The spirit and suffering in Luke-Acts: Implications for a Pentecostal pneumatology

Martin William Mittelstadt, Marquette University


The Pentecostal movement is known for passionate pursuit and equipping of the Holy Spirit for the task of gospel witness. The growth of the movement has brought with it a maturity in the development of Pentecostal theology and praxis, particularly as Pentecostals gain prominence in an ecumenical world. However, this maturity also brings with it a subtle comfort, a relaxed status, whereby its mission and passion may he threatened. This project expresses a desire for Pentecostal pneumatological analysis consistent with the biblical tradition, particularly Luke-Acts. Specifically, while Pentecostals are beginning to publish impressive contributions in Lukan scholarship, a survey of their work on Lukan pneumatology reveals a failure to integrate Luke's intersecting of the Spirit in contexts of suffering. By way of a literary analysis. I examine six passages in Luke-Acts (Luke 2:25-35; 4:16-30; 12:1-12; Acts 3-5; 6-7; 20:18-35) and call attention to the possibilities and responsibilities of the Spirit-filled life. When empowered by the Spirit, the life of a witness becomes continuous with the mission and suffering of Jesus. Luke introduces his readers to a responsible life of perseverance: though his narrative testifies to the triumph of the Word of God, it is not a story of persistent triumph. He narrates why the early mission is not as successful as the first Christians had hoped. His story includes the harsh realities of resistance as faced by the emerging community, which results in a necessary tempering of the mission. His theology is intricately and irreversibly bound up with this story; it is one of positive acceptance or rejection of Jesus and his witnesses. Pentecostal scholars, who continue the challenging task of formulating a Pentecostal pneumatology, must come to grips with this consistent tension, which belong to the narrative Luke develops. While Pentecostal leadership continues the call for the same empowering of the Holy Spirit and commissioning to gospel proclamation, often lacking is Luke's emphasis on the importance of the Spirit's work in contexts of persecution and martyrdom. Key characters in Luke-Acts suffer on account of the name of Jesus testifying that though God will not allow the gospel to be overcome, its rejection and the persecution of its witnesses is as inevitable as triumph. Luke recognizes this persistent tension between persecution, Christian suffering, and Spirit-inspired mission. He describes how the Holy Spirit works irresistibly on, giving readers courage and confidence to take their own share in the witness to Christ, to which the whole church is called. Since persecuting opponents will always exist, it is through personal witness and sacrifice that Christianity advances, thereby allowing Luke to speak boldly to second generation Christians. Consistent with a literary analysis, contemporary Pentecostals learn patience and faithfulness in a world we do not control while maintaining trust in God's power and purpose. Moreover, upon reception of the Spirit, recipients are not all powerful. Instead, Luke offers a vivid reminder of the limitations of Spirit-enablement. Pentecostals must learn to work within the limits of witness, yet remain confident of the validity and importance of the mission and continue in Spirit-empowered witness as envisioned through Luke's story of acceptance and rejection, triumph and tragedy beyond the end of Acts.

Recommended Citation

Mittelstadt, Martin William, "The spirit and suffering in Luke-Acts: Implications for a Pentecostal pneumatology" (2001). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3049936.