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Power Ministry In The Epistles

I also recognize that a Christian who opens up to the experiential presence and working of the Holy Spirit does not thereby enter into a life of consistent exuberance. The contrary often seems to be the case. The filling of the Spirit can be quite unsettling. Yet the disturbance that comes is a good one which makes for accelerated sanctification. It is worth far more than the price it exacts to grant the Holy Spirit access to one’s entire being.

Lastly, I want to affirm a higher priority than the recovery of the gifts of the Spirit. I refer to the oneness of the entire body of Christ. Jesus prayed twice for this in His longest recorded prayer (John 17:21, 23), and the answer to that prayer, though it is nowhere near visible on the horizon,27 is long overdue. The Greek word translated “unity” is used only twice in the New Testament,28 and these two occurrences, when read back-to-back, underscore that the responsibility to maintain a manifested oneness among all true believers in Jesus Christ has never been superseded by any of the lesser issues the Church has found itself addressing.

These passages call on Christians “to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace … until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God …” (Ephesians 4:3, 13, NASB). The entire paragraph in which these verses are embedded (Ephesians 4:1-16) makes it eminently clear that the relationship all believers have to one another because of their common relationship to Christ is to be nurtured and demonstrated during the very time while they are dealing with differences. The charismatic question is no exception to this. While I believe that a great deal is at stake in this question, I believe that even more is at stake in the oneness of the Lord’s Church. If this is so, at the very least, it would make it incumbent on charismatics to no longer aggressively push their position on others and on non-charismatics to no longer ostracize charismatics. Such behavior on both sides is clearly contrary to a text like Romans 14:3, as well as to all of Romans 14:1-15:7. It is time for both of these groups to get down to the hard work of “putting up with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2, literal translation).29 I have no doubt that in such a context troublesome theological and practical issues will be much more easily resolved. More importantly, even during that process, the Church will have the benefit of its richly varied membership; and those looking on from outside will finally have an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what the Church was intended to be, something Jesus specifically had in view in His prayer in John 17:21 and 23.

 

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Category: Fall 2007, Spirit

About the Author: Walter R. Bodine (as of 1992) is currently engaged in independent scholarly work in biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies, focusing now on Sumerian and Assyriological studies. He received a Ph.D. (Northwest Semitics and Old Testament, 1973) from Harvard University. He chaired the Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew unit of the Society of Biblical Literature from 1982-1991. He has published several scholarly works, including Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew (Eisenbrauns, 1992), The Greek Text of Judges: Recensional Developments (Harvard Semitic Monographs, no. 23; Scholars Press, 1980), and Discourse Analysis and Biblical Literature (Society of Biblical Literature, 1995).

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