More Thoughts on Max Turner’s “Spirit of Prophecy”

Posted: February 19, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Pentecost, Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests

Turner, Max. 1998. The ‘Spirit of Prophecy’ As the Power of Israel’s Restoration and Witness. In “Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts” edited by Marshall, I.H. & Peterson, D.

My first post can be read at’s-“’the-spirit-of-prophecy’-as-the-power-of-israel’s-restoration-and-witness”/

The Pentecost account (2:1-13) quite deliberately echoes Jewish accounts of the Sinai theophany…Jesus is exalted to God’s right hand not merely as the Davidic Messiah, but as the Mosaic Prophet. It is especially as the latter that he ascends on high to receive a gift of foundational importance which he gives to his people at the beginning of a decisive new phase of Israel’s existence, and amidst theophanic phenomena strikingly reminiscent of Sinai (Turner 1998:345-346).

God covenanted with His people through the prophet Moses and giving the nation a table of laws that would guide and direct them. God is now covenanting with his people through a new prophet (Jesus) that ascends much higher (right hand of the father) than Sinai and brings down a gift (Holy Spirit) much better than the table of the law. Whereas the Mosaic covenant was especially with ethnic Israel in a specific land, this new covenant with a newly constituted Israel that encompasses all people to the ends of the earth.

The idea of ‘cleansing’ or purging of Israel inherent in the Baptist’s promise then emerges most prominently both in the Ananias and Sapphira incident and in the Cornelius episode. With respect to the latter, it can be no accident that the one time when the Baptist’s promise that Jesus will purge/cleanse Zion with the Holy Spirit is ‘remembered’ is 11:16, in the midst of questions about whether Gentiles can be ‘clean’ (the focus of Acts 10). Their participation in the Spirit of prophecy shows that Cornelius’ household has a part in the ‘Israel’ the Messiah is cleansing/restoring by the Spirit and thus they are readily admitted to baptism, and Peter can later refer to God as having ‘cleansed their hearts by faith’ (15:9). This whole incident, which initially took Peter and the church by surprise, apparently led to some reinterpretation of Israel’s hope. In 3:19-26 national restoration of Israel around the Messiah as Abraham’s seed was expected eventually to lead to the universalizing of the blessing promised in Gn. 22:18. But in 15:14-18 the argument appears to be that Israel’s restoration is in principle complete and accordingly it is the hour for the eschatological influx of Gentiles. The hopes of Luke 1-2 have largely been fulfilled (Turner 1998:346-347).

Turner’s understanding of the Spirit’s role in Acts as carrying out an eschatological mission of gathering and cleansing an Israel that includes Gentiles is problematic for dispensational and premillennial theologians. They would view this as a ‘church age’ where Gentiles are being reached, but not understand James’ quotation of Amos 9:11-12 in Acts 15:16-18 as actually taking fulfillment when James’s spoke such words.

And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, “ ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’ Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God,” (Acts 15:12-19, ESV)


The overwhelming evidence in Acts and the constant recitation of Old Testament texts to understand the current reality of Gentile inclusion views a single people of God that consist of all people, just as promised in the Abrahamic covenant. If anything, the inclusion of Gentiles is a climax in redemptive history and the realization of all that God had spoken through the prophets about saving people from all nations.  

For Luke the charismatic ‘Spirit of prophecy’ is very much the power and life of the church, and so probably of the individual too. It is the means by which the heavenly Lord exercises his cleansing and transforming rule over Israel as much as the means by which he uses her as the Isaianic servant to witness his salvation to the ends of the earth (Turner 1998:347).

The bestowing of the Spirit on Pentecost didn’t mark the end of God’s dealings with Israel and a transferring of God’s salvific dealings solely to the Gentiles, but was rather the initiation of Israel’s glory age. They were empowered to be the witnesses to the nations as prescribed in Isaiah. The height of Israel’s existence is their mission to the Gentiles and that is being fulfilled right now in these last days. There remains a distinction in ethnicity between Jew and gentile, no doubt, but both constitute a single people of God who are constituted by the same means of calling upon the name of their common Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all the nations are blessed.


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