Muslims in Evangelical Churches

WWJD

       James Hood, in his article Muslims in Evangelical Churches poses the question whether loving your neighbor means opening the church doors to false worship? Hood highlights two churches, which opened their doors for Muslims to use the church buildings as mosques. At Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee, pastor Steve Stone came to the decision to allow Muslims to worship on church property by asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” At Aldersgate Methodist church in Alexandria, Virginia, pastor Jason Micheli appealed to evangelical and exclusivist reasoning stating, “When we say that Jesus is the only way to the Father, we do not just mean our belief in Jesus is the only way to the Father. We also mean Jesus’ way of live is the only way we manifest the Father’s love.”

       There are multiple theological issues at play in these scenarios and throughout Scripture the Great Commandment[1] and the Great Commission[2] are among the top appeals Christ calls His followers to perform and embody. In the Old Testament, the Shema[3] calls followers to love the Lord their God above all others, so the issue of allowing idol worship to happen in the church is a highly debatable topic. While the church is not confined to the traditional four walls, there is precedence with the Great Commandment, the Great Commission, and the Shema, which cannot be ignored. Peter C. Craigie illustrates:

The Shema ultimately means: ‘Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is ‘One.’ These words, which have been called the fundamental monotheistic dogma of the Old Testament, have both practical and theological implications. The Israelites had already discovered the practical implications when they… discovered the uniqueness of their God… [and it] was because they had experienced the living presence of their God in history that the Israelites could call the Lord our God. The theological implications and the context of this verse indicate its source as a direct revelation from God. The word expresses not only the uniqueness but also the unity of God.[4]

       Growing up in a military community, the base chapel was shared by a multiplicity of denominations, some Christian and some far from it and it was the job of the chaplain to relate to multiple denominations of faith. This model and upbringing makes the Muslims’ use of Christian churches seem less about theology and more about embodying the love and compassion of Christ. At the same time, one cannot ignore when Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”[5]
If the churches in this article had opened up their doors as shelters due to a state of emergency, this writer wonders if it would have been an issue at all. Ultimately it comes down to stewardship. What churches do with what God has entrusted to them is the fundamental question. This writer believes by opening the doors and allowing the Muslims to use the facility acts as an olive branch of peace, which over time will hopefully develop into relationships, and is where the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will have the ability to be applied. Jesus came to seek the lost, the sick, and the hurting people. Christians must realize, “the church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners,” and by opening the doors to Muslims they have increased their mission field exponentially.

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Deuteronomy, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Hood, James B. 2011. “Muslims in Evangelical Churches.” Christianity Today, January 3, 2011. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/januaryweb-only/muslimsevangelical.html   (accessed August 18, 2016).


[1] Matthew 22:36-40

[2] Matthew 28:16-20

[3] Deuteronomy 6:4-9

[4] Peter C. Craigie, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Deuteronomy, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 168-169.

[5] Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV)

A God-Sized Vision: Book Review

God sized vision

            Collin Hansen is an American journalist and editor of The Gospel Coalition. He received his undergrad from Northwestern in history and journalism and his Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical. Hansen is also considered to be an expert on New Calvinism, which is a movement within conservative Evangelicalism. It ultimately seeks to combine the fundamentals of sixteenth century Calvinism with present-day culture.[1] John Woodbridge received his BA from Wheaton College, his MA from Michigan State, his Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical, and his Doctorat de Troisieme Cycle from the Universite de Toulouse, France. Woodbridge serves as research professor of church history and the history of Christian thought at Trinity Evangelical and specializes in evangelicalism, fundamentalism, origins of higher criticism, the French enlightenment, the French Huguenots, and history of the Bible’s authority.[2]

          Hansen and Woodbridge first set out to demonstrate since few people alive today have ever experienced the true power of revival, there exists a disconnect between what is prayed for and what God is capable of doing through a God-sized vision. Revivals have served many purposes in the history of the church, many of which have led to renewal of faith and the outpouring of God’s Spirit. Secondly, Hansen and Woodbridge demonstrate repentance and prayer are the common denominators and the beginnings to every revival. Prayer is what takes the finite hopes and dreams of mankind and places them in the infinite realm of God’s supernatural omnipotence. Repentance prepares and cleanses the heart, allowing God it to be filled until it overflows with love, mercy, and grace for the people who need to feel the same supernatural presence and encounter with God.  Thirdly, Hansen and Woodbridge demonstrate the necessity of having a God-sized vision, which focuses on the supreme will of God and specifically what He wants to do in and through the church. For example, Charles Finney believed, “Christians have waited for God to move, when all along God has gifted the church with everything it needs to spark revival… Finney deployed ‘new measures’ [like the] anxious seat, which became a staple of American evangelism leading to practices such as the altar call.”[3] Lastly, Hansen and Woodbridge highlight multiple revivals, to plant the seed of faith in the reader’s mind, and to demonstrate God is capable of much more than man can ever dream of.

Part II

          Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge illustrate, “Though God alone can instigate revival, the church need not wait idly… When Christians petition God for revival, they acknowledge that all their efforts to organize and contextualize go for naught unless God goes before them.”[4] Prayer is vital in the individual believer’s life, but also in the corporate setting. Without targeted prayer the Welsh Revival of 1904 and 1905 may have never happened. Evan Roberts was a direct result of prayer by Seth Johnson who prayed God would rise up a young man to lead the church in revival. Robert’s vision was to see one hundred thousand souls saved, which is exactly how many were. Robert’s accomplishments were great, but he also had shortcomings. Hansen and Woodbridge explain, “Wales seems to have entirely forgotten its revival legacy [and is now] more immune to revival today because it has been inoculated with heavy doses of undiluted religious fervor.”[5] Lack of spiritual discipline played a major role is this diagnosis, as Hansen and Woodbridge illustrate the 1859 revival taught biblical doctrine while many of the converts in the 1904 revival instead sought mystical experiences.[6] Hansen and Woodbridge then demonstrate, “Without basic biblical formation, many caught up in the revival lacked the necessary tools for spiritual growth.”[7] This is a crucial principle in churches today as many Christians have turned into spiritual junkies, moving from one experience to the next. It is crucial to teach balance and biblical doctrine, especially as it relates to the outpouring of God’s Spirit. Hansen and Woodbridge further explain the importance of understanding church history as, “Revival is neither a well-organized evangelistic campaign nor a finely crafted apologetic treatise… Revival transcends all ordinary ways we comprehend and communicates the grace of Jesus Christ.”[8] As revivals continue to spread across the world, racism remains a sore spot in the history of the church, so repentance is a crucial area to emphasize. A. Derwin illustrates, “less than five percent of evangelical churches are multi-ethnic… [making the] evangelical church one of the most segregated people in America on Sunday morning. The lines of color must be crossed and perhaps one of the best examples is the Azusa Street Revival. This Pentecostalism was interracial and as Frank Bartleman noted, “The ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood of the Lamb.”[9] Ultimately, the future of the church rests solely on whether denominations and ministry leaders can set aside minor differences and unify one another by embracing the Great Commission[10] and the Great Commandment.[11] The church is purposely made up of many parts, and when those parts are working together, God will do mighty things as the world comes to know the love of Christ through the actions of His followers.

A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir, By Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge. Zondervan Publishing, 2010, 194 pp. $16.99 (Paperback).

Bibliography

Bartleman, Frank. How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning, in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman, ed. Donald W. Dayton. New York, NY: Garland, 1985.

Cairns, Earle E. An Endless Line of Splendor: Revivals and Their Leaders from the Great Awakening to the Present. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1986.

Hansen, Collin and John Woodbridge. A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2010.

The Gospel Coalition Website, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/about/staff# (accessed August 17, 2016).

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Website, http://divinity.tiu.edu/academics/faculty/john-d-woodbridge-phd/ (accessed August 17, 2016).


[1] The Gospel Coalition Website, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/about/staff# (accessed August 17, 2016).

[2] Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Website, http://divinity.tiu.edu/academics/faculty/john-d-woodbridge-phd/ (accessed August 17, 2016).

[3] Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 33.

[4] Ibid., 35.

[5] Ibid., 115.

[6] Earle E. Cairns, An Endless Line of Splendor: Revivals and Their Leaders from the Great Awakening to the Present, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1986), 196-197.

[7] Hansen and John Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision, 115.

[8] Ibid., 35.

[9] Frank Bartleman, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning, in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman, ed. Donald W. Dayton, (New York, NY: Garland, 1985), 54.

[10] Matthew 28:16-20

[11] Matthew 22:36-40

The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement: Book Review

Sweeney-American-Evangelical-Story-cover-195x300

        The American Evangelical Story examines the role American evangelicalism played in the scope of evangelical history and demonstrates how evangelicals have continued to change the world. Douglas A. Sweeney, professor of church history and chair of the department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School[1] offers this work as an introduction to evangelicalism for Christians interested in the historical roots of evangelicalism’s recent, massive growth. Sweeney first, “provides a summary of recent debates concerning the scope of evangelicalism, he then tells the story of its birth in the transatlantic Great Awakening, and its development in the United States through many cultural changes and challenges. [Lastly, he] accounts for the broad range of individuals, institutions, issues, and doctrines that have made us who we are.”[2]

Brief Summary

       Sweeney sets the tone for the reader, by offering a prayer to demonstrate his underlining purpose: “I pray that the burden of this book – to refresh our shared, historical memory – may help us to regain our spiritual bearings. And I trust that a fresh appropriation of our common heritage, though surely limited by our own historical blinders, can be used by God to bless the church for many years to come.”[3] Sweeney begins by explaining evangelicals are gospel people, but quickly demonstrates the difficulty in defining evangelicalism, claiming there is no clear consensus among scholars. Sweeney then shows, “at the center of the movement lies a firm commitment to the good news (euangelion) that ‘a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law’[4] [demonstrating] evangelicals’ doctrine clung to the gospel message as spelled out in the Bible (sola Scriptura).”[5] Other defining convictions include: the majesty of Jesus Christ, the lordship of the Holy Spirit, the need for personal conversion, the priority of evangelism, and the importance of the Christian community for spiritual nourishment, fellowship, and growth.[6] Sweeney also connects the emergence of evangelicalism to the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century, crediting missions and evangelism as the catalysts. Sweeney concludes: “Evangelicals comprise a movement that is rooted in classical Christian orthodoxy, shaped by a largely Protestant understanding of the gospel, and distinguished from other such movements by an eighteenth century twist – the impact of the Great Awakening.”[7] This renewal movement forever changed the course of history of Protestantism in North America and the rest of the world.

