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Power Ministry In The Epistles

6 I do not wish to claim too much on this point. It should not be said that the presence of the miraculous will assure that others will come to faith, for this is not necessarily the case (e.g., Jn. 11:45-53; 12:9-11, 17-19, 35-40). Also, there is a penchant for signs which does not go to the level of genuine faith (Jn. 4:48, 1 Cor. 1:22). Nevertheless, the proclamation of the gospel, ever central to the church’s mission, should, from the perspective of the New Testament, be accompanied by the manifestation of the gracious power of God (Matt. 10:7-8, Acts 4:29-30, 1 Cor. 2:1-5). Even as the gifts of the Spirit can be subverted from their ordained purpose, so can the Bible. Jesus made this very point when He spoke to religious leaders about how they diligently scrutinized the Bible, as though it were the source of their lives, instead of using it as an avenue into an experiential relationship with Himself, the one to whom the Bible bore witness (Jn. 5:39-40). Both gifts and Bible were given, not as ends in themselves, but as aids to bring us to Him who is our true and only end. Just as the Church would be impoverished without the Bible, so is the evangelical wing of the Church that has obstructed the work of the Holy Spirit impoverished thereby.

7 As Walter Grundmann’s remarks suggest (“dunamis,” TDNT, vol. 2, p. 311): “Paul fits the same pattern [of Jesus and the disciples]. His work is done “in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit” (Rom. 15:19). In the preceding verse this power is attributed directly to Christ… . This power is expressed on the one side in miracles: “in the power of signs and wonders.” There are many references to these in the epistles: “the signs of an apostle … signs, wonders, and miracles,” 2 Cor. 12:12; God “working miracles among you,” Gal. 3:5; his activity in Thessalonica did not take place “in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit,’ I Thes. 1:5.”

8 In discussing the meaning of the “greater” works in this verse, Carson concludes that the expression has to do with the fuller witness to who Jesus is through the Church after the death, resurrection, and exaltation of the Lord (D. A. Carson, “The Purpose of Signs and Wonders in the New Testament,” in Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church [Chicago: Moody, 1992], pp. 108-10). I like his explanation. Perhaps Paul had a similar thought in mind when he wrote of the surpassing glory of the church’s ministry in 2 Cor. 3. The only problem I see with Carson’s discussion of Jn. 14:12 is that, in the process of wrestling with the meaning of the word “greater,” he omits consideration of the first part of the verse, which plainly states that believers are to carry on the ministry that Jesus began, doing the very works that He had done (see appendix 2 in this book). I must add that I have never felt that “signs and wonders” was an apt label for the movement under discussion.

9 It should be remembered that many of the epistles were being written while the events recorded in Acts were going on, i.e., that which was the ongoing experience of the churches did not call for special notice in the epistles. Karl Gatzweiler noted this fact (“Der Paulinische Wunderbegriff,” in A. Suhl, ed., Der Wunderbegriff im Neuen Testament [Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1980], pp. 403-405, n. 52): “As examples … we cite I Thess. 1, 5; 2, 13; I Cor. 2, 4-5; 2 Cor. 6, 7; 13, 3; Col. 1, 29; 2 Tim. 1, 8. In all these places Paul speaks of the proclamation of the gospel which was accompanied by divine power, by the power of the Spirit. The gospel is God’s power which is displayed among men. For the reader, who already knows that the apostle worked miracles alongside the proclamation of the gospel (cf. 2 Cor. 12, 12; Rom. 15, 18-19), it suggests miraculous events also be understood as self-evident among the notions of “might” and “power” which accompany the proclamation of the gospel.”

10 John Wimber with Kevin Springer, Power Evangelism (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986); Power Healing (San Francisco; Harper & Row, 1987). See also Kevin Springer, ed., with Introduction and Afterword by John Wimber, Power Encounters Among Christians in the Western World (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988). John Wimber and Kevin Springer, Power Points (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991) may be consulted for an overview of Wimber’s broader theology, with a practical emphasis.

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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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