Tag Archives: Pentecostalism

Baptized in the Spirit (Review)

Baptized in the SpiritMacchia, Frank D., Baptized in the Spirit:
A Global Pentecostal Theology

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 296pp.
ISBN: 13: 978-0-310-25236-8

Frank Macchia argues that although the Pentecostal emphasis on the Baptism with the Holy Spirit has been marginalised in recent Pentecostal theological reflection, it remains “the crown jewel of Pentecostal distinctives” (20). Nevertheless Pentecostal articulation of the doctrine has remained too narrow, disconnected from the broader contexts of theological and ecumenical reflection. Macchia aims, therefore, to expand the parameters of the doctrine, and to use the biblical metaphor as a lens through which to understand the broader pneumatological vision of Scripture.

Baptized in the Spirit is not a systematic theology in the proper sense of the term, nor an examination of the theology of the Pentecostal movements. Rather, it engages with particular theological loci using Spirit baptism as a starting point and organising motif. The first two chapters provide an orientation and rationale for the study. Macchia identifies four primary reasons for the marginalisation of the doctrine in recent Pentecostal theology. He affirms the Pentecostal desire for the pneumatological renewal of the church, and the understanding of Spirit baptism as an experiential, empowering reality in the lives of individual Christians and churches.

Macchia is clear, however, that Spirit baptism is much more than a singular event in these lives and churches. In its biblical and theological contexts Spirit baptism is a richly textured concept with trinitarian and eschatological dimensions. It refers to the original outpouring of the Spirit by the ascended Spirit-baptizer on the day of Pentecost, by which the triune God redeems a lost world, entering into fellowship and solidarity with it. It refers also to the final eschatological outpouring in which the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh such that the renewed cosmos becomes the dwelling place of God. It is the work of divine grace preceding water baptism that opens and prepares a human life for the reality of God. It speaks, too, of ongoing and subsequent experiences of the Spirit’s presence and power in the lives of individual Christians and churches. Macchia explores these aspects of Spirit baptism in the following chapters, which address Spirit baptism in relation to Christian initiation, Spirit baptism in trinitarian perspective, and Spirit-baptised ecclesiology.

Perhaps the most significant move Macchia makes is to link Spirit baptism with the idea of the kingdom of God, thus providing the doctrine with a powerful eschatological orientation. Just as the metaphor of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit fills out the concept of the kingdom of God, so the idea of the kingdom extends the vision and function of Spirit baptism. Ultimately, the two concepts are co-extensive for Macchia, with the character of the kingdom being understood in christological and pneumatological terms.

Decisively inaugurated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the kingdom of God becomes a dynamic within history through the outpouring of the Spirit that is directed toward the divine indwelling of all of creation so that all things might be conformed to Christ’s image. … This dynamism has its roots in the fact that the kingdom has to do, not with a place, but rather with life, the life of the Spirit of God (Matt. 12:28; Rom. 14:17), opening up the creation to new possibilities of renewal and hope. The life of the kingdom is the life of the Spirit in which God’s reign actively conquers the dark forces and liberates lives to new hope. It is thus not only a divine attribute but the participation of the creature by God’s grace in the divine nature. Accordingly, it is not primarily about religion but about a life in God, filled with the fruit of the Spirit and dedicated to God’s righteousness on earth (97).

Another significant move concerns Macchia’s understanding of the nature of Spirit baptism, which he characterises as God’s self-gift of all-embracing love.

All of the fractures that have plagued the Pentecostal theology of Spirit baptism can be healed ultimately by an understanding of love as the substance of life in the Spirit, love that fills us to overflowing as a purgative, empowering, eschatological gift of communion and new life (260, emended slightly).

Spirit-baptism is fundamentally a relational event which issues in the creation of the church as a new community with renewed human sociality. Indeed, the Spirit is “the ecclesial Spirit” and Spirit baptism is baptism into an ecclesial dynamic (167). The church is to echo and embody the relationality and open hospitality of the holy Trinity.

