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The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit   (See Archives)

Unity and Diversity

New Testament Perspectives on the Holy Spirit

Part Four in a series of guest lectures given at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, Missouri

By Roger Stronstad

Quantitatively, Luke, John, and Paul are the major authors in the New Testament. Luke authored the history, Luke-Acts. John not only wrote a Gospel but also three letters and an Apocalypse. Paul wrote some 13 epistles. On the principle of the analogy of faith, in the history of Protestant interpretation there has always been a tendency to emphasize the unity of the message at the expense of diversity. Recently, however, there is a growing willingness to accord each author the full diversity of his style, genre, and message. Nevertheless, on the subject of the Holy Spirit, many contemporary interpreters continue to resist this recent trend. They persist in insisting on the unity of the witnesses on the Holy Spirit at the expense of the diversity. Because Luke wrote in the genre of historical narrative, interpreters often deny to Luke the status of an independent witness, which they accord John and Paul. This is especially true of the relationship between Luke and Paul. Typically, Luke’s data is pressed into the Pauline mold. (Yet Luke is an independent witness and contributes to the diversity as well as to the unity of the New Testament pneumatology.)

This pressure to conform Luke’s pneumatology to Paul’s is endemic and can be illustrated from any number of books and articles, both popular and scholarly, which fall to hand. For example, concerning the hermeneutics of historical narrative, that is, Acts, Fee asserts, “For a biblical precedent to justify a present action, the principle must be taught elsewhere, where it is the primary intent so to teach.”1 Similarly, though Luke writes of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” three times (Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; 11:16) and Paul but once (1 Corinthians 12:13), John R.W. Stott arbitrarily presses all six non-Pauline references (Luke 3:16 and parallels) into the Pauline mold. He writes: “The Greek expression is precisely the same in all its seven occurrences, and therefore, a priori, as a sound principle of interpretation, it should refer to the same baptism in each verse”2; that is, “the means of entry into the body of Christ.” In addition, James D.G. Dunn conforms Luke’s report of the gift of the Spirit to the Samaritans, with its temporal gap between faith and the reception of the Spirit (Acts 8:l–24), to Paul’s doctrine. He writes: “The problem is that in the context of the rest of the New Testament these facts appear to be mutually exclusive and wholly irreconcilable. If they believed in the name of the Lord Jesus (verse 16), they must be called Christians. But if they did not receive the Holy Spirit till later they cannot be called Christians” (most explicitly Romans 8:9).3 These examples are merely the tip of the iceberg, but they graphically illustrate the ongoing reluctance to concede that there is a very real diversity in the doctrine of the Spirit among all three of the major New Testament witnesses to the Spirit.

However, Pentecostal pneumatology has always been predicated upon the assumption that Luke has a pneumatology that is distinct from Paul’s. In other words, Pentecostalism is a product of diversity in the New Testament. Paradoxically, opponents of Pentecostal doctrine, as we have illustrated, typically impose a unity of the Pauline type, at the expense of diversity. Obviously, it would be just as harmful to overemphasize the diversity of the New Testament witnesses as it is to emphasize unity. In this article I will demonstrate that there are foundational elements of unity among the major witnesses, but that there is also a diversity of theology and style.

Unity In New Testament Pneumatology

Through all the differences of authorship, theological expertise, temperament, genre, and historical circumstances in the literature of the New Testament, there is a manifest unity in the message of the New Testament. On the one hand, God has intervened in human affairs and gives unity to this diverse literature. On the other hand, since God is most fully revealed in His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, He ultimately is the unifying factor in the New Testament literature. The ministry of the Spirit, moreover, complements that of the Son in a variety of ways. Luke, John, and Paul, the major authors in the New Testament, alike unite in presenting a pneumatology that is Christological, eschatological, and charismatic.

The Spirit Is Christological

Though it may be somewhat of a simplification, it is fair to say that the Spirit is an anonymous presence in the New Testament. He does not speak of himself, but of Jesus. More than this, however, the Holy Spirit is an essential complement to the Christology of Luke, John, and Paul. With varying emphases, these writers portray the Spirit as the agent in the Incarnation, the Anointer of Jesus, given by Jesus, and, for the disciples, the alter ego of Jesus. In the previous article, “The Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts” (Paraclete, Volume 23, Numbers 1 and 2) we canvassed Luke’s data on the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit, Therefore, it will suffice to recapitulate it briefly here.

