Renewal Theology
featuring the works of theologian J. Rodman Williams

Renewal Theology


Published Online Books

A Theological Pilgrimage

The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today

Ten Teachings

The Pentecostal Reality

Published Online Writings

Prophecy by the Book

Scripture: God's Written Word

The Holy Spirit in the Early Church

Other Writings

The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today
Chapter Two - Dimensions

We come now to a consideration of the actual giving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit promised by the Father, sent by the Son, becomes an event in time and history. God gives His Spirit to human beings. It is therefore our concern to reflect upon some of the dimensions of this event that include both God and man. We shall mainly note the biblical text and thereafter make some reference to the contemporary scene.

The first thing we may observe in the Scripture is that God gives His Spirit in abundance. In the words of the Fourth Gospel, "It is not by measure that he gives the Spirit" (John 3:34).1  The gift of the Holy Spirit is one of plenitude and boundlessness. The Spirit is lavished upon men, and those who receive this gift participate in the divine, abundant self-giving.

It is the word "outpouring"—the outpouring of the Spirit—that in the Scriptures particularly expresses this theme of abundance. We have already given several quotations from both Old and New Testaments where the word "outpouring" or "pouring out" occurs. Let us review the New Testament passages already mentioned. First, Peter on the Day of Pentecost identifies what has just happened with the prophecy of Joel concerning "the last days" when God would "pour out" His Spirit "on all flesh." Second, thereafter, as Peter proclaims the gospel, he states it was the exalted Jesus who "poured out" the Holy Spirit.

Now we may turn to another account of the gift of the Holy Spirit—to the Gentiles at Caesarea. Again, we find the expression, "outpouring." The relevant text reads that "the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out [also]2  on the Gentiles" (Acts 10:45). Thus the Gentile gathering at the house of Cornelius was blessed in the same manner as the disciples at Jerusalem. They likewise experienced the abundance of God's gift of the Holy Spirit.

One other passage, outside Acts, in the epistles should also be noted. It is found in Titus 3:5-6 where Paul speaks of "the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, [whom]3  he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior." This is a beautiful statement that connects very closely the idea of outpouring and abundance: the Holy Spirit "poured out …richly"—and it happens through Jesus Christ.4

To summarize: what we have observed in these passages concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit is the lavishness of God's action. He does not stint, He does not mete out something of Himself, something of His Spirit, but He gives in totality. God gives His Spirit in abundance.

As we turn briefly from the biblical record to the contemporary spiritual renewal, it is apparent that many people testify to the abundance of what they have received. There is often the sense of the lavishness of God in holding back nothing of His Spirit. There may have been growing hunger and thirst for the deep things of God, then a critical spiritual breakthrough came and God poured out His Spirit. For some there was such a plenitude of the divine presence and power, such a copiousness of God's blessing, such totality of the Spirit's bestowal that it seemed almost more than human existence could bear. It was all of God that man could receive of the eternal glory.5

We turn, in the second place, to a number of related themes that suggest the way God gives the Holy Spirit. Here we shall note such matters as the divine sovereignty, the suddenness and forcefulness of the gift. All of these, I believe, are contained in the idea of the Holy Spirit "falling upon" persons.

Two of the incidents in the book of Acts relating to the gift of the Holy Spirit make use of the language of "falling." First, the account of the Holy Spirit being given to the Gentiles at Caesarea: "While Peter was still saying this [his message to the Gentiles], the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word" (10:44). Later Peter, rehearsing the event, says: "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning." Thus not only what happened to the Gentiles at Caesarea but also earlier to the disciples at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost was a "falling" of the Holy Spirit.

The other incident in which the language of "falling" is used is that concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Samaritans. Before they received the gift, the Holy Spirit "had not yet fallen on any of them" (8:16). Hence, when the Samaritans received the gift later, by implication, the Holy Spirit then fell upon them.

The aspect of God's sovereign action is unmistakably present in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The word "falling" connotes an action "from above," from heaven to earth and therefore totally initiated by God. God may give the Holy Spirit according to some specified pattern,6  or He may transcend all usual modes and freely send down the Holy Spirit. The sovereign "falling" of the Holy Spirit occurred in both Jerusalem and Caesarea, and therefore may happen again and again.

