POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Spirit and the Word - A Glorious Balance

This morning I listened to to message on the life and teaching of the 20th century English preacher - Martin Lloyd-Jones (see John Piper's manuscript on Lloyd-Jones, audio available in the series Men of Whom the World is Not Worthy). A medical doctor by his early twenties, Lloyd-Jones had a powerful conversion to Christ and experienced an unmistakable call to be a herald of the good news. Among other things, Lloyd-Jones desired to see a powerful visitation of the Spirit of God upon people that was manifested through preacher and vindicated by powerful works of God. This speaks afresh to todays debates within the Christian church as to the role and reality of "signs and wonders" "spiritual gifts" etc. These debates between the "cessasionists" - those who say that such signs and gifts have "ceased" and those generally lumped together as "charismatics" - Lloyd-Jones had strong critique for both and seemed to call for a balance of the two. In other words, signs and wonders never replace the preaching of the gospel. Signs and wonders are not what convert and save sinners. But on the other hand. Such signs never diminished the role of preaching in the New Testament. That messages preached were at times accompanied by demonstrations of the works of the Spirit. The two need not be anti-thetical. Lloyd-Jones offers some good advice for both sides and perhaps carves out well a middle position for those who desire the Word of God to be studied, understood, taught and preached without thinking this means that God cannot show his power in this physical world through certain manifestations of the Spirit. The following two lists may prove helpful - these are directly from John Piper's maunscipt:

Martin Lloyd-Jones' Criticisms of the Pentecostalism He Knew

  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 (see note 53). 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" (see note 54). 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 (see note 55).
  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 (see note 56).
  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 (see note 57).
  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 (see note 58). The aim is not to have experiences in themselves but to empower for outreach and making Christ known (see note 59) ... We must test anything that claims to be a movement of the Spirit in terms of its evangelistic power (see note 60) ... The supreme test of anything that claims to be the work of the Holy Spirit is John 16:14 -- "He shall glorify me" (see note 61).
  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 (see note 62) ... It is something that can be isolated, whereas sanctification is a continuing and a continuous process (see note 63).
  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" (see note 64). (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" (see note 65). A blank mind is not advocated in the Scriptures (see note 66). 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) (see note 67). We must always be in a position to test all things, since Satan and hypnotism can imitate the most remarkable things (see note 68).
Martin Lloyd-Jones' Warnings to Spirit-Quenching Formalists But having said all that, by way of warning and balance, Lloyd-Jones comes back to the strong affirmation of openness to the supernatural demonstration of power that the world needs so badly. Of those who sit back and point their finger at the charismatic excesses of good people he says, "God have mercy upon them! God have mercy upon them! It is better to be too credulous than to be carnal and to be smug and dead (see note 69). He even describes how many people quench the Spirit through fear of the unusual or supernatural.
  • This has often happened: in a meeting ... you begins to be afraid as to what is going to happen and to say, "If I do this what will take place?" That is quenching the Spirit. It is resisting his general movement upon your spirit. You feel his gracious influence, and then you hesitate and are uncertain or you are frightened. That is quenching the Spirit (see note 70).
  • Certain people by nature are afraid of the supernatural, of the unusual, of disorder. You can be so afraid of disorder, so concerned about discipline and decorum and control, that you become guilty of what the Scripture calls "quenching the Spirit" (see note 71).

Such balance is refreshing, especially from one of the founders of Banner of Truth Trust