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A Theological Pilgrimage
The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today
The Pentecostal Reality
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Prophecy by the Book
Scripture: God's Written Word
The Holy Spirit in the Early Church
The central purpose for the gift of the Holy Spirit is power. The biblical term is dunamis-power, strength, might, force-and as the gift of the Holy Spirit, it represents an endowment of spiritual power.
We have earlier spoken of how the gift of the Holy Spirit signifies the coming of God's Spirit in fullness so that a new divine-human immediacy is thereby established. God is now present in a total kind of way, and man is bathed in the reality of the divine presence. And, as noted, the human response is that of praise to God, Now we proceed to observe that this gift of the Spirit is the gift of spiritual-transcendent, supernatural-power.
Thus we come to the words of the risen Jesus "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you (Acts 1:8). That this power is transcendent is emphasized in the similar words of Jesus, "But stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Hence spiritual-"from on high"-power is the intention of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The close connection between the gift of the Holy Spirit and power may also he seen in the example of Jesus' own life and ministry. It is recorded in all the Gospels that at the baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit "descended upon"1 Him, thereby He received the gift of the Holy Spirit Afterward, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan . . ." (Luke 4:1), and following his wilderness temptation, He "returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee" (Luke 4:14). Thus, clearly, the endowment of the Holy Spirit was one of power. In a summary of Jesus' ministry by Peter we read "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth 'with the Holy Spirit and with power . . ." (Acts 10:38). The close connection between the endowment of the Holy Spirit and power in Jesus' ministry is unmistakable.2
It follows that it is the intention of Jesus that the same Spirit of power that rested upon Him should rest upon His disciples-hence, the words already quoted concerning their receiving power when the Holy Spirit would come upon them. Thereby the disciples would likewise be able to move in the power of the Spirit for the ministry that lay ahead.3
More, however, needs to be said. It was not that they were simply to receive the Holy Spirit as He did, but the Spirit who was to come upon them was to be through Him. Ultimately the Spirit was from the Father, but it would be Jesus, the Son, who would mediate the Spirit's coming.4 Thus by the Spirit's coming the exalted Jesus would actually continue His ministry through them.5 They would carry on their work not only in the power of the Spirit as He did, but also with the Spirit of Jesus impelling them.6
It is apparent that the gift of the Holy Spirit is for that power which enables the ministry of Jesus to be carried forward. It is not power in a general sense-that is, an increment of super natural strength that could have many uses-but power for ministry that flows from the Father through the Son. As such, what Jesus did-and even more7-will be done through His disciples upon the earth. What a prospect this opens up!
Hence, though the response of man to the gift of the Holy Spirit is the praise of God, and therefore directed upward the purpose of the gift of the Spirit is the service of man, and therefore directed outward. It is the power of God through Jesus Christ enabling His ministry to be carried forward and fulfilled.8
This brings us next to the recognition that the power given by the Holy is first of all power for being witnesses of Christ. We have earlier recalled the words of Jesus: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. . . ." Hence there is close connection between the Holy Spirit and power. Jesus immediately continues with the words: "and you shall be my witnesses n Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Thus a close connection is affirmed between power and being witnesses.
In the book of Acts with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as we have noted, there is the response of praise and Peter's explanation of what has just occurred (2:1-21) This explanation climaxes with the words, "And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (v. 21). Thereupon Peter begins to proclaim the gospel, and his whole message is one of testimony to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is throughout a matter of bearing witness, of testimony, with the climax being the resurrection. The words are unmistakable: "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses" (Acts 2:32). The proclamation is witnessing proclamation; it is done the power of the Holy Spirit-and the results: "there were added [to their number] that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41).
The gift of the Holy Spirit, therefore, is power for witness that leads to salvation. It is effectual witness-witness that brings about the knowledge of what God has done in Christ (Acts 2:22-36), the conviction of sin (those who heard Peter's message were "cut to the heart" [Acts 2:37]), repentance and forgiveness ("Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" [Acts 2:38]), and thereby the receiving of salvation. It is life-giving, life-renewing witness brought about by the power that comes through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What is being said here is extraordinary indeed. God enables human beings by the power of the Holy Spirit to become channels for the radical transformation of human existence! There is no greater miracle on earth than the miracle of regeneration-the "second birth"-brought about through profound conviction of sin, sincere repentance, and God's gracious forgiveness. Herein a person becomes wholly new in Jesus Christ-"the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). This is all of God: for He alone can create and re-create. But the marvel that stands behind this re-creation is that, through the power of His Spirit, God makes the witness of human beings the means through which this transformation takes place.
There is always the danger that proclamation, even well intended, may go forth not in the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter, and the others of his company, knew the message before Pentecost, but they did not yet have the power that could make it bring about salvation. They could have spoken, and perhaps even attracted some to join their fellowship, but there would have been no re-creation of life. Some might have had feelings of remorse about the past, yet not really a conviction that cuts "to the heart"; some might have turned momentarily away from the old life, but not have fully repented (i.e., turned around totally); some might even have been baptized "for forgiveness" but without that genuine faith through which the cleansing of the old and the coming of the new occurs. It is possible for the proclaimer to be "fervent in spirit"9 but not necessarily in the Holy Spirit-and despite all efforts no power of God unto genuine salvation.
Let us move on to note the record in Acts likewise makes clear that Saul of Tarsus was given the Holy Spirit for the purpose of witness. We have already observed how Ananias lays hands on Saul and prays for him that he might be "filled with the Holy Spirit" (9:17). What we did not note is that the purpose for Ananias coming to Saul had already been spoken by the Lord in a vision: "The Lord said to him [Ananias], 'Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel . . .'" (9:15).10 Thus the gift of the Holy Spirit will be for the purpose of carrying forward this kind of far-reaching witness.
It is not so clear in the other incidents which specifically relate the giving of the Holy Spirit that the primary purpose is power for witness. Nothing is said directly in the instances of the Samaritans, Caesareans and Ephesians; however, this purpose is doubtless implied.11
In the case of the Samaritans, while it is Philip the evangelist who proclaims the gospel so that they come to faith and baptism, it is Peter and John who come down from Jerusalem to lay hands on them for the Holy Spirit. The reason for this would seem to be that the Samaritans might receive the same empowering for witness that Peter and John had received at Pentecost and thus become also a vital part of the witnessing community. It is not so much that the Samaritans become thereby incorporated into the Jerusalem church12 as it is that they are invested with power necessary for the ongoing mission of the gospel. Since Jesus had said to His disciples, "You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8), reference to Samaria could signify not only a people to whom witness is to be made but also by whom it is to be continued.
This would seem to follow logically from the principle, which now needs to be enunciated vigorously, that the Holy Spirit is a "missionary spirit";13 that wherever He comes upon a people they are driven beyond themselves into a witness for Christ; and that they become participants thereby in the continuing outreach of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Even as the Holy Spirit is a "proceeding" Spirit,14 so those who are anointed by Him cannot possibly remain confined in their faith but must "proceed" forth to tell the Good News everywhere.
Thus in the book of Acts there is an ever-widening missionary circle: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Caesarea, Ephesus-all representing further outreach of the gospel-and additional areas that through the gift of the Holy Spirit become participant in the witness to Christ. Hence, though nothing is said directly in the biblical narratives about the Samaritans, Caesareans and Ephesians bearing witness to the gospel, the fact that they also receive the Holy Spirit-the "missionary Spirit"-would suggest that they too become proclaimers of the Good News.
In moving to the contemporary scene one finds a renewed emphasis on the gift of the Spirit and power for witness15-and the Spirit as a "missionary Spirit." Persons who have received this gift thereby become Christ's witnesses in a fresh way, often their very being and manner so filled with God's presence and power that others are profoundly affected thereby. The witness is primarily that of being rather than word: by the gift of the Spirit they become transparent for the Divine, channels of grace and power. Also words and actions are laden with new potency so that there is both wisdom and incisiveness in testifying to the gospel. In some cases people may have borne witness to Christ for years with varying degrees of success, but now there is a further breakthrough that brings about deep and abiding results.16 The "missionary Spirit" is present-as many demonstrate in their daily work or in their carrying the Good News both far and wide.
The gift of the Spirit accordingly makes for an "anointed" witness. Even as Jesus was "anointed with the Holy Spirit and power," so are all who receive the gift. There is a certain indefinable, but quite apparent, difference between one who witnesses without such an anointing and one who does. In the former case there may be fervency in spirit, but not in the Holy Spirit; there may be earnestness to bring people to salvation but without convicting power of the Spirit; there may even be the response of many to the message proclaimed but without undergoing a genuine transformation of life. Through the gift of the Spirit persons are anointed for bearing witness to Jesus Christ.17
This brings us to the next consideration that the gift of the Holy Spirit makes for the universalizing of prophetic utterance. When the Holy Spirit is poured out, and people receive this fullness, they are enabled thereby to prophesy. No longer is this a possibility for the few but becomes the possibility of all.
In an early period of Israel's history, Moses had expressed the wish that the people of God might all be able to prophesy-"Would that all the Lord's people were prophets" (Num. 11:29). This wish becomes a matter of future declaration in the words of Joel: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . ." (Joel 2:28). Finally, the wish and declaration come to fulfillment in the book of Acts as Peter, explaining to his Jerusalem audience what has just happened, says: "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . . yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy'" (Acts 2:16-18). Peter, while affirming that the words of Joel are now fulfilled, namely, the universalizing of prophecy among all God's people, is yet more specific: not only will "sons and daughters" prophesy but also "menservants and maidservants." The universalizing of prophecy is threefold: first, it now goes beyond one race, the Jews, and includes all races and nations; second, there is no sexual exclusiveness, for both male and female will prophesy; and third, class differentiations disappear, for servants themselves are also now able to speak prophetically. All this is possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It would seem apparent that Peter's own words to the gathered multitude in Jerusalem, first, describing what has just happened to him and the other disciples (Acts 2:15-21) and, second, proclaiming the gospel (2:22-36), are prophetic utterances. His message begins thus: "Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed ["spoke out to"]18 them, 'Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words" (Acts 2:14). Here Peter, an uneducated, common man19-a rough fisherman-speaks as he has never spoken before. He addresses the whole nation of Israel, as gathered in Jerusalem, and does so with the authority, forcefulness and wisdom that could only come from the full anointing of the Holy Spirit.
But, in accordance with the words of Joel and the affirmation of Peter, it is not one man only who is now anointed to speak prophetically but all of those who have received the fullness of God's Spirit. The mention of the eleven other apostles standing with Peter signifies that through Peter, as the mouthpiece, all are speaking. But this is by no means limited to the twelve apostles, for on a later occasion after Peter and John have been released from the Jewish council that had threatened them and they have returned to their own people,20 the company of those gathered pray for courage "to speak [God's] word with all boldness." As a result, "when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:29-31). Since the company of believers by this time includes many others than the apostles, it is clear that the prophetic word is being voiced by the larger Spirit-filled community.
In this same connection we turn again to the disciples at Ephesus. We have already observed that when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, all of them spoke in tongues. They all prophesied, for the text reads in full: "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all" (Acts 19:6-7). So all prophesied-in accordance with the words of Joel and Peter. What they prophesied is not stated,21 but that the Ephesians are further evidence of the universalizing of prophetic utterance is apparent.
Mention might be made also of the daughters of Philip who on one occasion were said to prophesy. Luke writes concerning Paul and his visit in Caesarea that "we entered the house of Philip the evangelist . . . . and stayed with him. And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied"22 (Acts 21:8-9). This incident is directly in line with the words of Joel, repeated by Peter at Pentecost, that "your daughters shall prophesy" (Acts 2:17). Philip himself was a man "full of the Spirit" (Acts 6:3, 5), hence he had experienced the outpouring of the Spirit. Thus, not only was he used by God to bear witness to the gospel (as, for example, to the Samaritans and the Ethiopian eunuch-Acts 8), but also all four of his daughters were overflowing with prophetic utterance.
In the letters of Paul frequent reference is made to prophecy and prophesying. There are places where Paul speaks of prophecy as a particular gift. For example, in Romans 12 he delineates various "gifts" (charismata) that "differ according to the grace given to us" and immediately adds: "let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith" (v. 6). In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul again lists a number of charismata, each being apportioned by the Holy Spirit, including prophecy-"to another prophecy"; and further on in the chapter he rhetorically asks, "Are all prophets?" (v. 29). However, despite these words, Paul later says, "You can all prophesy . . ." (1 Cor. 14:3 1). A careful study of the Pauline text makes clear that prophesying may: (1) be a particular manifestation of the Holy Spirit when the fellowship gathers for worship and ministry-and thus limited in exercise; (2) be performed by one who holds the office of a prophet, and thus again limited in exercise; and (3) in principle, be done by all-"you can all prophesy."23 It is this universal note which, without denying certain limitations, informs the New Testament witness.
To summarize: this universalizing of prophetic utterance is a very important aspect of the gift of the Holy Spirit. It signifies that all persons who receive this gift may be spokesmen for God.24 It is not that they become persons of superior knowledge or virtue; rather, they become channels for God to speak His word. Whether it is to proclaim the way of salvation or to exhort believers,25 it is wholly a matter of God speaking through them. Hence, traditional distinctions of class, sex, race, or education all fall away-as God has free rein in people's lives.
Prophetic utterance, it should be added, is not the same as teaching. There is no suggestion that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit grants to all the possibility of teaching. For teaching is a function that, while surely needing the guidance of the Holy Spirit, calls for some native capacity plus preparation, study, careful training and experience. It is a task of such fearsome responsibility that James warns: "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1). Prophesying, on the other hand, and prophetic utterance in general, is the God-given possibility for all who are filled with His Holy Spirit.
It is also to be observed that prophetic utterance may come forth with a "Thus says the Lord" and the message delivered in the first person, for example, "I speak unto you . . .;" or it may be given as a message about the Lord, His will, intention, etc. But in either case the distinctive feature is that the speech, while uttered in the common language, is God-inspired, that is to say, it is not the result of human reflection but comes directly from God through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks through the human spirit in the known tongue and declares a divine message.26
Prophetic utterance occupies the place of highest significance in the life and ministry of the church. While it may be divinely inspired speech proclaiming God's truth to the world (as we have noted)-and therefore quite important-it occupies a critically vital role in the life of the community of faith. Paul writes the Corinthians: "Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy" (1 Cor. 14:1). And the reason for this is that "he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation"(v. 3).27 Accordingly, prophecy, which has this distinctive function of edifying the body of believers, is much to be desired.