Related to this is the note of suddenness. It is apparent that in Jerusalem the Holy Spirit suddenly came. On the Day of Pentecost the disciples were all gathered together when "suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind …" (2:2). This was unmistakably the coming of the Holy Spirit—sent from heaven—and happened with no advance notice. It is equally apparent that the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Caesareans was sudden. For Peter's sermon was interrupted by the falling of the Holy Spirit, obviously to the surprise of everyone gathered, Jew and Gentile alike.

When God acts, He acts quickly. There may be many factors preparing the way, but when He sends His Spirit, there is a sudden movement from "on high," and the Spirit falls. There may be a period of time leading up to it (as the days of waiting prior to Pentecost),7  but when the time comes, God moves rapidly. Suddenly—the Spirit comes.

The third aspect mentioned is that of forcefulness. We have already observed the statement in Acts about the sound "from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind." The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was forcible,8  strong, driving. There was nothing quiet or hidden about it: and it made an impact on all. The expression "fall upon" suggests the same note of forcefulness; for when something—or someone—falls upon a person or a group, the effects will doubtless be felt! Of course, we are here dealing with the Holy Spirit, not a thing or force; nonetheless, His coming is with memorable impact.

This leads us again to the contemporary scene where testimonies abound to the "falling" of the Holy Spirit.9  Sometimes reference is made to what has been experienced in a gathering of people when, perhaps after witness has been borne about God's readiness to pour out His Spirit, suddenly the Spirit falls. This frequently occurs unexpectedly—even to the shock and surprise of those to whom it happens. Here, seemingly, was a sovereign act of God occurring in the midst of His gathered people. And—it is to be added—often this takes place with such forcefulness that the recipients have literally reeled under the impact. This "falling" of the Spirit, so people attest, may occur privately as well—and there is no limit to time or place: at any hour in church, in one's prayer closet, driving a car, on the job, indeed anywhere. It is God's action, and of such a character that one can never thereafter forget.

We move on to recognize, in the third place, that the Holy Spirit comes to take possession. The Holy Spirit lays claim upon a person, or community, so as to be the controlling and guiding reality. Henceforward one is to move under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

The expression "come upon" is the primary one in the book of Acts that conveys this meaning. It is the language used by Jesus prior to Pentecost in telling His disciples they are to be His witnesses: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses … (1:8). Jesus had been giving them "commandment through the Holy Spirit" (1:2), so the Holy Spirit was already at work in their midst. But this was not yet the "coming upon" whereby the Holy Spirit would become the controlling factor in their lives.

The language of "coming upon" is also used in the later account of Paul ministering to the Ephesians. The climatic moment is stated: "And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them …" (Acts 19:6). Thus Ephesians experience essentially the same possession by the Spirit as did the disciples at Pentecost.

Here a point needs to be emphasized, namely, the possession referred to in Acts intends to be a continuing matter. When the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples at Pentecost, this is an endowment for their continuing life and ministry. From then on they are to be persons moving under the guidance and authority of the Holy Spirit.

There are also a number of references in the Old Testament to the Spirit coming upon various persons. It is said of several of the judges that the Spirit of the Lord "came upon" them, "took possession of" them or "came mightily upon"10  them. The same is said of Saul and David.11  Also, it was earlier said of one incident concerning Moses' elders,12  also of the prophesying of Balaam.13  However, all of this is largely a temporary matter to enable a person for a time to fulfill a certain role or function: judging, ruling, prophesying.14  Further, the Spirit only came upon a few now and then. With the outpouring of the Spirit beginning at Pentecost the situation is quite different: the coming of the Spirit is both abiding and universal ("all flesh").

Here we might also quote the words of Jesus: "stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). The picture of being clothed, or endued, with Holy Spirit likewise contains the note of a continuing endowment. When the Holy Spirit comes and endues, not only will there be a total possession but also movement thereafter will be vested with His presence and power.