Along with Matthew, Luke alone describes the dynamics of the Incarnation by which the Son of God became the Son of Mary. In the words of the angelic annunciation to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).4 Not only was Mary’s Son conceived by the overshadowing power of the Spirit, but also His public ministry is inaugurated by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him, anointing Him for service (Luke 3:22; 4:18).

Having been anointed by the Spirit, the Christ is a charismatic prophet, full of the Spirit, led by the Spirit, and empowered by the Spirit (Luke 4:1,14; Acts 10:38). Because He is the Christ, from His anointing to His ascension, the Spirit is concentrated exclusively upon Him. When His earthly ministry comes to its climax and conclusion, however, Jesus pours out or transfers His Spirit from himself to His disciples (Acts 2:33), whom He has appointed heirs and successors to His ministry. The Spirit now becomes the alter ego of Jesus, for the things which He began to do and teach, they will continue to do and teach. Clearly, in Luke’s pneumatology, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord (Jesus)—the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 8:39; 16:7).

Apart from the fact that John, in contrast to Luke, lacks any direct reference to the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit is as much the Spirit of Christ in John’s perspective as it is in Luke’s. In one of the few pericopes that John shares with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John reports that the public ministry of Jesus, the eternal Word, who became flesh and dwelt among men, is inaugurated by the descent of the Spirit upon Him at His baptism by John (John 1:32). Though it is clearly implied by Luke, and to a lesser extent by Mark and Matthew, John explicitly tells us that the Spirit “remained upon Him.” Jesus’ abiding, indeed, exclusive possession of the Spirit is emphasized throughout the Gospel. John states that the Spirit was given to Him “without measure” (3:34) and reports that the Spirit was not yet given to the disciples (7:39), and that if Jesus did not go away the Helper, that is, the Spirit, would not come to them (16:7).

In addition to being the exclusive possession of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is also a witness to Jesus. On the one hand, the Spirit is a witness to John the Baptist, who reports: “And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit’ ” (John 1:33). On the other hand, the Spirit will also witness to the disciples. Thus Jesus announces, “When the Helper comes … He will bear witness of Me” (John 15:26). Later, in opposition to false teachers; that is, antichrists, John declares that Jesus is the Son of God, affirming, “And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement” (1 John 5:7,8). Finally, John writes, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).

Not only is His ministry inaugurated and witnessed to by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him, but Jesus is also the giver of the Spirit. Specifically, having received the Spirit at His baptism, He gives the Spirit after His resurrection. “It is to your advantage that I go away,” Jesus assures His disciples, “for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you” (John 16:7). The Spirit will be “given” by the Father and “sent” by the Father (14:16,26) but is given at the request of Jesus (14:16) and is sent in His name (14:26). Because Jesus and the Father are one (17:21,22), Jesus himself will send the Helper from the Father (15:26); that is, when He has gone away, He will send Him to the disciples (16:7). For His immediate disciples this promise is fulfilled after the Resurrection when Jesus breathed upon them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (20:22). Concerning the gift of the Spirit to the disciples more generally, John writes, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One. … And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you” (1 John 2:20,27).

Perhaps because Paul writes circumstantial letters rather than history, as does Luke, or a Gospel, as does John, his pneumatology has a different Christological focus than do theirs. Whereas in Luke’s history the Spirit relates to Jesus beginning with the Incarnation, and in John’s Gospel the Spirit first relates to Jesus at His baptism, in Paul’s epistles the Spirit first relates to the Jesus of history in His resurrection—“[He] was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness” (Romans 1:4). Nevertheless, the relationship between Christ and Spirit in Paul’s pneumatology is not inconsequential. Paul commonly refers to the Holy Spirit simply as “the Spirit.” But “the Spirit” is “the Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9) and “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19).

In a text fraught with exegetical pitfalls (which, for our purposes, we can safely ignore) Paul writes that “the Lord [Jesus] is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all … are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17,18). At the least, this text claims that Christ and Spirit have the same function, specifically, to liberate from the Law (2 Corinthians 3:1ff). In addition, the Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord who transforms God’s people into the image of His Son. Not only is the Spirit operative in transforming God’s people into Christlikeness, but the Spirit, and only the Spirit, enables God’s people to confess that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3).