Critical Interaction

       It is obvious Sweeney comes from an evangelical heritage he is proud of.[8] His narrative style, his attention to chronological detail, and his personal insights provide the reader with an unbiased view of history. Leading up to the Great Awakening, Sweeney correctly shows the conflict, which existed between Catholics, and Protestants and how the Reformation led to the Transatlantic Great Awakening pioneered by John Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement, George Whitfield, who actually convinced John Wesley to take up field preaching,[9] and Jonathan Edwards, who helped Calvinists come to terms on predestination and election. This era marked the first time Protestants worked together to spread the gospel internationally. Sweeney makes it clear the goals of this movement were made with the best intentions, but he also demonstrates when human nature is involved; there will always be division. “No sooner did the Great Awakening hit America’s shores than it led to some major realignments and rivals.”[10]

       Sweeney explains, “Despite the gains of the Great Awakening, by the end of the eighteenth century, many evangelical leaders had grown concerned about the spiritual life on the new United States,”[11] giving rise to the Second Great Awakening. This era shows immense diversity as some revivals split and new ones were formed. Sweeney illustrates, “the first major theater was New England, where Edwardsian evangelists prevailed, and the second stretched along the Erie Canal in Upstate New York, dominated by Presbyterians and Congregationalists, and the third was Cumberland River Valley, led by the Armenian Methodists.”[12] Sweeney highlights, “the best known event in this third theater was the Cane Ridge Revival (1801), often called ‘America’s Pentecost’ for the amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit there.”[13] Charles Finney is portrayed as the most important leader of the revivals in New York as he had immense influence teaching, “religion is the work of man and that revival is not a miracle, but the result of the right use of appropriate means. As a supernaturalist, he acknowledged that neither revival nor conversion ever occurs without the help of the Holy Spirit, but as an experienced revivalist, he claimed these things do not occur without human effort either.”[14] The second Great Awakening seemed to be more about man than about God, as it emphasized the role of a sinner needing to choose to repent. Regardless, it still led to more conversions, and it also formed more institutions, which helped the spread of the gospel. Overall, Sweeney accomplishes a comprehensive overview of evangelical missions, by detailing even the racial prejudice, which was rampant, and the birth of the Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. Racism remains a sore spot in the history of the church and “while evangelicals did not invent the sins of racism… millions of white evangelicals have participated in or sanctioned one or more of these things, leading to four million slaves in America by 1860… and evangelicals are still untangling themselves from this sordid legacy.”[15] A. Derwin illustrates, “less than five percent of evangelical churches are multi-ethnic… [making the] evangelical church one of the most segregated people in America on Sunday morning. The gross smell of racism still lingers in our churches like a bad odor that will not dissipate.”[16]  Sweeney rightly emphasizes, “the importance of never forgetting the utter enormity of this evil or the extent to which evangelicals condoned it.”[17] The lines of color must be crossed and perhaps one of the best examples is the Azusa Street Revival. This Pentecostalism was interracial and as Frank Bartleman noted, “The ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood.”[18] Paige Patterson best sums up the viewpoint of evangelicals, “If God has spoken, then one must heed what He says. For evangelical believers, the authority of the Bible must remain unassailable and un-debatable. We must applaud those who make other kinds of telling arguments against racism and join the chorus in at least a thirty-fold “Amen.” But, the time has come for evangelicals to bring the mother load, if you will forgive the pun. If we believe the Book, let us appeal to its lucid position on race and say to all of the tribes of the earth, “Eve is the mother of all living.” That, in effect, settles the issue!”[19]

Conclusion

       Sweeney makes a strong case, “the church needs evangelicals, evangelicalism functions as a renewal movement within the larger, universal church, and evangelicalism is not enough.”[20] Sweeney provides a well-balanced and clear history of American evangelicalism, while also demonstrating the major shift, which is currently taking place. No more is America or Europe the front-runners in evangelicalism; instead the shift is in Africa and Asia. While America and Europe used to be the nations sending missionaries to these countries, now those countries are sending missionaries to America and Europe. The future of evangelicalism rests on solely on whether denominations and ministry leaders can set aside minor differences and unify one another by embracing the Great Commission[21] and the Great Commandment.[22] The church is made up of many parts, and when those parts are working together, God will do mighty things as the world will come to know the love of Christ.

The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement. By Douglas A. Sweeney. Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2005, 208 pp. $22.00 (Paperback).

Bibliography

Baker Publishing Group Website, http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/douglas-a-sweeney/344 (accessed August 11, 2016).

Bartleman, Frank. How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning, in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman. Ed. Donald W. Dayton. New York, NY: Garland, 1985.

Derwin, A. “The Emergence Of The Emerging Church,” Christian Apologetics Journal 07, no. 1 (Spring), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 35.

Patterson, Paige. “The SBJT Forum: Racism, Scripture, and History.” – Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 08, no. 2 (Summer), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 82.

Sweeney, Douglas A. The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2005.


[1] Baker Publishing Group Website, http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/douglas-a-sweeney/344 (accessed August 11, 2016).

[2] Douglas A. Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2005), 10.

[3]  Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 185.

[4] Romans 3:28

[5] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 25.

[6] Ibid., 18.

[7] Ibid., 23-24.

[8] Ibid., 5.

[9] Ibid., 41.

[10] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 55.

[11] Ibid., 66.

[12] Ibid., 66-69.

[13] Ibid., 70.

[14] Ibid., 68.

[15] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 108.

[16] A. Derwin, “The Emergence Of The Emerging Church,” Christian Apologetics Journal 07, no. 1 (Spring), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 35.

[17] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 108.

[18] Frank Bartleman, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning, in Witness to Pentecost: The Life of Frank Bartleman, ed. Donald W. Dayton, (New York, NY: Garland, 1985), 54.

[19] Paige Patterson, “The SBJT Forum: Racism, Scripture, and History,” – Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 08, no. 2 (Summer), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 82.

[20] Sweeney, The American Evangelical Story, 184.

[21] Matthew 28:16-20

[22] Matthew 22:36-40

The Emotionally Healthy Church

The Emotionally Healthy Church

          Peter Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, which is a large, multiracial church with more than seventy-three countries represented. After serving as the senior pastor for twenty-six years, Scazzero now serves as a teaching pastor with a primary focus on a groundbreaking ministry that equips churches in deep, beneath-the-surface spiritual formation, and integrates emotional health with contemplative spirituality.[1] Scazzero takes real life experiences from both his own personal life and those from New Life Fellowship members, no matter how painful, and uses them to take the reader on a liberating journey of freedom found through emotional and spiritual healing. During a crisis of faith, Scazzero came to realize, “The sad reality is that too many people in our churches are fixated at a stage of spiritual immaturity that current models of discipleship have not addressed, [exposing] the link between emotional health and spiritual maturity, [which] is a large unexplored area of discipleship.”[2] This is a central problem because there is also a direct correlation between the overall health of a church and that of its leadership.[3] In addition, Scazzero demonstrates, “The starting point for change in any nation, church, or ministry has always been with the leader first.”[4] Scazzero then found people could not be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature, especially when conflict was involved. This profound realization came after Scazzero’s wife Geri said, “I quit” to New Life, but after a brief sabbatical and counseling, God restored and equipped the Scazzero’s marriage, to bring about real change in the culture at New Life, and now countless others have been impacted. Through this restoration process, Scazzero discovered the degree to which people live in truth is also the degree to which people are truly free.

            Scazzero breaks his strategy of discipleship into four parts: (1) discipleship’s missing link, which focuses on leaders initiating the change; (2) biblical basis for a new paradigm of discipleship, which shows the relationship between emotional health and spiritual maturity; (3) seven principles of an emotionally healthy church, which takes inventory of where the church finds herself and forces a hard internal look, by pulling back the multiple layers to uncover areas for potential growth; and (4) where do we go from here? This last part demonstrates, “In the same way, our growth into Christlikeness requires we get rid of our old, hard, protective shells and allow God to take us to a new place in him, [it also] calls for a commitment to do the hard work – one day at a time,[5] so Scazzero’s model shows love and listening as a core components.

       One of the most compelling areas of Scazzero’s work involves a new paradigm shift in the discipleship process. What made this section so valuable was its application to both the individual and the corporate setting. When New Life began to implement what Scazzero uncovered, the church moved from being “human doings to human beings, [but this process started first with] Scazzero’s understanding of what it meant to minister out of who you are, not what you do.”[6] The concentric circles of applying emotional health[7] properly demonstrate the necessity for change to occur from the top down in terms of leadership and influence. In a church setting, this would start with the senior pastor, then his or her family and spouse, staff and interns, elders and board, actively serving leaders, leaders in development, rest of the congregation, and the wider community influenced by the church.

