Tag Archives: john r w stott

Moving Beyond Confusion with the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” (#7)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images, Economist magazine)

The seventh (and last) in a multipart blog post series

Let me share with you some of my personal journey. When someone says “charismatic,” with respect to the Christian faith, it can evoke a lot of different reactions….

I have had a number of friends who would consider themselves as “charismatic,” as well as friends who are “non-charismatic.” I have helped to lead worship at a Pentecostal church, back in college, as well as church fellowships that take a rather dim view of all things “charismatic.”Some friends really look forward to worshipping at a “Spirit-filled” church. Others will not touch anything “charismatic” with a 10-foot pole. I even had a girlfriend years ago who dumped me because she said I was too “charismatic,” which was strange, particularly since I do not think I have ever genuinely “spoken in tongues,” and certainly never around her!

Like British Bible teacher John R.W. Stott was, I consider myself open to the charismatic movement, but I am cautious. Like Stott, I do not believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be turned on and off at will, like a water spigot. Sure, there is the whacky stuff associated with many TV evangelists that drives me crazy, but my main concern is theological. It all started with that awkward conversation with my high school friend, some thirty years ago, that I mentioned in the first blog post in this series. I lost track of her over the years, but the theological conundrum she left with me has stayed with me:

Clarke, have you received the baptism in the Holy Ghost?

In one sense, the inner turmoil turned out for the best. I had to search the Scriptures for myself, seeking God deeper in my prayer life, asking that I might be filled more with His Spirit, in obedience to His Word. I still desire that, today. For that, I am most grateful for that conversation.

But in another sense, the question left me in a state of needless confusion. I read books by John R. W. Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones on this topic, and both had very different conclusions. Which one was right? I would have conversations with various pastors, all sharing conflicting views on the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

How was I to make sense of it all? What does the Bible really teach about the “baptism in the Holy Spirit?” Continue reading


Power to Witness in the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” (#6)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images, Economist magazine)

Continuing on, with the sixth in a multipart blog post series

Revival: The church’s greatest need.

So reads the back cover of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ classic Joy Unspeakable…. and Lloyd-Jones is still right!! How can the church accomplish her God-given mission without the inward, transforming power of the Holy Spirit?

Once you observe how Old Testament prophecy works in the New Testament, regarding the Holy Spirit, such as in the narrative portions of the Book of Acts, then the whole framework of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” falls into place. But not only does “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” in the Book of Acts fulfill prophecy from the Old Testament, it does so for a purpose, namely, that the believer might experience the power to witness for the sake of the Gospel. Continue reading


Is the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” a Second Blessing Experience? (#4)

Fired up by enthusiasm, the theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit,” is taking over the globe. But what is it exactly? (photo credit: Getty Images, Economist magazine)

Fourth in a multipart blog series….

So, how did we get from the sacrament of confirmation or chrismation, from the early church, to contemporary Pentecostalism? The key to this is understanding the idea of a “second blessing” experience, in the life of a believer. The “second blessing” has a history stemming back to the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. Wesley had been an Anglican missionary in the early 18th century, in the English colony of Georgia. But in these early years, he considered himself to be mostly a failure, even from the very start.

On the ocean voyage across the Atlantic from England, Wesley’s ship was in a severe storm. But there was a group of Moravian missionaries on board that same ship, who calmly sang hymns and songs to God, praying for their safety, as their boat began to groan and crack under the beating of the pounding waves and swelling sea.

Wesley, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck. This missionary was completely scared to death. He and the Moravians survived the storm, but Wesley knew that they had some kind of peace and spiritual courage that he lacked. It was not until Wesley returned a few years later to England, where at a Bible study lecture, he felt his heart “strangely warmed.” He was never the same after that moment, experiencing great power in delivering hundreds and hundreds of sermons that fueled the fires of the Great Awakening in England.

John Wesley, the 18th century evangelical leader, whose heart was “strangely warmed,” years after he had committed himself to follow Christ.

The Holiness movement in 19th century followed the theological lead set by John Wesley, and they began to speak of an experience with the Holy Spirit after conversion as a “second blessing.” It is therefore no surprise that William J. Seymour, and other leaders of the 20th century Pentecostal revival, built their theology of “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” on the foundations of the Wesleyan inspired Holiness movement. It bears repeating that these early, pre-Pentecostalism advocates of a “second blessing” were not “charismatic” in the sense of possessing the gift of “speaking in tongues,” or other miraculous gifts of the Spirit.