The Spirit Is Ontological-Trinitarian

In contrast to the Old Testament, where there is no hypostatization of the Spirit, in the Lucan, Johannine, and Pauline pneumatologies, the Holy Spirit is fully personal. As we have seen (Paraclete, Volume 23, Number 2), Luke describes the Spirit in personal terms. Specifically, the Spirit speaks (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12), forbids (16:6), prohibits (16:7), and makes overseers of elders (20:28). In addition, the Spirit can be lied to (Acts 5:3), tested (5:9), and resisted (7:51). Moreover, the Spirit is the alter ego of Jesus; that is, the Spirit does in Acts what Jesus did in the Gospel. For example, just as Jesus commissioned the disciples to go and preach the kingdom of God, so does the Spirit (Luke 9:1,2; Acts 13:2–4); just as Jesus invested the disciples with power, so does the Spirit (Luke 9:1; Acts 1:8); just as Jesus directed the itinerary of the disciples, so does the Spirit (Luke 10:1; Acts 8:29; 10:19,20; 16:6–9); and just as Jesus gave the laws of the Kingdom, so does the Spirit (Luke 6:27–39; Acts 15:28,29).

For John, as well as for Luke, the Holy Spirit is fully personal. On the one hand, though the Greek noun pneuma is neuter in gender, John, violating the rules of grammar, frequently uses masculine pronouns in combination with the neuter noun (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). That this is ontological or a hypostatization of the Spirit, rather than a mere metaphorical personalization, is confirmed by another line of evidence—this coming from Jesus himself. “I will ask the Father,” Jesus assured His disciples, “and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16). Thus, as Jesus announced it, the Spirit is the Paraclete—a function which, by definition, can only be personal. Moreover, the Spirit is another (allos) Paraclete; that is, another of the same kind of Helper as Jesus himself is (compare 1 John 2:1). Because the Spirit is the alter ego of Jesus, both teach (John 7:14; 14:26), witness (8:14; 15:26), convince the world of sin (3:18–20; 16:8–11), do not speak of themselves (14:10; 16:13), are “in” the disciples (17:23; 14:17), are sent by the Father (14:24,26), and go forth from the Father (16:27; 15:26).5

For Paul, as well, the Spirit is fully personal. For example, in his great chapter in Romans on life in the Spirit (Romans 8), the Spirit functions as a person. Specifically the Spirit dwells (8:9), leads (8:14), bears witness (8:16), and helps and intercedes (8:26). Moreover, as a person, the Spirit has a mind (8:27) and teaches (1 Corinthians 2:13).

Furthermore, for Paul, as also for Luke and John, the Spirit is the alter ego of Jesus. For example, just as the believer is “in Christ” (Romans 8:1), the believer is also “in the Spirit” (8:9). Similarly, Christ and Spirit are each in the believer (8:8–10). In addition, both Jesus and the Spirit are the source of the life of the believer (1 Corinthians 15:45; Romans 8:11), intercede for the believer (8:34,26), and are the source of the believer’s righteousness, joy, and peace (Romans 5:1ff; 14:17).

Though much more evidence might be marshalled, this mustering of data, brief as it is, amply illustrates that in Pauline as well as in Lucan and Johannine pneumatology, the Spirit is fully personal.

Though it may be often incidental, and sometimes merely implied, the data about the Holy Spirit in the writings of Luke, John, and Paul which we have canvassed is, to use the terminology of the church fathers, trinitarian. Being revealed to them in personal categories, and having experienced the Spirit as the alter ego of Jesus, it could not be otherwise. These trinitarian intimations begin with the angelic annunciation to Mary about the Son she will conceive and give birth to (Luke 1:35), reappear at the baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:21,22; John 1:32), carry through to the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 1:3,4) and the subsequent gift of the Spirit to the disciples (Acts 2:33; John 15:26).

In addition to these trinitarian episodes there are several other trinitarianisms, including for example the “same Spirit … same Lord … same God” formula for the charismata (1 Corinthians 12:4–6), the benediction invoking the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:14), and the epistolary greeting, “From Him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:4,5). The significance of these and other trinitarianisms is that they come from men who, in the case of John and Paul at least, were lifelong monotheists. Yet all three witnesses, Luke, John, and Paul, not only knew that Jesus was divine, but also that the Holy Spirit was both fully personal and divine.

