The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke

Back in December, I posted a book review about a recent book I had read on pneumatology, that is, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It was entitled, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts: In the New Testament Church and Today by Max Turner, professor at London School of Theology. The book must be one of the more modern better books on pneumatology.

At the same time, I was reading through another pneumatological title, The Charismatic Theology of St Luke by Roger Stronstad. I had dipped into this book in the past, but this time I started back at the beginning and read through it fully.

To start out, one of the pluses of the book is that it is a mere 83 pages. Now, of course, one might say, ‘Only 83 pages as an academic work. Are you sure it’s good?’

Well, I am quite aware of the fact that all things cannot be covered in a 300+ page book, like Turner’s, much less an 83-page book. But I was quite intrigued that Stronstad was able to faithfully look at quite a few things in such a shorter work. He was even pulling in references from various sources, including quite a few intertestamental writings as he looked at some later-BC Judaistic views of the Spirit.

Stronstad is a Pentecostal scholar, so I would tend to agree with a lot of things he has put forth in the work. But I would also couple that with stating that he is quite balanced in his approach.

Yes, he does believe the baptism, or initial filling of the Spirit, can be received following salvation-initiation. But I do not believe he is one to argue too far over the top, stating that this is the only way. He even ends out in his final chapter with some practical and pastoral challenges such as 1) not seeing tongues as the initial evidence of receiving the Spirit or that 2) we steer clear of a two-tier class of Christianity. Both are not biblically warranted, to which I agree.

There are three major and important contributions in Stronstad’s work that I point out in this article:

1) He shows the strong connection between the infancy-inauguration of Luke’s Gospel with the Pentecost initiation narrative of Acts. Stronstad states:

‘In the structure of Luke-Acts, the Pentecost narrative stands in the same relationship to the Acts as the infancy-inauguration narratives do to the Gospel. In the Gospel of Luke these narratives not only introduce the motifs which define the mission of Jesus, but they also show that Jesus will execute His mission in the power of the Holy Spirit. In a similar manner, the Pentecost narrative introduces both the future mission of the disciples and the complementary empowering of the Spirit.’ (p49)

He also makes this statement just a few pages earlier in regards to the parallel accounts of Luke’s narrative Gospel and Luke’s narrative of Acts:

‘The Gospel [of Luke] is the story of Jesus, the unique charismatic Prophet; the Acts is the story of His disciples, a community of charismatic prophets.’ (p34)

No wonder Stronstad would later publish the book, The Prophethood of All Believers, of which I also wrote an article about here.

2) Stronstad also shows how Luke must be considered both historian and theologian, not simply historian. This is not always accepted in biblical-scholarly circles. But doing so will be of great help to us as we consider a full and holistic biblical pneumatology. He makes this important statement in his work:

‘Consequently, just as the recognition that Luke is a theologian as well as a historian makes Luke-Acts a legitimate data base for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, so the recognition that Luke is independent of Paul will broaden the New Testament data base for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. To recognize these two facts is to rehabilitate Luke as a historian-theologian of the Holy Spirit and to allow him to make a significant, unique, and independent contribution to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.’ (p11)

He, then, goes on to challenge our thinking with these words:

‘On the one hand, where it is appropriate, all parties in the current debate must abandon those largely self-serving methodological programs which conspire to either silence or to manipulate Luke’s distinctive theology. On the other hand, all parties must develop a methodological consensus for interpreting the gift of the Spirit in Luke-Acts. At a minimum, this consensus must include the following principles: 1) Luke-Acts is theologically homogeneous, 2) Luke is a theologian as well as a historian, and 3) Luke is an independent theologian in his own right.’ (p12)

3) Connected to the last point, Stronstad also emphasises that Luke and Paul have different emphases in their pneumatology. Of course, their theology is to be harmonized as part of the whole of Scripture’s teaching. Yet, within Paul’s writings, we continually read of the soteriological necessity of the Spirit, which sees the work of the Spirit as bringing people into sonship with God and incorporating them into the body of Christ. But, in Luke, the Spirit is recognised as the Spirit of prophecy that empowers God’s people for mission and service.

And we see this as we compare the use of certain phrases in both Luke and Paul. Interestingly enough, Luke uses the phrase, ‘baptised in the Spirit’, 3 times while Paul only uses it once. Even more, Luke uses the phrase, ‘filled with the Spirit’, 9 times of which Paul only refers to it once as well. Maybe Luke will help inform our pneumatology a little more than we had first thought.