       Scazzero then demonstrates the necessity of understanding mankind is created in the image of God, which encompasses much more than merely the spiritual dimension; it also includes the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual dimensions. Scazzero illustrates by “Denying any aspect of what it means to be a fully human person made in the image of God carries with it catastrophic, long-term consequences – in our relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves. Unhealthy developments are inevitable when we fail to understand ourselves as whole people, made in the image of our Creator God.”[8] Regarding this writer’s current emotional and spiritual health, there will always be areas to improve, as one of the best indicators of a good leader is being teachable and open to the guiding of the Spirit. However, being engrossed in fulltime ministry while also being a fulltime student has created a constant battle for time and priorities. The inventory and assessment of spiritual and emotional maturity illuminates strengths and areas for improvement, while also making sure the priorities in life are reflected in where time, talents, and treasures are spent. Scazzero’s principles can then be applied in the vision and mission of the church and for individuals, by affirming in all matters, God comes first. Scazzero also does a brilliant job demonstrating when people operate out of hurt or an underdeveloped character, he or she will not allow people to get close. Ultimately, past hurt leaves deep wounds, making it difficult to trust people. Scazzero concludes by showing how leadership is lonely, making it vital to surround oneself with like-minded individuals because another important part of being healthy is to surround oneself with healthy people. Unfortunately, this is not easy at churches, since the church is a place for broken and hurt people to come in order to find wholeness and restoration. As a result, Scazzero also lists self-care and forgiveness as challenges of anyone who serves, since forgiveness in not a quick process.[9]

Bibliography

New Life Fellowship Website, http://newlifefellowship.org/about-us/about-new-life/our-staff/  (accessed August 9, 2016).

Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives, Updated and Expanded Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.


[1] New Life Fellowship Website, http://newlifefellowship.org/about-us/about-new-life/our-staff/ (accessed August 9, 2016).

[2] Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives, Updated and Expanded Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 17-19.

[3] Ibid., 20.

[4] Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, 36.

[5] Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, 217.

[6] Ibid., 34.

[7] Ibid., 35.

[8] Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, 54 & 164.

[9] Ibid., 151.

Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth Book Review

Move_1000 Churches

            Greg L. Hawkins is executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. For twenty years, he has assisted senior pastor Bill Hybels in providing strategic leadership and his prior management experience came as a consultant for McKinsey & Company. Hawkins received his undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University and an MBA from Stanford University. In 2011 he became co-author of Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, which combines sound research with practical application on ways to improve the spiritual growth in churches. Cally Parkinson, the other co-author of Move… serves as the brand manager for REVEAL, an initiative within Willow Creek Association who utilizes research tools and discoveries to help churches better understand spiritual growth in the multiplicity of congregations. Following a twenty-five-year career with Allstate Insurance, she has also served as the director of communications at Willow Creek Community Church. Her diverse background and skills were formulated at DePauw University, where she received her bachelor’s degree and the American Graduate School of International Management, where she earned her master’s degree.[1]

            Facts on their own can be overwhelming, so what Hawkins and Parkinson set out to do was provide a model for any church, no matter the size, denomination, or location to become effective in producing spiritual growth within the congregation. After surveying one-thousand churches, Hawkins and Parkinson found that no matter the size, denomination, budget, or geography, the churches that were highly effective excelled in the following four best practices: (1) Getting people moving; (2) Embedding the Bible; (3) Creating ownership; and (4) Pastoring the community. This discovery was profound because for centuries, church leaders have known the primary goal of disciples is to produce more disciples, but the how has alluded many who have tried. Hawkins and Parkinson illustrate, “Jesus wants us to love God and love others, and it is pretty straightforward, making the what the easy part of church leadership… However, each new generation of Christian leaders has struggled to get a handle on the how: How do we foster the transformation of our people into disciples of Christ and how do we extend His love to others?”[2] Every church has a limited amount of resources, so it only makes sense to use those commodities in areas that provide the best return on investment. Move… provides the answers to these questions by utilizing thorough research, time-tested-principles, and by then providing sound practices to move people along the path to being more Christ-centered. There should be a deep desire in every believer to become more Christ-like and this book provides twenty-five high impact catalysts, which promote spiritual growth in the believer. In addition to the catalysts, there are numerous strategies, insights, models, and patterns to help any church become effective in producing spiritual growth within the body. The book is nicely divided into three parts focusing on: (1) The Spiritual Continuum: moving people from exploring Christ, to growing in Christ; (2) Spiritual Movement: identifying the spiritual catalysts, needed in the evolution of becoming Christ-centered, while also illustrating potential barriers to spiritual growth; and (3) Spiritual Leadership: defining best practices, analyzing spiritual vitality, and preparing leaders to get the body of Christ moving and doing what God has called them to do.

Critique

            Reading this work was very similar to reading something by George Barna, but Hawkins and Parkinson go a few steps further, by providing real-life-application and strategies to employ in order to bring about spiritual growth in any church. These premises are bold, but the statistics presented are frightening for any western church. To think, “The longer someone attends church, the less likely they are to become Christ-followers”[3] is terrifying. Hawkin’s and Parkinson’s research actually found, “people who have attended church for more than five years are far more likely to become spiritually stalled or content with their spiritual growth.”[4] This only shows the importance of engaging people in ministry as soon as possible because the longer an individual is classified in the getting to know Christ stage, the less likely he or she will feel compelled to serve in ministry. This is enlightening, especially since believers find so much about themselves and God through serving in some form of ministry or outreach. Hawkins and Parkinson have termed a church, which is only exploring Christ as being stalled in the rust belt. This is because the majority of the congregation is stuck on the spiritual fringe, investigating, but undecided about the claims of Christianity, attending, but not involved in church, and possibly a long-tenured churchgoer.[5] This is spot on and evident in all generations of church attenders, as the Abrahams feel any dues have already paid: monetarily or service oriented, the Isaacs are too busy with life to commit any more time to the church, and the Jacobs have a sense of entitlement, where everything should just be provided. All of these warped perceptions are wrong and indicate just how many churches are still stuck in the first stage of exploring Christ. Once someone truly begins to know Christ, the next logical step is to grow in Christ, which represents the largest segment of people surveyed at thirty-eight percent.[6] Hawkins and Parkinson provide valuable information as to exactly what this largest segment is looking for from the church: (1) Help in developing a personal relationship with Christ, (2) Help in understanding the Bible in greater depth, (3) Church leaders who model and consistently reinforce how to grow spiritually, (4) Compelling worship experiences, and (5) Challenge to grow and take next steps.[7] A problem many churches make is babying new believers, instead of issuing challenges and showing them how to find God and answers to life’s questions in Scripture. It is also crucial for church-attenders to see the leadership embodying Christ-like character in word and deed. Those considered to be growing in Christ are: on board with core beliefs, are comfortable with spiritual practices, and are poised for great spiritual advances and impact.[8] As the largest segment, Hawkins and Parkinson do a good job illustrating how to move this group closer to Christ, by teaching them how to love God and others.[9] Hawkins and Parkinson explain this is so crucial because those who are close to Christ engage in a deeper level of personal spiritual practices.[10] The next stage of evolution involves the, “Christ-centered believer emerging from a battle between two sets of values: the secular values that define personal identity, happiness, security, and success for much of the world, and the spiritual values of selfless love and dedication to others that characterize a life centered on Jesus.”[11]

Application

            Hawkins and Parkinson do a wonderful job explaining the “what and how” behind ministry, by pointing out the importance of each member taking ownership. This principle is true in many business models, as those who are involved during the inception of something, or feel a sense of being needed will have a much stronger commitment to see it succeed. It also follows the 80/20 principle, where twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work. Sadly, this is also the case with giving in the church. For these reasons, this is an area this writer will be focusing on. If twenty percent of the people are doing all the work, this eventually leads to burnout. Hawkins and Parkinson suggest three ways to create ownership are: (1) To empower people to be the church, (2) To equip people to succeed, and (3) To hold people accountable.[12]

            Another area of importance is evangelism outside the four walls of the church. Terry Inman once made the comment, “I do not pastor a church; I pastor a community.” Hawkins and Parkinson use this illustration to explain the flocks pastors are called to shepherd over are actually all the people in the local community. For many churches, this is a huge paradigm shift, but for this writer’s church, this is an area that has already been targeted. Hawkins and Parkinson found, “best practice churches pastor their local communities by bringing the same inspirational energy… to outreach strategies and initiatives that they bring to designing and executing weekend services.” Hawkins and Parkinson break this strategy down into three strategies: (1) Set a high bar for serving the church and the community. Often the senior pastor will set the tone for this model; (2) Build a bridge into your local community. This will develop strong and long-term relationships, which will also help address any immediate community needs; and (3) Make serving a platform for the gospel. Hawkin’s and Parkinson’s research shows there is a natural affinity between evangelizing and serving those who are struggling and broken.[13] Love and compassion are the best motivators for evangelism and by meeting the most basic needs of the community; the outreach initiative will poise the church to not only gain new people, but also advance the gospel at the same time. This book is a great resource for any church or individual looking to grow spiritually. In life, if something is not living, then it is dying and for many churches, they have essentially become stagnant cesspools, but by applying these principles and models, churches will experience real growth, as the result of the development of the congregations’ spiritual formation and desire to be more Christ-like.

Bibliography

Hawkins, Greg L. and Cally Parkinson. Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

 


[1] Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 6.

[2] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 12.

[3] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 37.

[4] Ibid., 38.

[5] Ibid., 44.

[6] Ibid., 50.

[7] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 55.

[8] Ibid., 61.

[9] Ibid., 75-77.

[10] Ibid., 75.

[11] Ibid., 84.

[12] Hawkins and Parkinson, Move, 231.

[13] Ibid., 239-240.

Hawkins, Greg L. and Cally Parkinson. Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, 286 pp. $21.99 (Hardcover).