The Gift of the Spirit Is Vocational

Not only do Luke, John, and Paul portray the Spirit as Christological, personal, and, therefore, as a corollary, trinitarian, but in their own way they also portray the gift of the Spirit as vocational. In other words, for all three the Spirit is given to God’s people to equip them for service. We have already seen that in Luke’s Christology Jesus is a pneumatic. That is, from His conception by the Spirit (Luke 1:35) to the transfer of the Spirit from himself (the risen Lord and Christ) to the disciples, Jesus is uniquely and exclusively a Man of the Spirit. As a pneumatic, a Man of the Spirit, He is also a charismatic. In other words, He is anointed by the Spirit for ministry (Luke 3:22; 4:18), and empowered by the Spirit to make that ministry effective (4:14). As a pneumatic person, Jesus’ vocation is that of a charismatic prophet.

In Luke’s pneumatology, with the exception that the conception of Jesus is supernatural while that of the disciples is natural, the experience of the disciples parallels and is functionally equivalent to that of Jesus. From Pentecost onward they are also pneumatics, or men and women of the Spirit. In other words, just as the ministry of Jesus was inaugurated by the anointing by the Spirit, so the ministry of the disciples is inaugurated by the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Similarly, just as Jesus was empowered by the Spirit, so the disciples launch their ministry only when they too have been empowered by the Spirit. Clearly, just as Jesus was a charismatic prophet, so from Pentecost onward the disciples are a company of charismatic prophets. Therefore, for the disciples, as for Jesus earlier, the gift of the Spirit is vocational.

In spite of the obvious differences in genre and content between John and the historian Luke, John’s pneumatology is amazingly similar to Luke’s. In John, as well as in Luke, Jesus is a pneumatic, a Man of the Spirit. As John reports it, from Jesus’ baptism to the post-Resurrection transfer of the Spirit to the disciples, Jesus is uniquely and exclusively the bearer of the Spirit. Though John, like Luke, portrays Jesus as a pneumatic, in contrast to Luke, John does not portray Jesus as a charismatic. That is, he does not portray Jesus as a charismatic prophet, after the pattern of the charismatic prophets Elijah and Elisha, performing miracles in the power of the Spirit. In John, as in Luke, Jesus is a prophet, rather “the Prophet” (John 6:14), but not a charismatic. Significantly, in John, as well as in Luke, the disciples are pneumatic, or men of the Spirit. They became pneumatic when, after the Resurrection, Jesus appeared among them, breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Like Jesus himself, they are given the Spirit for mission—“as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). Not only are the disciples pneumatic, but they are also charismatic. As in Acts, because they have been commissioned and have received the Spirit, their mission or vocation is to bear witness to Jesus (John 15:26,27). In John, however, this charismatic mission is merely announced and not reported, because John has nothing equivalent to Luke’s second book, his Acts of the (charismatic) Apostles. In a real sense, Acts is as much a sequel to John’s Gospel as it is to Luke’s first book, which is his report of the charismatic Christ. Because he has nothing equivalent to Luke’s “Acts,” the nearest John comes to reporting any charismatic experience of the disciples is his oft-repeated autobiographical claim, “I was in the Spirit” (Revelation 1:10; cf. 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).

Because Paul does not write the story of the Jesus of history, as do both Luke and John, he lacks their pneuma—Christology. Nevertheless, he parallels their vocational pneumatology, both in his own experience and that of his converts. According to Luke’s report, he was filled with the Holy Spirit when the disciple Ananias visited the convert of just 3 days in Damascus (Acts 9:17). Having been tiled with the Holy Spirit Paul is numbered among the prophets and teachers at Antioch (13:1). Being subsequently sent into mission by the Spirit (13:4) Paul, the true prophet, opposes the false prophet, Bar-Jesus, at Paphos (13:9), is led by the Spirit (16:6,7; compare 20:22,23; 21:4,11), and is the agent by whom the disciples at Ephesus receive the Spirit (19:6).

As Luke reports it, Paul’s charismatic experience closely parallels that of Peter. In other words, just as Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit three times (Acts 2:4; 4:8,31), so is Paul (9:17; 13:9,52). Moreover, just as Peter is led by the Spirit (Acts 10:19,20), so is Paul (13:1,2, and others). Finally, just as Peter is the agent for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:15–17), so Paul is the agent for the Ephesians to receive the Spirit (19:6). From these parallels Luke intends his readers to understand that Paul’s charismatic experience and vocation is fully equal to that of Peter, the prophet of Pentecost.

