Stott and Ervin on Spirit Baptism Part One

In 1964, immediately prior to the latest movement of Charismatic Renewal, respected theologian John Stott wrote a short book entitled Baptism and Fullness offering an exposition of the biblical description of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Four years later, in 1968, Dr. Howard Ervin wrote a scholarly treatise on the narrower ministry of baptism in the spirit titled These Are Not Drunken, As Ye Suppose (now Spirit Baptism).  Since they are both respectful and irenic in their presentation, it is instructive to examine the positions of both side by side in order to further expand our views on the doctrine of Spirit Baptism.

Stott’s approach is fundamentally this: the Baptism in the Spirit coincides with the moment of conversion. Upon his surrender to Christ, the believer receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who immediately sets to work in the ongoing process of sanctification.  He uses the question “Is it that God makes us his sons and daughters and then gives us His spirit, or that he gives us his ‘Spirit of Sonship’ who makes us his sons and daughters?” to frame his discussion of the indwelling. Helpfully, Stott points out that Paul answers both ways in the Scriptures: in one instance he wrote “because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” (Gal 4:6) and in another wrote “…those who are led by the Spirit of God, are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.” (Rom 8:14-15). In other words, the Christian is in every moment of his or her new life seen as having the Spirit within.

Ervin finds in the scriptures evidence that the Baptism in the Spirit is a second event in the life of the Christian, subsequent to the crisis event of conversion. As he lays out his case for viewing Pentecost (and the familiar passages in Acts) as representative of a normative experience for all Christians, he makes five propositions intended to guide the topic’s exploration. The points are intended to buffet the non-Charismatic’s argument rooted in Romans 8:9b “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” intimating at the difficulty of separating conversion and a subsequent indwelling event. First, John the Baptist’s baptism set the type for the Spirit Baptism, placing the convert in water in preparation for the second baptism of the Spirit (Acts 1:5). Second, Jesus administers the Spirit baptism (John 1:33, et. al). Third, Ervin states without reservation that “baptism in the Holy Spirit is not synonymous with conversion and the new birth from above.” Fourth, there will be evidence of the indwelling of the Spirit, specifically glossolalia. Finally, the fifth point of structure is that the baptism in the Holy Spirit in Lukan theology is synonymous with being filled with the Spirit, contrary to the notion of repeated or progressive fillings of the Spirit’s power.

Neither of these men approaches the discussion in an emotional manner. Instead they lay out the evidence as they interpret it scholastically and theologically giving students of the topic an opportunity to weigh their work, examine the scriptures prayerfully on their own, and arrive at the conclusion that the Lord means for them to have. We will engage Ervin and Stott further in the days to come.

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4 thoughts on “Stott and Ervin on Spirit Baptism Part One

  1. Pingback: Stott and Ervin on Spirit Baptism Part Two « Love Acceptance Forgiveness
  2. I’m interested in this series, and was wondering if you ever finished it. This is the last post in the series listed on your ‘Christian Doctrine’ page. Thanks.

    • I’ve added the links to part 2 and 3 on the Christian Doctrine page. I’m glad you find the material interesting. If you have any thoughts on the topic, I’d love to hear from you.

      BTW, you did a commendable addressing the issues that arose around your Bertrand Russell post. What I am learning in involving myself with the atheist community is that there is no end to the discussion. They do not accept any premise that you might present and when you do logically back them into a corner with their own words, they change the subject or run away. Prayer is the only hope.

      • Thanks for the updated links, and thanks for your encouragement, too. I think you’ve done an excellent job engaging the atheist community in discussion; the example you’ve set in your own interaction was very helpful to me.

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