It is apparent that the universality of prophetic utterance, made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit, makes both for proclamation of the gospel and the upbuilding of community life. Therefore, the word of God may go forth with increased power and effectiveness.
To return to the contemporary scene: one of the truly significant features is the widespread occurrence of prophetic utterance. First, this is the case in the proclamation of the gospel: there is no limit. Those who are caught up in the high tide of the Spirit-whether young or old, male or female, master or servant (employer or employee!)-are speaking the word with extraordinary effectiveness. The words of Joel 2, affirmed in Acts 2, are again being fulfilled in our time. Youth, full of the Spirit and vision, are testifying on every hand and believing God for the transformation of the world. Older men are dreaming great things for God and regardless of advancing years are stepping out for God. Women (young and old) are not left behind as they find fresh ways and a new freedom to witness to the gospel in the power of the Spirit. Employers and employees with spiritual anointing are equally, and in multiple fashion, bearing witness to Jesus Christ. There is a fresh release of prophetic proclamation around the world among the spiritually renewed people of God.28
It is also a fact that prophetic utterance for community edification is freshly occurring wherever the spiritual renewal has spread. Indeed, one of the most distinctive features of the renewal is the way in which, wherever people gather together for worship and ministry, there is the expectation and occurrence of prophetic utterance.29 There is utterly no distinction between age, sex, socioeconomic levels-or otherwise. In some instances clergy and laity may be present, but prophecy springs from either or both; there may be priests and nuns, and either or both prophesying; there may be highly educated and semi-literate people together but prophecy is limited to neither; there may be professors and students, both prophesying as the Lord leads. As the Apostle Paul said, "You can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged" (1 Cor. 14:31)-and this is precisely what is happening in our time.
The universalizing of prophetic utterance is one of the extraordinary features of the contemporary renewal in the Spirit. Thereby the people of God in their entirety become spokesmen for God.
Let us now move on to note how the gift of the Holy Spirit enables the performance of mighty works. The witness to Christ is not only that of word but also deed. There is, as we have observed, the powerful word of testimony to Christ whereby persons become vehicles for the transformation of human life, and prophetic utterance may go forth with great directness and forcefulness. But the witness is likewise that of deed wherein mighty works in the name of Christ are also performed.
It is apparent that not only did the early disciples speak about Jesus but also they did extraordinary things. The first mention of this follows upon the narration about Pentecost where the text reads: "And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles" (Acts 2:43). The fact of the multiplicity of extraordinary things-"many"-is first to be noted; second, their description as "wonders" and "signs" suggest their character both as miracles and pointers;30 and third, these many wonders and signs are done "through" the apostles, the apostles being channels, and not agents, of their occurrence. The whole atmosphere is charged with awe- "fear upon every soul"-as the exalted Lord does His work through them.
It should be quickly added that signs and wonders are done not only through the apostles but also through other disciples. On a later occasion Peter and John, after being threatened to speak no more about Jesus, return to their own people who pray for a common courage: "grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus" (Acts 4:29-30). As we have already noted, in reference to boldness, the immediate result following upon the shaking of the place is that "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness." Doubtless, the implication is not only that the prayer of the company for boldness of speech is answered for all, but also that they are all granted the performance of signs and wonders through the name of Jesus.
Further to examine the above matter: though it is said more than once that the apostles did wonders and signs,31 it is apparent that others such as Stephen the martyr and Philip the evangelist did likewise. "And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:8). "And the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did" (8:6). "Even Simon [the magician] himself believed, and after being baptized, he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles32 performed, he was amazed" (8:13). In addition, according to Mark 16:17, Jesus said: "And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." Similarly, "And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it" (Mark 16:20).33 Signs and wonders-extraordinary, miraculous deeds-are the practice of the whole Christian community.
It is abundantly clear that the performance of mighty works-signs, wonders, miracles-belongs to the gospel proclamation. The early Christians testify and perform signs and wonders. The proclamation is powerful word and miraculous deed, both by the Holy Spirit, that bear witness to the gospel. The deed is the confirmation of the word-the visible assurance of the message of salvation. The greatest wonder of all is that of new life, new birth wrought by the word, but this is invisible; hence, when a visible sign accompanies the word there is undeniable attestation to the actuality of what has been inwardly wrought by the message of salvation.
Thus it is a serious error indeed to relegate miracles to the past. It is pathetic to hear among those who vigorously affirm the message of salvation-the necessity of regeneration-that "signs and wonders" are not to be expected any longer. If through the proclamation of the word in the power of the Spirit the miracle of rebirth can and does occur, will not that same Spirit also work other "signs and wonders"? For, surely, other miracles-no matter how extraordinary34-are less significant than the miracle of new life and salvation.
Let us say further that it makes little practical difference whether one affirms that the miracles in Acts (and elsewhere) are simply legendary accretions to the record-and thus really did not happen-or that they did happen then but no longer occur in our time. Both views deny the reality of the living God who is always free and able in any time to perform His extraordinary works through men. The "Bible believer" who affirms that miracles were for then but not for now is actually farther removed from a living faith than the "liberal" who has not gone so far as to lock the power of God into past history. Both, however, need to hear the words of Jesus: "Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?" (Mark 12:24).
Fortunately the spiritual renewal of the twentieth century has recaptured the early church's belief in and practice of mighty works. Miracles are no longer thought of as belonging to past history or as being merely legendary additions to the biblical witness; they belong to the life of the believing community and to the proclamation of the gospel.35 "Expect a miracle" is a commonly heard expression-and those who expect God to perform mighty works are not disappointed.
The performance of mighty works, made possible by the gift of the Holy Spirit, includes a wide range of extraordinary phenomena. We shall note two of these in particular, beginning with healing.
In the ministry of Jesus, as is well known, next in importance to His preaching and teaching was His ministry of healing. For example, "He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people" (Matt. 4:23). Another text reads: "The power [dunamis] of the Lord was with him to heal" (Luke 5:17); and thereupon he healed a bedridden paralytic. This dunamis of God is precisely what Jesus promised His disciples would be theirs through the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so it was-and is.
As we look again at the record in Acts, it is relevant that the first specified mighty work is that of healing. Following the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the formation of the Christian community (Acts 2) is the narrative about the healing of the lame beggar at the gate of the temple (Acts 3:1-8). Peter speaks to the man: "I have no silver or gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (v. 6). Thus it is the combination of the power of the Spirit ("what I have") and the name of Jesus Christ that leads to the miraculous healing. What follows is quite significant. Peter addresses the assembled crowd, amazed at the healing of one they had seen many times begging at the gate, and tells them that "the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all" (Acts 3:16). These words lead to the proclamation of the gospel to the crowd-"Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord . . ." (3:19). Thereafter, taken into custody by the Temple authorities who inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?", Peter "filled with the Holy Spirit" replied, ". . . be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well" (4:7-10). Peter concludes with the message of salvation: "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (4:12).
What is particularly important in this narrative of miraculous healing is the way in which it becomes the occasion for proclamation of the gospel. Indeed, as a result "many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand" (4:4). Thus, it is similar to the Day of Pentecost when miraculous speaking in tongues became the occasion for drawing a crowd together, and consequent preaching of the gospel led to the salvation of some three thousand (Acts 2:41). "Signs and wonders" thus are shown not only to be confirmations of the word (as we have seen); but also they are occasions for the word. They set forth visibly, tangibly, undeniably that an inexplicable power is present and at work, making way for the message of salvation.