As Luke portrays it in Acts, then, Paul’s experience of the Spirit is vocational-charismatic. Incidental autobiographical information in his epistles both confirms and supplements Luke’s portrait. For example, whereas Luke only reports that Paul was filled with the Spirit (Acts 9:17, and others), Paul tells us that, like the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, he spoke in tongues. He writes to the Corinthians: “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). Writing later to the same church he boasts: “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:12). These signs and wonders attested to his ministry, not only at Corinth, but everywhere Paul preached the gospel, “from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum.” This preaching of the gospel “in the power of signs and wonders,” moreover, is preaching “in the power of the Spirit” (Romans 15:19). It seems to be an inescapable conclusion that for Paul the only authentic apostolic ministry was one empowered by the Spirit.

Not only is Paul’s experience and vocation charismatic, but that of his converts is as well. Though neither Luke in Acts nor Paul in his epistles give any details, the Galatians had “begun by the Spirit,” that is, God had provided them with the Spirit and worked miracles among them (Galatians 3:5). Similarly, Paul reminds the Thessalonians, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Among the Thessalonians, in common with Christians from Pentecost onward, the reception of the Spirit resulted in prophetic utterance (1 Thessalonians 5:20). The Christians at Corinth lacked no gift (1 Corinthians 1:7), including the more spectacular gifts of the Spirit such as the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, the gifts of healing, the effecting of miracles, prophecy, the distinguishing of spirits, various kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:8–10). The Christians in Rome as well, Paul reminds them, have a variety of gifts, including the ubiquitous gift of prophecy (Romans 12:6ff).

Because, with the possible exception of his epistles to the churches at Rome and Ephesus, Paul’s letters are circumstantial, our knowledge of the charismatic experience of his converts is as incidental as it is of Paul’s own charismatic experience. In particular, we know so much about the experience of the Corinthians because of their misunderstanding of the gifts of the Spirit and their undisciplined excesses in the exercise of those gifts. Significantly, then, wherever the evidence is explicit the churches that Paul founded are charismatic in reality as well as in theory. And this is exactly what we would expect from reading about the ministry of this charismatic apostle to the Gentiles in the Acts.

Diversity In New Testament Pneumatology

The evidence we have canvassed in the writings of Luke, John, and Paul demonstrates a primary and fundamental unity in New Testament pneumatology. First and foremost for Luke, John, and Paul, the Holy Spirit has a Christological focus. Each of these writers also understands the Holy Spirit in personal terms. Consequently, each has an incipient trinitarian theology. Complementing this Christological focus, the Holy Spirit is given for vocation—Jesus is the charismatic Christ, and the disciples and their converts are a charismatic community in mission. In addition to this fundamental and pervasive unity of perspective on the Holy Spirit there is also a diversity of perspectives on the Holy Spirit among these leading witnesses to New Testament pneumatology. This diversity of perspectives relates more to each author’s terminology and to the range of activity each author assigns to the Holy Spirit in Christian experience than it does to their fundamental theology. The Christ event is the decisive factor in their unity of perspective on the Holy Spirit. In contrast, the diverse religious heritage of each author best explains the diversity of perspectives. Luke has a Septuagintal heritage. John reflects Nonconformist Judaism, and Paul was a converted Pharisee.

Diversity of Religious Background

As we have already seen, Luke’s history of the origin and spread of Christianity reflects a distinctively Septuagintal heritage. This Septuagintal influence includes genre. Luke-Acts is historical narrative and, in regards to genre, is closer to the histories of Israel, both sacred and secular (for example, 2 Maccabees), than to the literature of the New Testament. Both Luke’s Christology and his pneumatology have a pervasive Old Testament heritage. In particular, his charismatic motifs and his characteristic terminology echo the charismatic pneumatology of the Septuagint. Of course, there are significant differences between the pneumatology of the Septuagint and Luke-Acts. In the main, in Luke’s pneumatology the charismatic activity of the Holy Spirit is potentially universal, rather than limited to leaders, and is hypostatized—the Holy Spirit is fully personal. But these differences are developments rather than contradictions to or new directions of Septuagintal pneumatology. Therefore, Luke’s pneumatology reflects a Septuagintal heritage in a way that the pneumatology of John and Paul does not, in spite of their own indebtedness to the Old Testament.

