Saturday, February 18, 2006


Book Review - Acts - Professor Stanley M Horton.

They say great minds think alike, so it was encouraging to see that Mark has just finished reading and thus reviewed a commentary on the book of Acts. However whereas Mark's review follows a more conservative Reformed Tyndale commentary - my review is by a Pentecostal theologian - maybe one of the most renowned Pentecostal theologians, Dr Stanley Horton - author of, "What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit". I must be clear at the outset - I found this commentary extremely refreshing to read. It is a delight to read a theologian who has nothing to fear from approaching the text with honesty and candour, and quite frankly isn't trying to find some loophole for we, the present church, having to emulate all the activities of the New Testament church. Furthermore Dr Horton is a clear fan of the Holy Spirit, saying; "The Holy Spirit is more prominent than the apostles".

The Theme of Acts.

Dr Horton wrote; "The Book of Acts, therefore records what Jesus continued to do and teach through the Holy Spirit in the growing, spreading Church. Though Jesus is now in glory at the right hand of the Father's throne, He is still doing His work in the present world. Accordingly an enlarged title for the Book of Acts might well be The Acts of the Risen Lord by the Holy Spirit in and through the Church".

The Applicability of Acts.

It is perhaps unsurprising that Dr Horton sees the book of Acts as being more than jut a history book. Rather he argued; "Acts will affect our values and help us be disciples who claim God's promises and bring Christ glory. Acts is more than a chronicle of the past. Rather the past becomes the platform from which to preach to the present. We need to do more than study the Book of Acts, we need to live it!".

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Once again - no surprises here. Dr Horton does not take refuge in compromise in seeking to avoid offence. His description of the baptism of the Spirit is rich and experiential. He wrote; "What Jesus promised as a baptism is pictured here as a filling, that is a full, satisfying experience. Remember too that since the Holy Spirit is a Person, we are talking about an experience that brings a relationship. Each term brings out some aspect of the Pentecostal experience and no one term can bring out all the aspects of that experience". I do think that the controversy over this particular work of the Spirit may have gotten into trouble because we have become caught up with the "when" question - whereas the biblical perspective is "what". Horton, I was pleased to see, did not interact with much of the arguments as to when the baptism of the Spirit occurs (as per for example Dunn). He is caught up with the glorious inheritance that is rightly every new converts.

Tongues?

If Pentecostal, then what of tongues? Ever the true Pentecostal, Horton wrote; "This indicates that speaking in other tongues was the normative accompaniment of the baptism of the Holy Spirit". With other views in mind, Horton is clear that he sees the tongues in Acts as the same as those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 - 14.

The Essential Resurrection.

One of my greatest thrills in absorbing this commentary was to see the vital place of the Resurrection of Christ in our post-Pentecostal era. In commenting on Acts 2:33, Horton wrote; "Peter uses Christ's exalted position to explain the Pentecostal experience. Now at the right hand of the Father, Jesus received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and in turn poured out the Holy Spirit. The results of this outpouring the crowd now saw and heard ... the outpouring of the Spirit was also evidence that Jesus was actually exalted to the Father's right hand. This means something to us who now believe and receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This baptism becomes evidence to us personally that Jesus is there and He is still working".

A Mission to the Ends of the Earth.

Horton considers a number of possibilities as to the abrupt ending to the book of Acts, including the martyrdom of Luke - but concludes that this is in the sovereignity of the Spirit. He notes that the first seven chapters see events in Jerusalem unfolding and the church beginning. Chapters 8 to 12 see the Spirit breaking down barriers and the gospel relentlessly advancing towards Samaria and Judea and chapters 13 to 28 - the gospel begins to move towards the ends of the earth. "Then, because Acts has no formal conclusion, we are left with the assurance that the gospel will continue to spread towards the 'ends of the earth'".

This book is indeed (to use Ligon Duncan's phrase) a "soul-fattening" book. It is an excellent scholarly commentary, that may not appeal to conservative Reformed readers who cannot accept a Pentecostal interpretation on these "hot potatoes" but I found it a hugely encouraging and stirring read. Horton puts the Spirit, His outpouring, gifts and fruits into the context of the Great Comission - namely that we must go to the nations with the greatest news on earth.

3 comments:

Ollie said...

Thanks for that pointer ... a commentary that I shall seek out and add to my collection. Sounds good - but you were quite kind to it. You mentioned for example the classic Pentecostal view on tongues - what's your opinion on that? You are remarkably quiet on the spiritual gifts? Would be interested to hear some more from you on that.

Baxter's Boy said...

My own personal view on the gift of tongues would not be one that I think could even be called classically Charismatic. I am actually persuaded by Dr Lloyd-Jones that you cannot speak in tongues at will. He argued that we look to the Holy Spirit for an anointing for all the other giftings ... ie. Prophecy - Healing - Word of Knowledge - Interpretation of Tongues etc etc - so where in the Bible is it indicated that we can speak in tongues at will whenever and whereever we want?

Now this view doesn't decry the gift of tongues - I think it actually enhances it. Because Dr Lloyd-Jones never EVER argued that the miraculous gifts have ceased. But he did insist that we require an anointing of tongues to speak in other tongues! And this to me actually makes it more powerful and more potent when we do - because it is a clear evidence that the Holy Spirit is upon us and inspiring and moving us.

I realise that quite a few charismatics may twitch at this viewpoint - but if it is given careful consideration and thought, I think that it is defensable.

So yes - I am not classical Pentecostal in believing that one must always speak in tongues when one is baptised in the Spirit. But I do believe that there always should be some outward verbal manifestation that He the Spirit has descended on someone. Whether that be prophecy, a word of knowledge, a word of wisdom - even a word of exhortation. Or tongues!

Hope that clarifies things.

Baxter's Boy said...
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