It is to be noted that the described "coming upon" and "clothing with" are two aspects of the same operation of the Holy Spirit. The former terminology, in the active voice, expresses the divine side, namely, that the Holy Spirit thereby lays claim to or possesses a person. The latter terminology, in the passive voice, expresses the human aspect, namely, that a person is thereby invested with the Holy Spirit. One does not himself put on the Holy Spirit; rather does the Spirit clothe the person. Possession by the Spirit and investment with the Spirit: these are two aspects of God's gracious action.

In the contemporary situation, we now observe, there is a striking sense of the Holy Spirit's possession and investment. Whatever may have been the relation to God before, this represents a fresh and total claim upon one's life. "I may have had the Spirit before, but now the Spirit has me"—such is a typical expression of persons in the spiritual renewal. Nor is there any thought of lack of freedom in such possession; quite the contrary, there is a tremendous sense of moving and acting freely under the Spirit's direction. Moreover, the experience of the Spirit's abiding endowment, so that one is vested henceforward with His presence and power, makes for an extraordinary new level of Christian commitment and activity.15

Before going further it is important to stress that all the terminology thus far used in this chapter about the "outpouring," the "falling upon," and the "coming upon" of the Holy Spirit points definitely to the gift of the Holy Spirit as a gift from without or beyond. The experience of the gift therefore is not some kind of mystical participation in the immanent presence of God. Rather, it is a profound experience of the transcendent God coming powerfully to His creature. In some ways it is a kind of spiritual invasion: from the heights to the depths. But the coming from without is by no means to break down or destroy; it is a gracious act whereby human beings may better become participants in the purpose and activity of God.

In the fourth place, those to whom God gives His Spirit are enveloped with His presence and power. The Spirit promised by the Father, sent forth by the Son, surrounds, encloses, immerses those to whom He comes. Nothing is left untouched or unaffected. It is as if one were bathed in the reality of God.

The biblical term that expresses most vividly this aspect of envelopment is "being baptized." This reference is made not to water but to the Spirit, to being baptized with, or in,16  the Holy Spirit. By such a baptism, one is totally enveloped within the reality of the divine presence.

In the book of Acts this expression is found twice. It is used in connection with the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples at Jerusalem and to the Gentiles in Caesarea. Prior to the Jerusalem Pentecost, the words of Jesus are recorded: "John baptized [in]17  the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5). Following the Gentile Pentecost, Peter, in his words to the apostles and brethren in Judea, refers to what had happened to the Gentiles as also being baptized in the Holy Spirit: "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized [in] water, but you shall be baptized [in] the Holy Spirit'" (Acts 11:15-16). Thus although the expression, "baptized in the Spirit," is not used on the occasions of the gift of the Spirit to Jew and Gentile (Acts 2 and Acts 10), it is apparent that both occasions are baptisms in the Holy Spirit.18  By extension, since we have noted the use of other terms such as "outpouring,&quot "falling" and "coming on" for these and other events recording the gift of the Holy Spirit, we may properly speak of all these incidents as occasions of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

The importance of this expression is further enhanced by the fact that all four Gospels likewise contain references to a spiritual baptism. At the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, John the Baptist points to it as a future event: "I have baptized you [in] water; but he [Jesus] will baptized you [in] the Holy Spirit [and fire]."19  There is no suggestion in the Gospels that this promised baptism in the Spirit is fulfilled during the period of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.20  It is only with the completion of the work of Christ in redemption that the Holy Spirit is given—and people thereafter are baptized in the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospels it is evident that Jesus will be the baptizer: "He [Jesus] will baptize you." By implication the same is true in the book of Acts where, as noted, the text reads: "You shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit is not depicted as the baptizer, as if one were being baptized by21  the Holy Spirit. Rather, Jesus is the baptizer and the Holy Spirit is the element wherein the baptism occurs. Even as water is not the agent in water baptism, neither is the Spirit the agent in Spirit baptism. Water and Spirit are the elements in which baptism takes place. This is an important fact to keep in mind, for it leads one properly to understand baptism in the Spirit as not an action by the Spirit but by the exalted Lord who immerses people in His Spirit.