Furthermore, as briefly mentioned in the last blog post, these Holiness groups were not the only ones who believed in “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” as a “second blessing.” Prior to Wesley, various Puritan thinkers in the 17th and 18th centuries also made a distinction between becoming a Christian and “the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”  Even though the Holiness movement, through groups like the Nazarenes and the Church of God, directly led towards contemporary Pentecostalism, in a way that the Puritan movement did not, it is helpful to examine this particular Puritan theology in some detail. A more recent example of this early, Puritan-inspired view can be found in the great 20th century Welsh pastor, Doctor Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Continue reading


Podcasts for the Thinking Christian

Plumb LineJohn’ s recent post on William Lane Craig’s Defender Series of podcasts brought to mind that I should update my list of recommended podcasts for the thinking Christian (here is an earlier list John and I have discussed).  I do not have the time to read books as much as I would like, but the marvel of MP3 players is that I can download audio files and listen to them while I work in the yard or drive to and from work.

John’s suggestion of William Lane Craig as the “graduate school” for the next step following after Dick Woodward’s Mini Bible College is very appropriate. Dick was an amazing teacher who continues to impact the world through his unique ability to “put things on the bottom shelf” for people by exploring the basic contours of the Bible. Dr. Craig then makes it more in-depth in terms of helping you grasp and develop your own understanding of God (theology) founded on Scripture and then applied in terms of being able to offer a rational defense of the Christian faith (apologetics).

But just as there are fine and different academic graduate schools out there, there are different “graduate school” approaches to theology and apologetics. For example, Dr. Craig is probably one of the leading Christian apologists alive today, such that atheist Richard Dawkins awkwardly still refuses to debate him. But Dr. Craig is known for his “Middle Knowledge” approach to the issue of God’s sovereignty vs. free will. He is also known for his classical/evidentialist approach to apologetics.  Without digging too much into those things right now, let me just say that not everybody is totally with Dr. Craig on these issues. But, PLEASE, do not let that dissuade you from digging into William Lane Craig! He is awesome! It is just important to know that there are other approaches that Christians take to these issues. You might want to check out some of the other podcast resources available to get a flavor of what is out there. So here we go!

Continue reading


Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Human Condition

Let us be honest. None of us really likes to talk about sin.

But when we talk about the great and glorious news of the Gospel, that in Jesus Christ we have been forgiven of our sin, it would behoove us to fully understand what the sin problem really is. If we fail to do that, it would be like a doctor trying to give a prescription to a patient for their healing without fully grasping the proper diagnosis of the condition.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was perhaps the greatest evangelical preacher in 20th century Britain, only rivaled by perhaps one of my favorite expository British teachers, John R. W. Stott (who teaches on the subject of human sin as found in Ephesians 2:1-3 in a commentary found here). Formerly a doctor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones went onto preach as a minister for 30 years. Jones was a great admirer of the Puritans, thoroughly immersed in the Reformed tradition.

I have been spending several weeks reading Romans 5:12-21 in preparing some discussions for our small group Bible study. Of everything I have read in Romans, this passage of Scripture is probably the most compact, dense, liberating, and enriching text in the entire letter. It is nevertheless controversial within the church as to how it has been interpreted. Just ask any Roman Catholic, Protestant or Eastern Orthodox Christian familiar with the discussion. For starters, consider verse 12:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned——

The Apostle Paul simply breaks off his thought within mid-sentence.  It is as though Paul had to pause there, anticipating the objections that would be raised to the concept of human as sinners that would chafe against the rational mind for the next 21 centuries. What does Paul mean by this phrase all sinned?   I have been reading this over and over again, looking at commentaries like this one, only to be further drawn into the Apostle Paul’s famous pause at the point. What was Paul getting at?

It is as breath-taking as it is challenging.

In the following video, Martyn Lloyd-Jones gets to the heart of why so many people have such difficulties with Paul’s message in Romans 5.

Also, if you want to hear some of the best Reformed, expository Bible preaching ever recorded, you will be pleased to know that over 1,600 of Martyn-Lloyd Jones sermons are now available for free on the Internet (though you can donate to make sure that those sermons remain freely available).

In the meantime, you can get the flavor of his approach to the Bible and why it is so important to understand the proper diagnosis of the human condition. This interview was conducted by journalist Joan Bakewell in December, 1970:


%d bloggers like this: