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Summer 2012, Vol. 9

Book Review

Empowered Believers: The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts
Gonzalo Haya-Prats
(Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011) 289 pages

Reviewed by Mark Hausfeld, D.Min.
International Director: Global Initiative: Reaching Muslim Peoples;
Missionary, Assemblies of God World Missions;
Associate Professor of Urban and Islamic Studies,

Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

 

 

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Gonzalo Haya-Prats, a Spaniard, originally wrote Empowered Believers: The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts as his Ph.D. dissertation for the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. 

Please do not stop reading at this point.  I found this book theologically challenging, refreshing to my understanding of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, practical, and prophetic.  The book profoundly impacted me.  When teaching and preaching, I found myself drawing from the biblical truth Haya-Prats exegetes from the narrative of the Book of Acts. This is an informational, inspirational, and applicable published dissertation.

Haya-Prats identifies his theological presupposition in the Foreword of the text. He looks to the original meaning of the Book of Acts as understood by its original readers. For Haya-Prats, the historical context is vital to interpreting, understanding, and applying a theology of the Holy Spirit in the Church. 

Such understanding is not limited to first-century readers, but the meaning is to be equally applicable from the text of Acts today. Thus, Haya-Prats writes:

There is a growing realization that Luke’s narrative-rhetorical interest in the Holy Spirit and the resurrected Jesus’ charge to the disciples-Believers-witnesses at Acts 1:8 should be furthered explored.  The contextual injunction that “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” is testimony that should not be marginalized, but rather be incorporated into the experience of the historic Christian faith. As W. Kurz states, “Jesus’ promise and call of his disciples to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) retains its significance for contemporary Christians.” R. Cantalamessa also argues that “The Holy Spirit is the soul of the tradition. If it is removed or forgotten, what remains of the tradition is only the dead letter.”  Catalamessa stresses that we must not demand that “he adapt to our truth, instead we to his” (xi). 

These are powerful biblical truth statements concerning the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church today. The faithfulness demanded from the author for the Church to yield to the truth of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church as written in the Book of Acts is compelling. The quote from R. Cantalamessa resounds in my heart and mind, “The Holy Spirit is the soul of the tradition. If removed or forgotten, what remains of the tradition is the dead letter” (xi).  For the Pentecostal reader there is a reminder that what the Lukan text reveals about the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts is normative. The Pentecostal theology of the Holy Spirit dovetails with the conviction of Haya-Prats.  

The author divides his book into two sections. Part One discusses “The Lukan Understanding of the Spirit.” Haya-Prats develops from the text of Scripture the theological orthodoxy of Luke’s narrative to the first-century Church as well as to the present-day Church. The emphasis of the chapters captures the essential proper name, meaning, and understanding of the Holy Spirit from the original text of the Greek Septuagint and New Testament (chapter 1); the “inbreaking of the Divine” (chapter 2); the Holy Spirit as the “Gift and Promise of God” (chapter 3) and “The Holy Spirit’s Mode of Action” (chapter 4).   

The excellent theological foundation in Part One creates a natural bridge into Part Two: The Effects of the Holy Spirit. The flow from theological orthodoxy to the orthopraxy of the empowering of the Holy Spirit within the disciple for witness is natural and convincing. Those who say Pentecostals build theology on experience and not experience on theology will be enlightened. This second part argues how the text of Acts expects and demands the infilling of the Holy Spirit, which obviously becomes incarnate in the faith experience of the disciple of Christ. To experience any less from the truth of the text is less than what God has intended for His Church for all time and context. The foci of Part Two’s chapters reveal the expectation of the Holy Spirit upon the Church: “Testimony and Evangelism” (chapter 5); “The Beginning of the Christian Life” (chapter 6); “The Development of the Christian Life” (chapter 7); “The Prophetic Direction of the People of God” (chapter 8). All of these chapters resound with the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s desire upon the Church to fulfill the mission of God through every generation of disciples from the Day of Pentecost to the present. The experience of the Holy Spirit in the Church is to be Newtonian in cause (Holy Spirit infilling) and in effect (disciple supernaturally empowered). 

Though this text is academic in nature, it will teach and preach. It is an excellent resource for the seminary classroom, the pastor’s study, and the missionary’s field of service. The truth of the biblical text is presented in a highly readable and applicable fashion. The reader who does not have a working knowledge of the Greek in the Septuagint and New Testament may find it a challenging read, but that should not keep one from drawing a sound, exciting, and applicable read. 

The book does not provide an argument that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is understood as the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues.  However, the reader will find that the expected result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues and much joy (p. 128).

It is a pleasure to highly recommend Empowered Believers: The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts.


Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 9:37 AM