Book Review: “The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit” by John R.W. Stott (1964)

My experience with John R.W. Stott has been limited, though his first piece I ever read was an article about missions, an article later picked up by the editors of Perspectives on Missions. I understand Stott held to an annihilationist viewpoint, that unbelievers don’t go to Hell but simply cease to exist, which is a highly disappointing news. I also imagine, however, that he did not let this viewpoint affect the rest of his practical theology, for many of his books are still held in very high esteem  by theologians of all shapes and colors, most notably those who would consider annihilationsim a firm form of heresy. Recognizing Stott’s capability of writing deeply and clearly on many different theological issues, I approached his small bookletThe Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit with great anticipation that I would not have to sift through madness to find the nuggets of wisdom. Happy I was, then, to discover that I probably highlighted more portions of this booklet than not, and I feel thoroughly educated on the topic of the baptism of the Spirit.

Stott wrote this booklet in response to the growing Pentacostal and charismatic trends he sensed around his Anglican church in England. His purpose: to defend the anti-Pentecostal position which states that Holy Spirit baptism is a one-time event a believer experiences at his conversion, not a second or even a recurring “blessing” that God gifts only some beleivers. After proving that this is so from the seven passages of Sripture which contain the Spirit-baptism language, Stott spends the remainder of his book describing the fullness of the Spirit, the spiritually charged life which all Christians can experience if only they actively pursue it themselves. Paul offers the imparative that we must “be filled with the Spirit,” the result of which, being far from craziness and inanity, is actually self control, the rest of the fruit of the Spirit, and speaking to each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody in our hearts to the Lord with thankfulness (Ephesians 5:18-19; Galatians 5:22-23).

Stott writes clearly, concisely, and with a level head on his shoulders as he expounds the Scriptures on the hot-button topic. I am not sure if this book is still in print or not, but I would encourage you to find a copy (InterVarsity Press) if you can, especially if you are confused about the Pentacostal or charismatic movements, if you think you need a “second blessing” of the Holy Spirit, or if you simply want to know the Spirit better.

©2012 E.T.

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