Whereas the conceptual world of Luke is Septuagintal, the conceptual world of John is Nonconformist Judaism; that is, the Judaism which does not conform to Pharisaism. Of the four sects of Judaism about which Josephus writes, only Pharisaism survived the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 66–73 and became normative Judaism by default. The Sadduccees, the Essenes, and the Zealots—the political, the pietistic, and the revolutionary sects, respectively—all disappeared when the Romans reconquered the land and destroyed its institutions. John the Baptist, the Essenes, and other pietistic groups constituted what is best called Nonconformist Judaism. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls beginning in 1947 and their subsequent publication reveal another community of Nonconformists, probably of the Essene type. The Johannine literature has many affinities with this recently discovered library of the Qumran sectaries.

Stephen Smalley summarizes the numerous links between the Scrolls and John’s Gospel. He writes: “There are, to begin with, obvious literary parallels. These are particularly evident in the Manual of Discipline (or Community Rule), the best manuscript of which was discovered in cave 1; although they also exist in other documents from Qumran. The opening column of the Rule, for example, refers to ‘practising truth,’ and loving the ‘sons of light’ while rejecting the ‘sons of darkness,’ in a way that is reminiscent of the Fourth Gospel. Again, the concept of knowledge in association with the existence and activity of God, and man’s relationship to him, is present in both the Rule and John. Similarly, the Scrolls and the Fourth Gospel both contain references to the wisdom of God, and his enlightenment of the worshipper (and initiant) in answer to (covenant) faith. Even the title of the War Scroll (IQM), The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness (in Vermes, The War Rule), has a Johannine ring about it; although its apocalyptic content approximates more closely to the ethos of the Revelation than the Gospel of John.6

Of particular interest for our subject is the similarity of the “two-spirit” theology between Nonconformist Judaism and John. We read of this as early as the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. According to the Testament Judah admonished his children: “Know, therefore, my children, that two spirits wait upon man—the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (Judah, 20:l). Furthermore: “And the spirit of truth testifieth all things, and accuseth all; and the sinner is burnt up by his own heart and cannot raise his face to the judge” (Judah, 20:5). Similarly, in the Community Rule we read: “He (God) has created man to govern the world, and has appointed for him two spirits in which to walk until the time of his visitation: the spirits of truth and falsehood. Those born of truth spring from a fountain of light, but those born of falsehood spring from a source of darkness. All the children of righteousness are ruled by the Prince of Light and walk in the ways of light, but all the children of falsehood are ruled by the Angel of Darkness and walk in the ways of darkness.”7 Moreover, “the God of Israel and His Angel of Truth will succour all the sons of light.”8 All of this sounds very Johannine. Jesus promised the disciples: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth (John 14:16,17). When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me” (John 15:26). “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment. … But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:8,13).

To those who have received the “anointing” but who are nevertheless in danger from “antichrists” or “false prophets” John himself warns: ‘We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6).

Clearly, the Spirit-Paraclete in the Johannine literature echoes the “two-spirit” language in the literature of Nonconformist Judaism. This language is at the center rather than the periphery of Johannine pneumatology, in the same way that “filled with the Holy Spirit” and other terminology is at the center of Lucan pneumatology. Just as the latter is clearly Septuagintal, so the former belongs to the world of Nonconformist Judaism in general. Specifically, “John was familiar with Qumranic patterns of thought. … It is otherwise difficult to account for the proximity of John’s Gospel to the Scrolls, and for the fact that certain features in both afford a closer parallel than that which exists in any other Jewish or Greek non-Christian literature of the time or earlier. John’s relation to sectarian Judaism as exemplified by Qumran, then, helps to fill in the picture so far as the Jewish influence on his background is concerned.”9 This is not to suggest that the Johannine Spirit-Paraclete is derived from Qumran. It is merely to suggest that John shares a common background with this Nonconformist Judaism. Furthermore, we must not forget that, whether or not John had any personal contacts with Qumran, and as striking as the parallels between the two are, the chief influence on Johannine pneumatology is Christian and not Qumranian.

Paul’s religious heritage is radically different from Luke’s Septuagintal background and John’s Jewish Nonconformist heritage. In contrast to Luke and John, Paul was a converted Pharisee. For example, he reminds the Galatians: “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” (Galatians 1:13,14).

Similarly, he boasts about his former advantages in Judaism, which he now discounts in the light of Christ, when writing to the Philippians: “Circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5). While there are many differences among scholars about the impact of Paul’s Rabbinic background upon his theology, few would be so brash as to deny that Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, was formerly a fanatical Pharisee.