We have briefly discussed the four Gospel instances and the two in Acts that specifically refer to baptism in the Holy Spirit. There is one other possible instance in the New Testament: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). It could be argued that Paul is dealing with a different matter here, namely, a baptism by the Spirit, so that the Spirit (unlike the cases in the Gospels and Acts) is the agent. However, since the Greek word translated "by" is the same as the word translated "in"22  in the prior six cases, it would seem preferable to translate it thus: "In one Spirit we were all baptized …" Accordingly, the Holy Spirit is again depicted as element and not as agent, and Christ (though not mentioned directly) is implied to be the agent.23  That this seems to be the more likely interpretation follows also from the second half of the verse which again does not show the Holy Spirit as agent: "all were made to drink of one Spirit." Incidentally, this latter statement may also be translated: "all were imbued [or saturated] with one Spirit."24  This translation sounds much like our previous description of baptism in the Spirit as immersion in or saturation with the Holy Spirit. However, whichever translation is followed, the Holy Spirit is not said to be the agent in 1 Corinthians any more than the Gospels and Acts.

To summarize: the importance of the expression "being baptized in the Holy Spirit" cannot be denied. It depicts vividly the idea of being totally enveloped in the reality of the Holy Spirit. Even though this baptism in the Holy Spirit is set in contrast with John's baptism in water (in the Gospels and Acts), the same term is used for both; so drawing upon the picture of water baptism one sees more clearly the operation of Spirit baptism. Since to be baptized in water means literally to be immersed in, plunged in, even saturated with the surrounding element,25  then to be baptized in the Holy Spirit can mean no less. No part of the body is left untouched by water baptism; everything goes under. So with Spirit baptism the whole being of man—body, soul and spirit—is enveloped in the reality of God. Likewise, the community of those who are enveloped in the divine reality is affected in its total life. Both individual and community are touched in every area by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Through being baptized in the Holy Spirit, life takes on a fresh quality of divine nearness and intimacy. Moreover, the origin of this baptism is from beyond, from Jesus Christ. It is not a kind of mystical immanence without transcendent source, but a being plunged into the sphere of the divine totality by the activity of the exalted Lord. Such is the marvelous sense of immediacy that is known by those who are thus enveloped in the reality of the divine presence.

Now to return specifically to the spiritual renewal today: there is no expression more commonly used than that of being "baptized in [or with] the Holy Spirit." For what has been said in the preceding paragraphs about the entire being of man enveloped—immersed, saturated, imbued—in the reality of God is the testimony of countless thousands of people.26  This may have happened to a community of people or to an individual, but the situation is extraordinarily the same. If to a community, its whole existence is thereby enveloped anew in the divine glory: every aspect of its life touched by the divine presence. If to an individual, one has then been submerged in the presence and power of God—to use a common expression—"from the top of the head to the soles of the feet."

In passing, it is significant to observe that the biblical expression of "baptized in [or with] the Spirit" has had little use in the long history of the church. Much of course has been said about baptism in (or with) water27  but little about baptism in the Holy Spirit.28  It may well be that the revival of this biblical expression is one of the key signs of the renewal of New Testament vitality in our times.

Fifth, and finally, the recipients of God's gift are inwardly pervaded by His Holy Spirit. Man in the totality of his being is claimed by the Spirit of God. There is penetration through the level of consciousness to the subconscious depths. The Holy Spirit probes the inward regions of soul and spirit, and possesses human existence in its entirety.

The word used in the scriptural record to express this inward possession is "filled"—to be "filled with the Holy Spirit."29 Let us note its usage first in the account of the disciples at Jerusalem.

It is interesting to observe that the first thing said about what happened to the disciples at Pentecost is that "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). Peter later speaks of this as the "outpouring of the Holy Spirit" (as we have noted before), but the primary description is their being "filled."30  They were pervaded by God's presence and power.