The Spirit is the Spirit of communion. Spirit baptism implies communion. This is why it leads to a shared love, a shared meal, a shared mission, and the proliferation/enhancement of an interactive charismatic life. Spirit baptism thus implies a relationship of unity between the Lord and the church that is not fundamentally one of identity but rather communion. … Spirit baptism has a relational structure that has communion at its essence, the communion of self-giving love (156-157, 160).

Macchia makes the implications of this quite clear:

The self-giving God of Spirit baptism produces a self-giving people in mission. The God who seeks to save the lost produces a people who do the same. To love God is to be shaped by that love so as to share its affections and passions (264).

The love which shapes the life of the Spirit-baptised includes both love for God and love for others. Perhaps pre-eminently, it is an experience of the love that God has for us: “the love of God is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5)—a verse cited by Macchia more often than any other, including Matthew 12:28, 1 Corinthians 12:13, Acts 1:8 or Acts 2:4.

This focus on Spirit-baptism in terms of divine love can save the Pentecostal church from forms of triumphalism that neglect the reality of suffering and the necessity of solidarity with and ministry on behalf of those who suffer. The power with which the church is endued is the power of love manifest and made known in the suffering love of Christ. “Spirit baptism as an experience of empowerment is not just renewed energy to do things for God. It is rather the power of self-transcending, self-giving love” (281). The tongues of Pentecost were “a broken speech for a broken body of Christ till perfection comes” (281). Understood in terms of love, Spirit-baptism can become an ongoing and repeated experience in which believers are caught up ever and again into the love of God. If this understanding is correct, then Spirit-baptism may also function as a continual source of renewal for the church.

In my estimation Macchia has successfully expanded the boundaries and understanding of Pentecostalism’s “crown jewel,” and in so doing has made a welcome contribution to Pentecostal and ecumenical theology. While I am not yet convinced that the biblical metaphor of Spirit baptism can function as the organising principle of a comprehensive systematic theology, Macchia has demonstrated that it may shine new light on old doctrines.

Macchia’s Pentecostal roots are clearly displayed in the biblical orientation of his work; hardly a paragraph goes by without a biblical reference. Nevertheless, his most prominent interlocutors are not other Pentecostals (although they are not ignored), but Moltmann, Volf, Küng, and documents of ecumenical consultations. His work represents a considered attempt to draw Pentecostal theology from the margins toward the centre of the ecumenical theological enterprise. In the process some aspects of the classical Pentecostal doctrine are sacrificed. There is no discussion of the gift of tongues as a devotional practice, let alone as “the initial evidence” (though see pp. 212 and 281), although it does symbolise the unity of the church in the midst of its increasing diversification. Whereas classic Pentecostals insist that the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is separate from and subsequent to conversion, Macchia insists that no separation is possible, although he does keep a form of subsequence, whether in terms of the believer’s experience of the Spirit’s presence, or as ongoing experiences of the Spirit’s “coming” throughout the Christian life. It is surely no accident that the final climatic section of the book is titled “Spirit Baptism as Love’s ‘Second Conversion’” (280).

I do not want us to lose our emphasis on the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as something that Christians should expect in the life of faith at some point during or after their acceptance of Christ as Lord and as an ongoing experience of charismatic enrichment. The experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit can be a renewal of faith, hope, and love as well as an enhancement of power for mission. It is an enhancement of our conversion to Christ but also a “second conversion” that turns us in Christ’s love toward the world in prayer for its renewal and in our participation in God’s mission. … The Pentecostals ask us to experience a foretaste of that glory in the here and now as a force for renewal in the Christian life and the life of the church. I think we should listen (282, original emphasis).

Baptized in the Spirit (Frank Macchia)

Baptized in the SpiritFrank Macchia, professor of theology at Vanguard University, is a leading Pentecostal theologian and author of many books and articles on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. I read about half of his Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Zondervan, 2006) when it was first released, and began reading it a second time before my lecture at Princeton earlier this year. Over the next few weeks I will post some chapter summaries from this important work in which Macchia explores and extends this central Pentecostal theme.