The subject of Paul and Pharisaic Judaism is massive and fully deserving of the majesterial treatment it receives, for example, in Paul and Rabbinic Judaism by W.D. Davies, and Paul and Palestinian Judaism by E.P. Sanders. For our purposes it must suffice to observe that just as Luke’s pneumatology echoes a Septuagintal background and John’s pneumatology echoes a Jewish Nonconformist heritage, so Paul’s pneumatology echoes his Rabbinic heritage. According to Davies, for the Rabbis on the one hand, “the experience of the Holy Spirit demanded membership in a certain kind of community,” and, on the other hand, “the Spirit could only be experienced in a fitting ‘age.’ ”10 Similarly, on the one hand, the most characteristic aspect of Paul’s pneumatology “is his emphasis on the Spirit as the source of Christian fellowship and unity.”11 The evidence for this is both obvious and ample. For example: “For Paul the Spirit is not only the life of the new man but of the New Israel, the Church. The latter is the Body of Christ and is animated by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13); the solidarity of all Christians with one another and with their Lord, through the one Spirit, is such that Christians as a Body no less than individuals constitute a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). It is wholly consonant with this that gifts of the Spirit are bestowed not for individual self-gratification but for the upbuilding or edification of the whole society of Christians (1 Corinthians 12:14f.).l2 Having surveyed the relevant Rabbinic and biblical data, Davies concludes: “[Paul’s] insistence on the essentially social nature of the Spirit’s activity falls into line with Rabbinic thought.“13 Furthermore, on the other hand Paul is “a Pharisee who believed that the Messiah had come.”14 We have seen earlier that for Paul the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ and will not repeat this data. To conclude: “The Pauline doctrine of the Spirit, then, is only fully comprehensible in the light of Rabbinic expectations of the Age to Come as an Age of Spirit and of the community of the Spirit.”15

To sum up, the pneumatology of Luke, John, and Paul is shaped by the Christ-event and their own subsequent and complementary experience of the Spirit. Moreover, the pneumatology of all three is rooted in the Old Testament revelation of the Spirit of God (though due to the constraints of time we have not discussed this in relationship to the pneumatology of John or Paul). Though the pneumatology of all three is shaped by Christ and rooted in the Old Testament revelation, it is mediated through the particular religious heritage of each author; namely, the Septuagint for Luke, Nonconformist Judaism for John, and Pharisaic Judaism for Paul. Herein, then, is the explanation for the unity and diversity in New Testament pneumatology. The unity derives from the common Christian experience of each author; the diversity lies in the way each author expressed this common Christian experience according to the canons and idioms of his particular theological heritage.

Diversity of the Spirit’s Roles

In addition to the diversity of religious background that impacted upon their respective pneumatologies, Luke, John, and Paul also assign a variety of roles to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This diversity of role is loosely related to a combination of factors such as: (1) their diversity of religious heritage, (2) the experience of each author, and (3) the authorial intent of each for his writings. The three primary roles for the Spirit are in the areas of service, salvation, and sanctification. We have already discovered that not only for Luke, but also for John and Paul, the gift of the Holy Spirit to God’s people is vocational in purpose and result. That is, it is charismatic—gifting them for service and empowering that service to make it effective. In respect to Christian vocation, the charismatic experience of God’s people parallels that of Christ. For John and Paul as well as for Luke, therefore, God’s people are a charismatic community. This dimension of the Spirit’s activity is the only one that is common to the pneumatology of all three.

While Luke describes the role of the Holy Spirit exclusively in terms of charismatic vocation or service, John describes it in terms of service, as we have seen, and also in terms of salvation. Thus, not only will the Spirit-Paraclete teach and succor the disciples, but the Spirit is also part of the salvation process. In this regard, the Spirit-Paraclete “when He comes,” Jesus announces to His disciples, “will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me” (John 16:8,9). Thus, the Spirit of Truth, who will come as Jesus’ alter ego, will give succor to the disciples and will bring conviction of sin to the world.