Looking in more detail at the Pentecostal picture, we find that before the disciples were filled, the house was filled. The sound from heaven came "like the rush of a mighty wind" (as we have earlier noted), and "it filled all the house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2).31  The house being filled suggests the presence of God in an intensive manner throughout the place of assembly. Those gathered know themselves to be surrounded by and enveloped in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Then what is felt outwardly in fullness becomes an inner total experience. They are all—as community and as persons—filled with the Spirit of God.

Also, just before the disciples are filled, the Scripture reads that "There appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them" (Acts 2:3). Two comments: first, this calls to mind the words that Jesus will baptize with "the Holy Spirit and fire"; second, the tongues "resting on each" contains the imagery of the Holy Spirit descending upon—as in the language of "pouring out on," "falling on" and "coming on"—so that the movement is from heaven to earth. Hence, the disciples are filled from beyond themselves. It is not simply an intensification of an inward spiritual presence: it is a divine visitation in fullness.

Next, we turn to the account of Saul of Tarsus, and note how he was filled with the Spirit. Three days after Saul's encounter with the glorified Jesus a disciple named Ananias goes to the blinded Saul: "So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you …has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit'" (Acts 9:17). So does Saul, later to become Paul, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Thus the experience of Saul of Tarsus was like that of the disciples at Jerusalem who were also filled with the Spirit. It came from the exalted Lord Jesus in each case, and prepared both the disciples and Saul for the work that lay ahead. Indeed, it was the gift of the Holy Spirit promised by God to all He calls to Himself. Accordingly, being "filled with the Holy Spirit" in these two cases is clearly identical with the experience of the Samaritans, the people at Caesarea, and the disciples at Ephesus. It was the initial experience of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.

There is one other report in Acts of a being "filled with the Holy Spirit" that might likewise relate to such an initial experience: "The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:52).32  This text refers to those in Antioch of Pisidia who had been disciples for some time.

Outside of this, other references in Acts to "filled with the Spirit" concern persons who have earlier been filled. It is said of Peter, when he later addressed the high council of Jews, that he, "filled with the Holy Spirit," spoke to them (4:8), and that afterward when Peter and the company of disciples prayed for boldness to speak the word "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit … (4:31). Saul of Tarsus, now called Paul, is described as "filled with the Holy Spirit" as he discerns the evil intentions of Elymas the magician and speaks against him (13:9). It would seem from these passages that in addition to the initial experience of being filled there may be subsequent fresh fillings with the Holy Spirit.33

There is also reference to a condition of fullness: some persons are said to be "full of the Holy Spirit." Stephen and Barnabas were described as men "full of the Holy Spirit and faith,"34  and the requirement for those elected to serve tables (including Stephen) is that they be men "full of the Spirit and of wisdom."35  Indeed, it is also important to note that Jesus Himself, just following His baptism by John, is described as "full of the Holy Spirit": "And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan …" (Luke 4:1). The language of spiritual fullness bespeaks God's abundant gift of the Holy Spirit.

Thus along with the initial reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit which is described as "filling" in the case of the first disciples and Saul of Tarsus,36  there are later repetitions of being filled as well as emphasis on continuing fullness. Hence, the concept of filling is quite complex in richness and meaning.

What then is the overall significance of being "filled" or "full"? It would seem to point to that dimension of the Spirit's bestowal that relates to interiority, that is to say, the whole community and/or person is inwardly pervaded by the Holy Spirit. Even as the sound of something like a mighty wind filled all the house—which signifies every room, nook and corner—so for all persons who are filled, this means every aspect of individual and communal life. The human situation is claimed in a total way by the Spirit of the living God.