It is apparent that the performance of such a mighty work as healing is vitally connected with the preaching of the gospel. It is not merely the matter of healing being an additional thing-as if the commission were to preach and heal. The Good News, to be sure, does include healing; hence, a missionary outreach that does not have concern for men's bodies is inadequate. However, the relationship between preaching and healing is more intimate than that. Healing, as well as other "signs and wonders," is not just supplemental, it is instrumental. It can become the avenue for the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ.36
What all of this suggests is that when the church, the believing community, is seen to be the arena of God's supernatural activity, people are bound to take notice. Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the context of "signs and wonders"-whether they precede, accompany, or follow-it is obvious that something extraordinary is going on. At Pentecost with the speaking in tongues "all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'What does this mean?" (Acts 2:12); at the healing of the lame man "they were filled with wonder and amazement" (Acts 3:10). Such amazement, perplexity, wonderment, betokening a shocking sense of supernatural presence, prepares the way for the powerful ministry of the word.
It is significant to note again the prayer of the community of disciples following the prohibition of the council about testifying to Jesus: "And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus" (Acts 4:29-30). The prayer of the disciples is for the speaking of the word to be accompanied or followed by healing, signs and wonders. Such visible demonstration of the supernatural activity of God will confirm the message, and make many come to a living faith. So whether preceding, accompanying or following, the occurrence of miracles underscores the reality of the proclaimed word as the power of God unto salvation.
The power of God to heal continues to be manifest in the early Christian community. The sick of Jerusalem are brought in great numbers to the body of the disciples, many hoping for at least the shadow of Peter to fall upon them; and then people begin to come from surrounding towns and villages and "bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed" (Acts 5:14-16). Likewise in the ministry of Philip at Samaria "the multitudes with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs which he did. For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed" (8:6-7). Peter, later, in the town of Lydda, speaks to a man named Aeneas, bedridden and paralyzed: "'Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.' And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord" (9:34-35). In the case of Paul who spent two years in Ephesus proclaiming the word, the Scripture adds: "And God did extraordinary miracles37 by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them" (Acts 19:11-12). Paul ministers later at Malta to Publius' father who "lay sick with fever and dysentery"; Paul "visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him." Thereafter "the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured" (28:8-9). Such incidents demonstrate over and over that the power of the Spirit makes for abundant healing.
A number of matters in these instances of healing may be reflected upon. First, there is again the close connection between the proclamation of the word and healing. In one case (Samaria), it is hearing the gospel in conjunction with seeing healings occur that leads to the multitude giving heed to what is said; in another case (Lydda), seeing the healing is itself the direct cause of people coming to faith. Second, in another situation (Jerusalem), healing refers to the cure of the sick and deliverance from "unclean spirits," thus both physical ailments and spiritual bondage. Third, there is evidently no limitation to the kinds of sicknesses healed-as if perhaps healing occurred to the psychosomatic but not the organic. The sick, whatever their infirmities, were healed. This calls to mind the earlier words about Jesus, that He healed "every disease and every infirmity" (Matt. 4:23). The same is true for His Spirit-filled followers who minister in His name. Fourth, in two of the cases (Jerusalem and Malta) all were healed; in another (Samaria) many were healed-many who were paralyzed and lame.
On this last point let us comment further about the totality of healing in two situations above, and its partiality in another. One of the most significant and exciting aspects of the gift of the Spirit is the fact that it makes healing possible for all. "They were all healed"-the sick, the afflicted, the tormented-is a beautiful testimony to what the Holy Spirit can do through one like Peter who is an open channel and instrument. It remains a testimony to this day that the power of God to heal is still present wherever His Spirit abounds. Even as salvation-the forgiveness of sins-is available to all, so is healing of all manner of physical, mental and emotional ailments. There only needs to be, as in the New Testament time, persons filled with God's Spirit who in proclaiming the gospel of new life in Christ also minister healing in Jesus' name. Believing that God wills both salvation and health for all men, the Christian witness of our day needs boldly to engage in this total ministry.
However, as we have observed, not all are healed in every situation: "many" but not everyone. Why this was the case in Samaria is not specified; however, it may have been due to the lack of receptivity on the part of those who were not healed. The people "with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip" and of these, many are healed. "Giving heed" or "paying attention,"38 however, does not necessarily lead to that openness, reception, faith wherein a healing may occur. Healing, while for everyone, may not be received by all.
We may reflect for a moment on the ministry of Jesus and observe that in most situations He healed all who were present. It is frequently recorded that Jesus healed everyone; for example, "He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick" (Matt. 8:16); "Many followed him, and he healed them all" (Matt. 12:15). Scriptures like these may be multiplied.39 However, there are other occasions when the biblical record speaks not of all but of many: "And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons . . ." (Mark 1:34); and again there is reference not to many but to a few: "He laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them" (Mark 6:5). In the latter event, occurring at Nazareth, it is clear that healing was restricted by the lack of receptivity, the unbelief, of His own townsfolk: "They took offense at him. . . . And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief" (Mark 6:3, 5-6). On still another occasion, out of a large crowd at the sheep gate pool where "lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed" (John 5:3), He healed only one, a man who had been ill for some twenty-eight years. Here the cause for the healing of only one does not seem to be due to an atmosphere of unbelief (although there is little suggestion that the sick multitude were expecting very much), but to Jesus' own decision to help the one upon whom He took special pity.
So we may repeat our earlier statement, based on the record in Acts and now also shown in the Gospels, that healing while for everyone may not be received by all. Such factors as a lack of receptivity, unbelief on the human side, or the sovereign decision to heal only one or a few on the divine side, may be operative. Thus it is quite erroneous and misleading to claim that all will be healed in every situation.
However, to conclude this discussion of healing affirmatively, it is highly important to recognize that the gift of God's Spirit does make possible the healing of every kind of disease. Thus, wherever people become channels of the divine power, extraordinary healings may be expected to occur.
In the spiritual renewal of our time, healing stands out as one of the most significant features. The power of God to heal, resident within the gift of the Holy Spirit, is being manifested on every hand. It is understood that the Good News includes healing for the body as well as salvation for the soul. For example, evangelists in the renewal do not hesitate to proclaim and act upon this "full gospel."40 Since Jesus performed many healings and promised that His disciples would do even "greater works" than He, and since He has sent the Spirit to carry forward His ministry, then works of healing are to be expected. If they do not occur, therefore, it may be a negative sign, namely, that the gift of the Holy Spirit has not been received, or possibly that the gift has come, but people are failing to move out in faith and expectancy. But that healings of every kind41 are occurring in the renewal of today is one of the clearest evidences of the presence and power of the Lord in the Holy Spirit.
In the preceding paragraphs several references have been made to casting out demons or evil spirits. We earlier called attention to one case (at Jerusalem) where healing refers to both the cure of the sick and deliverance from evil spirits; however, in the other two instances related (Samaria and Ephesus), a distinction is made between healing the sick and the expulsion of demons. This distinction is also apparent in the Scripture quoted42 concerning Jesus' ministry where it is said He both cast out demons and healed. It may also be pointed out that in Mark 16:17 a differentiation is made: "And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons . . . they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover." Thus we may say that among the mighty works made possible by the exalted Lord's gift of the Spirit is deliverance.
