c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: A CHARISMATIC THEOLOGY

Friday, May 30, 2014


A viable Charismatic theology must place the person and work of the Holy Spirit at the center of God’s redemptive purposes in Christ.  The Trinitarian formula tells us that the Spirit is co-equal with the Father and the Son.  But unless we can discern its essential role in saving us the Spirit will forever remain on the periphery of Christian consciousness.

The Lord Jesus himself helps us to elevate the Spirit by a profound statement as follows:


Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31-32 ESV; see also Mark 3:28-30 and Luke 12:10)

Why would Jesus say such a thing, for it might indicate that the Spirit is more important than Jesus, who died for us, or the Father, who sent him?

The answer to that question lies within the immediate context of the passage.  Jesus went around casting out demons.  The effects of that and other miracles were astounding to the people, who began to follow the Lord in great numbers.  The religious establishment was jealous of his popularity.  What they did next, though, was truly outrageous.  They attributed the miraculous power of Jesus to the devil, calling good evil and evil good.

The greatest evidence of Jesus’ divinity, then, was maligned in order to cut people off from Jesus.  But it also cut them off from the saving power of God.


Jesus and the Father are one and two steps removed from the salvation experience of the people.  Jesus was another person, so once removed.  The Father was in heaven, an infinite distance away.  But the Spirit was doing the work by actually touching the folk, entering in to clean out the house of the soul and to heal the dis-eased body.  The Spirit is the most immediate and intimate of persons of the Trinity.  Disrupt the work of the Spirit and saving grace does not occur.

To our knowledge Jesus never used the word grace.

The first to use it in the Biblical narrative was Peter, to whom was given the keys of the kingdom.  He used the word grace at the council in Jerusalem when the apostolic leaders decided what to do about Paul’s Gentile converts.  Should they become proselyte Jews by circumcision or are they already incorporated?  Peter concluded deliberations by saying God saves the Gentiles by grace just like the Jewish converts to Christ are saved.

What was Peter describing when he said they were saved by grace?  The answer is clear:


“And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:8-11 ESV)


The assembly understood exactly what Peter meant:

And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. (Acts 15:12 ESV)


Paul began to use grace in his polemical arguments against his Jewish detractors, who apparently continued to resist the Spirit’s work.  When they had some success in Galatia Paul wrote to them:


Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Galatians 3:2-6 ESV)


Beginning by the Spirit, being supplied with the Spirit, and the miraculous operation of the Spirit is what Paul called in 1:6 the grace of the Lord Jesus, which he contrasts with another or false gospel based on proselyte Jewish circumcision.


And then in order to refute the circumcision party Paul provides an interpretation of an Old Testament passage that depends on the work of the Holy Spirit:


Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:11-14 ESV)


Notice that the promise of Abraham given to Christians is not land or riches or children or protection from enemy nations.  It is the Spirit given to Christians that fulfills the Old Testament prophecies.  That phenomenon of changing Old Testament temporal blessings to the work of the Holy Spirit is called spiritualization.  It is confirmed in two passages to follow:


“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13 ESV)


One could easily conclude from this passage that the Holy Spirit is all a Christian needs.  But further, this passage sums up the entire religious practice of a Christian:


“The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24 ESV)


The woman at the well had been arguing with Jesus about the proper place for temple worship, whether in Samaria or Jerusalem.  Though Jesus defended Judaism, he predicted a new way to worship God.


What did it look like?


We have two clues in the books of the New Testament, both of which testify to a central role for the Holy Spirit.


They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. (Acts 2:42-43 ESV)


If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Corinthians 14:23-25 ESV)


Paul continues to describe in the chapter cited just above that a Christian church service is a place for people to exercise their spiritual gifts.  In that, again, we see the presence of God meeting people’s personal needs in a miraculous way because of the activity of the Holy Spirit.


But notice the goal of a Spirit-filled church service above.  The effect is that an unbeliever will be convicted and called to account.  What he knows about God’s holiness will be confirmed because in the moral assessment he will find the true presence of God.


At the Jerusalem council Peter indicated the same thing, noting that when God poured out the Spirit on Cornelius’ household it was a cleansing of the heart by faith.  This speaks to the sanctifying work of the Spirit, washing away sin and setting us on the path to Christian perfection in love.


These categories bring us back to the law, for it is law that defines what is sin and righteousness.  What is the law of God in the spiritualized religion of Christianity?

It is not outward circumcision of the flesh, as the Jerusalem council determined, but a spiritual circumcision of the heart. Notice a reference, again, to the Spirit:


For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 ESV; see also 2 Corinthians 3)


In Romans 7 Paul explains that the law makes sense to our rational minds.  We know that the law is holy, righteous, good, and spiritual.  We want to keep it but find another law at work in our physical flesh, in which dwells no good thing.  We are profoundly frustrated by our inability to keep the law.

But there is hope!  The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).



A fully-functioning Charismatic theology will teach people to accept what the law envisions; the requirement of spiritualized righteousness can be fulfilled by those that walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:13-17 ESV)


In conclusion, there is further hope not unrelated to the one just expressed.  Saving grace is a personal, direct, and life-changing encounter with God in Christ through his Spirit.  But personal righteousness, infused and inspired by the Spirit, can lead to ecclesiastical integrity, that is, the Spirit of unity and bond of peace.  Traditional, Evangelical, Holiness, and Pentecostal people do not always see eye-to-eye.  Each appropriates what they want of belief in the Spirit.  But even those that have a robust doctrine of the Spirit hesitate to bring the Third Person of the Trinity fully into the center of the circle.  A true appreciation for the Spirit can tear down walls and bring us into Christian unity, for the Spirit does all the good that the various groups say.

Let us unite, for there is “one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV)

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