In the spiritual renewal of our time there are countless numbers of persons who testify to the reality of being filled with the Holy Spirit. There may have been a sense of emptiness for some time, but now God has come in His fullness; there may have been an increasing yearning to glorify God in all that one is and does, and now God had flooded one's being with His ineffable presence; there may have been a deep desire to be used more effectively in sharing the Good News of the grace received in Jesus Christ, and now God has filled one's life and speech with fresh power. Such testimony to being filled with the Holy Spirit points to a profoundly internal experience of the Spirit of God moving throughout like wind, or fire, until all barriers are breached and the Holy Spirit pervades everything.37

This is totally of penetration with the Holy Spirit whereby, in a new way, all areas of one's being—body, soul and spirit (the conscious and subconscious depths)—become sensitized to the divine presence and activity. Likewise, a community of people filled with the Holy Spirit find that not only their relationship to God but also to one another becomes suffused with a profound sense of God moving in and through whatever takes place. Further, the experience of being filled may occur afresh—by God's sovereign action and in response to new situations. However, any renewed filling is against the background of the original breakthrough of God's Spirit when the Spirit moved throughout and all barriers were broken down. For the Holy Spirit is free to move again and again—as all of life becomes redolent with the presence and wonder of Almighty God.

Finally, let us hear the exhortation which remains to all generations: "Be filled with the Spirit … (Ephesians 5:18). For it is the divine intention that God's people should know the life of continuing spiritual fullness38  and thereby ever live to the praise and glory of God.


1. It is unclear in this text whether the subject of the giving is the Father or the Son. In either case it is a divine giving. Incidentally, the King James Version adds "unto him" (in italics, signifying that the words are not found in the Greek) which, I believe, misses the important note that to whomever God gives the Spirit it is without measure.

2. Rather than "even" which appears in the Revised Standard Version. The Greek word kai may in this context be translated as "also" or "even." I would judge that "also" (the translation given in King James and several modern versions) is preferable. It is true that Peter and those with him were surprised when the gift was poured out on the Gentiles; thus it could be: "even on the Gentiles." However, I believe the more significant matter here is that the Gentiles were also receiving the gift of the Spirit.

3. Rather than "which" in King James (KJV) and Revised Standard Version (RSV). See New American Standard (NAS) and New International Version (NIV) for translation as "whom." The Greek word is ou, which is either masculine or neuter; however, the masculine translation as "whom" seems more fitting in light of the personal reality of the Holy Spirit.

4. Another passage that might be noted about the Holy Spirit and outpouring is Romans 5:5 where Paul writes of how "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit …given to us." However, Paul is speaking here of a result of the Spirit being given, namely, God's love "poured out."

5. "I felt the breath of God and tasted of His glory. I knew God was revealing only a minute portion of Himself, had it been anything greater I would not have been able to survive. I would have died …I felt the Spirit of God surging in as the waters of the Red Sea must have rushed together after the children of Israel had marched through to freedom." So writes Arthur Katz in his autobiography, Ben Israel: Odyssey of a Modern Jew (Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1970), pp. 204-5. This is the climatic moment in the pilgrimage of a "son of Israel" wherein, after a "new-found relationship with the Messiah" (p. 171), he experienced the outpouring (the "surging") of God's Spirit and the presence of eternal glory.

6. This will be discussed later.

7. See Acts 1:4ff. The period of waiting was about ten days.

8. The word translated above as "mighty" in the Greek is biaias, meaning "violent" or "forcible."

9. "There came a day and hour when the Spirit of God invaded our small Saturday evening prayer group, where we met to pray for the Sunday worship service. Literally, the Spirit fell! He electrified everyone in the room! …Immediately the gifts of the Spirit began to be distributed among us and we began to see signs, wonders, and miracles that have never ceased to this day!" Words of Rev. James H. Brown, Presbyterian minister, in an article entitled "Signs, Wonders and Miracles" in Presbyterians and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (Los Angeles: Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International, 1963), pp. 6-7. Such a testimony about the Spirit's "falling" is frequently found in the renewal of our time. It is interesting to observe that the language of "falling" was earlier used by Agnes Ozman, whose experience is usually viewed as the beginning of twentieth-century Pentecostalism: " …the Holy Spirit fell upon me and I began to speak in tongues, glorifying God.  …I had the added joy and glory my heart longed for and a depth of the presence of the Lord within me that I had never known before. It was as if rivers of water were proceeding from my innermost being." See Klaude Kendrick, The Promise Fulfilled (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1961), pp. 52-53. We shall speak of tongues in the next chapter; the point here to note is that the imagery of falling is used in this early Pentecostal testimony.