Moreover, the Spirit is the agent by whom the sinner is transformed into a disciple or believer. To the Pharisee, Nicodemus, Jesus announced: “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Further, for one to enter the kingdom of God, he must be “born of water and the Spirit” (3:5) because “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:6). Nicodemus is not to marvel that Jesus had said, “You must be born again” (3:7), for “the wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is every one who is born of the Spirit” (3:8). In salvation, then, the Spirit both convicts of sin and causes the sinner to be “born again” or born of the Spirit. In contrast to Luke’s pneumatology, then, in John’s pneumatology the Spirit has two roles: service and salvation.

Whereas Luke has but one dimension of the activity of the Spirit in his pneumatology, namely, service, and John has two, service and salvation, Paul has three dimensions: service, which he shares with both Luke and John; salvation, which he shares with John alone; and sanctification, which is his exclusive emphasis. In regard to the role of the Spirit and salvation, the Spirit initiates the salvation process; that is, it is through the agency of the Spirit that the individual is brought into the community of believers, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).16 As Paul points out to the Romans, if anyone does not possess the Spirit he actually does not belong to Christ, regardless of what he professes (Romans 8:9). Moreover, the Spirit’s actions in the salvation process include washing, sanctification, and justification (1 Corinthians 6:11). In writing to Titus Paul insists that salvation did not come on the basis of righteous acts which man performed but by the “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). The Spirit’s presence in the believer’s life is also the pledge or guarantee (arrabon) that the salvation process which began in regeneration, renewal, and incorporation, will be brought to completion (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14). With this hope, the Spirit is also the firstfruits (aparche) of final salvation (Romans 8:23), and the Christian is one who is sealed (sphragizo) until the time of God’s redemption (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13,14).

For Paul, the Spirit’s role is also to be seen in the sanctification of the believer. Sanctification speaks of dedication to God and entails a process by which a believer moves on to a life of holiness in his walk with God. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul writes that salvation comes through a belief in the truth and the sanctification of the Spirit. In this process of sanctification the fruit of the Spirit—the very character of Christ—is reproduced in the lives of the believers (Galatians 5:22,23).

This sanctification, which the Holy Spirit brings, has an ethical dimension. For example, Paul contrasts it with sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:1–8) and with the works of the flesh, such as immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, and many other sins, both social and religious (Galatians 5:19–21). Thus, those who have been made “saints” in salvation by the washing of the Spirit are to live saintly lives through the fruit of the Spirit.

To sum up, Luke, John, and Paul each has his own perspective on the roles of the Spirit. For all three, the Spirit is brought into relation to service. For John and Paul, the Spirit is brought into relation to salvation, and for Paul, the Spirit is brought into relation to sanctification. In other words, in Luke’s pneumatology, the Spirit has one role, in John’s pneumatology, the Spirit has two roles, and in Paul’s pneumatology, the Spirit has three roles. Thus, there is unity and diversity in the roles of the Spirit. Every interpretation which ignores where the unity lies and/or denies the diversity will distort Christian pneumatology in general, and either Luke’s, John’s, or Paul’s pneumatology in particular. Each author has his own distinctive pneumatology which must not be compromised for theological and ecclesiastical reasons.


1. Gordon D. Fee, “Hermeneutics and Historical Precedent—a Major Problem in Pentecostal Hermeneutics,” in Perspectives on the New Pentecostalism, edited by Russell P. Spittler (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), 128–129; “Acts—the Problem of Historical Precedent,” in How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 101.

2. John R.W. Stott, The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit (London: InterVarsity Press, 1964), 23.

3. James D.G. Dunn, Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Re-examination of the New Testament Teaching on the Gift of the Spirit in Relation to Pentecostalism Today. Studies in Biblical Theology, Second Series 15 (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1970), 55.

4. All Scripture quotations in this article are from the New American Standard Bible.

5. E. Schweizer, “Pneuma,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, VI, edited by Gerhard Friedrich, translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 442–443.

6. Stephen Smalley, John: Evangelist and Interpreter (Greenwood, S.C.: The Attic Press, Inc., 1978), 31.

7. Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Third Edition (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987), 64–65.

8. Ibid., 65.

9. Smalley, John, 66.

10. W.D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology, Revised Edition (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., 1967), 208.

11. Ibid., 201.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid., 207.

14. Ibid., 216.

15. Ibid., 217.

16. See David Demchuk, “Paul’s Experience of the Spirit: The Foundation of Pauline Pneumatology,” in The Holy Spirit in the Scriptures and the Church, edited by Roger Stronstad and Laurence M. Van Kleek (Clayburn, B.C.: Western Pentecostal Bible College, 1987), 20.

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