Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 4: Some Mighty Demonstration

Baptism With the Holy Spirit is an Authentication of the Gospel

“Now watch this – it comes visibly, he says. It is not just a quiet subjective experience of the church. Things happen, he says,  that make the world sit up and take notice. And now this was tremendously important to Lloyd-Jones. He felt almost overwhelmed by the corruption of the world and by the impotence of the church. And he believed that the only hope was something stunningStunning!  “The Christian church today is failing, and failing lamentably.” He preached these sermons in the fall of ’64 to the spring of ’65, near the end of his ministry, four years before he retired.  I hear, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, a growing disillusionment in Martyn Lloyd-Jones with the effectiveness of the church, even his own church.

The Christian church today is failing, and failing lamentably.It is not enough even to be orthodox. You must, of course, be orthodox, otherwise you have not got a message … We need authority and we need authentication … Is it not clear that we are living in an age when we need some special authentication—in other words, we need revival.  (The Sovereign Spirit, 25)

In other words, revival for Lloyd-Jones was a power demonstration that would authenticate the truth of the gospel to desperately hardened world. In fact his description of that world is remarkably contemporary, referring to the demonic and to new age kinds of things, and then at the end of that quote he says:

This is why I believe we are in urgent need of some manifestation, some demonstration, of the power of the Holy Spirit. (SS, 25)

Now, to be fair, he cautioned against excessive preoccupation with revival.  He warns against being too interested in the exceptional and the unusual, he said, “don’t despise the day of small things.  Don’t despise the regular work of the church and the regular work of the Spirit.” (The Fight of Faith, 384)

But.

I hear that caution as a gesture, that’s called for by reality, but not the heartbeat of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  He was increasingly disillusioned with the “regular” work of the church, so that he goes on now, I think, and says things like this:

[We] can produce a number of converts, thank God for that, and that goes on regularly in evangelical churches every Sunday. But the need today is much too great for that.

In other words, he rejects steady state regular work as adequate.

The need today is for an authentication of God, of the supernatural, of the spiritual, of the eternal, and this can only be answered by God graciously hearing our cry and shedding forth again his Spirit upon us and filling us as he kept filling the early church. (Joy Unspeakable, 278)

What is needed is some mighty demonstration of the power of God, some enactment of the Almighty, that will compel people to pay attention, and to look, and to listen. And the history of all the revivals of the past indicates so clearly that that is invariably the effect of revival… When God acts, he can do more in one minute that man with his organizing can do in fifty years. (Revival, 121-2)

And I can’t help but wonder if he meant, “my fifty years.”

He so wanted to see this.

What lies so heavily on Lloyd-Jones’ heart is that the name of God be vindicated and the glory of the Lord manifested in the world. “We should be anxious to see something happening that will arrest the nations, all the peoples, and cause them to stop and think again” (Revival, 120). And that was the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The purpose, the main function of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, is … to enable God’s people to witness in such a manner that it becomes a phenomenon and people are arrested and are attracted. (JU, 84; SS 17, 35, 120)

~From “A Passion for Christ Exalting Power

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