10. For example, concerning Othniel: "The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel" (Judges 3:10); Gideon: "The Spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet …" (Judges 6:34); Samson: "The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him …" (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14).

11. "The Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul … (1 Samuel 11:6); "The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward (1 Samuel 16:13).

12. Then the Lord …took some of the spirit that was upon him [Moses] and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied" (Numbers 11:25).

13. Balaam: "And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse … (Numbers 24:2).

14. David is the Old Testament exception. As a prior footnote shows, David's endowment of the Spirit was "from that day forward."

15. Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens, former Roman Catholic leader in the spiritual renewal, writes in his book, A New Pentecost? (New York: Seabury Press, 1974): "We are not alone any more, we know we are guided by the Holy Spirit; our life unfolds in response to him. As we dispossess ourselves, our being is possessed by God. The void is filled …Those who allow themselves to be possessed by God, resemble the log that little by little becomes white-hot. Their life, nourished by the fire of the Holy Spirit, becomes fire in its turn. Is not this the fire of which Jesus spoke when he said: 'I have come to bring fire to the earth …' (Luke 12:49)? This is what it means to experience the Holy Spirit who alone can renew the face of the earth!" (p. 70).

16. The Greek preposition regularly found is en which may be translated "with" or "in." "With" expresses the idea of the Holy Spirit coming to encompass or surround; "in" conveys the note of the Holy Spirit as the element within which one is submerged. "In" is preferred by many for two reasons: it avoids any idea that the Holy Spirit is the baptizer ("with" often means "by"); second, "in" follows quite naturally upon the word "baptize" (baptizo) which means to "immerse," "plunge under," "submerge within," etc. However, the fact of envelopment may well include both ideas: to be surrounded with as well as to be plunged within.

17. In accordance with our previous footnote we shall henceforward render en as "in," thus not following the RSV. Most modern translations use "with"; however, a marginal note usually accompanies the translation giving the other possibility of "in."

18. The noun "baptism" is not used in these passages (nor in others which we shall notice shortly). The gift of the Spirit in each case is an event, a dynamic occurrence, a "being baptized." However, I do not think it improper to use the substantive form (similarly with "outpouring," which as such does not occur either; the text each time is "poured out") if one bears in mind its eventful quality.

19. Mark 1:8. In Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16 the words "and fire" are added. In John 1:33 the wording is: "I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize [in] water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes [in] the Holy Spirit.'"

20. This is true even with the interpretation that John's Gospel refers to it in John 20:22 where Jesus says, "Receive the Holy Spirit." This "Johannine Pentecost" (as it is sometimes called) still follows the events of Christ's life, death and resurrection.

21. Though the Greek word en can be translated "by," it is more often "with" or "in" (see earlier footnote). "By" would clearly be a mistake here, since the Holy Spirit is not the agent in Spirit baptism.

22. en.

23. John R. W. Stott writes: "If 1 Corinthians 12:13 were different [from the Gospels and Acts passages] and in this verse the Holy Spirit were himself the baptizer, what would be the 'element' with which he baptizes? That there is no answer to this question is enough to overthrow this interpretation, since the baptism metaphor absolutely required an element, or the baptism is no baptism. Therefore, the 'element' is the baptism of 1 Corinthians 12:13 must be the Holy Spirit, and (consistently with the other verses) we must supply Jesus Christ as the baptizer." The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit (Downer's Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964), p. 27.

24. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1899) article on potizo suggests "imbued" as translation for epotisthemen in this verse.

25. Practices of water baptism of course vary. Our concern here, however, is to note the literal meaning of the word "baptize," the Greek baptizo, which signifies to "dip" or "immerse"—also "plunge, sink, drench, overwhelm" (see Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [University of Chicago Press, 1957]).

26. "Talk about a baptism, it was just like I was being plunged down into a great sea of water, only the water was God, the water was the Holy Spirit." Testimony of one of the first Roman Catholics in the renewal of his "baptism in the Holy Spirit" (Catholic Pentecostals, p. 16).

