Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the Charismatic Movement

“God must do a new thing”

From Chosen By Goda collection of essays reflecting on Martyn Lloyd-Jones and his legacy, edited by Christopher Catherwood.  Chapter 15: The Encourager, by Henry Tyler, 246-8.

In the late ’60’s I had become involved much more with what is commonly known as the charismatic movement, and I never ceased to marvel at how informed the Doctor was about this.  When we met he would ask me endless questions about what was happening among the various ‘house churches’ that were springing up in many places, and when communes and communal living became the fashion among some he wisely pointed out the dangers of breaking the natural family unit, illustrating this with examples from church history.  On one occasion he asked me if I had heard or met an Anglican minister who had received some prominence in the press for his healing ministry.  He knew all about him and how he had come into that new measure of the Spirit in his ministry, and he urged me to go and hear him for myself.

The Doctor had some reservations about the charismatic movement in general – for instance with the tendency of charismatics to compromise with Rome; in no way would he ever countenance that.  He felt too that the time given to singing in charismatic meetings was inordinately long.  I tried to explain that this was not mere singing for singing’s sake but prolonged worship and delighting in God. I don’t think I ever quite succeeded tin convincing him on this point!  On one occasion, thinking that it would please him, I told him how the charismatics were now singing many psalms and portions of scripture.  He gave me a wry smile and said, ‘Good.  Perhaps they will now stop singing those awful choruses.’

But these apart, the Doctor was glad of the renewed emphasis upon the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  He welcomed the gifts of the Spirit but needed to be assured that they were genuine and not spurious.  He told due of his pleasure in reading an article by Arthur Wallis which appeared in Theological Renewal, where the writer had argued scripturally and cogently for the baptism of the Spirit as a distinct and separate work of the Holy Ghost coming upon the people of God.  Arthur Wallis had written this article to counteract teaching which sought to explain the baptism of the Spirit which we received in first coming to Christ, or, as the Catholics believed, at baptism.  This was a view that the Doctor felt to be unscriptural and he was greatly encouraged to see such a view refuted in print by a leading figure among the charismatics.

I think back upon the many times that the Doctor encouraged me in my ministry among charismatic churches, urging me to go on expounding the Scriptures, emphasizing the need to maintain the balance between the Word and the Spirit.  From time to time he graciously told me that he had heard of my minister in various parts of the country.  He had also heard adverse reports and frequently he said to me, ‘Do not pay too much attention to the criticisms – Press on with God and work for His glory.’ This was a tremendous encouragement at a time when many former friends seemed to be less friendly!

In the later years of the Doctor’s life my colleague, Terry Virgo, and I had reason to visit him in his home in Ealing.  We shared fully with him our vision to see the church restored.  He made some very significant comments upon the state of the church and concluded with this statement: ‘Evangelicalism is dead.  God must do a new thing.’ His conviction that the only answer for the church was the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven in revival grew increasingly and never faded in any way.  Right to the last it was his hope, his prayer and his desire.

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