Thus, we see that Stronstad puts forth the arguement that Luke’s pneumatology is about the Spirit being given for witness and service. Hence, why he would argue that the Spirit, from a Lukan-charismatic perspective, could be received post-salvation. He states:

‘If we have interpreted Luke’s Pentecost narrative correctly, then the gift of the Spirit is not for salvation, but it is for witness and service. In other words, with the transfer of the Spirit to the disciples on the day of Pentecost, they become a charismatic community, heirs to the earlier charismatic ministry of Jesus.’ (p62)

Therefore, with anyone wanting to studying biblical pneumatology, especially a Lukan pneumatology, though this book is short and from a more Pentecostal-charismatic perspective, I do think it is worth diving into. For me, I definitely appreciated the work. But may be I am a little biased as a charismatic.

12 thoughts on “The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke

  1. Pingback: Seven Reasons Why I Believe the Gifts of the Spirit Still Exist Today | The Prodigal Thought

  2. Pingback: Seven Reasons Why I Believe the Gifts of the Spirit Still Exist Today « Cornerstone International Church

  3. Thanks for the review!

    While we study Luke in addition to Paul, let’s also not leave John’s writing out of our pneumatology. Regarding the Bible’s narrative writings, there is indeed both history and theology. Acts is narrative, as opposed to didactic, yet narrative can be a very effective way to convey doctrine.

    Having not read the book yet, I am curious — if tongues is not _the_ initial evidence of the Spirit infilling — I am curious as to what other biblical mention of an initial, physical evidence the author points. Luke tells in various places that the believers spoke with tongues when filled with the Spirit (such as Acts 2, 10, 19). In Acts 8 he carefully conveyed that there was clearly an outward sign (or initial physical evidence) without saying what it was. To claim it was anything other than what he supplied in Acts 2, 10, and 19 (i.e. tongues), seems baseless and rather misses the point (which I interpret to be, don’t make it such that we have to state this always before the reader deems it to be normative).

    Luke clearly (especially in Acts 8, but also elsewhere) describes and allows a space of time, or distance (“event wise”), between the moment of repentant faith and the moment of Spirit infilling. However, that does not necessarily mean we can say the moment of full or completely effected salvation is to be reckoned as the former and not the latter. Looking away from Luke to John, we read (3:3-5) of Jesus stating that the new birth (of the water and Spirit) is essential for salvation. From the Pentecostal perspective, this seems to tie directly with Luke’s inspired record of Peter’s inspired proclamation (in answer to the question “what shall we do?”) commanding both repentance and _water_ baptism with the promise that such obedience would result in _Spirit_ baptism (Acts 2:38).

    Going back to John again (7:37-39) we read that the flow of the living water (Spirit) out of the believer’s innermost being is (1) intended for all who believe, and (2) was later interpreted by John (as it was written post-Pentecost) as a promise of the soon-to-come Pentecostal experience of the infilling with evidence (tongues), as v. 39 says: “(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)”

    Disconnecting the Spirit infilling (1) from being essential and therefore from being biblically normative, and (2) from the stated experience’s only initial evidence that is biblically mentioned, seems to undo what Luke/Peter accomplished when Luke recorded Peter directly associating the experienced fulfillment (with its evidence; what the crowd both saw and heard) with the ancient prophet’s promise of the New Covenant Spirit outpouring (Joel 2, quoted by Peter in Acts 2 as having been fulfilled in their ears and before their eyes). Luke’s inspired record shows that Peter was inspired of the Spirit to emphasize “and they shall prophesy” (added after the quote of Joel) as an effect of the promised outpouring. Prophesy literally means to speak under the unction of the Spirit, and in this context, it is fulfilled by speaking with tongues. They prophesied (spoke with tongues) as the sign of the outpouring of the Spirit having happened.

    My position, regarding both pneumatology and soteriology, is that the Spirit baptism is essential, _and_ there is a normative experience with an established initial evidence. We are not to say that tongues (evidence) is essential, but clearly we are to say the Spirit infilling is essential. _And_ there is a norm conveyed in the narrative.

    As an analogy, where there is smoke there is fire. The Spirit outpouring is the fire. The evidence (smoke) is the tongues. The smoke may not be essential, but the fire is, and where there is smoke there is fire. Or to put it another way, where there is fire, smoke is seen and smelled.

    • I would have to respectfully disagree that to claim the signs and wonders of Acts 8 cannot be implied tongues. Realize that it is here simon the sorcerer is so intrigued by these signs and wonders he is willing to pay for them. I don’t think a magician of his status would want to pay for the ability to speak other languages, as someone of his status would probably already know a few. No I think what has caught his attention is clearly not the spoken language but miricles of another nature.

      • Brian –

        I am confused. It seems in your first sentence that you are suggesting that the evidence is tongues. Then reading on, it seems that what is being experienced by the Samaritans is not tongues. Can you clarify?

