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Theology

Baptism and Fullness

John Stott’s Baptism and Fullness is a short, systematic theology of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer and the church at large.  It was first published in 1964 and since then, as we know, the Holy Spirit’s work has been increasing in interest and controversy with the surging of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements.

It’s a short work, only 119 pages and four chapters.  Those four chapters cover the promise of the Spirit, the fullness of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit.

On page 24, Stott talks about John the Baptist calling Jesus the “Lamb of God” and the one “who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”  Stott then sums up the ministry of Jesus saying, “If we put [John 1:29 and 33] together, we discover that the characteristic work of Jesus is twofold.  It involves a removal and a bestowal, a taking away of sin and a baptizing with the Holy Spirit.  These are the two great gifts of Jesus Christ our Saviour.”

I thought Stott’s treatment of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was one of the better I have read.  For reference, Wayne Grudmen would be someone who believes along the same lines as Stott does with this doctrine.  I won’t go into great detail, but here’s a few quotes that grabbed my attention:

The New Testament authors take it for granted that God has ‘given’ their readers the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 5:5; 1 Thess. 4:8; 1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13); there is no single occasion on which they exhort them to receive him (p. 38).

Never, not once, do they [the apostles] exhort and instruct us to ‘be baptized with the Spirit’. There can be only one explanation of this, namely that they are writing to Christians, and Christians have already been baptized with the Holy Spirit (p. 45).

In the chapter on spiritual gifts, Stott discusses which gifts are available for today.  He believes that the gifts of apostle and prophet are not available today, but does not even discuss tongues, miracles, and healings.  I was very surprised to say the least that he didn’t touch on these “miraculous gifts” at all!

With seven pages left in the book, however, he says, “Probably at things point something needs to be said about ‘tongues’, a gift much emphasized by some.”  He then said, “There is a strong theological and linguistic presumption that the phenomenon referred to in 1 Corinthians [and Acts 2] is the same” (p. 112).  I agree with Stott on this, but differ in that I think the languages spoken were languages known to the speaker and the hearer (this might shock you, but maybe I’ll address this in a future post).  Whether we see eye to eye on this or not, Stott rightly says that all the gifts were given for the common good and to equip the saints for ministry (p. 115).

This is a solid, thorough work.  I don’t agree with everything; however, I did find most parts very helpful.  The work of the Spirit can be very controversial (for whatever reason), but the most important thing that we, as Christians, must remember and commit to agree on is that everyone who receives the divine call and repents of their sin receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.  As Stott says, “This…phrase [in Acts 2:38-39] is a very clear and striking assertion.  It is that promise of the ‘gift’ or ‘baptism’ of the Spirit is to as many as the Lord our God calls” (p. 28).  Amen.