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The Speaking in Tongues Controversy: A Narrative-Critical Response, Part 1

Having said this, there is, it seems to me, a logical reason that God telescoped the Gentile experience of salvation and the baptism in the Holy Spirit into one event (or one of very close proximity), and that is because there is no outward, immediately observable evidence of salvation, without which the Jews would have been more apt to dispute and deny that God had “granted the Gentiles repentance unto life” (11:18). If one must be saved to receive this gift evidenced by tongues, as in the Pentecostal view, tongues are strong evidence that one has been saved.14

Of the four episodes involving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, this is the only one whose timing is ambiguous. Why make the possible exception, the rule?


(4) Acts 19: Quoting Fee, Walston argues that the disciples who are mentioned here “were obviously not Christians because the one essential ingredient [i.e., the Spirit] was missing” (Gospel and Spirit 114). However, Luke’s consistent terminology (“disciple” for believer in Jesus or disciple of Jesus) is insurmountable and reveals the speciousness* of the anti-Pentecostal interpretation.15 If that is not enough, these disciples, as Luke narrates the scene, are baptized in water (surely they are Christians by now), Paul then lays hands on them, and only then does the Holy Spirit come upon them (19:5-6). Obviously, the Holy Spirit comes upon them after they are saved.16




In Part 2: “Is ‘Authorial Intent’ the Doom of Pentecostal Theology?”



1 “Now it would be a fine thing if biblical scholars would start thinking that they had opinions instead of facts. That is an opinion. It might be so, but, on the other hand, it might not be so, because the indefinite use of the future was widely used and there is no way to tell whether that is an indefinite future or a future that is right away. In fact, the whole weight of the sermon is that this will happen in the future. … Jesus would say, ‘Seek and ye shall receive.’ That is an indefinite future. He doesn’t say when God would do it. And the indefinite in the promises of Jesus is very common. It was a very common way to talk … using the future tense. … Interesting thing is, if you go back and look at all the future tenses in Luke-Acts (especially the ones where the subject is to be acted upon) … you’ll find that the … majority … are exactly these kind of futures—they’re indefinite. God is going to do something, but they don’t say when. In every case … that the future is used that involves an action of God, which it is in this case, in Acts 2:38c, … it is indefinite. It’s never pinned down” (October 28, 1984).

2 “Now, just as the disciples before them who have just experienced their first coming of the Lukan gift of the Spirit, Peter’s hearers, meeting the salvific condition set forth, are prepared for their own promise of this gift. The two imperatives are followed by a future indicative, ‘and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. …’ Grammatically, the general observation of Winer is apropos, “The future tense does not always indicate pure actual futurity, but sometimes possibility (as indeed the future and the possible are closely allied), and expresses what can or should or must take place.” This indefinite tense indicates a time relatively future to the preceding imperatives, which set the qualifying ideas for the expected future event, but do not set the time for it. The tenses themselves certainly allow for, and normatively require in a predictive and gnomic future, the possibility for a separation in time between the immediate qualifying conditions and the future events. The immediate context from Lk 11:13; 24:47, 49 to Acts 1:14; 2:4, (1:8; 2:38c) simply predicts the expected reception of the gift to take place at a time and in a form designed by the Lord, anticipating its evangelistic use within a future occasion as the Lord directs.

“Theophilus [to whom Luke and Acts were written], not being or needing to be a grammarian, would add two and two and get four. Luke does not intend to confront Theophilus with “weighty problems,” problems that afflict interpreters who want to force Luke to be Paul and allow for no development or diversity in NT pneumatology. Rather Luke’s case is clear and contains no hidden variables which Theophilus needs to detect before he can understand this narrative. Sensing that the whole story is Luke’s vehicle for his understanding, I suggest that he would recall the pointed conditional lesson on persistent prayer set out in the context Luke provided for disciples with the first mention of the gift of the Holy Spirit at Luke 11:13 and now apply that lesson to the condition set out here. … If he would repent, seek forgiveness, call upon the Lord’s name (become a convert via salvation which Jesus offers), and submit to baptism, then he too, through persistent prayer, would confidently expect the Lord to pour out upon him (2:33) the Lukan gift of the Holy Spirit.”  Paul Elbert, “Towards an Understanding of Luke’s Expectations for Theophilus Regarding the Lukan Gift of the Holy Spirit,” Pentecostal Mission at 2000: Issues Home and Abroad, Conference Papers of the 29th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Northwest College, Kirkland, WA (Lexington, Kentucky: Society for Pentecostal Studies, 2000), 16-17, cf. 10-11 and Paul Elbert, “Luke’s Fulfillment of Prophecy Theme: Introductory Exploration of Joel and the Last Days,” Society for Pentecostal Studies Conference, Marquette University (March 2004), 18-22. Elbert has also argued that all of the imperative-future middle/passive combinations (as at Acts 2:38) in Luke-Acts and the Septuagint are intended in Greek thought to represent two temporally non-simultaneous verbal ideas or events, cf. “The Syntax of Imperative-Future Combinations and Imperative-Present Participle Combinations in Luke-Acts and Elsewhere,” Society of Biblical Literature Conference, Gregorian University, Rome (July 2001).

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Category: Fall 2005, Spirit

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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