In his brief introduction Macchia argues that “For all their talk about the importance of pneumatology, Pentecostals have yet to couch their narrow pneumatological interest in charismatic/missionary empowerment within a broader pneumatological framework” (18, original emphasis). His aim is to provide just such a framework, expanding understanding of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit (BHS) beyond the narrow confines he finds in the Pentecostal doctrine. He refuses to set the writings of Luke over against those of Paul as some Pentecostals have done. “One needs help from Paul and other canonical voices to negotiate a broader and more integrated conception of Spirit baptism as an eschatological event that is complex in nature” (15). Thus, Macchia defines Spirit-baptism as an eschatological act of the Trinity, its nature being an outpouring of divine love, an experiential reality in the life of God’s people, and functioning toward the witness (and establishing?) of God’s kingdom.

Chapter Two: Spirit Baptism and Pentecostal Theology

In this chapter Macchia argues that Spirit-baptism is the major Pentecostal theological distinctive, but that this distinctive has been marginalised in recent Pentecostal theology. He suggests four reasons for this:

  1. The inability to coherently relate the sanctifying and empowering work of the Spirit;
  2. The doctrinal and practical diversity of Pentecostalism;
  3. The supplanting of the Spirit-baptism metaphor by eschatology in recent Pentecostal theology; and,
  4. The locating of Pentecostal distinctiveness in theological method.

Macchia does not find any of these reasons compelling but also seeks to recast the Pentecostal doctrine of Spirit-baptism in light of these realities. Specifically, he wants to view Spirit-baptism as a trinitarian eschatological act that both purifies and empowers, whose essential nature is participation in the love of God. He accepts the exegetical stance of Pentecostal biblical scholars such as Roger Stronstadt and Robert Menzies who focus their understanding of Spirit-baptism on Luke’s writings, but wants to expand it in more holistic directions. This is necessary if Pentecostalism is to contribute its unique grace-given accents to the ecumenical theological table.

Pentecostalism has been blessed and gifted by God with certain theological and spiritual accents. We do other Christian families a disservice if we do not preserve and cherish these and seek to bless others with them. Thus, ideal would be a reworking of our distinctives in a way that cherishes our unique accents but expands them in response to the broader contours of the biblical witness and diversity of voices at the ecumenical table (25).

Macchia’s discussion in this chapter provides an excellent overview of recent moves in Pentecostal theology, and argues for a “return” to Pentecostalism’s central distinctive. The only clarification I would make here would be to argue against Menzies and even Stronstadt, that the pneumatology of Acts is actually soteric in nature and not simply charismatic. Their view of Luke’s pneumatology is unnecessarily narrow, and drives a wedge between ideas that in Luke are as one. Luke’s pneumatology is both soteriological and charismatic, and his view of the Christian life is thoroughly pneumatological, empowered by the Spirit, and so missional. Here, Macchia’s view of Spirit-baptism as participation in the life of the triune God could prove a helpful corrective to this deficiency in Pentecostal thought.

Scripture on Sunday – 1 Samuel 10:1-10

Samuel Anoints SaulI started my talk at Princeton, and my ANZATS talk this week in Melbourne, with a reference to this biblical passage. It is, perhaps, a little unusual to start an academic paper this way, but the topic allowed it, and I enjoyed it. The title of my talk was “‘Changed into Another Man’: The Meaning of ‘Baptism with the Holy Spirit’ in Karl Barth, in Conversation with the Pentecostal Doctrine.” Here is the beginning of my talk with a reflection on this passage.


The title for my paper today includes a phrase taken from 1 Samuel 10, the story of Samuel anointing Saul to be Israel’s king. The main point of the story, however, is not Samuel’s anointing Saul with oil, though that anointing is not without significance: it confirms the divine election of Saul for the service to which God has called him and affirms the same election to the young man. As such it has symbolic, confirmatory and declarative aspects. Nevertheless it is not Samuel’s oil that actually equips Saul for the service to which God has called him. Rather it will be the presence of God given him when the Spirit comes mightily upon him.

