Review: The New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit

The New Covenant Ministry of the Holy Spirit
Larry D. Pettegrew

At a little over two hundred pages, this is one of the largest books on the topic of the Holy Spirit in the Church age you are likely to find—and every page is packed with useful insights. Dr. Pettegrew begins with an exploration of the New Covenant and what it means in relation to Church age believers. This is one of the best written explanations of the Church’s relationship to the New Covenant I’ve ever seen (Dr. Dean covers this topic in several of his Bible studies, as well). Dr. Pettegrew’s view is that the Church is not a party to the New Covenant, although it receives blessings as a result of the New Covenant. The argument here is well supported, balanced, and convincing.

The Author’s discussion on the topic of tongues is thorough and interesting; I considered this one of the best sections of the book. He begins by showing that the miracle of “tongues,” is really a miracle of languages, or the ability to speak in a foreign language the speaker has never been trained in. Dr. Pettegrew shows this in a number of ways, such as the point that in each case tongues occurred, there was someone there to understand these languages. He further points out that Paul’s discourse on the miracle of languages in his letters to the Corinthians assumes the speaker understands the words he is saying; it’s not some sort of “secret language” only God can understand, but a language both God and the speaker can understand. His emphasis on Paul’s statements about the ability to control the gift is telling, and adds weight to an already overwhelming argument.

One of the most interesting points here was the use of the miracle of languages as a sign to Israel. There are a number of prophecies in the Tanakh that use Israel being surrounded by people who speak a foreign language as a sign of their captivity, or Diaspora. Dr. Pettegrew relates this to the speaking of foreign languages in the midst of Israel as another sign of the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of Israel as a political entity. This is a pattern I’d not seen before.

There are some places where I think the Author could have dug deeper to support his points. For instance, the case of Cornelius’ household, the miracle of languages goes beyond just being a sign, and again into something practical. For Cornelius, being a Roman from Italy, would have had a household made up of a lot of different people from all over the world. The languages, here, would have served not only to illustrate their renewal in Christ, but also a household made up of many different nationalities suddenly welded into a household under Christ. This is the same “international flavor” Dr. Pettegrew suggests in other places to give meaning to the gift itself, so it melds well with his argument.

I think his discussion around the teaching of the Holy Spirit is excellent, although I would have liked to have seen it developed further, especially in the area of the relationship of the teaching ministry of the Spirit to the teaching ministry of the Law under the Levitical Priesthood. There’s simply not a lot of material in this area available.

There was one small logical slip in the first few pages of the book, but it doesn’t detract from the overall thrust of Dr. Pettegrew’s arguments or the value of the work. Overall, this is an excellent book, and well worth reading if you’re trying to understand the role of the Holy Spirit in the modern Church. There is a good balance between relying on authority, inductive reasoning from specific passages, deductive reasoning from Scriptural patterns throughout.

Strongly recommended.

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