Covenant theology links the promises of Pentecost to the provisions of Calvary.

Do you speak with an accent? In religious as well as in nonreligious settings, we need to feel part of the group. The sound of our speech, as well as the familiar meanings we attach to words and phrases, helps us feel at home.

Perhaps you have been struck, as I have in recent years, by the emergence of two clearly distinguishable ways of speaking the language of Christian faith, the language of Canaan. One of them accents the doctrine of the Atonement, the story of the cross, and emphasizes the trust that Christians put in the crucifixion of Jesus. I call that Calvary language. The other speaks of Pentecost, of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, and of power—power to overcome sin, to witness, or to exercise some spiritual gift to edify our fellow Christians. I call this Pentecost language; its accent is the Spirit.

Christians whose spiritual roots lie in Lutheran pietism or Baptist evangelicalism are apt to speak most of the time in the accent of Calvary. They magnify grace, sometimes almost to the exclusion of good works, stressing their own unworthiness. They profess their joy to consist not in release from sin but in trusting the blood of Jesus Christ to atone for it. On the other hand, those who learned their faith from the Society of Friends, from Wesleyan or Keswick evangelicals, or from Pentecostal or charismatic fellowships, speak the idiom of Pentecost, with varying accents upon power or peace or purity.

One of the fascinating questions surrounding the history of the holiness movement in America and Britain is how the heirs of John Wesley moved beyond his almost exclusive use of Calvary language to declare the promise and ...

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