The Holy Spirit in the New Testament, William A. Simmons. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021.
Summary: A book by book study of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament from a Pentecostal perspective.
Globally, Pentecostalism is the fastest growing movement within Christianity. At the heart of this movement is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. William A. Simmons argues that the term “Pentecostal” ought not be seen as a label but as a lens colored by the living presence of the Spirit of God. He writes:
“Even so, what lies at the heart of Pentecostal so described? In brief, Pentecostal means the collapse of the transcendent. A Pentecostal lens is framed by this one central premise: God has become immanent among his people by way of the vibrant presence of the Holy Spirit (Rev. 21:3). The power, the presence, and the praxis of the Spirit has invaded the world and established God’s people as a beachhead for the reclamation of all creation (Jas. 1:18). In this sense there is a decidedly incarnational aspect to the Pentecostal interpretive grid. The Spirit inhabits the redeemed, and by way of the preeminent sacraments flowing from Jesus and the Scriptures, the Spirit empowers believers to see things as they really are (1 Cor. 2:11-12).”
Simmons proposes that this lens is both holistic and integrated, comprehensive and cosmic and that the global growth of Pentecostalism requires an exegetically sound study of the New Testament through this lens.
What Simmons does in this book is the exegetical work necessary for a New Testament biblical theology of the Spirit. He proceeds book by book identifying a theme verse and introducing that theme, taking a “pause for prayer,” discussing key passages in the book concerning the Holy Spirit, summarizing, and then discussing “what it means for me.”
There were a number of insights that I appreciated:
- The powers of the day, whether of Empire, religious establishment, or the demons were no match for Jesus Spirit empowered ministry (Mark).
- The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Joy (Luke).
- He is the Spirit of Truth who grants us to be born into new Life directing us in the Way of Jesus (John)
- He is the Spirit of Adoption, enabling us to know God as “Abba” (Romans).
- He is the indwelling and gift-giving Spirit who testifies to the holiness of our bodies as temples and gives gifts for the wholeness and holiness of Christ’s body, the Church (1 Corinthians)
- He is the Spirit whose fullness empowers our worship (Ephesians)
- He is the Spirit who empowers for ministry (1 Timothy)
- He warns us of the dangers of spiritual drift from the supremacy of Christ (Hebrews)
- He speaks to us in our suffering with Christ, reminding us of the blessing and glory in which we share (1 Peter)
- We are to hear what the Spirit says to the churches and discern between the Spirit of Jesus and lying spirits (Revelation).
I have to come back to Matthew though. Simmons asked some questions there I found myself pondering throughout the book: “To what extent am I really open to the leading of the Spirit?” and “When we say that we want all the Spirit has for us, do we really mean all?” A bit of self-disclosure here. After my early Christian experience in the Jesus movement of the early 1970’s, I reacted against some of the Pentecostal aspects of this movement–the insistence on a “second experience” and the speaking in tongues. I found none of that polemic here but simply the encouragement that God would powerfully indwell all of us, making God’s self present to us through the Spirit, and not to close ourselves off from some of the more unusual manifestations of that, whether it be tongues, dreams, miraculous works, or the quieter marks of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
The Holy Spirit is all over the New Testament. And Pentecostalism is all over the world. William A. Simmons asks if perhaps we need a new lens as we read Scripture, and perhaps new wine in our lives. I hope I am not to old for that new wine, nor too deaf and blind and hidebound to heed the Spirit’s leading. Come Holy Spirit!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.