Review: The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit

 

 

The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

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The Original “Cautious-but-Open” position.

This book was originally published in two separate parts: Joy Unspeakable, and The Sovereign Spirit: Discerning His Gifts/Prove All Things (same book, different titles). The Sovereign Spirit fits in between chapters 7 and 8 of Joy Unspeakable. The complete sermon series in chronological order is in this book, The Baptism and Gifts.  The 2008 edition of Joy Unspeakable also includes all 24 sermons, but the older Shaw Books edition must be supplemented by the other book.  Confuesed yet?  Me too.

Christopher Catherwood, in his biography of his grandfather Martyn Lloyd-Jones: A Family Portrait, describes the two emphases that come out when the series is split into two books: “The more controversial Joy Unspeakable has outsold by a large margin its more cautious companion volume. Maybe those who wanted to believe in the baptism with the Holy Spirit without qualification did not want to know of the equally biblical restraints!” (p. 132)

He also wrote the introduction to this book: “the Doctor realized that many reformed people had become dry and arid in their Christian lives – that although their doctrine was sound, their day-to-day faith lacked the fire and sense of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that should be present in the Christian’s life.” (p. 12)

This is the theme of the book. Lloyd-Jones brings you face to face with the reality of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit as described in the Bible, and then looks at churches and believers around him and says “Why aren’t we like that?” He says “The great and constant danger is that we should be content with something which is altogether less than that intended for us.” (16). He addresses those who would simply dismiss the Scripture by saying “that was for a different dispensation.” “That is a very serious charge – namely that the Scripture does not apply to us.” (37) “Our greatest danger, I feel today, is to quench the Spirit.” (81)

He is constantly bringing out points from the Scripture, and examples from church history, and saying “If your doctrine of the Holy Spirit does not include this idea of the Holy Spirit, it is seriously, grievously defective,” (125) or “Think about it [the example of the puritan John Flavel] and work out your doctrine to account for something like this.” (85)

This is absolutely vital: “The greatest need of the church from every standpoint is a great visitation of the Holy Spirit, and it is only as she receives this she will be enabled to understand again, to grasp and to preach to others, the saving message of the gospel of the Son of God. So we shall go on with our study: nothing is more vital.” (320)

“This is New Testament Christianity! New Testament Christianity is not just a formal, polite, correct, and orthodox kind of faith and belief. No! What characterizes it is this element of love and passion, this pneumatic element, this life, this vigour, this abandon, this exuberance.” (361)

One might quibble with his precise teaching and terminology regarding the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” I’m not sure I’m completely convinced myself regarding his terminology. When it comes to the substance of what he describes, I am in complete agreement. I want more of that! Whether you call it the “baptism” or something else, the point is we need more of the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers. I started this book as a convinced cessationist. I finished it as someone desperately desiring more of the Spirit in my life, whatever that might mean.

Here is Lloyd Jones on the “controversial gifts”:

“We start then by saying that it is always possible that the Holy Spirit may give this gift to certain individuals. So that when we hear of any reported case, we do not dismiss it, nor do we condemn it. We must examine it. In the sovereignty of the Spirit he can give any one of these gifts at any time; we must therefore be open. But for the reasons we have already adduced we must also always be cautious and careful, we must ‘prove all things’, and only ‘hold fast to that which is good.’ (p. 271)

All throughout Lloyd-Jones is scriptural and he is balanced. He longs to see the Holy Spirit work in power. It is desperately needed in the church today. He says, “Anyone who cuts out portions of Scripture is guilty of a very grievous sin… we are probably quenching the Spirit, and are just desirous of going along in our undisturbed, self-satisfied, smug kind of formal Christianity.” (p. 268) He takes apart theological views that would limit and, in his words ‘quench’ the Spirit, a dispensational hermeneutic that says “that’s not for today.” Lloyd-Jones says this: “Let me begin to answer it by giving you just one thought at this point. It is this: the Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary – never! There is no such statement anywhere.” (p. 159)

But he is also cautious – very much so. He examines and proves many teachings and practices that are prevalent in the charismatic or pentecostal movements, and subjects them to the piercing analysis of the Scriptures, and while he is open, he puts up with no nonsense. You cannot manipulate the Spirit – He is sovereign and does what He wants when He wants. You can’t put him in a box either way – by relegating his work strictly to the 1st century, nor by boxing Him up like a machine that responds if you push the right buttons. Lloyd-Jones had an incredible grasp of church history and shows many examples of what he means – good and bad – from history.

This was the set of sermons that helped cause John Piper to change his position on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in the early 90’s. I highly recommend this as a balanced, Scriptural, yet reproving, and stirring call for more life and vitality that only comes by the Spirit of God.  I highly recommend it.

 

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