A Theological Pilgrimage: Chapter 14
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
| 2 |
3 | 4 |
5 | 6 |
7 | 8 |
9 | 10 |
11 | 12 | 13
| 14 |
15 | 16 | Conclusion
| Abbreviations |
THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES OF THE
I am using the two terms "Pentecostal" and "charismatic"
interchangeably. "Pentecostal," however, is often applied
to the movement in the first half of the twentieth century that resulted
in the separate formation of Pentecostal churches. "Charismatic"
(at first called "Neo-Pentecostal") is the name often given
to those of Pentecostal persuasion in the second half of the twentieth
century who remained in their own churches. Both groups share basically
the same perspectives.
There are, however, two aspects: Pentecost as continuing event
and the validity of the gifts (charismatic) of the Holy Spirit for
today. I will focus in this address on the former1
by setting forth ten biblical propositions with appended theological
1. The event of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost originated from
a mighty act of God: it is God Himself who sent forth the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:16-17- -"This is what was spoken of through the prophet
Joel...that I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind"2
(cf. Joel 2:28). Jesus had earlier spoken of "the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in My name" (John 14:26).
Comment: One may speak of this sending as the third mighty
act of God: the other two being the creation of the universe by God
and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The third act, highlighting the
Holy Spirit, was as distinctive as the other two. The church and theology
have often failed to give due recognition to this third mighty act of
2. The background of Pentecost was the promise of God the Father
and the exaltation of Jesus Christ.
(1) The promise of the Father- - Luke 24:49- -"Behold, I am sending
forth the promise of My Father upon you." Acts 1:4- - "He
commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait
for the promise of the Father" (KJV).
(2) The exaltation of Jesus Christ- -John 7:39- -"The Spirit
was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." Acts 2:33-
-"Having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received
the promise of the Spirit, He has poured forth this."
Comment: There are many promises of God in the Bible; however,
since "the promise of the Father" uniquely relates to the
Holy Spirit, it should be taken with utmost seriousness. Does God ever
renege on His promises? In regard to the exaltation of Christ, it is
important to recognize that the sending forth or giving of the Holy
Spirit occurred through the channel of the risen and exalted Savior,
Jesus Christ (recall John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is a mediated Spirit.
This is contrary to any view that the Spirit comes on His own.
3. The Holy Spirit was sent to those believing in Christ, to
the community of faith.
The 120 at Pentecost were firm believers in Christ. According to Luke
24:53, just following the Ascension of Jesus, the disciples "were
continually in the temple praising God," and prior to Pentecost
the 120 often gathered together for prayer (see Acts 1:!4). Peter many
years after Pentecost spoke of what happened to him and others as occurring
"after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 11:17).3
Comment: The sending of the Spirit accordingly was not
to unbelievers. It is a critical error to view Pentecost as an act of
God's saving grace. Rather the Spirit came to those who believed in
4. The sending of the Holy Spirit is variously described: clothing,
baptizing, coming upon, filling, outpouring.
(1) Clothing- -Luke 24:49- -"You are to stay in the city until
you are clothed with power from on high." Cf. Judges 6:34- -"The
Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with Himself" (Amp.).
(2) Baptizing- -Acts 1:5- -"You shall be baptized ['immersed']
in4 the Holy Spirit not
many days from now." Cf. Acts 11:16.
(3) Coming upon- -Acts 1:8- -"You shall receive power when the
Holy Spirit has come upon you." Cf. Jesus Himself- -"the Spirit
of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him" (Matt. 3:16;
parallels in Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, John 1:32-33).
(4) Filling- -Acts 2:4- -"They were all filled with the Holy
Spirit." Cf. Jesus Himself as "full of the Holy Spirit"
(5) Outpouring- -Acts 2:33- -"[He] has poured forth this which
you both see and hear." Cf. Joel 2:38- -"I will pour out My
Spirit on all mankind."
Comment: All of these terms express the many-sided aspects
of the event of the Spirit's sending and coming. It was an invasion
from without (the Spirit clothing people, coming upon, poured out upon,
an immersion within (being baptized), a permeation throughout (being
filled with). This does not deny the Spirit's being already active (see
Acts 1:2) and indwelling (see John 20:22). However, this was an experience
of the presence of God in almost overwhelming reality.
5. Speaking in other tongues was the immediate accompaniment
of the Holy Spirit's coming.
Acts 2:4- -Those "filled with the Holy Spirit...began to speak
in other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." Cf.
Mark 16:17- -"These signs will accompany those who have believed...they
will speak in new tongues."