Lecture To My Students by Charles Spurgeon

Lecture To My Students

            Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 – 1892) is often referred to as the “Prince of Preachers.” He served at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and he was also the founder and president of the Pastor’s College in London. During his early teenage years, he came to faith in Christ and even a century following his death, his many works still remain relevant. Many scholars agree Lecture To My Students to be his greatest work because of the timeless principles taught within its pages. Spurgeon offered his students and readers: practical advice, sound wisdom, and personal insights, all of which still have application today.  It is estimated during his lifetime, he published over 1900 original sermons, each being original and thought provoking. God divinely inspired Spurgeon’s sermons, as he sought to bring honor and glory to Christ alone. The teachings done by Spurgeon in these twenty-eight lectures are perhaps some of the greatest tools to becoming great pastors.

            Spurgeon emphasized, “The minister must take care that his personal character agrees in all respects with is ministry.”[1] This was an area that did not win Spurgeon much support, especially when it came to his opposition to slavery and Dispensationalism, but nonetheless, Spurgeon remained un-wavered despite what his critics said. Spurgeon regularly spoke on the call to ministry saying, “There must be an intense, all-absorbing desire for work, they must possess an aptness to teach and some measure of the other qualities for the office of pastor, they must see a measure of conversion-work going on under his efforts, and his preaching should be acceptable to the people of God.”[2] Spurgeon sought to produce genuine pastors who had a sincere calling to ministry and a heart for sharing the gospel. As Gordon Franz illustrates, his conversion profoundly impacted how he seized every opportunity to advance the gospel.

As a teenager he wanted to know God. He went to a local church on a cold, snowy, wintry day. When he got to the meeting, there was only the preacher and one other person at the service. The preacher could have called off the service because there were only two people in the audience, but he didn’t. He preached on John 3, the serpent in the wilderness, and said “Look and live.” That morning, Charles Spurgeon looked to the Lord Jesus and trusted Him as his personal Savior and received the free gift of eternal life, the forgiveness of sins, and a home in heaven. One wonders if the preacher realized the impact this young lad would have on the world on that snowy morning.[3]

            Spurgeon also emphasized the importance of enduring trials for those who are called to ministry by demonstrating, “The devil is abroad, and with him are many. Prove your own selves, and may the Lord prepare you for the crucible which assuredly awaits you.”[4] To endure these seasons, Spurgeon stresses the importance of consistent prayer saying, “Nothing can gloriously fit you to preach as descending fresh from the mount of communion with God.”[5] Prayer is vital to maintaining intimacy with God and this is why Spurgeon emphasizes the importance of a private and public prayer life. Both of them are matters of the heart and they keep the believer connected to the vine. Spurgeon was also very open with his own personal health and emotional issues that he faced in ministry, which was refreshing to see how he explained, “Our work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression.”[6] Ministry can be extremely lonely, as most pastors isolate themselves to prevent any potential hurt that may result from allowing anyone to become close. As pastors, Spurgeon continues to stress the importance of knowing that people are always watching. Regardless of what season of life a pastor may find himself or herself in, people are always watching to see how he or she will respond.

Critique

            There is no denying this is one of Spurgeon’s greatest works. By providing application and real life examples, which shows pastors how they should conduct themselves, he establishes, “Wherever [and whenever] is, he is a minister, and he is always on duty.”[7] By injecting personal stories and illustrations into his lectures, it makes practical application much easier to employ. This is an area that is often difficult to navigate, since being a minister often encompasses all areas of pastor’s lives. Additionally, it can be very difficult to delineate the public and private life of the pastor, to which Spurgeon encourages pastor to be open about. This is a great model for today’s congregations because if the congregation knows that pastors struggle with the same issues, it can be easier to talk and preach on them. Over the years, too many topics in the church have become taboo. This mistake has caused major issues facing the church today to be rarely talked on from the pulpit, leaving the people to turn to each other and the world for answers.

While Spurgeon encourages pastors to be in a constant state of ministerial progress, he also challenges those in ministry to go to the remote places where the cross of Christ is still unknown.[8] This is fundamental is his teaching as he emphasizes sermons must have relevant and sound teaching in them and that doctrine must be clear and unmistakable.[9] Charles Swindoll says, “If there’s a mist in the pulpit, there’s a fog in the pew!” Without a clear purpose and a destination for the message, Spurgeon displays how easy it is to lose the sheep that are already lost. Spurgeon says the pastor must also, “Avoid speaking the Word when the Word is still unclear to [him or her. Instead, he urges the pastor to] endeavor to keep the matter of your sermonizing as fresh as you can, by letting your teachings grow and advance.”[10] He goes on to explain “sermon” means to thrust and “We are not called to proclaim philosophy and metaphysics, but the simple gospel.”[11] Since the inception of the early church, there has been a widening gap in the multidenominational faiths that exist. The world has come to know more what the church is against than what it is for and Spurgeon could not be more correct in his assertion that, “Justification by faith should be far more than it is the daily testimony of Protestant pulpits… If with the zeal of Methodists we can preach the doctrine of Puritans a great future is before us: the fire of Wesley and the fuel of Whitfield will cause a burning which shall set the forests of error on fire, and warm the very soul of this cold earth.”[12]

One of the primary drawbacks to a classic book like this is the language can be difficult to understand, which can lead to some of his illustrations being lost in translation. Overall, the principles Spurgeon teaches are timeless, but just as the gospel never changes, sometimes the way it is presented must be adapted. This is also a rather large volume of work, which makes all the principles present invaluable, but without a step-by-step approach, it could potentially lose some of its significance if not employed correctly. Other areas that could be contested deal with Spurgeon’s view on spiritualizing and the use of liturgy. Despite any of these views, it does not take away from the greater work and Spurgeon’s goal of producing genuine and sincere pastors.

Evaluation

            While some may view this great work to be outdated, nothing could be further than the truth. By illustrating the positive and negative principles in a pastor’s life, Spurgeon offers anyone considering ministry one of the best road maps to long-term success and ways to avoid burnout or moral failure. Anyone reading this work, will find multiple areas of conviction and his emphasis on prayer and continually reading God’s Word shows the importance on maintaining intimacy with God, which is the key to serving in any form of pastoral ministry. Without God as the sustaining force and source of strength, anyone who holds the office of pastor is simply a man or woman. However, when God is added to the equation, He becomes the catalyst that equips and empowers the pastor to accomplish the vision and mission that God has set before him or her and the church.

Bibliography

Spurgeon, Charles. Lectures To My Students: Complete and Unabridged. Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1979, 453 pp. $19.99 (Paperback).


[1] Charles Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students: Complete and Unabridged, (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan Publishing), 1979, 17.

[2] Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students, 26-32.

[3] Gordon Franz, “A Tribute To Dr. David Livingston,” – Bible and Spade 22, no. 3 (Summer), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 91.

[4] Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students, 40.

[5] Ibid., 45.

[6] Ibid., 156.

[7] Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students, 167.

[8] Ibid., 205-218.

[9] Ibid., 70 & 77.

[10] Ibid., 78.

[11] Spurgeon, Lectures To My Students, 79.

[12] Ibid., 79.

Importance of Knowing Church History

our_history_2

     It is important to study Church history, because one must know where they came from to determine where they are headed and history is His story. Past performance is generally the best indicator for future behavior. Some refer to this as the principle of the path as it does not matter how far you have traveled or fast you have gone if you are headed in the wrong direction. History is full of good and bad decisions and impossible circumstances, but when surrendered over to God, they all can be used for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

God can use anyone and anything to accomplish His plan. Also, without a true understanding of the past, not only are we blindly accepting what people have told us; we too are asking those we attempt to evangelize to do the same thing. We are only human and in our fallen state, we are bound to make mistakes and history best shows what took place after mistakes were made. People either rise up, or they conform and we alone decide if the fiery trials we face are going to burn us or purify us. Another important reason to understand church history and practice sound biblical exegesis is our congregations’ understanding will rarely be greater than our own. Without sound teaching and an understanding of church history, we become the lid to those around us, causing them not to grow in their wisdom and understanding of history and God’s Word.

The value of examining the past is vital, since those who forget the past are often condemned to repeat it. Humanity’s pride and lust for sin has caused a schism between the righteousness of God and the fallen state of man. As a result, Jesus Christ became the atonement of sin and has now become our mediator, as He sits at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf. Still though, people like Milan Kundera think,  “People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It’s not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.” George Orwell best illustrates this principle when he said, “Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future.” Historical revisionism is something every Christian must be aware of because everything God stands for, Satan will either try to counterfeit, pervert, or destroy. This knowledge will be crucial in establishing a sound foundation from which we can build our faith and ministry on.

Pentecost and Role of Holy Spirit Pre/Post

            Pentecost-front.jpg

            The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts is one of the most significant events in history.  It was more than just the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy[1] and it did so much more than just provide the disciples with what Jesus had promised would come after His ascension to heaven.[2] Through an understanding of the triune nature of God establishes that all parts are equal, infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. This conclusion means God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have existed everywhere since the beginning of time itself. What have changed, over the course of the metanarrative, are their roles and functions in the redemptive plan.

            The primary goal of this project is first to answer exactly what happened on the day of Pentecost, and to clarify whether this event marked the beginning of the Church Age. This will be accomplished by contrasting Old Testament Pentecost practices versus what took place in the New Testament Pentecost account. In addition, a clear biblical exegesis of the Acts account will be conducted demonstrating the new role of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, this research paper will systematically look at the Holy Spirit’s role throughout the canon of scripture, by contrasting what role the Holy Spirit played in the Old and New Testaments, compared to what role the Holy Spirit plays in a modern-day context and application. Lastly, this paper will look at the Apostle Paul, and examine how the Holy Spirit impacted his life, from his conversion experience, to his supernatural encounters, and lastly the divine inspiration the Holy Spirit imparted on him, which are found in his letters. From Paul, much can be learned about the Holy Spirit, so understanding how the Holy Spirit impacted his life-story is pertinent in showing how the coming of the Spirit not only inaugurated the Church Age, but also established what role the Holy Spirit plays today.

