Review of Thomas Oden’s “Life in the Spirit” and thoughts on Pentecost as Precursor to Global Harvest, and Sign of New Covenant Blessing for ALL Who Call on the Name of the Lord, and the Overflow of the Spirit beyond Jerusalem unto ALL Nations

Posted: January 14, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Book Reviews, Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests


 

Oden, T.C. (1992). Life in the Spirit. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins.

Fifty days after firstfruits, two loaves of bread were offered, the yeast of which prefigured the formation of the church on the day of Pentecost (Oden 1992:59).

The Christian Pentecost referred backward to the Levitical Feast of Weeks and forward to the celestial banquet in the general resurrection. The disciples did not wait an indefinite period for the descent of the Spirit, but precisely fifty liturgically prescribed days after the resurrection (Oden 1992:60).

Rain had long been a symbol of the refreshing, life-giving outpouring of the Spirit….The comparison of the Spirit’s coming with rain was easily grasped by all who knew the two rainy seasons of Palestine, fall and spring, early and late, the first at the time of planting when the seeds were just sown in fallow ground, and the latter rain in the spring when the grain was ripening for harvest. Similarly it was promised to occur in the economy of salvation that the Comforter would come both early and late, but with special power and efficacy at the latter time. The Spirit was working both in planting and harvest (Oden 1992:61-62).

None of the languages of Acts 2 were “unknown tongues.” Someone knew how to speak each one of those languages. The purpose of this cross-cultural, international gift was to enable the mission of the Son to be realized through the mission of the Spirit, through clear communication of the gospel to the whole world, with its many languages (Oden 1992:63).

…the idolatry of Babel had resulted in the breaking down of international communication through divine judgment on sin, now the grace of God was reaching out to all nations in the midst of their egocentric incapacity to communicate….Pentecost was an international event signaling that God’s peace was not limited exclusively to the Jews but that God was pouring out his own Spirit upon all flesh, as long ago promised (Joel 2:28)….God is not content to allow sin to have the last word. Pentecost restores the congruence of human speech with the divine address. Pentecost is anticipative of the end time, when all human speech will finally be redeemed and brought back to unblemished truth in the celestial city (Oden 1992:64).

Some thoughts on Oden’s comments:

  1. That the Spirit was specifically poured out on Pentecost was no coincidence and ordained by Christ Himself.
  2. It is no coincidence that the Spirit was “poured” out during a celebration of the harvest.
  3. It is no coincidence that the Spirit empowered people to speak in all of the languages under the earth before those who were assembled.

 

To point #1, Pentecost obviously contains some shadows and symbols that culminated in the Spirit’s outpouring. Oden suggests that the bread offered symbolizes the yeast of the beginning of the church. That may be true. I personally see great parallels between Pentecost and Joel’s promise to restore the land and pour out the Spirit on all flesh. In the midst of harvest, which celebrates God’s goodness and blessing, God pours forth a different rain, signaling a greater blessing and future harvest. It is also possible that the restoration of the land in Joel is linked with the outpouring of the Spirit. In this case, the whole world, or all peoples, are now being restored to God’s favor through the Spirit’s ministry. Times of refreshing have indeed come.

To point #2, see the above paragraph.

To point #3, God is signaling to all nations that His favor rests with all who “call upon the name of the Lord”, as many as the Lord shall “call”. This outpouring doesn’t stop within the border of Israel, but will overflow beyond the boundaries to all regions to bring life wherever He goes. Pentecost was also a celebration of the law given to Moses. Some traditions suggest that God spoke the law in all known languages when giving it to Moses, but it was given specifically to Israel as a covenant with them…however, this outpouring of the Spirit is unmistakably a sign to all the nations that God is extending a new covenant of grace for all peoples.

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