The Extravagence of Pentecost

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. ( John 14: 16-18)
“I do not think there is any other world religion that speaks as boldly about the presence of the divine with the believer as the Christian faith. At the heart of Christianity is a relationship. The ethical demands of Christianity are not the foundation of the Christian religion; a relationship with God is. God has promised to be with us.” Tim Lane, Living without Worry: How to replace anxiety with peace

Summary of Gaffin’s argument against Continuing Prophecy and Tongues in the Church

Perspective on Pentecost So, here is my attempt to summarize Dr. Gaffin’s argument for cessationism as found in his book  (pp. 89-116). Keep in mind #1: I have summarized in 350 words what he said over the course of 29 pages. So, all I included was his conclusions, not his exegetical argument for each point. If you want the exegesis and his reasoning, you’ll have to read the book. #2: a hazard of providing such a brief summary is that, despite my best efforts, I may be guilty of over-simplified statements or unhelpfully vague statements (all which concerns could be addressed by reading the book!). Anyway, without further ado:
  1. The Apostolic office was temporary, and thus so are the elements of the church’s life that are integrally related to the office of apostle.
  2. That element that was integrally related to the apostolic office (and was temporary) was their revelatory witness to Christ that served to lay the foundation of the church. That foundation has been laid.
  3. Ephesians 2:20 speaks of others sharing in this apostolic work of revelatory witness. They are “the prophets.” These prophets are New Covenant-era Christian who had the gift of prophecy. According to Eph. 2:20 that prophetic gift was given for the specific purpose of laying the foundation of the church. That foundation-laying work has been accomplished, thus the gift of prophecy has completed its function and passed away, along with the office of apostle and gifts related to it.
  4. Meanwhile, speaking in tongues according to 1 Cor. 14:22 is a sign against unbelievers. They are signs of God’s judgment against unbelief by making the word of God unintelligible to those in rebellion against God at the crucial point of laying the foundation of the new covenant church. They are analogous to Jesus’ use of parables which were for hardening some hearts and softening others. Being tied to the foundational labors of the apostles, tongues too have passed away.
  5. It is stretching 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 beyond its intention to read it as if it is trying to explain how long tongues and prophecy will continue with the church. The point of the passage is the transient nature of our knowledge now. The reality is even Scripture is a word-gift given to the church during this transient time. Yet we certainly don’t believe that God is perpetually adding new inspired Scripture to the canon throughout this transient time. Similarly, one can’t assume that because tongues and prophecy were given for transient times that God is continuing to give more and more. He hasn’t with Scripture, why assume he would with prophecy or tongues?
  6. The best place to go to understand how the gifts of the Spirit play out after the time of the apostles is to consult those New Testament books that speak explicitly to life after the time of the apostles: the Pastoral epistles. These univocally point the church to Scripture as its guiding source of knowledge after the apostles have died.

Epochal Elucidations: Once More, What is Pentecost?

Perspective on Pentecost “The controlling point in the position taken here is that Pentecost is to be understood first of all as part of the once-for-all accomplishment of redemption (historia salutis) rather than as a part of its ongoing, continual application (ordo salutis). Obviously the two are intimately related and inseparable, but they must not be confused. To do so necessarily jeopardizes the absolute sufficiency and finality of Christ’s work. As I have already tried to show, the baptism with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is a unique event of epochal significance in the history of redemption. Therefore it is no more capable of being repeated or serving as a model for individual Christian experience than are the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, with which it is so integrally conjoined as part of a single complex of events (see again Acts 2:32f.).” Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost: The New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, pg. 22.

Epochal Elucidations: What is Pentecost?

Perspective on Pentecost “Pentecost is nothing less than the establishment of the church as the new covenant people of God, as the body of Christ. The Spirit given at Pentecost constitutes the body of Christ as a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:22), as the temple of God in which the Spirit of God dwells (1 Cor. 3:16). Accordingly, all who have been incorporated into that Spirit-baptized body and have a place in it share in the gift of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).” Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost: New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, pg. 21

The Spirit and Christ, Christ and the Spirit

Perspective on Pentecost“In saying that Christ is life-giving Spirit in the sense of the Holy Spirit [1 Cor. 15:45], Paul is not introducing Trinitarian confusion. Essential, eternal, innertrinitarian relationships are outside his purview here. Rather his perspective is historical. He is speaking about what Christ became in his identity as the last Adam and second man (v. 47). The oneness or unity in view is economic, functional, eschatological. Paul’s point is that by virtue of his exaltation (resurrection and ascension), Christ as last Adam and second man, has come into such permanent and complete possession of the Spirit that the two are equated in their activity. The two are seen as one, as they have been made one in the eschatological work of giving life to the church, that life which has its visible ‘firstfruits’ in Christ’s own resurrection.” Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost: The New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, pg. 18-19.

One Way to Sum Up the Work of Christ

Perspective on Pentecost “At Pentecost it is Jesus who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. In fact, the work of Christ in its entirety may be said to consist in securing and communicating to the church at Pentecost the gift (baptism) of the Holy Spirit.” Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost: New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Spirit, pg. 14.

Epochal Elucidations: Why Pentecost Matters…

Perspective on Pentecost“The New Testament, then, provides a dramatic, historical perspective basic to understanding the work of the Spirit. It is fair to say that everything said in the New Testament about the Spirit’s work looks forward or traces back to Pentecost; everything pivots on Pentecost (along with the death and resurrection of Christ).” Richard Gaffin, Perspective on Pentecost: New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, pg. 14

BW COMMENT: So, whenever you read in the New Testament something about the Spirit working in you, realize this passage could not have happened if it weren’t for Pentecost in Acts 2 (and that couldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God).

Sinai/Pentecost Parallels

“By the time of the first century, the Day of Pentecost seems to have been associated with the giving of the law at Sinai. By the time of the second century, this was thought to have taken place in the seventy languages of the world, and this tradition may have already been commonplace. But even if that association in Judaism is questioned, a Sinai-Pentecost parallel is established in the New Testament itself. The revelation of God to Moses at Sinai had been accompanied by fire, wind and a divine tongue (Heb. 12:18-21). Moses had ascended the mountain. When he descended he had in his possession the Ten Commandments, the law of God. Christ too had recently ascended. At Pentecost he comes down, not with the law written on tablets of clay, but with the gift of his own Spirit to write the law in the hearts of believers and by his power to enable them to fulfil the law’s commands. Thus the new covenant promise begins to be fulfilled (cf. Je. 31:31-34; Rom. 8:3-4; 2 Cor. 3:7-11)” (Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, 61).

After reading this passage the other day, I thought of another interesting parallel between Sinai and Pentecost: the reception of God’s revelation. At Sinai, Israel ‘responds’ to God’s law with rebellion; they create a golden calf in direct contradiction of the law they had received. Moses sent the Levites, with sword in hand, to purge Israel of this rebellion. We are told in Exodus 32:28 that three thousand men fell that day. Interestingly, at Pentecost we read that the number who believingly received God’s word was about three thousand (Acts 2:41). Three thousand slain at Sinai because the mere external word of the law had no effect in their hearts; three thousand saved at Pentecost because the Spirit was poured out, causing God’s external word to penetrate into the heart of man (Acts 2:37).