Origin of the Holy Spirit

Creation Account

            The earliest mention of the Holy Spirit occurs in the creation account: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”[3]  Scholars have debated the translation of this passage, but Philo, the first century philosopher from Alexandria and Victor Hamilton provide the clearest picture demonstrating how, “God caused a wind rûaḥ to blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. [Here,]‘Breath of God’ or ‘Breath of Life seems most natural for rûaḥ.”[4] This same wording is used to describe and symbolize the Spirit of God in the coming of the Holy Spirit, during Pentecost, in the Acts account.

Roles of the Holy Spirit

            Anytime the role of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in scripture, there are four primary purposes: regeneration, indwelling, the control and conviction over sin, and the empowerment for service. F. F. Bruce highlights:

 The Old Testament prophets foretold a coming age, which would be marked in a special way by the activity of the Spirit of God. Two strands of this expectation are especially important. In one, the activity of the Spirit is associated with a coming figure – variously depicted as the ideal ruler of David’s line and the humble and self-sacrificing Servant of the Lord, who would be anointed with the Spirit in order to discharge a ministry of mercy and judgment for Israel and the nations. In the second, the promise is given that in the days to come, the same Spirit will be poured out on ‘all flesh,’ so that the gift of prophetic utterance will no longer be confined to a chosen few, but will be widespread.[5] [6]

Regeneration

            The Holy Spirit’s role in regeneration can also be interpreted as rebirth and the classic example is found in the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus: “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[7]  Bruce explains, “Even if earlier He had impressed on Nicodemus the necessity of the new birth ‘of water and the Spirit,’ this new birth, with the eternal life to which it was the gateway, could not be experienced until the Son of Man had been ‘lifted up’[8] Luke, makes it clear that John the Baptist’s prediction was ultimately fulfilled at Pentecost. Leon Morris further explains, “Being born “of water” may point to natural birth, which must then be followed by being born ‘of the Spirit,’ that is spiritual regeneration. Or better, we may take ‘water’ and ‘Spirit’ closely together to give a meaning like ‘spiritual seed.’”[9]

Indwelling

           The indwelling of the Spirit in the Old Testament was vastly different than the New Testament encounters. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, judges, and kings would receive the infilling of the Spirit for specific tasks and once the task was completed, the Spirit would depart. Joshua,[10] David,[11] and Saul[12] were all anointed by God and received the Spirit and the indwelling was a representation of God’s favor and if God’s favor left, the Spirit would also leave.[13] Bruce explains, “Jesus alone had received the Spirit of the new age. John the Baptist indeed had been filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb,[14] but that was the Spirit of prophecy. When John baptized Jesus in water, God simultaneously baptized Him with the Spirit: It was then ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with Power.’”[15][16]  God filled Jesus with the Spirit at His baptism, which demonstrates up to that point, the Holy Spirit was not yet in Him. Interestingly, after this encounter, the first narrated episode of Jesus’ public ministry takes place in His hometown of Nazareth. This sets the precedent that the Holy Spirit plays a major role in the equipping and empowering of ministry. It is also here that Jesus unrolls the scroll of Isaiah and proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[17]

Control Over and Conviction of Sin

            The Holy Spirit’s third function is vital in both resisting the temptation to sin and also the conviction of sin, once it has been committed. God is holy and righteous and man is prideful and deceitful, so the Holy Spirit’s role in keeping followers of Christ righteous through their faith in Christ is paramount. Genesis 6:3 establishes that God’s holiness stands in direct opposition to sin and given enough sinfulness, His Spirit can leave. Hamilton illustrates, “The withdrawn Spirit of 6:3 calls to mind the hovering Spirit of 1:2. Where it hovers there is order, and chaos is restrained. Where it is withdrawn, chaos flourishes unchecked.”[18] This role of the Holy Spirit will be crucial during the end-times when the man of lawlessness is revealed and a growing apostasy exists.[19] After Pentecost in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit would be available to Jew and Gentile alike to convict, regenerate, indwell, and empower anyone who would accept Christ as their Savior.

Empowerment for a Specific Task

           Steven Studebaker argues, “Only in the Holy Spirit does the triune nature of God find fullness of fellowship as the Spirit plays a liminal, constitutional, and consummative role within the Trinity.”[20] The significant difference between the role the Holy Spirit played in the Old Testament versus after Pentecost was after the Spirit was poured out on those gathered in Jerusalem, now when a believer was filled with the Spirit, he or she received the permanent indwelling of the Spirit and became a new creation.[21] In the Old Testament, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was only temporary and was used to accomplish a specific task, like leading the Israelites. However, the indwelling after Pentecost represented a time where the Holy Spirit would take up permanent residence inside the believer’s heart, fulfilling the prophecy.[22] J. A. Thompson illustrates how, “Yahweh Himself proposes to bring about the necessary change in the people’s inner nature, which will make them capable of obedience. He will set his law (tôrâ) within them and write it on their hearts, that is, on their minds and wills.”[23]

Outpouring of Holy Spirit

            Bruce provides one of the clearest pictures of what happened on Pentecost: “In the upper room, the Spirit brought to the disciples minds all the teachings of Jesus, showing them truth and what was to come. The Spirit then enabled them to bear witness and proclaim the gospel with conviction, while also performing signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.”[24] In addition, as John Wesley points out, there were 120 in attendance, which is significant because it points back to the original dedication of the Temple, built by King Solomon.[25] In the Temple, there were 120 priests performing the required rituals of purification, leading the people, and praising God. As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifice. This parallels the Acts 2 account as they too were waiting for God’s presence to come and once again fire would come down, representing the divine presence of God, going back to the Moses and the burning bush.[26] Wesley further illustrates:

 At the Pentecost of Sinai, in the Old Testament, and the Pentecost of Jerusalem, in the New Testament, where the two grand manifestations of God, the legal and the evangelical; the one from the mountain, and the other from heaven; the terrible, and the merciful one. They were all with one accord in one place – So here was a conjunction of company, minds, and place; the whole hundred and twenty being present.[27]

Acts Account of Pentecost

           Arguably, the most significant event in church history and the beginning of the Church Age, Pentecost plays a huge part in Christianity. It would forever change the face of Christianity as Johannes van Oort explains how, “The authors of the New Testament speak of the all-encompassing work of the Spirit in both the world and mankind, as well as the inhabitation of the Spirit within Christian believers, the gifts of the Spirit and baptism, the specific guidance of the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit.”[28] However, despite the detailed Acts account and all the other references and occurrences in the canon of scripture, there is still much debate as to what really happened on that day and what is applicable to the church today. What cannot be contested is the Spirit’s main purpose was to equip and supernaturally empower them to proclaim the gospel.

            Oort poses the question, “Should [the outpouring of the Spirit] and other special charismata be regarded as a peculiar privilege of the apostolic and primitive church?” Oort then shows, “In past centuries, the gift of special charismata was often considered to be appropriate only for the very first time of diffusion of the gospel, that several church fathers did not accept this view, [and] ages later, during the Protestant Reformation, such a view was also not the common opinion.”  Oort is correct in asserting, “There is no denying the universal emergence of charismatic movements brought with it a new consciousness of the biblical charismata and their significance to the contemporary Church.” However, Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit set in motion the Church Age and empowered the body of Christ of fulfill the work Jesus had started.

Old Testament Pentecost

            Pentecost is the Greek word for fiftieth and is associated with the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. This religious holiday began in the Old Testament and was originally a festival that expressed thanks to God for the blessing of their harvest.[29] The celebration has deep Jewish roots and is also associated with the Torah and the Ten Commandments, which were given to Moses on Mount Sinai. There are a great number of parallels between the Word of God being given to the Israelites at Shavuot and the outpouring of the Spirit during the Pentecost account in Acts 2. It was only after Moses had come down from the mountain and the Jews had accepted the Law that they truly became servants of God. Similarly, it was only after the disciples and new converts had received the outpouring of the Spirit that they truly became witnesses of Jesus Christ. In both cases, it has been said, “The Jews celebrated a joyous harvest on Shavuot, and the church celebrated a harvest of newborn souls on Pentecost.”[30] When God would speak through Moses to the Israelites, it is interesting to note he had to wear a veil so as to not blind them with glory of the Lord.[31] This glory would fade over time in the Old Covenant, but in the New Covenant, as Paul Barnett shows:

Paul continues to contrast the old covenant with the new, based on his Midrash of Exodus 34:29-35. He turns now to the people of the old covenant, with whom he will compare the people of the new covenant… The “hope,” which is of the “glory that remains” makes Paul “very bold.” This “boldness,” or, more probably, “openness,” is opposed to the “veiled”ness that was interposed between “Moses”—symbolizing the old covenant—and the people of Israel, which prevented them from seeing the “end” of the “glory, which had been abolished.” “But” —in contrast with Paul’s and others’ “opened”ness and consonant with Israel’s “veiled”ness over their hardened minds—the same veil remains unlifted at “the reading of the old covenant”; only in Christ is the veil abolished.[32]

          Daniel Block also illustrates in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones something very similar to the creation account. Once again, rûaḥ is used to represent the winds or divine breath that blows in every corner of the earth, giving life to all creatures.  Block further explains:

Here Yahweh, the sovereign of the universe, is summoning the winds from around the world to direct their life-giving energy to these corpses lying in the valley. In John 20:22, the risen Christ breathed on his disciples, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” By breathing on the disciples he constituted them the new people of God. The early church fathers were less ambiguous in their interpretation of this text. In fact, references to Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones appear frequently in their discussions of the resurrection.[33]

