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Mon, 26 Aug 2013 - 12:56 PM CST

Pentecost: This Story Is Our Story

Robert P. Menzies (Gospel Publishing House, 2013, 165 pp., paperback)

Robert Menzies, along with his late father, William Menzies, are well-known in Pentecostal circles for the articulate way they have promoted Pentecostal scholarship, especially as it relates to Spirit baptism. In his latest book, Robert Menzies further explores our Pentecostal hermeneutic.

Many in the evangelical world criticize our Pentecostal hermeneutic. Others want to describe Pentecostals in such broad terms that waters down our Pentecostal distinctive. Menzies brings sharp focus to this distinctive. He states: “In the pages that follow, I would like to explain why I am a Pentecostal. My definitions are unapologetically theological. My approach is thoroughly biblical. I will attempt to show how key passages in the Bible support my Pentecostal convictions. I believe that we as Pentecostals need to re-examine and clarify the rich theological legacy that the early Pentecostal pioneers have passed on to us. The reluctance to give clear, theological definition to the Pentecostal movement misses something extremely important: it not only misses the fact that the movement was shaped by the Bible; it also loses sight of a genuine need of the church. We need to know who we are. We need to pass on the legacy” (16,17).

Pentecostals read the Book of Acts as their stories. They believe there should be no disconnect between the supernatural activities of the Early Church and the present Pentecostal church. Thus, their hermeneutic is straightforward. The church of Acts is our church — a model for present-day Pentecost. This view brings strength to the Pentecostal movement. Menzies supports this view as he describes the structure of Luke-Acts and significant events — such as the sending of the seventy — to show the Pentecostal emphasis in these books.

The author devotes a chapter to examine one of the key doctrines of Pentecostals — the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He examines the theological intent of Luke as he writes Luke-Acts. Luke is not merely writing history — he is writing theology. Menzies responds to those who confuse Paul’s theology concerning the Spirit with Luke’s. Luke clearly portrays the Spirit — not in salvation terms — but in terms of empowering and prophetic enabling for witness (Acts 1:8). “When the Pentecostal gift of the Spirit is understood in soteriological terms, Luke’s missiological focus and our expectation of it is lost. For it is always possible to argue, as many do, that while all experience the soteriological dimension of the Pentecostal gift at conversion, only a select few receive gifts of missiological power. Yet Luke calls us to remember that the church (every member, not just the clergy!), by virtue of its reception of the Pentecostal gift, is a prophetic community empowered for a missionary task (63,64).

An important aspect of Spirit-baptism is speaking in tongues — something Pentecostals identify as initial physical evidence. Again, Luke is not just writing historical narrative. This is an experience for contemporary believers. Menzies skillfully examines whether “tongues” are languages or unintelligible utterances. Moving beyond the IPE debate, the author explores the role of tongues in the church — as a type of prophecy — by examining how Peter, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17–21), used Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28–32). Also, by examining several passages from Luke where Jesus teaches on the Holy Spirit, Menzies applies the continuing work of the Holy Spirit to individual believers. In an excursus on this chapter, the author discusses a popular question in evangelical circles: Can those who have not yet spoken in tongues experience Pentecostal power?

Signs and wonders are another important aspect of Pentecostal theology. Keith Hacking, a protégé of James Dunn, claims that Third Wavers (and by inference Pentecostals) have simplistically read the Gospels and Acts and have “foisted their agenda upon the New Testament texts.” (104) Menzies examines Hacking’s position and responds with clarity to show the parallels between Jesus’ reception of the Spirit at Jordan and the 120 on the Day of Pentecost. He also demonstrates that Luke’s writing shows that Jesus intended for the signs and wonders of the Early Church to continue in today’s church.

In his final chapter, Menzies summarizes some of these important Pentecostal distinctives to show why the Pentecostal church is growing. He writes: “If we are to understand why Pentecostal churches are growing, we above all will need to understand what Pentecostal Christians believe, what energizes their lives and witness, what sets them apart and makes them unique. In short, we need to understand why Pentecostals are different.” (116)

The clear message of the Pentecostal church emphasizes a vital experience with Christ and the Holy Spirit.” Pentecost is more than a biblical event separated from today’s church by 2,000 years. It is a dynamic that all believers can experience. Truly, Pentecost is our story.

Menzies has provided a valuable work for those who have experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This book will encourage them to continue to walk in their Pentecostal experience. For those who are interested in knowing more about Pentecostals, the author has provided a valuable tool in this journey.

Reviewed by Richard L. Schoonover, associate editor, Enrichment journal, Springfield, Missouri.

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