Sunday, 19 January 2014

Martyn Lloyd-Jones – a passion for Christ-exalting power

John Piper’s Christian biographies are a must if you enjoy inspirational MP3s. I listened to his fascinating treatment (both script and audio) of Martyn Lloyd-Jones again today on a ten mile run.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (20 December 1899 – 1 March 1981) was a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century who for thirty years preached from the pulpit at Westminster Chapel in London.

Many called him the last of the Calvinistic Methodist preachers because he combined Calvin's love for truth and sound reformed doctrine with the fire and passion of the eighteenth-century Methodist revival.

From the beginning to the end the life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a cry for depth in two areas—depth in Biblical doctrine and depth in vital spiritual experience. Light and heat. Logic and fire. Word and Spirit.

Again and again he would be fighting on two fronts: on the one hand against dead, formal, institutional intellectualism, and on the other hand against superficial, glib, entertainment-oriented, man-centered emotionalism.

Lloyd-Jones was not what we call a cessationist. In fact he came out very strongly against the Warfield kind of cessationism. In 1969 he wrote against ‘A Memorandum on Faith Healing’ put out by the Christian Medical Fellowship which relied explicitly on Warfield's arguments that the sign gifts (like healing) were ‘accompaniments of apostleship’ and therefore invalid for today since the apostles were once for all.

‘I think it is quite without scriptural warrant to say that all these gifts ended with the apostles or the Apostolic Era. I believe there have been undoubted miracles since then.’ 

When Lloyd-Jones spoke of the need for revival power and for the baptism of the Spirit and for a mighty attestation for the word of God today, it was clear that he had in mind the same sort of thing that happened in the life of the apostles.

Piper’s talk is a study of revival and the baptism of the Holy Spirit Lloyd-Jones teaching and is well worthy of study. He sums it up as follows:

‘Could we not then say, in putting all this together, that signs and wonders function in relation to the word of God, as striking, wakening, channels for the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the gospel? Signs and wonders do not save. They do not transform the heart. Only the glory of Christ seen in the gospel has the power to do that (2 Cor. 3:18-4:6). But evidently, God chooses at times to use signs and wonders alongside his regenerating word to win a hearing and to shatter the shell of disinterest and cynicism and false religion, and help the fallen heart fix its gaze on the gospel.’

I can imagine this raising eyebrows in some evangelical churches today, but Lloyd-Jones was equally critical of some of the excesses of the Pentecostal movement and Piper’s talk includes a fascinating critique (fully referenced in his text) which I reproduce below.  

Lest you think Lloyd-Jones was a full-blown charismatic incognito let me mention some things that gave him balance and made him disenchanted with Pentecostals and charismatics as he knew them.

1. He insisted that revival have a sound doctrinal basis. And from what he saw there was a minimization of doctrine almost everywhere that unity and renewal were being claimed. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and revival will be shallow and short-lived without deeper doctrinal roots than the charismatic tree seems to have.

2. Charismatics put too much stress on what they do and not enough emphasis on the freedom and sovereignty of the Spirit, to come and go on his own terms. "Spiritual gifts," he says, "are always controlled by the Holy Spirit. They are given, and one does not know when they are going to be given".

You can pray for the baptism of the Spirit, but that does not guarantee that it happens ... It is in his control. He is the Lord. He is a sovereign Lord and he does it in his own time and in his own way.

3. Charismatics sometimes insist on tongues as a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit which of course he rejects.

It seems to be that the teaching of the Scripture itself, plus the evidence of the history of the church, establishes the fact that the baptism with the Spirit is not always accompanied by particular gifts.

4. But even more often most charismatics claim to be able to speak in tongues whenever they want to. 
This, he argues is clearly against what Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:18, "I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all." If he and they could speak in tongues any time they chose, then there would be no point in thanking God that the blessing of tongues is more often given to him than to them.

5. Too often, experiences are sought for their own sake rather than for the sake of empowerment for witness and for the glory of Christ.

The aim is not to have experiences in themselves but to empower for outreach and making Christ known ...

We must test anything that claims to be a movement of the Spirit in terms of its evangelistic power...
The supreme test of anything that claims to be the work of the Holy Spirit is John 16:14—"He shall glorify me".

6. Charismatics can easily fall into the mistake of assuming that if a person has powerful gifts that person is thus a good person and is fit to lead and teach. This is not true. Lloyd-Jones is aware that baptism with the Holy Spirit and the possession of gifts does not certify one's moral fitness to minister or speak for God. The spiritual condition at Corinth, in terms of sanctification, was low and yet there was much evidence of divine power.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit is primarily and essentially a baptism with power ... [But] there is no direct connection between the baptism with the Holy Spirit and sanctification ... It is something that can be isolated, whereas sanctification is a continuing and a continuous process.

7. Charismatics characteristically tend to be more interested in subjective impressions and unusual giftings than in the exposition of Scripture. Be suspicious, he says, of any claim to a "fresh revelation of truth". (In view of what he said above concerning how the Holy Spirit speaks today in guidance, he cannot mean here that all direct communication from God is ruled out.)

8. Charismatics sometimes encourage people to give up control of their reason and to let themselves go. Lloyd-Jones disagrees. "We must never let ourselves go". A blank mind is not advocated in the Scriptures. The glory of Christianity is what we can "at one and the same time ... be gripped and lifted up by the Spirit and still be in control" (see 1 Cor. 14:32). We must always be in a position to test all things, since Satan and hypnotism can imitate the most remarkable things.

But I’m giving you only a taster. Let me recommend again John Piper’s MP3 (or, if you prefer, the online transcript).

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