Let us view this matter in more detail. It might be helpful to begin in the book of Acts with one particular example of what casting out of evil spirits, or deliverance, entails. Paul and his companions going to the place of prayer in Philippi are daily followed by a slave girl who "had a spirit of divination."43 She cries out for many days, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." Paul, increasingly annoyed, finally takes action: he "turned and said to the spirit, 'I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.'" The result: "it came out that very hour" (Acts 16:16-18).
This account is not unlike that of various incidents recorded in the Gospels where people with such a spirit frequently cry out in recognition of Jesus, and deliverance thereafter occurs. For example, in the beginning of Jesus' ministry, a man with an "unclean spirit" cried out: "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." Jesus thereupon "rebuked him, saying, 'Be silent, and come out of him!' And the unclean spirit convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him" (Mark 1:23-26). This incident makes a profound impression on those who observe: it is "a new teaching with authority"44 (Mark 1:27).
It is significant that in both the accounts of Paul and Jesus, the spirit45 in the person recognizes the truth at hand ("these men . . . proclaim to you the way of salvation"; "you are the Holy One of God"); but it is actually a foreign spirit occupying a human person, from which one needs deliverance. This foreign spirit is obviously supernatural, having instant recognition of divine presence; in that sense it is a "spirit of divination." It is also an evil spirit, making the girl a slave girl, and so binding that, in the case of the man with an "unclean spirit," it convulses him in being cast out. In both instances the spirit cannot withstand the impact of Jesus, or the name of Jesus (which Paul invokes), and immediately comes out.
It should be added that the same spirits referred to elsewhere are frequently shown to be tormenting and disruptive. They may be the deepest cause of physical or mental disability, even to the point of self-destruction.46 Hence more is called for than healing, which is a matter of mending what has been broken or diseased, whether of body or mind. What happens in demonic possession is deeper still: it is a matter of the human spirit being taken into bondage by an alien power. Thus there is a pernicious force at work, often affecting mind and body so disruptively that the only way to healing is through deliverance. Moreover, the only way whereby deliverance from such evil may come is through the presence or name of the Holy One who has the power and authority to deliver from even the most vicious tormenting spirit.
Let me summarize a few points. First, such possession only comes to light in the presence of Jesus Christ. Whatever may-or may not-have been the outward expression, the evil power which has lurked deep within the human personality is aroused at the coming of the Holy One. Hence, when one anointed with Christ's Spirit is ministering in His name, there are times when this very ministry precipitates a crisis in one who is demon possessed. Though such a person may have long turned away from truth, and his inner spirit taken over by this alien spirit, now there is sudden, even startling recognition. For the dimension of perception has now become totally a spiritual one-spirit knowing spirit-the one possessed with evil crying out in recognition of the Spirit of holiness. This may not be a verbal recognition-"I know who you are"-but usually some kind of an outcry or startled attitude betokening recognition of a divine presence. For the inward spirit of evil knows when the Holy Spirit is at hand. At least for the moment all the veils are dropped in the presence of the holy God. Second, not only is there inward recognition but at the same time there may also be inward torment. The demonic spirit, now exposed, feels the awful impact of the Holy Spirit. No longer hidden within the human personality but standing out, it finds almost unbearable the divine presence. It seems as if the Spirit of holiness is bent on torturing the possessed person-thus eliciting the response mentioned earlier: "Have you come to destroy us?"47 Of course, there is no intentional torment; it is simply that the Holy Spirit, like a hot flame of purity, burns into all that is evil. Third, deliverance may now follow. The alien spirit that has long dominated a person is exposed; it feels the torment of holy presence and is ready for being cast out. The evil spirit is now dominated by another spirit, the Holy Spirit, and is totally subject to the word that casts it out: "Come out of him, in the name of Jesus Christ." The departing spirit may so convulse a person as to seem like the destruction of death;48 however, it is verily the moment when a person experiences the marvel of deliverance into a fresh life.
This leads us back to the earlier point that this mighty work of deliverance continues only through those who truly minister in Jesus' name49 by the power of His Holy Spirit. During Jesus' lifetime, when He was personally present with His disciples, He gave them power and authority over the evil spirits,50 so that in His name they did exercise deliverance. Since Jesus has completed His earthly ministry, this same power and authority devolves upon those who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: they too are enabled to perform the mighty work of liberating people from demonic possession.
It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of this ministry of deliverance. For there are countless numbers of persons who desperately need such help. Their condition is not to be identified as such with sin (which needs forgiveness)51 or disease (which calls for healing), but with possession, which cries out for deliverance. Their inner spirits-the inmost centers of their personhood-have been so laid claim to by an alien force, so "demonized" thereby, that they can scarcely hear the word concerning repentance and forgiveness. Their spirits are more than dead to the things of God; they have been taken over by another spirit. They may, or may not, give outward evidence of such possession. There may be an outward semblance of serenity-or contrariwise that of distortion and violence52-but the only hope is the exposure of the deep inward condition, and deliverance therefrom. If such a condition is not recognized and properly handled there is much confusion all around. Even the most faithful witness concerning the things of God, or on the other hand various attempts at healing (viewing such cases as emotional disorders), may leave the person still locked up in his spiritual bondage-and worse off than ever. But when a situation bears the marks of demonic possession,53 the only possible way of relief is that of deliverance: by the power of the Holy Spirit.54
A further word may be added about the matter of demonic possession and emotional disorders. Reference has just been made to the mistake of confusing the two so that what calls for deliverance is viewed as a disorder that calls for healing. Such healing attempted, whether it be spiritual (prayers, laying on of hands, etc.) or medical (therapy and various other kinds of treatments), may therefore actually miss the mark-because the situation is not understood in depth. If the case is one of possession, anything that falls short of deliverance is both inadequate and only a further compounding of the problem. But now it needs also to be emphasized, on the other hand, that there are serious dangers of viewing what are actually emotional disorders as demonic possession. To seek to exorcise a person whose situation calls for another kind of treatment-psychotherapy, medicine or otherwise-can be a critical mistake and leave a person worse off than before.
In all this, there is much need for spiritual discernment-that is, discernment by the Holy Spirit-so that the one seeking to minister may know how to proceed.55 If there is not clear evidence of possession, it is better to proceed along other lines, or leave the situation to those better qualified to help.
Finally, it is evident that, as in the case of healing, deliverance from demonic spirits is also one of the attestations of the gospel of salvation. When people are delivered, this can be an extraordinary sign of the working of God's power that confirms the message of new life in Christ. Recall the words of Mark 16: "These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons . . . ," and the result: "the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it" (vv. 17 and 20). Hence, casting out of demons is one of the signs that shows forth the Good News about Christ. For when people behold the supernatural power of God delivering the demon-possessed, they are vividly assured thereby that the gospel must also be the power of God unto salvation.
What we have observed in this chapter is that the purpose of the gift of the Holy Spirit is power. This is enabling power to carry forward the ministry of Christ in word and in deed. There is the mighty witness in word leading to healing and deliverance. Verily, by the gift of the Holy Spirit to the believing community, the exalted Lord continues His work among men.
