Category Archives: Charismatic Issues

What is Context?

The other day I had a friendly disagreement with another believer over the interpretation of Romans 8:26 in which Paul said,

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (ESV).

Actually, our conversation began with reference to the gifts of the Spirit, particularly that of healing and then moved to speaking in tongues. I’ll spare you the details because neither is the point of this post. Romans 8:26 came into the discussion and my friend assured me that this couldn’t possibly have anything to do with us praying since it clearly says that the “Spirit himself” prays.

He claimed that this excludes us from being the ones who pray because it is an activity of the Spirit. I wanted to provide some context for why I disagree with this interpretation. I noted how in Galatians Paul speaks of the Spirit of God’s Son crying, “Abba! Father!” My friend said that he’d need to see this and that he didn’t think that’s what it said. Fair enough. Nobody has exhaustive knowledge of the entire Bible. So we looked at Galatians 4:4-7 and he was satisfied that it said what I claimed.

I then noted that when discussing the same thing (i.e., adoption) in Romans Paul has the believer, who has received the Spirit of adoption, crying, “Abba! Father!” We both agree that Paul is consistent and that he doesn’t contradict himself so my point was that the Spirit cries “Abba! Father” through the believer who has received adoption. Likewise, my contention is that the “groanings to deep for words” (or “inarticulate groanings”) is the Spirit praying through the believer.

He told me that it’s not what the text says and that I’m reading into it. He told me that the number one rule of hermeneutics was to deal with a text in its context and that when we have to leave the context then that means we can’t deal with it on its own. But that’s the point I want to discuss in this post. All of this was setup for me to say that context is much more than what my friend would have us think.

You see, he wanted to look at this singular verse. I wanted to look at this verse within the argument of the chapter and book but also within the context of Paul’s overall theology. I noted that Galatians was one of Paul’s earliest letters; Romans was one of his latest. I wasn’t leaving Romans to run to Galatians. I was reading Paul’s later theology in light of his earlier theology. My understanding of Galatians informs my understanding of Romans.

Context is more than the verse before and the verse after the particular verse we’re reading. Context is knowing the situation of the author and his audience. It’s following the flow of the argument being put forth before us. It’s having an overarching understanding of the author’s theology. As I said, my understanding of  Galatians informs my reading of Romans, no differently than my understanding of Deuteronomy informs my reading of 1 Corinthians 8:1–10:22 or my understanding of Leviticus informs my reading of Hebrews.

But the immediate context of Paul’s very argument in this section of his letter does, I believe, point to the Spirit groaning in our groans but I’ll write about that another time.

B”H

I Was Just Reminded that I’m a Prophet

I was looking through old blog posts for something or another and I came across my post “The Fruit of Impatience” dated August 31, 2010 in which I note how I printed Chris Tilling’s doctoral dissertation and had it bound for use when I was away from the computer.

In a comment to that post dated September 1, 2010 I said the following to Chris himself:

“Chris: I’ll be hugely honored when I receive my FREE autographed copy of the published edition! ;-) If you need a proofreader to take a look at your revisions you know where to send them. Also, which publishers do you have in mind? I think it’s a natural fit for WUNT for it would go good anywhere. You might even consider foregoing the prestige of an expensive monograph series and publish it with Eerdmans or someone else affordable so us common folk can get our hands on it. ;-)”

On March 31, 2012 Tilling announced that he was publishing with Mohr Siebeck. I shared the news of that announcement and mocked up what I thought the book would look like given the assumption (or prophetic premonition) that it would be a WUNT II volume.

Fast forward to July 14, 2012 when I shared the news that Mohr Siebeck had informed me that they’d be sending a copy of Tilling’s soon to be released monograph for review. Guess what series it was published in? WUNT II. Fulfillment numero uno.

Then on November 23, 2014 I shared a video of an interview that Rachel Bomberger conducted with Chris about his soon to be released book. Guess who Rachel worked for? Eerdmans. Guess what book was soon to be released? Paul’s Divine Christology. Fulfillment numero dos.

And on May 21, 2015 I noted ordering the Eerdmans edition and then on May 25, 2015 I noted its arrival.

Boom!

B”H

Not So Random Thought

I was just looking through one of my hard drives and found a folder of ebooks. iBooks allows you to upload the epub files so I added all that I had. One of the books was a MacArthur Study Bible. I went to 1 Corinthians 12-14 and perused some of the notes and it always amazes me how he seems to lose his exegetical marbles when anything remotely charismatic comes up. His comments are unconvincing to say the least. I just can’t wrap my head around how he can be such a faithful and consistent interpreter of the Scriptures elsewhere and then have this huge blindspot here. What happened to Johnny Mac to make him oppose the things of the Spirit so much? I guess only him and God know…

B”H

Home Library/Office Tour

I wanted to do this for a while. I had some time today. One day I’ll get a good camera and give this thing some real production value.

