Pentecostals, the Spirit and Paul

Anthony Thiselton outlines 8 basic themes related to the Spirit in Paul in dialogue with contemporary Christianity, esp Pentecostalism.

1. The work of the Spirit is Christ-centered (1 Cor 12:3; Gal 4:6: Jn 16:13-14). ‘Christ was experienced through the Spirit’ says Jimmy Dunn. Pentecostalism at its best holds to this Christ centeredness (Fee, Frank Macchia), though the charge is regularly made that they can be unbalanced in terms of being Spirit centered. The gifts of the Spirit properly understood point to Christ and the upbuilding of his body, the church.

2. Every Christian receives the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.  See Gal 4:6; 1 Cor 12:13, and all through Paul. This seems to me uncontestable. And this Christocentric focus is increasingly the default position among Pentecostals too – following Fee, Machia, Karkkainen, Amos Yong et al. Historically some in the revivalist and holiness movement have disputed this with their (over) emphasis on what Macchia calls a ‘high-voltage’ crisis experience rather than an ongoing transformative process of sanctification.

3. The Holy Spirit is a special gift to chosen individuals for particular tasks, AND a gift poured out to the whole community.

4. The Spirit is given in a ‘fresh way’ after Christ’s resurrection. There is an eschatological turning point at Pentecost, which for Paul is a new era of the Spirit.

5. The preaching of the gospel comes with the power of the Spirit (1 Thes 1:5).

6. The Spirit is ‘Holy’ in the sense of being the holy presence of God himself.

7. The eschatological Spirit points to the sense of what Thiselton calls ‘futurity and purpose’. (2 Cor 1:22; 2 Cor 5:5). Where in both texts arrabon is used (deposit guaranteeing the future).

8. The Spirit is prophetic and revelatory. But Thiselton urges caution here. The NT sense of prophecy is wider / broader than the OT

Thiselton proposes that much of Paul’s language and framework is drawn from OT and Rabbinic Judaism but reconfigured (my word) with a Christ-focus. Take 1 Cor 2:16 for how wisdom and revelation of the Spirit is defined as ‘the mind of Christ’.

He also proposes that such themes can, in broad terms, be found in John, the synoptic gospels and in Acts.

So, tying back to the first post on this book – it is NOT here in these 8 themes that you might see a ‘chasm’ between Pentecostals and others. No, the real areas of controversy and difference come elsewhere (and in another post 🙂 )

Comments, as ever, welcome.

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