1 See Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32. The Greek verb is katabainō-"come down." Thus it parallels expressions before noted for the gift of the Spirit such as "coming upon," "falling on," etc.
2 In John 6:27 Jesus says that "on him [Jesus himself] has God the Father set his seal"-literally, "this one God the Father sealed" (touton ho patēr esphragisen ho theos). The idea of sealing here would seem clearly to refer to this anointing with power at the Jordan-"to dedicate, to consecrate . . . to endow with heavenly power" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. VII, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971], p. 949, fn. 83).
3 Thus when Pentecost occurred, in the words of Lindsay Dewar, "the members of the infant Church were by this momentous event lifted up to a new and supernatural level, the level of the Spirit-filled humanity of the Incarnate Lord" (The Holy Spirit and Modern Thought [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959], p. 43.)
4 Recall our earlier discussion of this in Chapter 1.
5 It is significant to note that in the book of Acts, Luke says, "In the first book [the Gospel of Luke] . . . I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. . . ." Thus the book of Acts will deal with what Jesus continued to do and teach, but now as the exalted Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit.
6 Accordingly, even as Jesus was anointed (Acts 10:38) with power and sealed (John 6:27), likewise are His disciples after Him. So does Paul write the Corinthians: "It is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned [chrisas-"having anointed"] us; he has put his seal upon us . . ." (2 Cor. 1:21-22). To seal, in this context means to" 'endue with power from heaven'" (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, article on "seal," σφραγίζω, 2b).
7 The extraordinary words of Jesus affirm this: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father" (John 14:12). In this astounding declaration Jesus is pointing to the fact that His going to the Father will make possible "greater works" by His disciples. The reason would seem to be that they will receive the total impact of the Spirit coming from Father and Son They will do the works of Jesus-and more.
8 See Michael Harper, Power for the Body of Christ (London: Fountain Trust, 1964) wherein Father Harper stresses that the same power of the Spirit is available in our time: "Our knowledge of Him [the Holy Spirit] may be correct. But what of our experience of His power? ' The power is still available for the Body of Christ and for each of its members. The Baptizer [Jesus] stands ready the banks of the Holy Spirit to do again for the Church what He did on the day of Pentecost" (p. 56). Michael Harper, Anglican priest, is an international leader in the contemporary renewal.
9 In this connection the name of Apollos, teacher in Ephesus, comes to mind. Luke describes him as "an eloquent man, well versed [literally: "mighty"-dunatos] in the scriptures . . . instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately [or "carefully"-akribōs] the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John" (Acts 18:24-25). Hence the fervor of Apollos was not the fervor brought about by the Holy Spirit: it could lead none to salvation, no matter how eloquent, how well versed in Scripture he was. So it is that Priscilla and Aquila "took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately" (v. 26). Nothing is said by Luke directly about their leading Apollos into baptism in the name of Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit; however, looking ahead to Acts 19 where Paul does exactly these things for the Ephesian disciples (probably earlier instructed by Apollos), who likewise knew only the baptism of John, it is quite conceivable that Priscilla and Aquila's expounding the way "more accurately" included a further experience of the Lord. In any event, it is interesting to note that after Priscilla and Aquila have ministered to Apollos, he goes on from Ephesus to Achaia where "he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus" (Acts 18:27-28). Greatly helping true Christian believers, powerfully confuting Jews-surely a different Apollos is at work now!
10 In Acts 26:16, where Paul is recounting this event, the words to Saul from the risen Lord are similar: "I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which! will appear to you. . . ." The note of bearing witness is quite pronounced here.
11 According to R.R. Williams, "throughout Acts, the Holy Spirit is thought of as the means whereby Christians receive power to witness [to] Christ and His resurrection" (The Acts of the Apostles, Torch Bible Commentaries, p.36). Quotation found in The Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles by J.H.E. Hull (Cleveland and New York: World Publishing Co., 1968), p. 46.
12 It is sometimes suggested that the Samaritans needed the ministry of the Jerusalem church (represented by Peter and John), so that long-standing separation and antagonism between Jew and Samaritan might be overcome. While this may have been a valuable byproduct of Peter and John's ministry, it would hardly seem to be the primary purpose.
13 I know of no more forceful presentation of this theme than that found in Roland Allen's The Ministry of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960). See especially Chapter I, Section II, "The Spirit Revealed as the Inspirer of Missionary Work." Also see Michael Green, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Chapter 5. "The Spirit in Mission."
14 Recall the earlier discussion of how the Holy Spirit is said to "proceed" from the Father. This eternal procession becomes temporal in the gift of the Holy Spirit, and He continues to proceed from the lives of all those to whom He is given.
15 See, for example, the chapter entitled "Power to Witness" in As the Spirit Leads Us (New York: Paulist Press, 1971) by Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan. In this chapter two spiritually renewed Roman Catholics, Leon and Virginia Kortenkamp, describe how "it seems to be universally true that those who have come into this experience [i.e. baptism in the Holy Spirit] are taught not so much by one another but by the direct power of God, that every tongue (including theirs) is meant to proclaim that Jesus is Lord" (p. 103). Thus there is power for witness they never knew before.
16 Dwight L. Moody, nineteenth-century evangelist, after many years of preaching, related how two women would say to him regularly, "You need the power of the Holy Spirit." Moody reflected thereafter: "I need the power! Why I thought I had power"-because-"I had the largest congregation in Chicago and there were many conversions. I was in a sense satisfied." Soon though, the two godly women were praying with Moody, and "they poured out their hearts in prayer that I might receive the filling of the Holy Spirit. There came a great hunger into my soul. . . . I began to cry out as I never did before. I really felt that I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service." Some time later Moody related this: "One day, in the city of New York-oh, what a day!-I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world. . . ." (W.R. Moody, The Life of D.L. Moody [New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1900], pp. 146-47, 149.) Moody had witnessed to the gospel for many years and with some obvious effectiveness, but after his being filled with the Spirit there was an anointing never before experienced in his life. Moody, while of course not a participant in the current spiritual renewal, is surely a precursor of those who likewise in our time are being filled with the Spirit and thereby finding a fresh power for witness.
17 In accordance with what has been said about the "missionary spirit" and "anointing"-that the Holy Spirit is given for power to witness-it is important not to confuse this gift with becoming a Christian, salvation, regeneration, etc. James Dunn makes this mistake in his book, Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Naperville, IL: Allenson, 1970); for example, where he writes: "The gift of the Spirit . . . is the gift of saving grace by which one enters into Christian experience and life, into the new covenant, into the Church. It is, in the last analysis, that which makes a man a Christian . . ." (p. 226). Rather, it is by the gift of the Spirit that one can help others enter into Christian life and experience. It is not the gift of saving grace, but, presupposing this, it is the gift of power for witness.
18 The Greek word is apephthenxato, the same verb as in Acts 2:4 in connection with speaking in tongues: "They began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (literally, "to speak out"). See footnote in previous chapter where it was commented that this Greek word is frequently used for "the oracle-giver, diviner, prophet, exorcist, and other 'inspired' persons." Hence, even as they "spoke out" in tongues to God by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so now do they (the eleven standing with Peter) "speak out" to people in prophetic utterance under the anointing of the same Holy Spirit. Meyer in his Acts Commentary (Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, by H.A.W. Meyer [New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1883], p. 57) writes that the prophēteusosin (they shall prophesy) of Joel 2 "is by Peter specially recognized as a prediction of that apocalyptically inspired speaking, which had just commenced with the heterais glōssais [other tongues]." That is to say, the word in Joel concerning universal prophesying is recognized as covering both the speaking in tongues and the "inspired speaking" that follows.