      • Sorry Scott I didn’t make that very clear. I was responding to Pastor Dougs statement, “Luke tells in various places that the believers spoke with tongues when filled with the Spirit (such as Acts 2, 10, 19). In Acts 8 he carefully conveyed that there was clearly an outward sign (or initial physical evidence) without saying what it was. To claim it was anything other than what he supplied in Acts 2, 10, and 19 (i.e. tongues), seems baseless and rather misses the point”
        My view is that tongues cannot necessarily be implied in Acts 8 because Simon would have no reason to want to pay for another language. With his status and the works he already had used to become such a promanent person, the signs and wonders he would have seen must have been something more significant than another language. Hope that helps.

  4. Hi Doug-

    Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I, too, believe that, from a Lukan perspective, Spirit-baptism for empowering is essential. This is distinguished from Paul’s emphasis on the reception of the Spirit for new birth. We need the Spirit for new birth and we need the Spirit’s baptism (or Luke uses other phrases like “filling”) for empowered service.

    As for initial evidence, I do believe God confirms such a baptism-filling with the Spirit. But I would say there are varying manifestations, with tongues being one of them, but not the only one. I would say that all types of Spirit-inspired speech are given to believers. I share more in this article – http://bit.ly/xl7jco.

    • “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Cor 12:13) — Paul’s inspired statement indicates that it is those who are _baptized_ by the Spirit who are in the one body, placed there by the baptism. The distinction between “Spirit for salvation” and “Spirit baptism for empowerment in witnessing” seems artificial. Can it be proved from scripture? Luke’s inspired narrative (for example, see Acts 8), shows the Spirit does not automatically come at the moment of repentant faith, nor at the moment of baptism in Christ’s name, nor without a discernible, immediate outward evidence. He does not describe the yet-to-be-baptized (i.e. yet-to-be-filled) believers at Samaria as having the Spirit for salvation while not yet being baptized. He simply indicated they did not yet have the Spirit: “the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16). When we divorce ourselves from a non-biblical norm that surrounds us, and open ourselves to what the scriptures prescribe as the proper norm, we find that the Spirit comes upon believers at the moment of being baptized or filled with the Spirit. That constitutes the Spirit’s approach for both salvation and empowerment for witnessing.

  5. Doug –

    You said: The distinction between “Spirit for salvation” and “Spirit baptism for empowerment in witnessing” seems artificial.

    I’d encourage you to read Stronstad’s book, or any solid book on Lukan pneumatology (like I. Howard Marshall’s) and you will see that Luke has a different emphasis from Paul. They harmonise in the bigger picture. But they also complement each other. Luke has a focus of receiving the Spirit for empowered service and gifting – evangelism, apostolic mission, Spirit-inspred speech. Read Luke’s Gospel and notice his emphasis on the Spirit’s work in Jesus’ life. Then read Acts and notice the emphasis of the Spirit’s work in the church’s life. It is all for empowered acts of service for God’s kingdom. It is not about salvation. The life of the church in Acts mirrors the life of Jesus in the Gospel. Volume 2 mirrors Volume 1.

    You said: When we divorce ourselves from a non-biblical norm that surrounds us, and open ourselves to what the scriptures prescribe as the proper norm

    That’s just it. The Scripture is describing what was happening in their midst. Whether we want to argue what is normative or not normative, the Scripture is describing what happened in various settings of those who received the Spirit with power, the baptism of the Spirit. Some received it before water baptism, some received it after. Some received it with speaking in tongues, others prophesied and spoke in tongues, others praised.

    I suppose what you think is normative is because of what you see, not because you can quote a few proof-texts. The Scripture shows us that, though we might argue a particular case for what is ‘normative’, the norm can be broken. As the Puritans referred to the Holy Spirit, he is a Wild Goose. Aslan is no tame lion.

    • Thanks for being so kind in willingness to discuss this here. Since we seem to be talking _at_ each other instead of _to_ each other, let me try again.

      > Paul used “baptized by the Spirit” when speaking about _salvation_.

      > Luke did not write that the Spirit _baptism_ had not come upon the believers, he simply said the Spirit had not come.

      Even if we grant for argument’s sake that Paul addressed salvation while Luke addressed empowerment, still that does not respond to the facts that:

      > Paul’s language does not support a different event of the Spirit other than baptism.

      > Luke’s language does not permit a different, prior function of the Spirit upon the believers other than baptism.

      When we find a disconnect between a scholar’s views in a modern book and the actual meanings of the inspired words of scripture, we would do well to stay with the scriptures.

      I can refer you to well written books, such as The New Birth by David K. Bernard. But just as ‘their’ scholar won’t convince you, so also ‘their’ scholar won’t convince me. What is needed to see the words of scripture and be guided. Words have meaning. God used words to convey meaning to us. 🙂

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