Dr Lloyd-Jones Twenty-Five Years On
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones died on March 1, 1981. As we remember him in this issue, it is right that our leading article should be by a writer who never knew him in his lifetime. A quarter of a century after his death, the large majority of those around the world who treasure his books and sermon recordings are in that category. Without any doubt, there are today far more who love his preaching than there were in his lifetime. In Brazil and Korea alone, his books are produced in their thousands and it is no surprise to us that probably the best book thus far published on The Preaching of D. M. Lloyd-Jones is by Dr Keun-Doo Jung, a Korean pastor. We shall write here, however, on his ministry in relation to the United Kingdom
After a lifetime of ministry in the British Isles, it was the conviction of Dr Lloyd-Jones that the nation was set in spiritual and moral decline. How was this to be arrested? The popular answer was for a modernization of the churches – a removal of things old and traditional in order to address contemporary society with greater effect. Dr Lloyd-Jones was not against change, but he saw this answer as a failure to diagnose the real problem. Not a ‘communication gap’ but the spiritual health of the churches was the first issue.
Recovery had to begin by addressing the theological and doctrinal poverty. The Lloyd-Jones ministry exemplified that lesson, and he imparted to others a renewed commitment to the serious preaching and teaching of the Word of God. Among the consequences that followed was a new interest in the Christian literature that fed earlier generations of evangelicals. It is not often given to one man to change the direction of thought for many. This Lloyd-Jones did, and his influence has lived on. With what result it is still too early to say, but, without the convictions that men learned from him, conditions in many parts of England and Wales would be much lower than they are.
Adherence to the truth has kept these men from fainting in a day of small things, and kept them from depending on success for their happiness.
This is not to say that all the emphases of the Lloyd-Jones ministry have been well upheld by those who have followed him. He insisted on more than sound truth and preaching. Our danger has been to stop at his starting point. Speaking of the contrast between the New Testament church and ‘even our churches’, he wrote these perceptive words: ‘In the New Testament church one sees life and vigour and activity; one sees a living community, conscious of its glory and of its responsibility, with the whole church, as it were, an evangelistic force’ (Knowing the Times, p.196).
If Lloyd-Jones, on occasion, showed more sympathy with charismatic churches than observers thought wise, it was in part because they were at least recognizing something of the contrast to which he referred. Vital as preaching is, the church is not a place where people are merely to listen to sermons. The charismatic solution as it concerned such things as tongues and healings did not have his support, yet he could appreciate the motive that led to their mistake, namely, a desire that the gospel should be authenticated by the evident presence of God in a community of people.
While Lloyd-Jones thought that the extraordinary gifts may reappear at times in the church, he did not believe this experimental knowledge of God was to come by way of such gifts. There is experience of God, given by the Holy Spirit, that is far greater than any gifts: it is his ministry in shedding abroad the love of God in the heart – making that love a conscious reality, and a constraining experience in daily life.
We have allowed too much to divert us from this emphasis in Lloyd-Jones’ ministry. Sometimes the diversion has to do with discussion over the exegesis of particular texts, as though his point depended on one or two verses. Sometimes the diversion has to do with confusion over revival, as if the issue could be reduced to the question, ‘Do you believe in revival?’ That question is not as straightforward as it might appear. Some think that in Dr Lloyd-Jones’ teaching we are shown how the church and nation can experience 1742, or 1859, or 1904 again today. Others, doubting, say, ‘We have prayed for revival for thirty years and have not seen it.’ Both parties are wrong. The New Testament teaching on the Spirit is related to individuals or individual churches. There is no promise, for instance, that if the church at Ephesus recovers her first love there will be ‘revival’ across Asia Minor. Promises are not to geographical regions. It is true the word ‘revival’ has generally been understood to speak of a widespread work of grace, but the New Testament emphasis is on the giving of the Spirit in individual and local situations. The promise is not that God will give ‘revival’ to those who ask him, but that he will, not may, ‘give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him’ (Luke 11:13). These further givings of the Spirit, to be received from Christ, are not in order that believers might have happy experiences. They are given that God may be glorified in all the varied circumstances appointed for his people: it may he to endure suffering with patience and joy (Col. 1:11), or for greater boldness in witness (Acts 4:29). An infilling of the love of God meets all eventualities.
Of course, Dr Lloyd-Jones believed that God may so bestow his Spirit upon many at the same time (the traditional meaning of revival). But he did not teach that enduements of the Spirit belong only to times of revival. As in the New Testament, the point of his teaching was for the individual and the local situation. There can be personal ‘awakening’ to the glory of Christ and a local giving of the Spirit. This he saw, this he knew; and for him this was the essential for churches to be brought into closer approximation to the New Testament. The Christian’s love and compassion to the souls of men are the overflow of Christ’s greater love. Evangelism is not to be postponed until there is another revival. Spirit-filled Christians are to be an evangelistic force at this present time, and to question that possibility is to cast doubt upon the word of Christ. Man-centredness and low views of God, arising from remaining indwelling sin, are our great enemies. If any message comes to us this quarter century after Lloyd-Jones’s death, it should be, ‘Cease from man.’ ‘From whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.’ The effect of his help is to humble, to restore the true fear of God, and to put us in constant dependence upon him. ‘God is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.’[From the Banner of Truth, March 2006, Issue 510. This is a special commemoration edition remembering the 25th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, copies can be purchased from the Banner of Truth offices, firstname.lastname@example.org, for the UK and ROW, and email@example.com for the USA, with discounts for bulk orders.]
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