Comment: Speaking in other (or new) tongues was spiritual utterance,
the language of the Spirit through human voices. The content of the
tongues was praise: "We [the audience] hear them [the Spirit-filled
disciples] declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues" (Acts
2:11 NIV). This was praise that goes beyond normal utterance, transcendent
joyous praise. Some in the audience mockingly said, "They are full
of sweet wine" (v. 13), but it was the joyful exuberance of the
Speaking in tongues was not proclaiming the gospel: they were
not "missionary tongues." Proclamation came later. The first
thing the 120 did, after being filled with the Spirit, was to speak
in other tongues.
6. The purpose of the sending of the Holy Spirit was power (dynamis)
Acts 1:8- -"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has
come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and
in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
Cf. Luke 24:47-48- -"that repentance and forgiveness of sins should
be proclaimed in His name to all the nations...You are witnesses of
these things"- -words of Jesus that preceded His statement about
need of "power from on high." Also cf. Luke 4:14-15-"Jesus
returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit....and He began teaching."
Acts 10:38- -"God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power,
and...He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by
the devil." Luke 24:19- -Jesus was "a prophet mighty in deed
and word." So were Peter and the other disciples "mighty"
after being filled with the Holy Spirit. See, for example Acts 2:14-40,
a mighty message with some 3000 souls being saved (v. 41), and Acts
3:1-9, a mighty deed of healing for a man lame from birth.
Comment: the sending of the Spirit was not primarily for the
benefit of those who received but for their benefit to others. The Spirit
came at Pentecost for neither salvation nor sanctification but for ministry.
7. The context of the Spirit's coming was God's sovereign action
and the disciples' earnest, expectant prayer.
Acts 2:1-2- -"And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were
all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven...."
God's action was primary- -and sudden- -to them who were gathered together.
Acts 1:14- -"These all with one mind were continually devoting
themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus,
and with His brothers."
Cf. Luke 3:21-22- -"While He was praying, heaven was opened,
and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him."
Comment: God sent the Holy Spirit as He willed- -it was His
sovereign action- -but not without regard to the prayerful attitude
of those who were to receive. To those earnestly and expectantly praying,
the Holy Spirit came with power.
8. The promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit is a continuing
promise to those who believe.
Acts 2:38-39- -Peter's words: "Repent, and let each of you be
baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is
for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the
Lord our God shall call to Himself."
Cf. John 7:38-39- -"Whoever believes in me...streams of living
water will flow from within him. By this [John adds] he [Jesus] meant
the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive"
Comment: The word "promise" (recall Luke 24:49; Acts
1:4; 2:33) again refers to the Holy Spirit. But now the projection goes
beyond the first disciples. The Holy Spirit in the future will be given
to those who believe ( to those who repent and are forgiven). The word
"gift" makes it clear that this coming of the Spirit will
be of God's gracious doing. The gift here promised again is not salvation
but presupposes such (those whom the Lord calls to Himself, i.e., calls
to salvation). The promise extends to Jews and Gentiles alike of all
ages and places. Thus the promise of the Holy Spirit to believers reaches
far beyond the early Pentecost.
9. As the proclamation of the gospel extended beyond Jerusalem,
believers variously received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(1) Samaria- -"They believed Philip as he preached the good news...they
were baptized, both men and women...The Holy Spirit had not yet come
upon any of them....Then Peter and John [same day, later] placed their
hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:12, 16-17
(2) Saul of Tarsus- -He acknowledged Jesus as "Lord" (Acts
9:1-3) and three days later (v. 9), after hands were laid on him by
Ananias, Saul was "filled with the Holy Spirit" (v. 17).
(3) Caesarea- -Peter preached in Caesarea to the Roman centurion,
Cornelius, his relations, and friends that "everyone who believes
in Him receives forgiveness of sins," and at the same time "the
Holy Spirit fell [or 'came' NIV] upon all those who were listening to
the message...the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the
Gentiles also. For they [Peter and associates] were hearing them speaking
with tongues and exalting God" (Acts 10:43-46).
(4) Ephesus- -Paul informed some dozen Ephesians of their need to
"believe in Him [Christ]," and thereafter "when Paul
had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they
began speaking with tongues and prophesying" (Acts 19:4-6).
Comment: That these were all extensions of the Pentecostal
event is apparent for several reasons:
(a) All who received the gift of the Holy Spirit were also believers.
Some had been believers for many days (the disciples at the first Pentecost),
some for a few days (the Samaritans and Saul of Tarsus), some only briefly
(the Ephesians), some received immediately upon believing (the Caesareans).
(b) Much of the same Pentecostal language about the different events
is employed: coming upon, filling, outpouring, and baptizing (see Acts
11:16 also in regard to baptizing).
(c) Speaking in tongues is explicitly said to have occurred not only
at Pentecost but also in Caesarea and Ephesus. The Scripture may imply
the same about the Samaritans5
and Paul (Saul of Tarsus himself later claims to speak in tongues- -see
1 Cor. 14:18). Speaking in tongues each time was the primary activity
upon receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit; it was also initial evidence
that the Spirit had been poured out (recall Caesarea- -"For they
were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God").
(d) All such comings of the Spirit occurred as at Pentecost in connection
with the extension of the gospel from one place to another. In the case
of Saul of Tarsus, the text makes clear that the "filling"
was in connection with Jesus declaring, "He [Saul] is a chosen
instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and
the sons of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Thus the Samaritans, Ephesians,
and Samaritans were not only those who received the good news of salvation
but also became empowered by the gift of the Spirit to bear powerful
witness in word and in deed.
(e) The context, humanly speaking, of the various events was prayer.6
Saul of Tarsus was praying- -"behold, he is praying" (Acts
9:11) when Ananias came; the Roman centurion "prayed to God continually"
(10:2); and Peter and John "came down and prayed for them [the
Samaritans], that they might receive the Holy Spirit" (8:15). Earnest
prayer, as at Pentecost, helped to prepare the way for the coming of
the Holy Spirit.
Laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Spirit is a new feature
after Pentecost. This occurred in regard to the Samaritans, Saul of
Tarsus, and the Ephesians, but not the Caesareans. Laying on of hands
symbolically represents the Spirit's coming down upon people; it also
points to the value of ministry of believers to one another.
today claim to stand in the succession of Pentecost.
They believe that the promise of the Spirit did not end with the book
of Acts and that as believers they have received the gift of the Holy
Spirit. They frequently claim that this has happened after earnest prayer
and, in many cases, the laying on of hands. They freely use such terms
as being baptized in the Holy Spirit, filled with the Holy Spirit, the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and refer to speaking in other tongues
as an immediate accompaniment and as initial evidence. Pentecostals
attest that the Spirit has given them both a richer sense of God's presence,
a higher language of praise, and a greater power for ministering the
gospel in word and deed.
Comment: I am fully convinced that Pentecostals have recovered
a vital dimension of the New Testament. It is the coming of the Holy
Spirit to those who believe in such richness and fullness as to release
tongues of transcendent praise and to enable the gospel to go forth
with supernatural power and effectiveness.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of the Pentecostal witness
for both church and world. Pentecost is a continuing event!
The coming of the Spirit should not be confused with His activity
in either regeneration (in which there is new birth by the Spirit) or
sanctification (in which He is the sanctifying Spirit). Both of these
refer to the large and vital area of salvation and Christian living
(dealt with especially in the New Testament letters) in which the Holy
Spirit is fully active. However, the critical point is that the coming
of the Holy Spirit is for an entirely different purpose. It presupposes
a vital (saving, sanctifying) faith enabled by the same Spirit who now
comes in dynamic presence and power.
Further, this coming of the Spirit does not invariably follow upon
faith. Paul asked the Ephesian twelve, "Did you receive the Holy
Spirit when8 you believed?"
(Acts 19:2). The question implies the possibility of believing without
receiving. Thus while the promise of the Spirit always is present to
those who believe, the reality may not yet have occurred. Hence it is
highly important that Paul's question be raised again in our time. The
evangelical question "Have you believed in Christ?" is and
remains absolutely primary, for it deals with salvation. But now we
must press on to the second question, not about believing in Christ
but about receiving the Holy Spirit. For it is in the reception of the
Holy Spirit that the door is opened to further vistas of God's presence
my paper entitled "The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Their Application
to the Contemporary Church" for the latter.
New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation is used here and elsewhere
unless otherwise stated.
other possible translations see Renewal Theology, vol. 2, p.
274 and n. 7.
following the Samaritans' reception of the Holy Spirit, the text reads,
"Now when Simon [the magician] saw that the Spirit was bestowed
through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money..."
(Acts 8:18). Simon probably observed the newly Spirit-filled Samaritans
speaking in tongues. See Renewal Theology, vol. 2, pp. 209-210,
also n. 5.
sovereignty was surely, as at Pentecost, also an important factor. For
example, at Caesarea "while Peter was still speaking...the
Holy Spirit fell" (Acts 10:44). God sovereignly broke into Peter's
by this term to include charismatics (see Introduction). I should add,
however, that some charismatics focus almost entirely on the gifts (charismata)
of the Holy Spirit.
"since" (KJV), "after" (NIV note).
| 2 |
3 | 4 |
5 | 6 |
7 | 8 |
9 | 10 |
11 | 12 | 13
| 14 |
15 | 16 | Conclusion
Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams,
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.