Thoughts on W. Hildebrandt’s “An Old Testament Theology of the Spirit of God”…and thoughts on the Ramifications of the “Prophethood” of all Believers to New Testament Ecclesiology

Posted: January 13, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Book Reviews, Ecclesiology (Church Stuff), Hosea, Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests

Hildebrandt, W. (1995). An Old Testament Theology of the Spirit of God. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

Yahweh’s action in pouring out the Spirit has extensive effects. “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28f.). The thrust of the passage indicates that the coming transformation brought about by the ruah will radically change social conditions in the community. All people will be privileged possessors of the Spirit, not just the prophets….The programmatic desire of Moses is here affirmed and moved a step closer to fulfillment: “I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”….Therefore, the charismatic endowment of the gift is extended to the whole community (Hildebrandt 1995:98).

This great truth of the democratization of the Spirit upon all of God’s people poses many challenges to New Testament ecclesiology. It is sometimes erroneously concluded that the “Pentecostal” blessing makes all co-equals, thus rendering unnecessary any structure of authority or headship within the New Testament church. While we have a “charismatic” laity that is empowered to minister to one another as they have been gifted, we also see that Christ blesses the church with certain leaders who are especially set aside for ministry to the local body of believers. Both, the “charismatic” gifting of all people and the giving of leaders to the church, need to be affirmed alongside each other.

Baptist polity has often emphasized the “priesthood of all believers” in their ecclesiastical identity to encourage lay ministry. While such a paradigm is somewhat commendable, it is better to identify the involvement of the laity in ministry as a direct procession of Pentecost. The Pentecostal event not only renders one “saved”, but as an empowered “witness” to the world. Paul’s pnuematology, as seen in his epistle to the Corinthian church, views the church as a “charismatic” community as a direct correlation to their reception of the Spirit as members of the body of Christ.

Moses, though a great leader, desired the empowering of other leaders to better serve the needs of Israel. His desire that all would be prophets was not so much a desire to be absolved from any responsibilities as a leader as much as it was a longing for a day when God would empower His people in such a way that the burdens of serving the people would be shared in a larger extent within the community itself. While the New Testament church contains appointed officers and leaders (Bishop, Elder, Presbyter, Pastor, Deacon, etc) who are called to minister to the people, they are complemented by the broader community itself, which is empowered to lovingly serve one another as they have been gifted.

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