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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Holy Spirit: How He Works

Don Stewart :: Do Paul and Luke Contradict Each Other concerning How the Holy Spirit Works?

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Do Paul and Luke Contradict Each Other concerning How the Holy Spirit Works?

The Holy Spirit: How He Works – Question 17

There have been those who have alleged that the work of the Holy Spirit in the writings of Paul contradict the way the Holy Spirit works in the Book of Acts – the writings of Luke. Basically the charge is that the work of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts is spectacular without any emphasis on the personal work in the lives of believers. On the other hand, in the writings of Paul, we do not find the emphasis on the spectacular but rather on the His personal work. This, it is argued, shows that the two writers had a contradictory idea concerning the work of the Holy Spirit. The arguments are as follows.

The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts Is Spectacular

As we look at the Book of Acts we do find the Holy Spirit working in spectacular ways. He comes down on the Day of Pentecost and fills the believers who, in turn, supernaturally praise God in languages in which they had never learned before. He also falls on the Samaritans, Gentiles, and disciples of John the Baptist in a spectacular way.

There Is No Mention of the Inner Workings of the Holy Spirit in Acts

However, we find no mention of the inner workings of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts. The only times we find the Holy Spirit mentioned is in some spectacular work. Does this mean that the work of the Holy Spirit was not part of the normal Christian experience of every believer?

We Do Not Find the Spectacular in Paul’s Writings

Paul, on the other hand, does not emphasize any of these spectacular events in which the Holy Spirit. He does not even refer to the Day of Pentecost or to any of the other episodes where the Holy Spirit performed miraculous works. Does this mean that he is at odds with Luke?

Response to Paul and Luke Contradicting Each Other

There are a number of things that can be said with respect to this important issue. They include the following.

Acts Is a Transitional Book

First, it must be appreciated that the Book of Acts is a transitional book. It explains the transition from the age of Law to the age of grace – the age in which the Holy Spirit works in a unique way. In doing so, the early chapters of Acts are directed at the Jewish church. Indeed, the first twelve chapters deal almost exclusively with Jewish believers. As a transitional period some unique events occurred that would not have been the norm for later Christian experience. Many of the spectacular events recorded in the Book of Acts were due to the transitional nature of this period. This always has to be kept in mind.

Paul Was the Apostle to the Gentiles

It must be remembered that Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles. His writings to Gentile churches would not have referred to events that affected the early Jewish church – they would not have been relevant. He also wrote at a time when these spectacular events that are recorded in Acts had already occurred. Consequently they were not significant for the audience to which he was writing.

Acts Is the Description; Paul’s Writings Are the Explanation

The Book of Acts describes the working of the Holy Spirit in the early history of the church. The Apostle Paul, on the other hand, explains the meaning of the workings of the Holy Spirit in his writings. The writers have two different goals in mind. One is giving the description while the other is giving the explanation. Therefore each writer has a different emphasis.

Paul and Luke Were Traveling Companions and Worked Together in the Ministry

It must also be remembered that Paul and Luke were traveling companions. They also worked together in the Christian ministry. Apart from the fact that the Holy Spirit supernaturally guided both of them to write exactly what God wanted them to, on a human level, they certainly would have discussed and compared what they wrote. There is no evidence whatsoever that they disagreed on how the Holy Spirit worked.

In sum, we can confidently say that there is no contradiction whatsoever between the writings of Luke and Paul with respect to the working of the Holy Spirit.

Summary – Question 17
Do Paul and Luke Contradict Each Other concerning How the Holy Spirit Works?

It has often been alleged that Paul and Luke are at odds in their view of the work of the Holy Spirit. Luke records the Holy Spirit working in spectacular ways while Paul the Apostle writes more of the Holy Spirit’s personal work with the believer. However there is no contradiction. A number of points need to be made.

First, Acts is a transitional book. Many of the events recorded were one-time occurrences. Some of these events involved the Jewish church.

Next, Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles. His writings would not have reflected events that were peculiar to the early Jewish church. Indeed, these past events were not relevant to these believers in the Gentile churches.

In addition, when we look at the writings of Paul and Luke we find a different emphasis – Acts is the description of what took place while Paul’s writings are the explanation. When put together they form a perfect harmony.

Since Paul and Luke were traveling companions, and worked together in the ministry, we should expect their writings to complement each other. A close comparison of what each of them is saying will discover this is exactly the case. Consequently, there is no contradiction between these two New Testament authors.

How Did the Holy Spirit Speak to the Apostles? ← Prior Section
What Is the Ministry of the Holy Spirit to the Unbelieving World? Next Section →
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