Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Historical Narratives

"For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink" (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Today we will consider some of the problems involved in reading the historical narratives of the Bible. The first principle, and the most important, is historical narratives must be interpreted by the didactic parts of the Bible. “Didactic” passages are those that teach matters directly. We must not read the historical parts of the Bible and then just imagine what they might mean, but we must permit the Bible to interpret itself.

For instance, should we always imitate Jesus? Or are there some things that were His unique prerogative, such as driving people out of the temple with a whip? We must use the didactic parts of the Bible to interpret the narrative parts. The Gospels as historical narratives relate what happened, while the Epistles give didactic teaching about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

A current debate illustrates this problem. Many Charismatic and Pentecostal theologians maintain that the baptism of the Holy Spirit happens after conversion and not all Christians receive it. Thus, there are two kinds of Christians: mere believers and Spirit-baptized believers. They base this on Acts 8 because the Samaritans did not receive the Spirit when they first believed, but later.

In contrast to this, however, the Epistles clearly teach that all believers receive the Spirit at conversion. Since the didactic portion of the Bible is clear, we have to go back to Acts and take another look. When we do, we find the baptisms of the Spirit in Acts are historical events that show the progress of the Gospel from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth. These events show that all believers, regardless of background, are baptized into the same body in Christ, and all have the same Spirit. The baptisms in Acts were miracles designed to make the point that there is no distinction among believers in Christ.

We read in Acts 2:44 that the believers sold their goods and had all things in common. How would you argue against someone who said this proves the need for Christians today to do the same? From your study, discern the unique historical event going on in Acts 2:44. (Hints: Leviticus 25:8ff.; Isaiah 61:1–2; Luke 4:19.)