Connections: Ernest S. Williams
Apr. 20, 2014
Celebrating the Resurrection
Ernest S. Williams (1885-1981), the fifth general superintendent
of the Assemblies of God, enjoyed the second-longest tenure, with 20
years in office from 1929-49. For years into his retirement, Williams
continued to share his deep but accessible biblical knowledge with
readers of the Pentecostal Evangel in the column Your Questions.
evangel readers: Can you explain the meaning of the title “Lord Jesus Christ”?
Ernest s. WILLIAMS: “Lord” means Sir, or Master. “Jesus” means the same as Joshua — Jehovah-Savior. “Christ” means Anointed One, or Messiah. It is the title of the Son of God, never the title of the Father or the Holy Ghost (2 Corinthians 13:14).
evangel: Jesus said to Peter in Luke 22:32, “When thou are
converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Did this mean Peter was not saved
at this time?
WILLIAMS: Before this time Peter was saved, since his name was
written in heaven with the other disciples (Luke 10:20). But Jesus knew
that in the darkness that would descend upon the disciples when He was
taken and crucified, Peter would fail and even deny his Lord. Also,
Jesus knew that though Peter would fail under pressure, yet he would
still love Him. So when Jesus was risen from the grave, He sent word by
the women to “tell his disciples and Peter, that he goeth before you
into Galilee” (Mark 16:7 and Matthew 28:7). There Peter was converted,
or turned again toward the Lord, and restored (John 21:15), and he was
told how he must die for Jesus (John 21:18,19).
evangel: Do you think we should observe Easter when the name originally referred to a heathen goddess?
WILLIAMS: I am told that the term “Easter” can be traced from Eastre,
the ancient Teutonic goddess of spring. In the Primitive Church the
death and resurrection of Christ were celebrated in conjunction with the
Jewish Passover, but the Nicene Council in A.D. 325 officially
separated the Christian festival from the Passover by changing the date
to make it correspond with the observance of the pagan carnival called
“Easter.” Instead of honoring the goddess of spring, the people were
taught to honor the resurrection of Christ on this occasion. On Good
Friday we commemorate the fact that “Christ our Passover is sacrificed
for us,” and on Easter we celebrate the glorious fact that “He is
risen.” The goddess of spring is long forgotten; the term now denotes
the celebration of the Resurrection.
evangel: Why did God require blood for our redemption?
WILLIAMS: Blood is required because “the life of the flesh is in the
blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement
for your souls” (Leviticus 17:11). The life of the substitute was given
for the sinner. The same truth is found in the fact that the “Son of man
came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a
ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Man has the sentence of death upon
him. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). In making the
atonement, taking our place as the curse for our sins, He has borne our
condemnation, “for [God] hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no
sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2
Corinthians 5:21). Since He has purchased redemption for us we may be
saved by believing on Him (Acts 16:31).
evangel: In Psalm 22:16 David says, “They pierced my hands and my
feet.” Did David have his hands and his feet pierced and, if so, what
was the occasion?
WILLIAMS: In this psalm, David was expressing in vivid terms his
reaction to the mental and emotional sufferings he endured, but the
Psalm goes completely beyond David in literal fulfillment. It is a
prophecy concerning the crucifixion of Jesus. I know of no other
Scripture which foretells so fully the sufferings of Christ. Then at
verse 22 begins the account of the triumphs which followed Christ’s
sufferings and death — the Resurrection side of the Atonement.
evangel: Do you interpret the statement, “With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5), to mean physical or spiritual healing?
WILLIAMS: I believe it includes both. In Matthew 8:16,17 we are told
that Jesus ministered physical healing to the multitudes in order to
fulfill this prophecy of Isaiah 53:4 — “Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows.” Then, Peter applied this Isaiah passage to
spiritual healing — the healing of the soul: “That we, being dead to
sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed”
(1 Peter 2:24). While provision is made for physical healing, that does
not mean that we may now obtain immortal life. As yet, only our souls
are redeemed. We are still a part of a groaning creation, awaiting the
coming of Christ when our bodies will be redeemed. (See Romans 8:22,23.)
As long as we remain in these bodies we may be victims of sickness,
sorrow and death.
evangel: Since the Bible speaks against drinking blood, why did
Jesus say, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his
blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53)?
WILLIAMS: Jesus did not mean we should literally drink His blood or
eat His flesh. He meant we must partake of the grace of salvation which
He provides. This is shown by His explanation, “It is the spirit that
quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto
you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
evangel: What is the meaning of Galatians 2:21 — “If righteousness
come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain”? Is He not alive
WILLIAMS: The wording of this verse in the King James Version is
misleading. Moffatt translates it, “Christ’s death was useless.”
Rotherham renders it, “Christ died without cause.” The Centenary Version
reads, “Christ died for nothing.” The thought is that He died, not that
He still is dead. The Bible clearly states that He is alive
forevermore. Here Paul is saying that we obtain righteousness by faith
in Him, but if we could have obtained righteousness by keeping the law
Christ died in vain.
evangel: What is the sinner’s prayer?
WILLIAMS: The sinner’s prayer is not made up of words only, for
prayer is more than words. It is the cry of the soul seeking peace with
God. The prayer of the publican is a good example of this, “God be
merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). When the repentant sinner prays
in faith, God will answer and will forgive his sins through our Lord
evangel: What does “born again” (John 3:3) mean?
WILLIAMS: It means that the life of God is imparted to us by the Holy
Ghost. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are
the children of God” (Romans 8:16). This occurs at the time of our
conversion, when we repent of our sin and accept Christ as our personal