Herman C. Hanko is professor of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
(Editor’s note. Because of the significance of this subject, we place this lengthy review in its entirety in this issue. This and, the fact that the Rev. Gritters received some interesting correspondence for our magazine necessitates the omission of some regular departments. HCH)
JOY UNSPEAKABLE, POWER AND RENEWAL IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, IL, 1984; 282. pp., (paper).
Anyone who has read extensively in the works of Dr. Lloyd-Jones must have wondered from time to time whether the Doctor was making concessions to Charismatic thought. There were, e.g., passages in his “Preaching and Preachers” and in his commentaries on Ephesians which made the thoughtful reader raise his eyebrows. But nothing explicit was really to be found, and usually these doubts were assuaged. But this has changed. A book has been recently published which contains edited sermons which Lloyd-Jones preached in Westminster Chapel in 1964-65 which leave no doubt about it that elements of the Charismatic movement were indeed characteristic of his thought.
This book was not sent to the Standard Bearer for review, but it seems worth while to review it nonetheless. Lloyd-Jones’ books and tapes have had a great deal of influence and many have found him a helpful and interesting preacher and writer. This respect for his writings could lead to the danger of receiving his views expressed in this book as one’s own and could lead to serious misconceptions of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is in the interests of presenting to our readers the dangers of this book that this review is written.
It has been argued that Lloyd-Jones’ views, as ex- pressed in this book, are not out of keeping with traditional Reformed thought. In a recent article in The Banner of Truth, a minister of the Christian Reformed Church defends Lloyd-Jones and, while not entering as such into his thought, asks the question whether Jones himself experienced the things he writes about in Joy Unspeakable. His answer is in the affirmative. In the February, 1985 issue of The Banner of Truth Ian Murray also presents a review of this book. The review is much more in depth and, while Ian Murray has some areas of disagreement with Lloyd-Jones, he seems to agree with the general thesis of the book. We cannot concur in these analyses and consider the book contrary to the teaching of Scripture and dangerous to a proper understanding of the life of the Christian in the world.
It is true that the book is not explicitly Pentecostal in the modern sense of the word. Ian Murray reminds us of the fact that, since these sermons were preached in 1964-65, they were preached at a time when the Neo-Pentecostal movement had not yet taken on fixed form. And, at least in this book, Lloyd-Jones does not argue for the special gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy, tongues-speaking, and miracles. (I say “at least in this book,” because another book is also available entitled, “Prove All Things,” which deals with something of the same doctrines. But I have not as yet been able to obtain this latter book and cannot say what it includes.)
But that Joy Unspeakable is explicitly charismatic in its thought cannot be denied. When one reads this, it is not surprising that, after Lloyd-Jones’ retirement, Dr. Kendall was able to lead at least a part of the people in Westminster Chapel in a charismatic direction. But we ought to get on with the review of the book.
The whole argument of the book rests upon the (charismatic) assertion that a certain baptism of the Spirit is to be expected in the new dispensational church, which baptism of the Spirit is distinct from the work of the Spirit in regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. This baptism of the Spirit comes at unexpected times, to unexpected individuals, and imparts various gifts which are not common to all the saints. This baptism of the Spirit is eminently desirable and is, in fact, the solution to the deadness and spiritual lethargy which characterizes the church in our day.
It is precisely at this point that Lloyd-Jones makes a fundamental concession to the charismatic movement, for the very heart of the charismatic heresy is this “second baptism of the Spirit.” Lloyd-Jones may not agree with modern day Pentecostalism in all its extreme forms—and indeed he repeatedly warns against “excesses,” but the fact remains that this is fundamental to the whole book.
He bases his view of the baptism of the Spirit on serious exegetical and theological errors. In the first place, he identifies Pentecost itself with this baptism of the Spirit and, in fact, limits Pentecost to this phenomenon. This is a serious error. We cannot go into detail on this point in a review of his book, but it ought to be pointed out that Pentecost was quite different from what Lloyd-Jones says it is. Pentecost was really an important part of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because Christ had not yet come in the old dispensation, the work of the Spirit in the hearts and lives of God’s people was limited to the objective Word of God which came through types and shadows. Thus the only knowledge of the truth which the Old Testament saints possessed was through the instrumentality of these types and shadows. It is true that the Spirit also regenerated and sanctified them, but the knowledge of the truth of the promise was limited. Only a few in the old dispensation received the Spirit, and then in promise. These were the “officebearers,” the prophets, priests, and kings, who through the Spirit were able to prophesy concerning the truth of Christ. And the people were entirely dependent upon them. But all this changed with Pentecost. It is very clear from the Scriptures that especially two things happened at Pentecost: 1) the Spirit of the exalted Christ was poured out upon the Church so that all God’s people become prophets, priests, and kings. Peter makes this clear when he quotes the prophecy of Joel, and John also emphasizes this great point when he reminds God’s people that now all of them can know the Lord because they have the anointing of the Spirit. 2) The outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost meant that Christ Himself came to His church to dwell with her and abide with her forever. In His great sermon, preached on the eve of His crucifixion, Christ repeatedly reminds His people that He will not leave them comfortless, but will come to them. And this coming to them will be in the Spirit Whom He will send from the Father. This key truth Lloyd- Jones ignores and denies by limiting Pentecost to a baptism of the Spirit which comes only once in a while and which comes only to a few in the church.
In the second place, the exegetical basis for his position is to be found primarily in Acts 8:14-17, Acts 9:17, Acts 10:44-46, and Acts 19:6. While we cannot go into detail in an exegesis of these passages, it ought to be clear to everyone that these refer to the special gifts of the Spirit given in the apostolic age when the New Testament Scriptures were not yet completed, in order to seal the truth of the preaching of the apostles. As B.B. War-field convincingly proves in his bookMiracles, these also ceased with the apostolic era. Even Ian Murray takes exception to Lloyd-Jones on this crucial issue. To base a doctrine of the baptism of the Spirit on these passages- is to: make a major concession to the charismatic movement and leave one wide open to the charge-of being, in fact, charismatic in one’s thinking.
The historical proof for the baptism of the Spirit is equally unconvincing. Almost without exception this historical proof is limited to various revivals; especially those present in the British Isles and America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Whatever other proof from history is given is limited to heretical sects such as the Montanists and the Donatists, or to such movements as the Waldensians. The latter were a quite orthodox pre- Reformation movement which knew nothing of the baptism of the Spirit, as far as the historical records show. Now this proof from history raises two important questions. The first one is: how does Lloyd-Jones square the blatant Arminianism (an Arminianism which was often forthrightly hostile to Calvinism) of such revivalists as the Wesleys, