John Stott’s fascinating and controversial book, Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today, will almost certainly cause all who read it to rethink many of their assumptions surrounding the Holy Spirit and His work today. In a day in which Pentecostalism is the fastest growing expression of Christianity in the world, this book will be found to be as timely and relevant as it was when written over twenty five years ago. Furthermore, Stott’s work takes its place among the most important and significant pneumatological works available today.
While at all times respectful to those who differ, there can be little doubt that Stott wrote this work as a corrective to the more crude and deficient ideas surrounding the Holy Spirit today. His central thesis seems to be that there is no Biblical basis for the so-called “baptism of the Spirit” as defined as a second, post-conversion, individualistic empowerment by the Holy Spirit. Instead, Stott argues for a universal, one-time “baptism of the Spirit” among all believers at the point of conversion and then differentiates between this and subsequent “fillings of the Spirit” that Christians should rightly pray for. What is more, Stott argues that there is no basis for arguing that speaking in tongues and miraculous healings are signs of a special blessing from the Holy Spirit.
Stott goes on to discuss a myriad of issues surrounding his central theme: the question of miracles today, the definition of “tongues” in the Bible, the number and nature of spiritual gifts, etc. In discussing all of this, Stott employs his characteristic tone of maturity and care. His conclusions are based on solid exegesis and a thoughtful reading of Scripture.
While there is something in this book to make everybody pause, and while there is probably something in this book that everybody might disagree with, it cannot be doubted that Stott’s voice on these issues deserves to be heard. I, for one, greatly appreciate his views on the Spirit (as well as his views on most other things!) and would heartily recommend this book to any who want to think again about this most important issue.