19 Of Peter and John it is said in Acts 4:13: "they [the Jewish council] . . . perceived that they [Peter and John] were uneducated, common men [or "unlettered laymen"-agrammatoi idiōtai]."
20 Acts 4:23: ". . . they went to their friends. . . ." The term for "friends" is tous idious, literally, "their own."
21 It is probable that the Ephesian prophetic utterance was not proclamation of the gospel as was that of Peter and the others mentioned. As we have noted, Peter and company were bearing witness concerning Christ in order to bring people to faith. The Ephesians may rather have prophesied to one another, since the text does not suggest that other people were present to be addressed. If this is the case, their prophesying was more akin to Paul's description in 1 Corinthians 14 of prophecy as being for believers: "prophecy is not for unbelievers but believers" (v. 22). It should be added that Paul in this context is speaking only of the gathered community, the body of believers, wherein prophecy is addressed to believers for their edification (see discussion hereafter). This community function of prophecy would not preclude the role of prophecy in another situation as bearing witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Prophecy is a speaking of God's word to man whether it be in an evangelistic or community context.
22 Literally, "prophesying" (prophēteuousai). Hence, the text does not state that they were "prophetesses" (NAS) or "possessed the gift of prophecy" (NEB), but that on this occasion they "did prophesy" (KJV). "Prophets" are mentioned elsewhere in Acts, viz., 11:27-28; 13:1; 15:32; and 21:10. It is important to differentiate between the act of prophesying, which Philip's daughters performed, as a universal possibility since Pentecost, and the office of prophet which belongs to certain persons. In 1 Corinthians, Paul likewise distinguishes between those who are prophets (12:27, 29) and prophesying which may be done by all (14:1, 5, 31). Incidentally, there is no suggestion that the office of prophet is limited by race, sex, or class either. If all may prophesy, it follows that out of that universal possibility, regardless of background, some will be designated especially to the office of prophet.
23 Thus there is a parallel with tongues. We have earlier spoken of the universal possibility of speaking in tongues along with certain limitations. Tongues and prophecy are basic, dynamic expressions of the Holy Spirit that pervade the Spirit-endowed community.
24 To "prophesy" means essentially to "for speak" (pro plus phēmi), hence for God. It may also have the temporal significance of "fore speak," where prophecy contains the element of prediction (e.g. the case of Agabus in Acts 11:28 and 21:11). In any event, prophesying is a "forth speaking," namely, a word, a message, on behalf of God.
25 In Acts, the emphasis is more on the former; in 1 Corinthians it is on the latter. "Primitive Christian prophecy is the inspired speech of charismatic preachers through whom God's plan of salvation for the world and the community and His will for the life of individual Christians are made known" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. VI, p. 848). Both are included-as God's message is one of both salvation of unbelievers and direction (or edification) of believers.
26 Thus there is a likeness to tongues in that the message originates with the Holy Spirit and is expressed through the human spirit-hence, a direct utterance of God. The difference, of course, is that tongues is an utterance in an "unknown language" whereas prophecy is in the common speech. Tongues is the highest possible utterance on earth-transcendent speech addressed to God; prophecy is next to it, being God-given speech addressed to man. In neither case does the speech result from human meditation or conceptualization but comes immediately from the Holy Spirit.
27 Paul adds that, "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy" (vv. 4-5). In the previous footnote I spoke of the primacy of tongues over prophecy, but does not Paul say otherwise here? No, for two reasons: first, Paul is speaking to the Corinthians about community edification and in that situation prophecy, which is addressed to men, has the primary role, but tongues first of all build up or edify the believer (without which there could be little community edification); second, even in the community, tongues may be no less significant than prophecy if interpretation follows, for Paul continues (in v. 5): "He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets [ei mē diermēneuē], so that the church may be edified." Tongues could then, if interpretation follows, be equally "great" since (as Paul earlier says) "one who speaks in a tongue . . . utters mysteries in the Spirit" (v. 2). Interpretation would then be the declaration of those divine mysteries.
28Many concrete illustrations could be given of the things mentioned in the paragraph above. The author has had opportunity to view this in many parts of the world where people have received the Spirit's anointing, and also at home base: the Melodyland School of Theology in Anaheim, California. As president of the School of Theology-or "School of the Prophets"-it has been for me a particular joy to work with some 500 to 600 students (men and women, young and old, employers and employees) and witness their total dedication to the proclamation of the gospel. It is Joel 2 and Acts 2 all over again!
29 An extraordinary demonstration of this occurred during the meeting of some ten thousand "charismatics" in Rome, May, 1975. One of the occasions (which the author attended) was the gathering in St. Peter's Church where Cardinal Suenens celebrated the Eucharist and prophecies began to be uttered from within the audience. There was no prior preparation-but the atmosphere was full of expectation. One prophecy declared: "My people, I speak to you of a new day. I speak to you of the dawning of a new age in my church. I speak to you of a day that has not been seen before, of a life on the earth not seen before for my church. Prepare yourselves for me-prepare yourselves for the action I begin now, because the things you see around you will change. The combat you must enter into now is different, it is new. You need wisdom from me you do not have now. You need the power of my Holy Spirit in a way you have not possessed before. You need an understanding of my will and of the way I work that you do not have now. Open your eyes, open your hearts, prepare yourselves for me and for the day I announce now. My church will be different, my people will be different. Difficulty and trial will come upon you-comfort that you know now will be far from you. But the comfort you will have is the comfort of my Holy Spirit. They will seek for you to take your life, but I will support you. Come to me-bind yourselves together around me because I proclaim a new day of victory and triumph for your God. Behold it is begun!"
30 The combination of "wonders and signs" (terata and sēneia) points to deeds that are miraculous (a miracle being a "wonder") and as such are expressive of God's supernatural activity (hence are "signs"). These "wonders and signs." or miracles, are particularly attestations of the gospel.
31 In addition to Acts 2:43, supra, see 5:12-"Now many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles"; 14:3-regarding Paul and Barnabas: "So they remained for a long time [at Iconium], speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands"; 15:12-"Barnabas and Paul . . . related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles." Compare also Romans 15:18-19 where Paul says: "For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit. . . ." Paul also says: "The signs of a true apostle [literally, "truly the signs of the apostle"-ta men sēmeia tou apostolou] were performed among you in all patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works [or, 'powerful deeds'-dunamesin]" (2 Cor. 12:12). This latter statement, incidentally, while again affirming that through Paul miracles took place, does not speak of them as apostolic certifications (hence, limited to apostles). The "signs of a true apostle"-which Paul does not describe in this text-were performed with "all patience"; such "signs" (even certifications) were accompanied by "signs and wonders and mighty works."
32 dunameis megalas
33 It is true that many ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark do not include chapter 16, verses 9-20. However, even if these verses are a later addition, the very fact that signs are ascribed to believers in general-"those who believe"-shows an early recognition that miracles are not limited to apostles, or apostles and deacons, such as Stephen and Philip.
