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Matthias Wenk: Community-Forming Power, reviewed by Amos Yong

 

Matthias Wenk, Community-Forming Power: The Socio-Ethical Role of the Spirit in Luke-Acts, Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplemental Series 19 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 368 pages, ISBN 9780567043504.

Those who have been keeping abreast of the developments in biblical scholarship by Pentecostal scholars are in for a treat with this book. A pastor and part-time lecturer at the Theologisch-Diakonisches Seminar Aarau in Hindelbank, Switzerland, Wenk has revised his doctoral dissertation written under the guidance of Max Turner—who may be most familiar to readers of this journal as the author of The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts (Hendrickson, 1998)—at London Bible College. Here, he extends the insights of Turner, and other Pentecostal biblical scholars like Robert Menzies and James Shelton, by showing how the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts is more than just the divine person who inspires the speech of the people of God. Rather, inspired speech is but the initial work of the Spirit of God through which the believing community is transformed. The result is an illuminating exposition of the Spirit’s work in Luke-Acts that highlights a) the content of Spirit-inspired speeches; b) the divine intent behind such Spirit-inspired speeches; and c) the transformative effect of these same speeches that shape the community of faith.

Matthias Wenk at the Society for Pentecostal Studies convention, March 2014.

Wenk therefore argues that prophecy in Luke-Acts should be understood not only as inspired speech, but as a complex interactive process between God, the prophet, the inspired utterance, and the audience to which such utterance is directed. The prophetic message of John the Baptist, for example, is the means through which God addresses Israel, the tax collectors, and the soldiers, and which produces in them repentance (Luke 3:1-14). Yet, it was also a message which left a mark on the messenger himself since John could not be a voice proclaiming in the wilderness without having his home in the desert. Spirit-inspired speech thus has transformative effects on both the speaker and the audience. At the same time, rejected prophecy is not only a rejection of the prophet, or the word of the prophet, but also of (the Spirit of) God. Wenk is able to show, using sources from the intertestamental (between the appearance of Malachi circa 400 BCE and the birth of Jesus) period, that what previous scholars had claimed was the cessation of prophecy during this time is better understood as reflecting the unwillingness of the people of Israel to hear, engage, or be transformed by the word of God. In other words, it is not—either during the intertestamental centuries, the early Christian period, or since—that the Spirit of God has ceased to speak; rather, a hard-hearted and hard-of-hearing people have refused to accept the message, the messenger (the inspired prophet), or God (cf. Acts 28:25-28). Arguably then, prophecy never ceases; it is, instead, denied, ignored, neglected, rejected or resisted by the unfaithful community.

It is not that the Spirit of God has ceased to speak; rather, a hard-hearted and hard-of-hearing people have refused to accept the message, the messenger, or God.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2001

About the Author: Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, history, and religious studies from Western Evangelical Seminary and Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, and an undergraduate degree from Bethany University of the Assemblies of God. He is the author of numerous papers and over 30 books. fuller.edu/faculty/ayong/ amosyong@fuller.edu Facebook

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