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Justo Gonzalez: Acts: The Gospel of the Spirit

The economic life of the Church must reflect the values of the gospel for the Church’s vision is different. Good theology, doctrine, and vision, must exist. We must join the larger community of faith, realize its world mission, and eliminate the thought that Church is a matter of mere taste. We must be strong against divisions, and find agreements in love and unity.

González brings out four points that cannot function individually. First, the Hispanic Church must give attention to education. Church history gives us examples of those who devoted their lives to the word of God, and of those who eagerly studied the traditions of the Church fathers. Study and learning for us, is the equivalent to the early Church’s perseverance in the Apostles teachings. Secondly, we must also realize that there are economic resources placed by God before us for the benefit of the gospel. Why should we expect reaching the streets of gold in heaven, when we reject the use of the gold given to us by God here on earth? Thirdly, we must engage in evangelism and embrace and develop good doctrine at the same time. It is not enough to say how many people received the Lord in one night, for the real mission is to take those people and join them to the multitudes of Revelation. Fourthly, we must realize that the Gospel of the kingdom advances amidst the opposition of spiritual forces of darkness. The Hispanic Church will not become an Antioch, ready to respond to the challenges of evangelization, if the vision and action of its leaders and congregation are void of intense prayer and spiritual power against the demonic forces working in the world.

González has produced a quality of scholarship of which the Hispanic Church should be proud. It can lead us to the understanding of the work of the Spirit and his will for us as citizens of the kingdom of God here on earth. González‘s work can strengthen and amplify our vision of ourselves. He also has provided a helpful tool for those Latinos, who have little theological education.

González‘s Gospel of the Spirit addresses the Hispanic community. Since the book of Acts is about the Spirit, then the Hispanic community must reinterpret the Pentecostal experience and begin to take responsibility and action as a community with a mission here on earth. The title appeals to a community who loves the Spirit and is willing to be led by him. Yet, it is also a community sometimes with an improper theology of the Spirit. The purpose of the Spirit in Acts was to guide Christians in their behavior and faith during the difficult early times in which the Church was in conflict with Rome, its culture, and civilization. Jesus continues his work through the Holy Spirit today, making it possible for Christians to live in the world as citizens of the kingdom of God.

The authors comparison and contrast of Romes slavery versus oppressed Latinos is also insightful. Those of us who grew up in the poverty and oppression of our countries are less fortunate than some slaves during the Roman age. History records Roman slavery as a major economic force for the empire. Many slaves became so highly educated and skilled that they were greatly valued. The poor and oppressed in Latin America are deprived of economy, education, and training. There is no value attached to their lives by the rich and powerful, and therefore they are an economic burden, rather than an economic power. Now González asserts that Hispanics in the United States are marginalized for economic reasons. Perhaps that broad-brush description needs to be qualified. There are resources and the means to achieve success in the USA. Hispanics who do not prosper in America may have an old way of thinking; for many of them continue to live in the United States as they lived back home. Here in America, though, the problem is not oppression, but education, a goal that is quite attainable, although understandably, there are problems with the INS and other issues.

Rather than an early Church innovation, the election of the seven has an Old Testament background. Helping the poor and the widow was always the responsibility of God’s people, a provision made by the Law of Moses. When one finishes reading Acts one sees what González is referring to the ways in which the Spirit constantly changes established patterns as he leads the Church in its mission to the world, one example being the establishment of the Church in Antioch as the center of mission to the Gentiles instead of Jerusalem.

The Christian community in America, both Anglo and Hispanic, has therefore been given a very important book. For the Anglos, this volume serves not only as a commentary, but also describes a group of people making their way all over the United States. Christian Americans often visit our Hispanic restaurants, and adopt Hispanic cuisine as their own. They participate in Hispanic culture. González is giving the Anglos valuable historical and spiritual background that may help Americans to find venues of bringing Hispanics, not to the American way, but to the Church of Jesus Christ in the United States. The Hispanic community here in the United States is a mission field ready for harvest. There is a danger that we forget our catholic background, and raise children without the Bible basics our ancestors gave us. This mission would spare America from having to deal with a Hispanic society with ever-growing numbers of school dropouts, gang members, drug addicts, alcoholics, and victims of domestic violence. González calls the American Church not to impose dominance of language and culture over us, but to become interested in our language, culture, and identity. We are a mission field in the American backyard, a good opportunity to learn how to reach others for Christ.

For Hispanics, we need to understand that we are no longer just a group of immigrants; the molding has already begun. Hispanics have a voice in the national economy. As such, they also have a responsibility as a Church of Christ to shape society’s political and religious values. Indifference to this fact is a blunder, for we always bring our gods with us. Like the Anglos, our gospel message needs cleansing and refocusing. North Americans can help us. While keeping our cultural identity, you can help us to build churches and become educated. Then we will become the missionaries of our own countries and see our nations becoming nations of peace and democracy.

Reviewed by James B. Shelton with Orlando Terrero

 

Publisher’s page: http://www.orbisbooks.com/acts-the-gospel-of-the-spirit.html

Preview Acts: https://books.google.com/books?id=44WDAwAAQBAJ

 

A shorter version of this review appeared in PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 25:1 (Spring 2003), pages 150–152. This longer review essay was originally published as a guest review on the Pneuma Foundation (PneumaReview.com’s parent organization) In Depth Resources index in 2004.

At the time this essay was written, Orlando Terrero was an M.Div. student at Oral Roberts University.

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Category: Fall 2016, In Depth

About the Author: James B. Shelton, Ph.D. (University of Stirling, Scotland), M.A. (Oral Roberts University), is Professor of New Testament at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is the author of Mighty in Word and Deed: The Role of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts (Wipf & Stock, 1999 reprint) as well as numerous essays in scholarly journals, books, and biblical commentaries. Faculty page

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