34 Even the raising of the physically dead (to which reference is made several times in the Scriptures) is less a "wonder" than the raising of the spiritually dead by the proclamation of the Good News. For the raising of the physically dead in Acts, see the accounts of Peter raising Tabitha (9:36-42) and Paul restoring Eutychus to life (20:9-12).
35 E.g., see Nine O'Clock in the Morning, by Dennis Bennett, chapter 6, "More to the Package." Shortly after Father Bennett's baptism in the Spirit, he found miracles of many kinds beginning to happen. At the fellowship meeting, he said: "Sometimes nearly everyone in the room had some kind of a report to give: not what God did years ago, or even last year, but what He did last week, yesterday, today!" (p. 47). One further, and beautiful, statement by Dorothy Ranaghan, in As the Spirit Leads Us, might be added: "The victorious life of Christ becomes known in the now. Healing, discernment, miracles, prophecy-all these signs, manifestations or demonstrations of the Spirit cry out to men as they did in the New Testament times: 'Jesus is alive! Jesus works wonders! Jesus is the Lord!'" (p. 14).
36A vivid illustration of this is cited in the book by J. Herbert Kane, Understanding Christian Missions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974), about the preaching of French evangelist Jacques Girard in the Ivory Coast soccer stadium: "Morning and evening for six weeks thirty to thirty-five thousand people crowded into the stadium. During the first part of the crusade the evangelist emphasized the power of Christ to heal. Hundreds were healed, including some high government officials and their relatives. . . . During the second part of the crusade Mr. Girard emphasized the power of Christ to save. Having already witnessed the healing of the body, the people responded in droves" (p. 424).
37 "Extraordinary miracles" in the Greek-dunameis ou tas tuchousas-"powers not the ordinary." "Dunameis"-"powers"-is often best translated as "miracles."
38 The Greek word is prosechō, to turn one's mind to, notice, give heed to, pay attention, follow.
39 E.g., Matthew 14:14; Luke 4:40, 6:19 (". . . power came forth from him and healed them all").
40 Kathryn Kuhlman and Oral Roberts have been recognized leaders. See, e.g., Kuhlman's I Believe in Miracles (Old Tappan, NJ: Spire Books, 1962) and Roberts' The Call: An Autobiography (Old Tappan, NJ: Spire Books, 1971). Roberts' ministry has increasingly moved in the direction of higher education. Mention should also be made of Francis Mac Nutt whose teaching on healing is found in the book, Healing (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1974).
41The emphasis upon "inner healing" is also to be noted in the contemporary spiritual renewal. See, e.g., Agnes Sanford's The Healing of the Spirit (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966), Father Michael Scanlan's Inner Healing (New York: Paulist Press, 1974) and Ruth Carter Stapleton's The Gift of Inner Healing (Waco: Word Books, 1976).
42 Matthew 8:16. See above.
43 Literally, "a spirit of a python," or a "python spirit" (pneuma puthōna). "Python" was the name of the Pythian serpent or dragon who was said to guard the Delphic oracle. Thus "a spirit of divination" has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, but stems from evil.
44 didachē kainē kat' exousian.
45 The language varies: "spirit," "unclean spirit,' "evil spirit," "demon" and "spirit of an unclean demon" (Luke 4:33). A person with such a spirit is frequently described as "demon possessed" Mark 1:32), or as a "demoniac" (Mark 5:15)-literally, "demonized" (daimonistheis), that is to say, "under the power of a demon."
46 For example, there is the case of the Gadarene demoniac who could not be bound with chains, constantly committing acts of self-violence: "Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out, and bruising himself with stones" (Mark 5:5).
47 Mark 1:24. See comparable words of the Gadarene demoniac to Jesus in Mark 5:7: "I adjure you by God, do not torment me."
48 In the event of the deliverance of the epileptic boy in Mark 9, after Jesus commands, "Come out of him and never enter him again," the text continues: "And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said 'He is dead.'" However, "Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up and he arose" (vv. 25-27).
49 The name of Jesus, however, is not some magical power that may be conjured up by anyone to bring about a deliverance. The later account in Acts (19:13-16) of the "itinerant Jewish exorcists" who "undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits" is a vivid case in point. They tried to do this by saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." The evil spirit, unaffected, answers, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" Rather than exorcism "the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded." Conjuring up Jesus' name is ineffective, even dangerous, if not done by one who is truly ministering in Jesus' name.
50 E.g., Luke 9:1-2: "And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority [dunamin kai exousian] over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God. . . ." (Note, incidentally, the threefold ministry of preaching, deliverance and healing.) But it is not just the twelve who have such authority, for later Jesus sends out an additional seventy who return "with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!' " (Luke 10:1-17). It is important to recognize that such authority in Jesus' day was not limited to the circle of apostles, nor is it limited to any particular "official" persons since that time. Recall Mark 16:17: "And these signs will accompany those who believe [hence, all believers]: in my name they will cast out demons. . . ."
51 Of course, the condition of every person outside Christ is sin; thus forgiveness is always needed. The point here, however, is that a person may be so inwardly dominated by evil that unless this is broken he is in no condition to hear the word of forgiveness (and reconciliation). It is by Christ that both occur: deliverance from the domination of Satan and forgiveness of sins. The commission to Paul, by the risen Christ, was to go to Jew and Gentile alike: "to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:18). Turning from the power of Satan to God, therefore, may be essential background for receiving forgiveness of sins.
52 For example, compare the slave girl's situation, which exhibited no obvious disturbance, with that of the demoniac at Gadara who was patently in a condition of continual misery.
53 From what has been said, the most evident marks are the sensitivity of a possessed person to the presence of holiness and his feeling at the same time tormented by that presence.
54 In the contemporary spiritual renewal mention should be made of Michael Harper's Spiritual Warfare(London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1970) and Don Basham's Deliver Us From Evil (Washington Depot, CT: Chosen Books, 1972). There has been some extremism in certain sectors of the present renewal with the holding of mass deliverance sessions for Christians and non-Christians alike, and an exaggerated viewing of almost every vice as demonic and therefore needing deliverance (for an effective counterbalance, see The Dilemma: Deliverance or Discipline? by W. Robert McAlister [Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1976]). However, the importance, even urgency, of deliverance in many situations has come to be acutely recognized, and is being carried out.
55 Paul's response at Philippi to the slave girl's words, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation," is a good illustration of spiritual discernment. Outwardly such words might have seemed to be a confession of faith that would have pleased Paul; however, he recognized in them a "spirit of divination" that was not of God but from evil. Hence, rather than being deluded by her words, or even proclaiming the word of salvation, he casts out the demonic spirit. Later in the same day Paul, along with Silas, is thrown into jail, and thereafter speaks to the Philippian jailer the good news of salvation, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved . . ." (Acts 16:31). There is no casting out of an evil spirit, for Paul discerned there was none such present. Rather does he lead the jailer directly to faith in Christ. Thus, through spiritual discernment, Paul acts differently in the two situations.
Rodman Williams, Ph.D., was a Professor of Renewal Theology Emeritus at Regent University School of Divinity. Author of numerous books, he is perhaps best known for his three volume Renewal Theology (Zondervan, 1996).
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptural quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today by J. Rodman Williams, was published in 1980 by Logos International.
Content Copyright ©1996 by J. Rodman Williams, Ph.D.