New Testament Pentecost

          On the morning of Pentecost, which occurred fifty days after Passover, Thomas Lea and David Black explain, “[this event] celebrated the wheat harvest, but was also the traditional day on which Moses received the law at Mount Sinai.”[34] In Luke’s account, the place where the disciples were gathered was suddenly filled mighty rushing wind from heaven. During the descent of the Spirit, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”[35] Bruce illustrates how, “The Spirit pours the love of God into the hearts of believers[36] and brings them into conformity with the Character of Christ.”[37] Douglas Moo further explains, “Paul’s choice of the verb ‘pour out,’ means it is certain that we should paraphrase ‘the love of God for us’ rather than ‘our love for God.’”[38] This love of God for us had sent the Spirit and immediately, there is evidence of unity, as people from many different nations could understand each other, despite any language barriers. Those who were not filled with the Spirit mocked what was happening, accusing them of being drunk on wine. It is here that Peter addresses those gathered and proclaims, “This is what was said through the prophet Joel and today marks the fulfillment of God’s promise.”[39] Joel’s prophecy spoke of a time when the Lord would act in righteousness and mercy and Bruce demonstrates, “The “last days” began with Christ’s appearance on earth and will be consummated by his reappearance; they are the days during which the age to come overlaps the present age. Hence the assurance with which Peter could quote the prophet’s words and declare: “This is it.”[40] Paul Wegner shows:

One of the most important theological concepts in the Old Testament is the New Covenant.[41] This passage demonstrates three specific outcomes: (1) “I will write My law within them,” which was promised in John 14:16-17 and is fulfilled in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit was poured out into the believers’ hearts; (2) Believers can go directly to God without the need of a human priest because Christ had fulfilled that role; and (3) Christ’s atoning work on the cross provided the forgiveness of sin. The events of Pentecost were the final promise, thus ushering in the Church Age and New Covenant.[42]

Holy Spirit Precedent

           Ralph Martin speaks on the highly debated topic of Pentecost and what potential applications they play in today’s believers by explaining this supernatural and divine encounter of the baptism in the Spirit describes an experience of the Spirit, accompanied by a deeper personal encounter with Christ. He then shows how this encounter is, “Characterized by a glimpse of His Lordship, a personal and liberating experience of the Father’s, and a new awareness that we are truly not orphans but that the Holy Spirit is truly present and ready to encourage, convict, guide, and help us understand the things of God.”[43] These roles of the Holy Spirit fall directly in line with doctrine, but have caused schisms in many Christian religions. What Paul said should unify the church but has, in many ways, come to divide her. Robert Wright further demonstrates, “The history of the Holy Spirit in the early Church can best be understood as a development from experience to doctrine.”[44] The sign of the age to come was the presence of the Spirit, which would bring about a call to repentance rooted in the hope of divine forgiveness. Peter echoes this as Bruce explains, “Peter told them that there was hope even now. Let them repent of their sin and turn to God; let them submit to baptism in the name of Jesus, confessed as Messiah. Then not only would they receive forgiveness of sins, but they would receive also the gift of the Holy Spirit—the gift which had been bestowed on the apostles themselves only a few hours before.”[45]

Holy Spirit Implications

              Bruce postulates whether it was only the disciples who heard the rushing wind, or if it was audible to others? He contends, “There is no way of knowing. What is certain is that the wind was held to symbolize the Spirit of God. When Ezekiel, by divine command, prophesied to the wind and called it to blow on the dead bodies in the valley of his vision, it was the breath of God that breathed into them and filled them with new life.”[46] [47] In any event, Pentecost was a complete reversal of what had happened with the tower of Babel. N. Stonehouse illustrates:

Peter interprets the days of the Spirit as constituting “the last days” (Acts 2:17), and this eschatological evaluation of Pentecost gives perspective to the ensuing history. Pentecost itself is not repeated… In what follows there is nothing comparable to the “tongues as of fire” or the “sound as of a mighty wind being borne along”. And evidently the speaking with tongues described in Acts 2 is not repeated.[48]

        Pentecost represented the beginning of a new age where the Holy Spirit made salvation available to the Gentiles, not by conforming to Jewish Law, but through faith and repentance in Jesus Christ. Stonehouse adds, “When the Jews heard them speak with tongues and magnify God, they were assured that the Gentiles had received this gift.”[49] This ushered in a new age.

Open to Jew and Gentile Alike

            Up until Pentecost, there was animosity and misunderstanding between the Jews and Gentiles, but the Spirit’s indwelling unified all believers to Christ and to one another. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”[50] George Richards explains:

           What happened on Pentecost in one sense is not repeatable. The Spirit came into the followers of Jesus as a new fellowship of men came to birth… It is the church, the body of Christ; and there is one body and one Spirit. As Jesus was born but once, so the Spirit came, and the church was born, once only. Yet Paul tells us to “be filled with the Spirit.” It is an admonition that we are to heed; otherwise it would have no meaning.[51]

            D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo illustrate Luke’s purpose in writing the Acts account of the infilling of the Holy Spirit was to show how, “God’s salvation was revealed in, and made available through, His Son, Jesus Christ. That message of salvation was entrusted by Christ Himself to His apostles, and through the empowering and directing of the Holy Spirit, they have now brought that message, and the salvation it mediates to the ends of the earth.”[52] The Great Commission and the Great Commandment were enacted to make salvation available to all.

Longevity of the Holy Spirit’s Presence

            Once a believer comes to faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit takes up permanent residence in the believer’s heart, which seals them as a child of God.[53] As Moo affirms, “Paul believes that every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God. Indeed, this is just what Paul affirms in the last part of the verse, where he denies that the person who does not have the ‘Spirit of Christ’ can make any claim to being a Christian at all. In other words, for Paul, possession of the Spirit goes hand-in-hand with being a Christian.”[54] Paul also refers to the believer’s body as being the temple of the Holy Spirit. Here, Gordon Fee demonstrates, “The body is the present habitation of God’s Spirit, meaning by implication that one belongs to the God whose Spirit dwells within.”[55]

New Role of the Holy Spirit

          Robert Pyne clarifies, “In John 16:8-11, Jesus described one aspect of the Spirit’s evangelistic work. As part of the Upper Room Discourse, in which the Lord comforted the disciples and gave them instructions before His death, He told them they should be encouraged, for it was to their benefit that He was leaving.”[56] The reason this was true is that His departure would result in the coming of the Holy Spirit,[57] who would comfort them, teach them, and help them in their evangelistic mission through His ministry of reproof.[58] Bruce also adds, “The Spirit is the sanctifying agency in the lives of the believers as He wages perpetual warfare against the flesh. [The Spirit] is more powerful than the flesh and can put the flesh progressively out of action in those lives, which are yielded to His control.”[59] Charles Stanley best explains the Holy Spirit’s new role: “Since Pentecost, every believer has received the Holy Spirit. If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, then the Spirit is the sap equipping us for the Christian life. Furthermore, He no longer comes and goes but rather remains permanently. He seals us in Christ—proof of the promise that we are forever in God’s presence.”[60]

Role of Holy Spirit in Apostle Paul’s Life

            One of the best representations of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit is found in the transformation of Saul, known as the persecutor, who would instead be remembered as Paul, the preacher of Christ and martyr for Christianity. For Paul, the primary function of the Spirit was the reproduction of the Christ-likeness in his people, so there would be unity in the body of Christ. In his letter to the Ephesians, Bruce demonstrates: “It is by faith that the people of Christ are united to Him, and in being united to Him they realize their own unity one with another.”[61] [62]

Conversion Account

            Paul claimed his gospel came to him through a divine revelation from Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and he believed his gospel came to him supernaturally and not through or by any human means.[63] However, Paul does give credit to the Christians before him, as is evidenced in his letter to the Corinthians. Carson and Moo show, “What Paul seems to be asserting is that elements of his gospel teaching, such as the truth of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection were handed down to him by other people.”[64] Lea and Black add, “Any analysis of Paul’s thoughts, which ignores his gospel came to him as a revelation from Jesus Christ cannot do justice to his theology.”[65] Lea and Black add, “the content of Paul’s gospel, received by direct revelation, affirms that Jesus was the Son of God and that He died to redeem sinners for the curse of the law.”[66] For Paul, being in the Spirit was the opposite of being in the flesh. From this belief, Bruce asserts, “There is no difference between the indwelling of the Spirit and the indwelling of the risen Christ, so far as the believer’s experience is concerned.”[67] This does not mean Paul equated the Spirit with the risen Lord, but he did see a dynamic uniformity between them.

