[Editor’s note: Though I am not convinced that Dr. Lloyd-Jones was a cessationist, as the article below claims, the gest of the article is so excellent and needed; cessationism, technically and generally stated, is the position that all the supernatural gifts of the Spirit ceased with the apostles; Dr. Lloyd-Jones did not seem to hold that view, though he certainly would have believe the primary supernatural ministry gifts and inspiration of the Apostles would have ceased with the canon of Scripture being completed. – Mack T.]
When Martyn Lloyd-Jones was 25 years of age, at Easter in 1925, he was alone one day in the small study he shared with his brother Vincent in their Regency Street home. There he came to see the love of God expressed in the death of Christ in a way which overwhelmed him. Everything which happened to him in his new spiritual life was occurring because of what had first happened to Christ. It was solely to that death that MLJ owed his new relationship to God. The truth amazed him and in the light of it he could only say with Isaac Watts:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,That were a present far too small;Love so amazing, so divine,Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Iain Murray records that this was not an isolated incident. The Doctor himself said in his room at St. Bart’s that he had some great times: “I must say that in that little study at our home in Regency Street, and in my research room at Bart’s, I had some remarkable experiences. It was entirely God’s doing. I have known what it is to be really filled with a joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
It is in the light of this that we must approach his exhortations to know a baptism with the Holy Spirit. That this did not manifest itself in speaking in tongues we know because he wrote to an inquirer very plainly: “I have never spoken in tongues either in private or in public.” So the Doctor could not be described as a Pentecostal because their definition of the evidence for the baptism of the Spirit is made in that precise way.
What then would be the signs and manifestations of baptism with the Spirit in Lloyd-Jones’ judgment?
In the book Joy Unspeakable he gives six marks:
i] a sense of God’s glory and presence
ii] an assurance of God’s love for us in Christ
iii] the element of joy and gladness
iv] love toward God
v] a desire to glorify the Father and the Son
vi] light and understanding of the truth
This is what he was referring to when he told me that he had had ‘good times’ in his room at the hospital. He believed they were experiences of baptism with the Holy Spirit. There is, for example, an incident that took place at Christmas 1929: “The memory of that night never faded for those who were present. Mrs Lloyd-Jones recalling it, said: ‘As we knelt in prayer I seemed to be full of a warm golden glory, an indescribable joy and a hope that the consciousness we then enjoyed of the presence of God might never pass away.’”
Such experiences were not the prerogative of the study alone, or with members of one’s family, but in a church also, the Spirit of God could come upon a congregation gathered together praying. He recounts one such meeting, presumably in Aberavon, when a man got up to pray and it became clear that soon ‘something most extraordinary’ was taking place; “ . . . suddenly this man was entirely transformed; his voice deepened, a power came into it, even in his speech, and he prayed in the freest most powerful manner I have ever heard in my life . . . the prayer meeting continued without intermission and the freedom that had accompanied this man’s prayer was given to all the others . . . one felt that one was outside time, that one was in heaven; one was really lifted up to the spiritual realm.”
It is for preachers to know such immediate expe rience of this grace that the Doctor is most exercised, to have a baptism which enables him to preach powerfully and movingly. He longs that the gospel of Jesus Christ should come propelled to their hearers through Spirit-filled men. How do we preachers recognize this when it is happening?
He replies: “It gives clarity of thought, clarity of speech, ease of utterance, a great sense of authority and confidence as you are preaching–an awareness of a power not your own, thrilling through the whole of your being and an indescribable sense of joy. You are a man ‘possessed’, you are taken hold of and taken up. I like to put it like this — and I know of nothing on earth that is comparable to this feeling — that when this happens, you have a feeling that you are not actually doing the preaching, you are looking on. You are looking on at yourself in amazement as this is happening. It is not your effort; you are just the instrument, the channel, the vehicle: and the Spirit is using you, and you are looking on in great enjoyment and astonishment. There is nothing that is in any way comparable to this. That is what the preacher himself is aware of. What about the people? They sense it at once; they can tell the difference immediately. They are gripped, they become serious, they are convicted, they are moved, they are humbled. Some are convicted of sin, others are lifted up to the heavens, anything may happen to any one of them. They know at once tha t something quite unusual and exceptional is happening. As a result, they begin to delight in the things of God and they want more and more teaching.”
Such experiences while preaching the Word had been his from the beginning to the end of his ministry. In a letter written when he was 26 to his future brother-in-law, Ieuan Philips, he described speaking in his church in London and records: “It is not for me to say anything about the paper – all I shall say is this. The people who count at Charing Cross all liked it, while I myself was moved to an extent that I have never experienced before.”
From his gatherings of similar experiences of preachers from the Puritan time until today, Lloyd-Jones is firmly in the tradition of experiential Calvinism. He is not a ‘closet Charismatic.’ His piety reflects that whole living tradition of intense personal communion with God, power in prayer and in preaching. No ‘sign gift’ was ever insisted upon or even suggested. He was a cessationist [see editor’s note above]; for example for him there was no possibility or need of the gift of apostles being bestowed again upon the church. It was a foundational gift which, when Scripture had been written, ceased to exist. The living Bible was enough; “There is thus no successor to the apostles. By definition, there never can be or has been a successor to the apostles.” That is also his conviction for prophets and evangelists.
There is thus only the remotest connection between himself and the supporters of the Charismatic Renewal movement, a coincidence of terminology. When we protested to him about his use of the phrase ‘baptism of the Spirit’ because of its takeover by Pentecostals and Charismatics, he replied that our spiritual fathers had used it in the way he was using it and that, though it might have been hijacked by others, he was not going to cease using that phrase. There was nothing in his teaching that would have been heretical to preachers from Calvin through to Kuyper. The great theme of his book of sermons on the gifts of the Spirit, Prove all Things, is not anti-cessationism, but the sovereignty of the Spirit in his operations.
If preachers today went to the Doctor and described to him their experiences of the help of the Spirit of God as they prayed and preached, he would assure them, as he did to virtually all the students and older men who went to him in London and described what had happened to him, that they had had a baptism of the Holy Spirit. Then let us pace ourselves for the marathon of a life in the ministry, pastoring wisely men and women with their enormous problems, growing in understanding of the truth, becoming more evangelistically fervent and all the more so as we see the day approaching.
Unless our experiences of God serve to exalt that God before men we are guilty of a self-indulgent piety. Let me end with my favourite quotation from Lloyd-Jones’ book on preaching. I am sure it is often quoted as giving to ministers the great end of their preaching: “There is one thing I have looked for and longed for and desired. I can forgive a man for a bad sermon; I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does tha t I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. Preaching is the most amazing, and the most thrilling activity that one can ever be engaged in, because of all that it holds out for all of us in the present, and because of the glorious endless possibilities in an eternal future.
Every Christian ought to be asking the Father for more true and biblical visitations of the Holy Spirit upon their life. (Lk. 11:13) What might we experience if we did so only remains to be seen.
– Welsh pastor Geoff Thomas