In a previous post that I have written today regarding the Holy Spirit there was a short discussion between Joseph Landlaw and myself where I wrote that I deny the doctrine of initial evidence. In response to this he asked three questions that I thought could only be answered with a full blog post . For those who are unfamiliar with this doctrine it is characteristic of Pentecostal soteriology. It argues that the Holy Spirit is an essential aspect of New Covenant salvation and one knows that the Holy Spirit has united with the believer when the believer speaks in tongues. While I affirm that the Holy Spirit is an essential soteriological reality I deny that one does not have the Spirit unless glossolalia has been experienced. Since Joseph is a Pentecostal he asked me the following three question which I am answering the best I can through the medium:
(1) [If faith is when the Spirit enters] would the apostle’s have had the Spirit before the day of Pentecost since they did have faith in Jesus?
No. It is apparent that both the Lukan and Johannine understanding of the New Covenant experience of the Spirit demand the ascension of Christ take place (see Jn. 7.37-29; Acts 1.9-11; 2.1-13). Paul affirms this as he argues that when the man Jesus resurrected he became one with the Spirit to the point where he now is the one who gives believers the Spirit so we can become like him (see 1 Cor. 15.42-49 and Rom. 8.1-17). So if we ask this answer this question from Lukan, Johnannine, and Pauline perspective it is evident that the Spirit did not do his work until Christ’s work was completed which includes the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.
I contend that from all three perspectives the Spirit is part of our being saved but not just because we have to have some experience to go to heaven rather than hell. Instead, we must be united with the Spirit of God to be resurrected from the dead. In Genesis 2.7 the difference between the adam and the adamah is the breath of God. The Psalmist understood this to refer to the Spirit of God who sustains all creation (see Ps. 104.28-30) as did the prophet Ezekiel (see 37.1-10). If humans do not have the Spirit death is inevitable (see Gen. 6.3 where God shortens the life span of humans by withdrawing his Spirit). It is because of the Spirit of God that believers with resurrect and all creation will be set free (see Romans 8, esp. 11, 18-23.
What are we to do with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, so forth and so on. I think they “receive” the Spirit at the resurrection. The major difference between the Old Covenant and New Covenant interaction with the Spirit is that the resurrecting Spirit of the eschaton is experienced now by New Covenant believers. The Spirit is not something you must check off as an obscure experience to get out of hell; it is how we reunite with God so we can conquer death! This is why in Paul could see our “inner man” being redeemed already while out outer man waits for full redemption (see Eph. 1-3; cf. 2 Cor 4.16). What Paul means by this is we experience as a “down payment”–which is language he uses in reference the Spirit throughout his epistles–of internal redemption while waiting for external redemption which is to occur at the resurrection. For Old Covenant believers this whole process occurs at the eschaton. We experience one half of it early. We are a preview of the world to come in this age. The Spirit is essentially an eschatological category.
To this I am sure Joseph says “amen” but I want to emphasize that many Pentecostal groups don’t say why the Spirit saves. If you see it is as something that must be experienced and can only be experienced if you speak in tongues you miss Paul’s Pneumatology altogether. This “already, but not yet” was only made possible when Jesus united humanity to the Spirit through his death, burial, resurrection, and ascention.
(2) Why did the Samaritans not have the Spirit, even though they accepted the gospel and were even baptized?
There are two things we must note here: (a) Luke’s Pneumatological language differs from Paul’s. They say similar things but not the same things. (b) There is a literary point to the conversion narratives where people speak in tongues or other signs and wonders occur.
This literary thesis is set forth in Acts 1.8 when Jesus is quoted saying “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” This is exactly the geographical-Pneumatological line Luke follows. The Spirit falls in Jerusalem first and it has a certain set of accompanied actions (2.1-13); it occurs in Samaria only when Peter and John are there to “witness” it in 8.14-24; it occurs amongst the Gentiles (beginning to go to the “uttermost parts”) only when Peter is there to “witness” it in 10.34-48.
Why must Peter “witness” the Spirit being poured out the same way upon Samaritans and Gentiles as it was poured out on Jews? To set a model for every individual conversion? No. Otherwise how do we explain the Ethiopian Eunich in 8.25-40 who is converted by doesn’t experience these things or the jailer who is merely baptized at Paul’s command in 16.30-40 or Paul’s own conversion in 9.1-19? Rather, these forms were for Peter to see “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality” (10.34)!
Why is it important for Peter to be a witness? At the Acts 15 Council it is the testimony of Peter than leads to the decision to include Gentiles into the people of God as Gentiles. In 15.8 Peter says that all are equal because he saw the Spirit fall on Gentiles just like it did not the Jews in Jerusalem. He does not say this is a conversion pattern for every individual; he sees it as the opening of the doors of the kingdom to Samaritans and then Gentiles as all equal with Jews. So don’t be mislead to think Luke disagrees with Paul and he sees every individual lacking these experiences as lacking the Spirit. Rather, he uses “Spirit-filled” language to discuss group conversions.
(3) Finally, why would Paul ask the Ephesian believers (Disciples of John) as the TNIV and ESV put it, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
I will note that in 19.1-7 this is again a group conversion, not the conversion of an individual so there must be a socio-religious dynamic to it. I think this is supported by John’s emphasis of the secondary status of John the Baptist in the first chapter of the Fourth Gospel. But besides that when he says “…when you believed” and they said they hadn’t heard of any Holy Spirit it led Paul to discover they had been baptized unto John. Once they were baptized unto Jesus they received the Spirit and Luke’s argument is that even the disciples of John are welcomed into Christ’s kingdom because even those who have missed Christ by continuing to follow John can now come into the kingdom just like the others.
Can you use this passage to teach that glossolalia can be a normative experience or an acceptable experience? Yes. Can you teach it as a dogmatic, necessary experience? No. To do so ignores Luke’s primary argument that Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles–and even those who have continued to rival the disciples of Jesus by remaining disciples of John–can all come into the Kingdom. The Spirit did a special act to validate all groups.
So to make it clear, I denounced the doctrine of initial evidence because I don’t find it in Paul and I think it can only be found in Luke if you misunderstand his “group conversion” fulfillment of 1.8 as the prototype for individual conversions while ignoring that his actual individual conversion narratives look nothing like the group conversions.
For my full treatment see the series I wrote on “The Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts” here. I guarantee that if anything in this rambling post is unclear one of those posts has the answer. If not, let me know how I can clarify.