the Holy Spirit.
One thinks of Ananias, an unknown layman in Damascus, ministering to
erstwhile "Pharisee of the Pharisees," Saul of Tarsus: "And
laying his hands on him he [Ananias] said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus
who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that
you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit'"(Acts
Chapters: 1 |
2 | 3 |
4 | 5 |
6 | 7 |
8 | 9 |
10 | 11 | 12
| 13 |
14 | 15 |
16 | Conclusion
Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams,
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