Supernatural Encounters

            Paul had two specific mystical and supernatural encounters, which had divine and lasting effects on him and his ministry. Paul’s first encounter with the exalted Christ occurred on the road to Damascus. Bruce explains, this encounter allowed Paul to proclaim a direct and personal acquaintance with the exalted Christ despite not knowing Him during His earthly ministry.[68] Lea and Black explain, “Paul’s entire belief system was Christocentric, [meaning,] he did not emphasize theology for its own sake, but to stress the urgency of a vital, living encounter with Christ.”[69] [70] This divine encounter allowed Paul to receive a supernatural revelation of Christ and the redemptive work of the cross. Carson and Moo also contend this experience would turn, “Paul into more than a follower of Jesus, rather it would turn him into a preacher of Jesus.”[71]

            Paul’s second mystical experience occurred around 42/43 A.D., which was fourteen years following his first. In his letter to the Corinthians, he tells them, “To keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, I was given a splinter in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, and to keep me from being too elated.”[72] This thorn in Paul’s side has been said to be many things, but it ultimately led him to truly understand and embody how the Lord’s grace was completely sufficient and how His power was made perfect in humanity’s weakness. Bruce adds, “the sequel to Paul’s mystical experience was a distressing, indeed humiliating, physical ailment which he feared at first might be a handicap to his effective ministry, but which in fact, by giving his self-esteem a knock-out blow and keeping him constantly dependent on the divine enabling, proved to be a help, not a handicap.”[73]

Inspired Letters

            The letters of Paul provide some of the best illustrations of Paul’s theology following Pentecost and the outpouring of the Spirit. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he says, “He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him.”[74] Gordon Fee demonstrates how, “The illicit union is now contrasted to the believer’s union with Christ: “But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” In light of vv. 19-20, Paul probably is referring to the work of the Spirit, whereby through the “one Spirit” the believer’s “spirit” has been joined indissolubly with Christ. The believer is united to the Lord and thereby has become one S/spirit with him.”[75]  Later in this letter, Paul stresses the unity of God, by explaining while there are a variety of gifts, they are of the same Spirit.[76] Diversity and unity in the body of Christ were and still are essential to maintaining a healthy church, as Fee expounds further: “The one God who is Himself characterized by diversity within unity has decreed the same for his church… Everything, absolutely everything—gifts, persons, church—owes its origin to the one God who works all things in all of his people.” In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he says: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”[77] Throughout the Old and New Testament, the Spirit stands in direct opposition to the flesh. Bruce emphasizes, “The Spirit is the antithesis of flesh and God, by implication, is Spirit; not only so, but the Spirit of God energizes men and imparts on them physical power, mental skill, or spiritual insight that they would not otherwise have.”[78] In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, “If you are under the Spirit, you are not under the law.”[79] Paul wanted everyone to experience the freedom in Christ by casting off the yoke of bondage that came from the law. The law’s primary purpose was preparing the people for the arrival of Christ. Ronald Fung demonstrates, “That the guidance of the Spirit can be experienced as a reality in the life of the believer is a sign that Jeremiah’s prophetic word about the New Covenant has been fulfilled. Additionally, [the believer] must let himself/herself be led by the Spirit—that is, actively choose to stand on the side of the Spirit over against the flesh.”[80] The overreaching theme of Paul’s letters was putting to death the things of the body combined with the flesh and Spirit antithesis. David Wenham has identified a close parallel in the story of Jesus’ agony and betrayal in Gethsemane with Paul’s flesh-Spirit opposition.[81] In Matthew and Mark’s gospel,[82] Jesus makes known the Spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak. This theme comes from a similar passage in the Old Testament, “The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not Spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together.”[83]  John Oswalt shows how this verse continues the contrast between Egypt and God by asserting that flesh is hardly equal to Spirit. He says, “We human beings have continued difficulty acting upon it, because we tend to value tangible things more than intangible ones. So the Scriptures remind us in various ways that flesh can neither help us nor harm us in the face of God.”[84] The Spirit was essential in Paul’s theology and was much more than the fulfillment of prophecy. Fee shows, “That God Himself would breathe on us and we would live, that He would write His law in our hearts, and especially that He would give His Spirit into us, so that we are indwelt by Him.”[85]

Modern-day Roles of the Holy Spirit and Application

            The Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit has been at work since the beginning[86] and for people today, some of the main roles the Holy Spirit plays are convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.[87] When people come to faith in Jesus Christ and experience salvation,[88] the Holy Spirit then acts as a comforter and helper, which Jesus promised would come before His ascension to the right hand of God.[89] As the Holy Spirit indwells within the believer, He comforts them, allowing a sense of encouragement, even during times of great need. The closer a believer grows to the Lord, the more the Holy Spirit will take an active role in their life, thus supernaturally guiding them to what is pure and true.[90] As the Holy Spirit is allowed to take root in the believer’s life, they are compelled to worship and glorify the Lord because the work of the Spirit is Christocentric, meaning all praise, honor, and glory are directed towards Christ. As believers grow in their faith, the Holy Spirit also provides special gifts to aid in fulfilling the Great Commission, in meeting the needs of others, and in glorifying God.[91] Paul writes the following to the church in Corinth: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”[92] Paul contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh in his letter to the Galatians, because it is impossible to bear fruit and reflect the desires of God without the fruits of the Spirit being active in the believer’s life. The Holy Spirit places the believer under the protection of God, which Paul writes to the Ephesians: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”[93]

            Julie Ma demonstrates, “God initiated mission and intends to achieve it by work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, mission—which God commands His church to accomplish—belongs to God, not to human agency. Prior to ascending to heaven, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to his disciples, and asked them to wait in Jerusalem. This Holy Spirit is given to enable them to be witnesses of Jesus from Jerusalem to the end of the world.”[94] The Holy Spirit enables and empowers believers to fulfill the Great Commission, by aligning the disciple’s motives with the Father’s. As Ma highlights “This implies that the church has to partner with the Holy Spirit to fulfill this mission. Missionaries need to consciously work together with Spirit and be directed and guided by the Spirit.”[95] Roy Zuck additionally shows how, “The Holy Spirit, as the παράκλητος “Helper”,[96] is available to help believers ascertain the correct meaning of the Bible’s statements, commands, and questions.”[97] Lastly, as Leon Morris illustrates: “The Spirit is called ‘the Spirit of truth,’ for His work here is to guide the followers of Jesus into all truth.”[98]

Conclusion

             The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts marked the beginning of the Church Age and the most significant part of Pentecost was how the Holy Spirit indwelled inside Jew and Gentile alike. This fulfillment of prophecy equipped and empowered the disciples and converts for the work of the church and it bestowed divine inspiration to the writers of the Bible. The Holy Spirit plays just as active a role today, in the believer’s life, as it did on Pentecost. One of the greatest gifts the Spirit imparts to those He indwells is the revealing of truth. Satan attempts to destroy, counterfeit, or pervert everything God stands for, and the Holy Spirit pierces through the concealment of lies and cuts to the heart of the matter, revealing truth and life.

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Bruce, F. F. and Frederick Fyvie. “Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles.” Interpretation 27, no. 2 (April 1973): 166-183. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 3, 2016).

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Fairchild, Mary. http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefeastsandholidays/p/pentecostfeast.htm  (accessed June 28, 2016).

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Fee, Gordon D. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

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[1] Ezekiel 11:16-20; 36:24-27 & Joel 2:28

[2] John 14:16

[3] Genesis 1:2 (ESV)

[4] Victor P. Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 112.

[5] Joel 2:28

[6] F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 207.

[7] John 3:3 (ESV)

[8] John 3:5

[9] Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 191.

[10] Numbers 27:18

[11] I Samuel 16:12-13

[12] I Samuel 10:10

[13] I Samuel 16:14

[14] Luke 1:15; Isaiah 61:1

[15] Acts 10:38

[16] F. F. Bruce, (Frederick Fyvie). “Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles.” Interpretation 27, no. 2 (April 1973): 167. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 3, 2016).

[17] Luke 4:18-19 (ESV)

[18] Victor P. Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 267.

[19] II Thessalonians 2:3-8

[20] Steven M. Studebaker, From Pentecost to the Triune God: A Pentecostal Trinitarian Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012), 274.

[21] II Corinthians 5:17

[22] Jeremiah 31:33

[23] J.A. Thompson, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Jeremiah, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 581.

[24] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 208.

[25] II Chronicles 6:1-7:10

[26] Exodus 3:2-5

[27] John Wesley, Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, (London: Wesleyan-Methodist Book-Room, n.d.), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Chapter 2”.

[28] Johannes van Oort,  “The holy spirit and the early church: the experience of the spirit.” HTS Teologiese Studies 68.1 (2012). Academic OneFile. (accessed June 13, 2016).

[29] Exodus 34:22, Leviticus 23:15-22, Deuteronomy 16:16, II Chronicles 8:13

[31] Exodus 34:29-35, II Corinthians 3:12-18, & I Corinthians 3:7-8

[32] Paul Barnett, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 188.

[33] Daniel I. Block, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-48, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 389.

[34] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2003), 292.

[35] Acts 2:4 (ESV)

[36] Romans 5:5

[37] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 141.

[38] Douglas J. Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 304.

[39] Acts 2:17

[40] F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 60.

[41] Jeremiah 31:31-34

[42] Paul D. Wegner, Using the Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2009), 82.

[43] Ralph Martin, “A New Pentecost?: Catholic Theology and “Baptism in the Spirit”.” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 14, no. 3 (2011): 17-43. https://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed June 12, 2016).

[44] Robert J. Wright, J. “Holy Spirit in Holy Church: From Experience to Doctrine.” Anglican Theological Review 83, no. 3 (Summer, 2001): 443, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/215264412?accountid=12085. (accessed June 13, 2016).

[45] Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts, 69.

[46] Ezekiel 37:9-14

[47] Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts, 50.

[48] N. Stonehouse, “Repentance, Baptism And The Gift Of The Holy Spirit,” – Westminster Theological Journal 13, no. 1 (Nov 50), WORDsearch CROSS e-book: 5-6.

[49] Stonehouse, “Repentance, Baptism And The Gift Of The Holy Spirit,” 8.

[50] I Corinthians 12:13 (ESV)

[51] George Warren Richards, “Spirit-filled.” Interpretation 4, no. 1 (January 1950): 37. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 3, 2016).

[52] D. A. Carson, and Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2005), 306.

[53] Romans 8:9 & I Corinthians 6:19-20; 12:13

[54] Douglas J. Moo, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 490.

[55] Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 263.

[56] Robert A. Pyne, “The role of the Holy Spirit in conversion.” Bibliotheca Sacra 150, no. 598 (April 1993): 202. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 4, 2016).

[57] John 14:16-17; & John 16:7

[58] Pyne, “The role of the Holy Spirit in conversion.” 202.

[59] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 210.

[60] Ephesians 1:13-14

[61] Ephesians 4:13

[62] F.F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 350.

[63] Galatians 1:12-16

[64] D. A. Carson, and Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2005), 371.

[65] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2003), 335.

[66] Lea and Black, The New Testament, 336.

[67] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 209.

