Luke’s Charismatic Theology, Pt. 4

Image Pentecost from a medieval book of hours
An artist’s conception of the Pentecost event
Simon Bening (circa 1483/1484–1561)
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

Notes on Chapter 4 of Roger Stronstad’s The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke, “the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – the Charismatic Community” – the Pentecost narrative has the same function in Acts as the infancy-inauguration narrative has in the gospel of Luke; it is the initiation narrative. Jesus, who was the bearer of the Spirit, becomes the giver of the Spirit; the disciples become the heirs to Jesus’ charismatic ministry.

Stronstad elaborates on Luke’s varied language of the Spirit in the narrative: clothing, baptizing, empowering, filling, outpouring. The varied language communicates a multi-faceted, complex understanding of the phenomenon. “Clothing” is associated with “power,” and is linked to the carrying out of Jesus’ active ministry. “Baptism” relates to the parallels in the baptism of Jesus in Luke and the baptism of the disciples with the Holy Spirit in Acts. “Empowerment” underscores the functional relationship of the Spirit to subsequent ministry. All three terms are related to the promise of the Pentecost event.

In the description of the Pentecost event, language of being “filled with the Spirit” figures significantly. Stronstad points out that for the disciples, being “filled with the Spirit,” is not a unique event but is an event that happens both before and after Pentecost; is sometimes individual and sometimes collective, not exclusively one or the other; is not a “once-and-for-all” experience, but can be repeated; “always describes prophetic inspiration.” This prophetic inspiration can take more than one form: worship, whether or not in foreign tongues; judgment; witness – which may include the interpretation of Scripture.1

Peter’s interpretation of the Pentecost event brings in language about the “pouring out” of God’s Spirit. Peter interprets the events, in much the same way Jesus interprets the events of his baptism in his preaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, with reference to an Old Testament prophet. In Jesus’ case it’s Isaiah, in Peter’s, the prophet Joel. Stronstad identifies several features of Peter’s interpretation: it is 1) eschatological; 2) prophetic; 3) universal – available to everyone, young, old, slave, free, male, female; 4) manifest: “attested by wonders and signs” 2; 5) a “great and glorious day,” which is to say, not a day of judgment.

Peter then applies the event to his audience by emphasizing its relationship to repentance and baptism; its subsequent relationship to the reception of the Holy Spirit; its eschatological character – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit signifies the arrival of the last days; its potential universality, temporally and linguistically.

The structure of the Pentecost narrative in Acts shares more with the transfer of the Spirit from Moses to the 70 elders than with the rabbinic tradition of Shavuot/reception of Torah at Mt. Sinai; in both cases it involves changes in responsibility, and empowerment for the work. Stronstad concludes that the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost, like the gift of the Spirit in the Old Testament, prepares the disciples for witness and service, not for salvation-initiation.

1 Roger Stronstad, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), 61.
2 Ibid., 63.

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