Geerhardus Vos = Charismatic Theologian?

Okay, I know that some are about to stone me for even mentioning Geerhardus Vos and charismatic in the same sentence. It was intended to be provocative, but I must say that Vos’ pnuematological insights align well with a Redemptive-Charismatic hermeneutic. He quotes:

The position of Jesus in the development of pneumatology as between the Old Testament and Paul can be broadly defined as follows: In the Old Testament the Spirit is the Spirit of theocratic charismata, who qualifies prophets, priests and kings for their office, but is not communicable from one to the other. Of this charismatic Spirit Jesus has received the fullness, and, having the fullness, dispenses of it to His followers, first partially and by means of promise, then in greater fullness by way of fulfillment at Pentecost (Vos:387).

This “theocratic” work of the Spirit did manifest itself by possessing prophets, priests, and kings. Each office complements one another and requires a special empowering that only God can provide through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Old Testament pneumatology is therefore mostly confined to this “theocratic” nature. The Spirit’s work was specific and specifically given only to those who occupied each of the offices. Joel’s promise of the Spirit (2:28-32) ascends from this backdrop of “theocratic charismata” and declares that such phenomenon will not only accompany the three offices, but rather all of Israel. Though the outpouring of the Spirit contains within it a soteriological nature, the emphasis for Joel was on its charismatic nature in the life of Israel.

Vos understands Jesus as the climatic bearer of the Spirit as He possessed all three offices within the theocratic strata. The Spirit is therefore understood as a vocational empowering upon Jesus to fully execute His offices of prophet, priest, and king. Lukan Christology and Pneumatology converge in Jesus baptism, where He receives the Holy Spirit. For Luke, this Spirit is what ushers in Jesus’ Messianic ministry. He is full of the Spirit and led by the Spirit into the wilderness (Lk. 4:1), returns from the wilderness to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit” (Lk. 4:14), and proceeds to quote Isaiah 61 on the Sabbath in Nazareth,

“And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”” (Lk 4:17-19, ESV)

Shortly after Jesus’ reading, he proceeds to heal a demon possessed man in Capernaum, Simon’s  mother in law, and then all who were brought to him (Lk. 4:31-41). This is no small thing in Luke’s account. Jesus is clearly being portrayed as the great theocrat, endued with power. It is this very same paradigm that Luke unpacks in Acts as the disciples are told by Jesus to wait in Jerusalem for “power” from on high. This was not a soteriological or sanctifying work of the Spirit, but clearly a “theocratic” vocational endowment of the Spirit for the disciples.

Lukan pneumatology should therefore be understood less in a soteric/regenerative aspect and instead in an empowering/theocratic aspect. I think Vos was onto something, although he didn’t enumerate  his points in an apologetic for what is now understood as “charismatic” theology. The foundations he lays, however, align better with “charismatic” theology than his “cessationist” grandchildren. 

© 2009, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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