27. See hereafter (Chapter 6: Means) for discussion of water baptism in relation to Spirit baptism.

28. It might be mentioned that Charles G. Finney, nineteenth-century evangelist, and later founder of Oberlin College, did use this expression about his early experience. A few hours after what Finney described as a face to face encounter with Christ, he says: "I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost …without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul …Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love …It seemed like the very breath of God …it seemed to fan me, like immense wings …I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, 'I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me' …yet I had no fear of death." See Charles G. Finney: An Autobiography (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1876), pp. 20-21. Finney's experience of "a mighty baptism" of the Spirit is recurring variously around the world today.

29. Or, more literally, "filled of the Holy Spirit"—eplesthesan pneumatos hagiou. Similarly in other passages we shall note.

30. Thus being "filled with the Holy Spirit" is one of the expressions—along with "outpouring," "falling," "coming upon" and "baptized in"—used in Acts to describe what occurs when the Holy Spirit is given.

31. The Old Testament parallel to the fillings of the house at Pentecost is that of the filling of the Tabernacle and Temple with the divine glory—"the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle [or temple]" (see Exodus 40:34-35 and 2 Chronicles 7:1-2). Of course, the far greater thing at Pentecost was that people—not just a tabernacle, temple or house—were filled with the Holy Spirit.

32. The Greek word for "filled" here is esperanto, the imperfect tense, and may be translated as "were continually filled" (NAS) or "continued to be full" (Phillips). However, the imperfect can also mean that they were being filled one after another—thus an initial experience. (I am inclined to agree with Howard M. Ervin, These Are Not Drunken As Ye Suppose, [Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1968], p. 72, on this point.) A similar imperfect is found in Acts 8:17: "And they received [elambanon] the Holy Spirit"—which might be more accurately translated: "they were receiving," that is, one by one.

33. Mention should also be made that prior to Pentecost there are a few references to "filled with the [Holy] Spirit." In the Old Testament, Bezalel, craftsman for the tabernacle, was "filled …with the Spirit of God …to devise artistic designs … (Exodus 31:3)" and Micah the prophet declares, "I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord …to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin" (Micah 3:8). In the New Testament, Elizabeth was "filled with the Holy Spirit and …exclaimed with a loud cry [to Mary], 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb'" (Luke 1:41-42); and Zechariah was "filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied … (Luke 1:67). In all these cases the filling with the Spirit was for a limited function (tabernacle designing, prophesying, word of supernatural knowledge), and therefore a temporary manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Such instances prepare the way for the filling at Pentecost that is identical with the outpouring of, or baptism in, the Holy Spirit. One other pre-Pentecost instance of Spirit filling is that of John the Baptist, of whom the angel said, "He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15). Here, it would seem, is the one instance of a lifetime of spiritual fullness, thereby marking John as the greatest of the prophets, the forerunner of Jesus' spiritual baptism, and preview of Pentecost.

34. Acts 6:5; 7:55; 11:24.

35. Acts 6:3

36. And perhaps the believers in Antioch (as noted).

37. "How could a man think he was passing out the bread of life every Sunday and still remain so utterly hungry himself? I was empty, and I knew it. This was the end of the line." So writes Erwin Prange about his situation as a Lutheran pastor in his first parish. Then, "all at once a voice seemed to come from nowhere and everything … 'The gift is already yours. Reach out and take it.'" As Prange then stretched out his hands toward the altar, palms up, jaws tightening and mouth open: "In an instant, there was a sudden shift of dimensions, and God became real. A spirit of pure love pervaded the church and drenched me like rain. He was beating in my heart, flowing through my blood, breathing in my lungs, and thinking in my brain. Every cell in my body, every nerve end, tingled with the fire of His presence." See Prange's autobiographical account, The Gift is Already Yours (Plainfield, NJ: Logos, 1973), pp. 52-53. Though the language is not precisely that of being "filled with the Holy Spirit," the whole experience was one of moving from emptiness to fullness, and such a fullness as Prange vividly describes.

38. The Greek verb for "be filled" is plerousthe which is present imperative signifying continuity: "Be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit."

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.

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