[68] F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 113.

[69] Colossians 3:1-5

[70] Lea and Black, The New Testament, 354.

[71] Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 359.

[72] II Corinthians 12:7-10

[73] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 135.

[74] I Corinthians (ESV)

[75] Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 260.

Ibid., 283.

[76] I Corinthians 12:4 (ESV)

[77] Romans 8:5-6 (ESV)

[78] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 206-207.

[79] Galatians 5:18

[80] Ronald Y. K. Fung, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Galatians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 248-251.

[81] David Wenham, Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 275.

[82] Matthew 26:41 & Mark 14:38

[83] Isaiah 31:3 (ESV)

[84] John N. Oswalt, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament – The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 572.

[85] Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 1994), 6.

[86] Genesis 1:2

[87] John 16:8

[88] Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 6:19-20

[89] John 14:16-17

[90] John 16:13

[91] Matthew 28:16-20

[92] 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (ESV)

[93] Ephesians 1:13 (ESV)

[94] Julie Ma, “The Holy Spirit in Mission.” Dialog, 54: (2015) 171. doi: 10.1111/dial.12172 (accessed June 3, 2016).

[95] Ma, “The Holy Spirit in Mission.” 171.

[96] John 14:16; 15:26

[97] Roy B. Zuck, “The role of the Holy Spirit in hermeneutics.” Bibliotheca Sacra 141, no. 562 (April 1984): 120-130. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed June 4, 2016).

[98] Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 620.

Finding Joy

joy of the lord

Finding joy in the midst of trials and circumstances can seem like searching for hidden treasure without a map or a shovel. However, if we seek God’s presence, He will grant us eternal blessings. Psalms 16:11 (ESV) says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” In this passage, David was assured that the Lord would preserve his life, even in the face of death. He rejoiced because God enabled his body to rest securely even when confronted with uncertainty. The reason David could find joy and rest is because he knew God would never abandon him.

When we turn our attention to the Lord, the light of His countenance and presence shines upon us. The more we depend on God, the more He will make us complete. Even in our weakness, He makes us strong. As we learn to live within His loving embrace, we will come to realize nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Paul’s Letters to the Galatians & Thessalonians

galatians

Paul wrote to the Galatians following his visit to the region, around 48 AD and this would be the first letter he would write to a church he had personally established. Michael Burer explains, “Whether the book was written to North or South Galatia is a central interpretive problem for the exegete… Douglas Moo ultimately prefers the South Galatian theory, arguing that Paul wrote the book in AD 48 on the eve of the apostolic conference in Jerusalem; he thus believes that Galatians is Paul’s earliest letter.”[1] While Paul was there, he preached and taught of salvation and justification by faith, in Jesus Christ.

After leaving, he received word that a group of people Paul calls “Judaizers” were teaching the Gentile converts that they must also uphold the Mosaic Law and be circumcised, if they wanted to become true Christians. Thomas Lea and David Black describe these Judaizer’s teachings as “legalism,” which points to local Jews being the opponents since they were more interested in opposing the preaching of Christ rather than subverting what Paul taught.[2] As D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo illustrate, when Paul received word of this, “Without pausing for the customary thanksgiving greeting in his letter, [he] expresses astonishment that the Galatians are deserting not only the gospel but God Himself.”[3] In Paul’s opening remarks, he defends his apostolic status and emphasizes he received his gospel not from man, but by a special revelation from God. Here, Ronald Fung confirms, “The revelation spoken of obviously refers to Christ’s appearing to Paul on the Damascus road. It should not be taken as referring to ‘various revelations’ of the kind mentioned in 2 Cor. 12:1, thus making the revelation of the gospel not immediately a part of Paul’s initial experience of encounter with Christ, but subsequent to it.”[4]

            While there is some debate as to whether the opponents of Paul in Galatia were Jews or Gentiles, the overwhelming evidence seems to point to Jewish Christians. Part of Paul and Barnabas’ evangelism strategy was to start their efforts in the Jewish synagogues, where they could preach to Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. As Carson and Moo demonstrate, “the emphasis [of Paul’s opponents] on keeping the Mosaic Law makes it almost certain they were Jews, as they taught those who embrace the Christian salvation must also submit to Jewish law, the Torah.”[5] Paul’s rebuttal was, “If you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.”[6] He also cautions them, “Be careful, if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”[7] Paul is ultimately warning them of the dangers of division and fighting against one another. F. F. Bruce agrees stating, “Galatians was written by Paul to warn his Galatian converts against certain “trouble makers” who were urging upon them a line of teaching and course of action which, as he saw the situation, threatened to undermine the gospel which he had brought to them and which they had accepted.”[8] In more recent times, Bruce illustrates, “the opinion has been expressed by some scholars that the ‘trouble makers’ were inculcating a form of Gnosticism.”[9]

One of Paul’s fundamental goals in ministry was the unification of the church and this effort to undermine the work he had started surely angered him. He had sought to show them freedom in Christ, while his opponents sought to enslave them to the requirements of the law. Paul recognized the danger in this new teaching, as it seriously compromised the message of the gospel. Carson and Moo further explain, “What the Galatians were in danger of doing was not adding some interesting new insights into the meaning of Christianity, but of returning to the law-covenant in such a way that the climatic triumph of the gospel was implicitly called into question.”[10] This, Paul could not stand for, so he wrote primarily to address the issue of freedom in Christ, by justification of faith versus slavery to the Law, by adherence to the old ways. Paul left little doubt to the importance of the redemptive work Christ accomplished on the cross and his allegorical reference to Abraham further showed the law could not invalidate the promises of God.

Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians:

ms_1_2_Thessalonians

            Jeffrey Weima points out, “Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians had been neglected for a long time by biblical scholars-so much so that they were once named as ‘the Cinderellas’ of the Pauline corpus. Happily, the situation has changed as these two letters have now finally made it to the ball and begun to receive over the past decade or so the attention that they deserve.”[11] Carson and Moo demonstrate Paul was anxious to return and comfort the Thessalonians in the midst of the persecution that had arisen and that he had three basic purposes in writing I Thessalonians: (1) to clear up any misconceptions about his own motives in light of his hasty departure for Thessalonica;[12] (2) to remind the Thessalonians of some key ethical implications of their new faith;[13] and (3) to comfort the Thessalonians over the death of some of their fellow Christians.[14][15] In verse sixteen, Gordon Fee demonstrates:

What Paul appears to have done is to apply the language of the “Psalm of Ascent” to describe the coming from heaven of the truly Great King, the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, who is now seen as “descending” in a way similar to the “descent” of Yahweh at Sinai. The psalmist, in celebrating Yahweh’s “ascent” to Mount Zion after he “had subdued nations under us,” thus picks up the motifs of Exodus for the enthronement of Yahweh, which was celebrated by accompanying “shouts of joy” and the “voice of the trumpet.” In Paul’s version a further “adjustment” to the language takes place, since this is now less “fanfare” with regard to the coming of Christ than it is “summoning” language, thus powerful imagery for “waking the sleeping,” which after all is the singular point Paul is making in this context.[16]

            In II Thessalonians, Paul’s focus shifts to eschatology, as Carson and Moo highlight two important points that emerge: (1) Paul makes clear the reality of future judgment for those who are tormenting the Thessalonians;[17] and (2) the day of the Lord, the time when God through Jesus intervenes to save his people and judge their enemies, will only occur after the preliminary events: the ‘rebellion’ and the revelations of the man of lawlessness.[18][19] Another important theme Paul writes about relates to persecution, and even with this topic, he puts it into an eschatological perspective. Carson and Moo show Paul does this because of, “their erroneous notion that the day of the Lord had arrived[20] and their tendency to idleness.”[21][22]

            In addition to these themes, Paul also sought to deal with morality issues that had developed within the church, specifically idolatry and laziness. The converts Paul is addressing had come to believe now that they have become Christians, they did not have to do anything but live their lives as they pleased, until Jesus returned. Carson and Moo show, “Paul’s defensive posture about his motives and methods in preaching the gospel is evidence that he was combating definite opponents, usually thought to be Jews, spiritual enthusiasts, or Gnostics.”[23] Paul also sought to stress the importance of understanding and applying the  entire word of God in their daily lives, whether or not Christ’s return was imminent or not.

Bibliography

Bruce, F. F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977.

Burer, Michael H. “Galatians.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57, no. 4 (12, 2014): 832-5, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1645736912?accountid=12085 (accessed June 7, 2016).

Carson, D. A. and Douglas Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.

Fee, Gordon D. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Fung, Ronald Y. K. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Galatians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

Lea, Thomas D. and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003.

Weima, Jeffrey A. D. “1 & 2 Thessalonians.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 56, no. 3 (09, 2013): 636-40, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1495414270?accountid=12085. (accessed June 7, 2016)


[1] Michael H. Burer, “Galatians.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57, no. 4 (12, 2014): 832, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1645736912?accountid=12085. (accessed June 7, 2016).

[2] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2003), 364.

[3] D. A. Carson, and Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2005), 456.

[4] Ronald Y. K. Fung, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Galatians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 53.

[5] Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 465.

[6] Galatians 5:2 (ESV)

[7] Galatians 5:15 (ESV)

[8] F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 179.

[9] Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 179.

[10] Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 468.

[11] Jeffrey A. D. Weima, “1 & 2 Thessalonians.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 56, no. 3 (09, 2013): 636, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1495414270?accountid=12085 (accessed June 7, 2016).

[12]  I Thessalonians 1-3

[13] I Thessalonians 4:1-12

[14] I Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11

[15] Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 542 – 544.

[16] Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 176.

[17] II Thessalonians 1:6-10

[18] II Thessalonians 2:3

[19] Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 550.

[20] II Thessalonians 2:1-12

[21] II Thessalonians 3:6-15

[22] Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 546.

[23] Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, 544.