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  • Writer's pictureSteve Starcher

The Authority of Holy Scripture

How should Pentecostals read Holy Scripture and receive it as their authority for faith, life, and ministry?



How should Pentecostals read Holy Scripture and receive it as their authority for faith, life, and ministry? The first Pentecostals provide a pathway for twenty-first-century Pentecostals to follow. They read the Bible as the story of Jesus. Christ was the interpretive key to understanding its pages. Experiencing salvation and empowerment for Christian living and mission was the goal of reading. The story of Jesus found in Holy Scripture served as the context and authority to understand, evaluate, and reform their faith, life, and ministry. By the work of the Holy Spirit, Scripture not only told the story of salvation but worked salvation in Pentecostal lives. Pentecostals were “born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).

Pentecostals expect to encounter Jesus when they read, teach, and preach Holy Scripture. The Old Testament finds its meaning and purpose in revealing Jesus. An early Pentecostal leader, G. F. Taylor, boldly proclaimed, “All the Bible points to Jesus on the cross. We may not be able to see Jesus in it all, but he is there just the same.”[1] They saw the New Testament concealed within the Old and the Old Testament revealed in the New. Jesus was the center from which they interpreted Scripture. “Jesus brings about the unity of Scripture because he is the endpoint and fullness of Scripture. Everything in it is related to him. In the end, he is its sole object. Consequently, he is, so to speak, its whole object.”[2] The story of Scripture is the story of Jesus!

New Testament writings confirmed the Pentecostal hermeneutic. The authors interpreted the Old Testament in a two-fold sense, historical and spiritual. The Exodus from Egypt is a historical event. The river of water gushing from the rock to satisfy Israel’s thirst during the event (Ex. 17:6), prefigures Christ (1 Cor. 10:4), and the rivers of living water receiving the Holy Spirit brings believers in Christ (John 7:37-39). Scripture’s historical and spiritual senses unite to provide one story of God’s action in history culminating in Jesus.

Scripture tells the story of Jesus, and he is the interpretive key and center. How is this story authoritative for Pentecostal faith, life, and ministry? Once again, Pentecostals need to return to the center of their faith and listen to the teaching of Jesus.


“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:16-20, NRSV).


Matthew concludes his Gospel by returning his readers to the beginning of the story of Jesus, Galilee. Jesus grew up in Galilee (2:22-23), recruited his first apostles along the shores of its sea (4:18-22), and first proclaimed the kingdom of God with power there (4:23-24). Jesus’ ministry was successful, and “great crowds followed him from Galilee” (4:25). Galilee, the place from which Jesus launched his ministry, would become the launching point for the ministry of his disciples to the whole world.

Jesus directed the disciples to a mountain. Seeing Jesus created doubt in some and spawned worship in others. Jesus knew what his disciples needed for confidence in their future ministry, a renewed affirmation of his authority. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (28:18). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is a sign of the enthronement of Israel’s king as prophesied by Daniel.


As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed (Dan. 7:13-14).


Jesus wants his disciples to know that he possesses all authority over heaven and earth. The risen Jesus continues the Lordship exercised during his earthly ministry. Paul vividly describes the authority of Jesus.


God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Eph. 1:20-23).


The Great Commission reminds the disciples the authority of Jesus continues in them. Because Jesus possesses authority, they are to “go” (Matt. 28 19). They are to make new disciples just like Jesus. Disciples follow Jesus (Matt. 4:22), listen to Jesus (Matt. 17:5), pray with Jesus (Matt 6:9-13), and practice the ethics of the kingdom modeled by Jesus (Matt. 5:1-12). Disciples are imitators of Christ (1 Cor. 1:11).

Jesus reminds his disciples that discipleship starts with water baptism. Paul’s presentation of baptism is appropriate here. He explicitly links water baptism to the bestowal of the Holy Spirit and the new life in Christ.


Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection (Rom 6:3-5).


For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (3:27).


And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11).


In baptism, Jesus’ authority is on display as new disciples are made and experience the salvation and new life he brings.

The disciples are not only to baptize but to teach new disciples. They are to tell the story of Jesus and his significance for all nations. The teaching required is comprehensive to guide disciples to obey “all” that Christ commanded (Matt. 28:20). By teaching the story, they make God’s holy name known to the nations, see his kingdom come, and will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:9-13).

Jesus’ farewell discourse concludes with a promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Matthew takes his readers back to the beginning of his Gospel. Jesus receives the name Emmanuel, “which means God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Jesus is always present in the Christian community. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:20). Jesus and his authority are with the disciples on their mission. The words they speak and the power they possess are Christ’s words and power (Matt. 7:24-27). The story of Jesus, the Gospel, “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Rom. 1:6)

How should Pentecostals read Holy Scripture and receive it as their authority for faith, life, and ministry? We should read the Bible as the story of Jesus with Jesus as the interpretive key to understanding its message. Experiencing salvation and empowerment for living and mission as disciples are the goals of reading. Scripture’s authority reflects the authority of the present and risen Lord Jesus, who continues his ministry through disciples. Jesus fulfills his promises and makes biblical stories of God’s revelation and actions in the world alive with meaning and power. The story of Jesus found in Holy Scripture serves as the context and authority to understand, evaluate, and reform Pentecostal faith, life, and ministry. By the Holy Spirit, Scripture not only tells the story of salvation but works salvation in Pentecostal lives. Pentecostals are “born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).


Bibliography

Lubac, Henri de Cardinal. Medieval Exegesis Vol 1 the Four Senses of Scripture. Ressourcement (Grand Rapids, Mich). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.


“The International Pentecostal Holiness Advocate | Consortium of Pentecostal Archives.” Accessed February 15, 2022. https://pentecostalarchives.org/collections/internationalpentecostalholinessadvocate/

[1] “The International Pentecostal Holiness Advocate | Consortium of Pentecostal Archives,” accessed February 15, 2022, https://pentecostalarchives.org/collections/internationalpentecostalholinessadvocate/. [2] Henri de Cardinal Lubac, Medieval Exegesis Vol 1 the Four Senses of Scripture, Ressourcement (Grand Rapids, Mich) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 237.


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