The Christian Broadcasting Network

Dr. J. Rodman Williams
More from Dr. J. Rodman Williams on the Spiritual Life Channel

A Theological Pilgrimage: Chapter 1

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | Conclusion
Preface | Abbreviations | Bibliography

Chapter One


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 presence.

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 future.

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 yet!

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 graces!

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 of eternity.

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 the Lord!

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 surmised before.

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 what happens.

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 to God.

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 and perspective.

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 to occur!

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 the Lord!

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 valuable preparation.13 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 activity.
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 and communities.

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 reflection.

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 endeavor.

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 move ahead!

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 of expression.

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 of redemption.

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 recognized.28 Again, 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 spiritual reality.

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 to say?

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 two ways.

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 ready hearts.

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 ways!

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.



1This 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.

2The 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).

3The 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)."

4Thus a parallel to what was written earlier about the utterance of Spiritual wisdom and knowledge being, at base, unrelated to natural capacities and training.

5Tongues may also occupy this high position, if interpretation follows (see 1 Cor. 14:5).

6One 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).

7It 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: " 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").

8In 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).

9How 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).

10On 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.

11In 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."

12In 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.

13I 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.

14After 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 profoundly, within.

15Interpretation 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 comes through.

16The 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."

17In 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.

18"Pneuma" may be translated "wind" or "Spirit" in this quotation from John 3:8.

19We 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.

20So 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).

21Paul 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).

22If 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.

23Here the previously used language of justification, regeneration, and sanctification in its beginning is appropriate.

24Of 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.

25For "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).

26Compare Acts 2:1-4.

27In 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.

28Indeed, 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.

29In this connection see the next chapter on "A New Era in History."

30 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?"

31 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. 3:2).

32 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).

33 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..." (Rom. 12:1).

34 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 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 thanksgiving.

35We do need to repeat here other factors such as the freedom of the Spirit, individual differences in personality, religious tradition, culture, etc.

36The 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 vv. 43-45).

37See earlier discussion of "confirmation" (pp. 75-76).

38This 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.

39 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 9:17).

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | Conclusion
Preface | Abbreviations | Bibliography


Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams, Ph.D.

Dr.Williams Home Theology Q's & A's Publications Ten Teachings

  • Translate
  • Print Page

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.

Do You Know Jesus
Grow In Your Faith

Need Prayer?

Call 1-800-700-7000
Email your prayer request

Email iconSign up for E-mail Updates Full List