1 Samuel 10:6-7, 9-10
“Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man. It shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires, for God is with you.” … Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day. When they came to the hill there, behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them. (NASB)

As a young Pentecostal pastor I preached from this passage emphasising those aspects of the passage which highlighted the central doctrinal Pentecostal distinctives: the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as an experience of the Holy Spirit to empower Christians for witness and ministry. This experience was separate from and subsequent to conversion, and was accompanied with the gift of tongues as the initial evidence that one had received ‘the Baptism.’ This was a transformative experience by which we ‘are changed into another person.’

These verses and others like them spoke clearly to the condition of our lives and the experience of God that we had received. Like Saul we had been wandering through life looking for ‘donkeys’ that could never be found, all kinds of donkeys which could never satisfy; when suddenly, inexplicably, we were turned aside from our path, thrown off our course, encountered by the reality of the divine call and presence that opened up a whole new world to us, a ‘strange, new world’ we might say, the world of God. Like Saul, we were called into God’s service; like Saul, we were called to inherit a kingdom. And like Saul we too experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit mightily into our lives, a transformative power such that we too, like Saul, were given a new heart, and we too, like Saul, were ‘changed into another man.’

Some may say that our exegesis was poor and our hermeneutics poorer still. Certainly we were pre-critical in our reading of biblical texts. Nevertheless, although we may have been hermeneutically naïve, at least we had an expectancy of the presence of God in powerful, life-transforming ways! At least we had a sense of being captured by God and called to participate in the dynamic movement of God’s kingdom at work in the world! At least we had, as James McClendon has said, a ‘shared awareness of the present Christian community as the primitive community and the eschatological community’ (Ethics: Systematic Theology Volume 1, Rev ed., 30). Although referring generally to all kinds of ‘baptistic’ groups, McClendon’s definition captures something essential concerning the ethos of classic Pentecostalism: we were the eschatological people of God identified and in continuity with the community of God’s people found in Scripture. Their story was our story. Our hermeneutic may have been more implicit and inchoate than explicit, but none the less real for all that.

Yet if I were preaching this passage today I would preach it differently in some respects. I have come to realise with many others that the Pentecostals’ experience was superior to their explanation of that experience. I would not be concerned to proclaim a strict two-stage reception of the Holy Spirit. Nor would I teach the gift of tongues as the so-called initial evidence of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. I would, however, still speak of the experiential aspects that often accompany the Spirit’s coming, by which I mean a palpable sense of divine encounter. I would still emphasise the prophetic nature of the Spirit’s presence, including the idea that the Spirit’s coming in Scripture normally issues in inspired speech events and/or divine direction. I would seek a more expansive understanding of the Spirit’s presence, not limiting it simply to empowerment. Finally, I would emphasise even more strongly the transformative intent and nature of the Spirit’s self-gift, and link this transformative intent to the service of God’s purposes for his people and his world.

At its heart and at its best, the Pentecostal idea of Baptism with the Holy Spirit is not an explanatory model justifying an experience, but the experience and the ethos itself. Those who have been baptised in or with the Holy Spirit have been plunged into a new life with God. Their lives have been immersed in the dynamic, sanctifying, liberating and transforming presence of the Holy Spirit. They have been made participants in the divine fellowship, partakers of heavenly powers, and have been caught up in the ecstatic movement of the eschatological Spirit’s activity in the world. Their lives have been determined by this singular event, with the Spirit’s presence expressed henceforth in their lives in manifestations of spiritual gifts, in sanctification, mission and worship. At its heart and at its best, then, Pentecostalism refers to a people who have been encountered and transformed by God, whose lives are in-spirited in fruitful and dynamic ways, Spirit-filled and Spirit-directed for they have been made participants in the divine fellowship and mission.