The Holy Spirit 6: The power to speak with boldness

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I argued with respect to Pentecost that the outpouring of the Spirit was interpreted by Peter as an eschatological rather than ecclesiological phenomenon. It was a sign—not least because the Spirit was experienced as a power to speak prophetically—that a time of crisis was approaching, from which only those Jews who called on the name of the Lord would be saved. This is a straightforward extension of Jesus’ own prophetic proclamation to Israel. The Spirit is received as the power to bear witness to the resurrection (Acts 1:8), to proclaim the mighty eschatological works of God to Jews of the diaspora (Acts 2:11), to foresee the judgment that was coming on Israel (Acts 2:17-18), and to declare to the rulers of Israel that the people could be saved from destruction only through Jesus (Acts 4:8-12).

This brings us to an incident that took place after the release of Peter and John, following their interrogation by the Council. They go to their friends and report what had happen. The disciples lift their voices together to God in prayer, after which the place was shaken, and they were all “filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:24-31).

A couple of things to note…

First, they make reference to something that was spoken by David “by the Holy Spirit”—the opening lines of Psalm 2. Even the Gentiles conspire against YHWH and his anointed king, but God will give the nations to his son as a heritage, and he will rule over them. The Holy Spirit, therefore, speaks into the eschatological crisis: the Jews and the Gentiles oppose Israel’s God, but sooner or later God will judge them, and they will serve his anointed king.

Secondly, the effect of the “mini Pentecost” is that the disciples “continued to speak the word of God with boldness”. This “word” is what Peter spoke to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). They face judgment, but God has raised his Son from the dead and has given him authority over his enemies; those who call on the name of this newly appointed Lord will be saved. It is the “word” that those Jews who do not listen to the “prophet” Jesus will be “destroyed from the people” (3:23; 4:4).

In other words, the disciples are given the power—the conviction, the courage, the moral strength—to defy the rulers of Israel and proclaim a word of judgment and restoration. Again, this is not the Spirit of covenant renewal, no matter how important that aspect may be to our developed theology of the church. The emphasis in these early chapters of Acts is on the Spirit as the power to address the eschatological crisis that Israel faces.

Yinka | Wed, 03/14/2012 - 23:54 | Permalink

Hello , Wondering how martydom of the righteous plays into this. In what sense is one who has called on the name of the lord, only to lose his/her head, ‘saved’ ?