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Romans 8:14-17

Romans 8:14-17 brings us into the heart of the message of Pentecost; the Holy Spirit transforms and empowers believers as they experience the joy of being in the presence of a living God. Paul identifies the children of God as those who live by the Spirit (v14) after admonishing (v12-13) us to follow the Holy Spirit’s direction instead of human desires alone if we want life instead of death. He refers to the concept of adoption (v15) to depict our relationship with God. Adoption brought a radical change. One left behind the social position of the old life and gained the status of the new father while coming under his absolute authority. Paul closes by emphasizing our unity with God (v17). We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. We share with him both in suffering and glory. Three Greek compound words reinforce the point that we are united with Christ.

At the beginning of the twentieth century some Christians expected to encounter the Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit as described in Romans 8. In 1895, organizers of the Church of Nazarene declared: “We seek the simplicity and the Pentecostal power of the primitive New Testament Church.” In 1898, Martin Wells Knapp wrote Lightning Bolts from Pentecostal Skies expecting God to act in his world. Yet the meaning of Pentecost soon became a contested issue. The Azusa Street Revival began in April 1906 with meetings less than a mile from Los Angeles First Church of the Nazarene. Within a few months it became clear that these two movements differed over how, and for what purpose, the Holy Spirit would be manifest in the life of a believer. The central point of conflict became the Azusa claim that “speaking in tongues” was the evidence of one’s baptism with the Holy Spirit because it undermined the Nazarene narrative of Pentecost that the disciples experienced entire sanctification through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The new Pentecostals expected signs and wonders while Nazarenes, similar to Paul, anticipated a moral transformation of believers whose daily life would be led by the Holy Spirit.

One hundred years ago Christians celebrated Pentecost on June 11, 1916. Both Methodists and Nazarenes wrote on the meaning of Pentecost. In the June 1 Christian Advocate, members of the Methodist Episcopal Church read “Pentecost and the Church of the Twentieth Century.” Perhaps the Methodist writer indirectly countered Pentecostalism when he wrote that the message of Pentecost should not focus on the tongues of fire or the sound of the wind, but on the power of the Holy Spirit manifest in the lives of his people. On the cover of the June 7 Herald of Holiness Nazarenes read the personal account of the Methodist Daniel Steele’s experience of entire sanctification. When they opened the magazine, they would have found nine articles connecting the baptism of the Holy Spirit with entire sanctification. While contemporary Nazarenes might focus more on human consecration, these early Nazarenes viewed entire sanctification as something done by God. Both Methodists and Nazarene writers agreed with Paul that the power of the Holy Spirit transformed them and the presence of a liv