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John the Baptist and the Prophetic Spirit of Pentecost


In this article, Professor James Hernando is sure to challenge you with the urgency and mandate of prophetic preaching.

But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.

“For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams; Even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth My Spirit And they shall prophesy’” (Acts 2:14-18).

What “Pentecostal” minister has not heard, read or preached from the above passage countless times? And yet what does it mean to the average believer in our churches except that we speak in tongues and believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for today? Look closely at Peter’s words and you can detect a special emphasis. The words in capital letters are those from Joel 2:28-29, but the quote does not include the final words of Acts 2:18, “And they shall prophesy.” Those words are added by Peter, repeating the words “shall prophesy” from v. 17 for emphasis.1

John is not unlike any number of his OT prophetic predecessors who warned Israel against oppressing the poor and called her to show God’s compassion by remembering the poor.

To be sure, Pentecost marks the beginning of the Spirit-filled New Testament church, but there is something else we should understand. On the Day of Pentecost, God constituted the Church as an end-time community of prophets. Pentecostal scholar, Roger Stronstad puts it this way. “Because Jesus transferred the Spirit from himself to his disciples on the day of Pentecost, the Pentecost narrative is programmatic for their ongoing ministry in the Spirit. In other words, from the day of Pentecost onwards they are the eschatological community of Spirit-baptized, Spirit-empowered and Spirit-filled prophets.”2 If I understand his point correctly, Stronstad is saying that the church collectively is the prophetic people of God. That being the case, Peter’s words do not just mean that all individuals in the church have access to the gift of prophecy, something Paul would later make clear in 1 Corinthians 14. Peter does mean that the New Testament church is uniquely constituted as a prophetic people by the Spirit.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2005

About the Author: James D. Hernando, Ph.D. (Drew University), is Professor of New Testament at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. He is author of Dictionary of Hermeneutics (Gospel Publishing House, 2005), the commentary on 2 Corinthians in the Full Life Bible Commentary to the New Testament (Zondervan, 1999), as well as numerous articles and papers.

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