B”H

James Spinti on Divine Cursing

Please have a look at James Spinti’s recent post about divine cursing based on his reading of a new book called Cursed Are You!. His musings on the topic with regard to Word of Faith theology are thought provoking. I intend to keep reading the post and thinking on the points he raises because they shed new light on this harmful teaching and help to bring into focus things I’ve long sensed but have never been able to articulate.

B”H

Paul on Mutes

I just read an article in the May 2014 Focus on the Kingdom (Vol. 16, No. 8) newsletter (which is the newsletter of Unitarian teacher and author Anthony Buzzard) entitled “My Pentecostal Experience” by someone named Kris (the word Colorado follows his/her [?] name after a comma but I’m guess this is where Kris is from and not Kris’ last name).

In the article Kris recounts his/her (?) experience in Apostolic (= Oneness) Pentecostal churches. Kris was made to believe that if he/she did not speak in tongues then he/she was not saved. This is false, of course, but I don’t want to focus on that. I also don’t want to focus on the clearly cultic activities of the churches that Kris spent time in (read the article for yourself and you’ll see what I mean). I did want to ponder one particular statement.

Kris says, “This preacher was also claiming that ‘tongues’ were the initial evidence of receiving the ‘Holy Ghost.’ Despite whatever gibberish these people would utter, it would be taken for an authentic language. However, one cannot claim to have spoken in tongues without having someone verify that what they are speaking is an authentic language. Thus, whenever someone ‘speaks in tongues,’ they are not actually doing so if the language cannot ever be authenticated” (6).

Kris apparently believes that “tongues” are “languages” as in “known languages.” Kris isn’t alone in such a belief. Many people read the events of Acts 2 into Paul’s statements about glossolalia and argue that Paul is speaking of known languages that are likely unknown to the believer speaking them. But Kris goes on to make a statement that made me ponder something I’ve never considered; he/she said, “1 Corinthians 12:30 clearly explains that all do not speak in tongues [languages]” (6).

Paul certainly does say that not all speak in tongues in 1 Corinthians 12:30, or he at least asks, “μὴ πάντες γλώσσαις λαλοῦσιν;” expecting a negative answer. If known languages (even those unknown to the speaker) are in view then I don’t see how this jibes well with what he says elsewhere (e.g., in 1 Cor. 13:1 where he calls them “tongues of angels” or 14:10 where he contrasts them with the “many kinds of voices in the world”).

I think we’re left to conclude that if Paul isn’t talking about inarticulate speech (cf. Rom. 8:26) then he’s talking about mutes. 1 Corinthians 12:30, then, is about people who can’t speak (or I suppose use sign language either since it is a way of expressing thoughts or feelings). Or not. You know, there is a way for the particular Pentecostals Kris dealt with to be wrong and for other Pentecostals to be right. Either way, I think Kris has missed it.

B”H

What is the Baptism In/With the Holy Spirit?

This is how I address this question on my church’s FAQ page, which you’ll see is in line with classical Pentecostal belief on the subject:

We should begin by making a few distinctions. There is a difference between: 1) Receiving the Holy Spirit; 2) Being baptized by the Holy Spirit; and 3) Being baptized with/in the Holy Spirit.

  1. Upon our conversion (i.e., our faithful confession of Jesus as the resurrected Lord and Savior, see Rom. 10:9-10) we receive the Holy Spirit. Anyone who has exercised faith in Christ’s person and work and has confessed him as Lord has without exception received the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).
  2. Simultaneous to our confession of faith we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13 cf. Eph. 4:4-5); this is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in that it’s the baptism that the Spirit himself performs.
  3. But there is a subsequent baptism with/in the Holy Spirit that Jesus himself performs (Mark 1:8Matt. 3:11Luke 3:16Acts 1:4-5) in which the believer is filled with the Holy Spirit. We see this throughout the book of Acts (Acts 2:2-48:14-1710:44-46).
The baptism with/in the Holy Spirit is an empowering experience that equips the believer for ministry and witness (Luke 24:49Acts 1:8) as well as equipping them to live in conformity with God’s will. That this particular baptism occurs after conversion can be seen from observing the Gospels and Acts. Prior to the day of Pentecost the disciples could rejoice that their names had been written in heaven (Luke 10:20), or rest assured that they had been made clean because of the word that Jesus had spoken to them (John 15:3). Jesus breathed on those disciples after his resurrection and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). Yet after Jesus ascended to heaven these same disciples were baptized with/in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:2-4).
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Other examples can be found in the book of Acts, e.g., Paul is converted first and filled with the Spirit second (Acts 9:1-17). Paul asked the Ephesians if they had received the Spirit when they believed and they replied that they hadn’t even heard of the Holy Spirit. They were then baptized and filled with the Spirit (Acts 19:1-6). So here again, conversion occurred prior to the baptism with/in the Holy Spirit.
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B”H