Stott and Ervin on Spirit Baptism Part Three

(Part Two Here)

In this final post examining how John Stott and Howard Ervin contrast the different doctrines of Spirit Baptism, our attention turns to the idea of being filled with the spirit. The question at hand is whether this is a single event or series of fillings. Stott conservatively separates the baptismal event and subsequent episodes of being filled with the spirit.  As stated in my second posting, Stott does not hear Scripture speaking of a secondary Baptism but he does take an interesting stance on the fullness of the Spirit when he says “that this gift needs to be continuously and increasingly appropriated.” He sees this infilling taking three forms. First, the normal condition of the Christian is to be “filled” with the Spirit (ie: Acts 11:24). The second form is a unique to an event or ministry. As an example, we are pointed to John the Baptist who was “filled with the Holy Spirit” in advance of his prophetic ministry. Similarly, in advance of Paul’s ascension to apostolic office (Acts 9:17) Ananias prays for him to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” The third form of infilling, according to Stott, is a more temporal filling unique to an immediate task or emergency. Zechariah was filled prior to prophecy and Stephen prior to his martyrdom.

Dr. Ervin’s Pentecostal position is much easier to enumerate as he associates the full infilling with the Spirit Baptism. Viewing them as inseparable, he posits that for subsequent infilling events to occur, one must experience re-baptism, certainly a non-biblical notion. We must be mindful that this doctrine is developed predominantly from within the Lukan corpus and lies at the heart of the Pentecostal position on Spirit Baptism. When he turns to the Pauline instance in Ephesians 5:18:

Do not get drunk on win, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ervin points out that the word for “be filled” is in the present tense, imperative mood, and passive voice. This leads the interpreter with a choice of a repeated action (be filled again and again) or a continuous action (be continuously filled with the Spirit). Good exegesis points us to the immediate context for guidance and in doing so we find a parallelism in the verse between the warning against getting drunk on wine and the encouragement rather, to be filled with the Spirit. The present imperative is used in the first component of the comparison (do not get drunk), consistent interpretation calls for the present imperative in the second half of the parallelism as well. As Ervin paraphrases the verse “Stop being habitually drunken with wine but be continuously filled with the Spirit.”

Conclusion

This is a secondary issue to a secondary doctrine but one that calls for greater consideration by all Christians. Brother Stott points our attention to John 7:37-39:

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to received. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote of this passage “It has been said that there are some passages in Scripture which deserve to be printed in letters of gold.” The Lord refers to a ritual of the Feast in which water from the pool of Siloam was poured out in prescience of the coming of the Spirit and that Jesus would provide this water to all who thirsted and came to Him to be relieved. As we meditate on this passage we can see that the empowerment of the Spirit is directly tied to our penitent approach to the Lord. Not only that, but this living water will stream from us to others infusing our ministry with power. Whether the Christian views this as a fresh filling of the power of the Spirit or a further releasing of the pent up power within us, we do well to continue our repeated approaches to the throne so that the streams might flow into and out of us all.

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