Gordon Fee on the need of a corrective to non-Pentecostal and Pentecostal views of Paul’s teaching on the Spirit

As with my commentary on 1 Corinthians, it seemed fitting that one such book* at least be written by a New Testament scholar who is also a Pentecostal both by confession and by experience. In his watershed exegetical study of “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, J. D. G. Dunn observed that for traditional Pentecostalism, which bases its theology primarily on Acts, “Paul need not have written anything. Indeed Paul seems to be more of an embarrassment than an asset.” Conversely, it might be observed that most non-Pentecostals, of both the sacramental and nonsacramental variety, find Paul to be most convenient to their theologies, while Acts is determined to be decidedly nontheological. Therefore, in evaluating the role of the Spirit in the life of the believer (especially on the matter of “conversion-initiation,” to borrow Dunn’s term), both groups tend to find a canon within the canon.

The same holds true for their respective emphases on the ongoing life in the Spirit. But here there is a “canon within the Pauline canon.” Pentecostals, on the one hand, at times could be rightly accused of neglecting most of Paul for 1 Corinthians 12 to 14. Here they find biblical justification for the ongoing exercise of the spiritual gifts in their midst, especially the more extraordinary gifts. Non-Pentecostals, on the other hand, tend to regard 1 Corinthians as an embarrassment, both to Paul and to the later church (or else they use it as a negative paradigm). Their “canon within the canon” is Galatians 5 and Romans 7-8; for them the key to Pauline Spirit language resides in ethical life (the fruit of the Spirit). I find both forms of truncated canon less than satisfactory, hence part of the reason for this study.

Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, 10. J. D. G. Dunn quoted from his book, Baptism in the Holy Spirit: A Re-examination of the New Testament on the Gift of the Spirit, 103.

*On “the subject of the Spirit in Paul’s letters and theology.” (10)


O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer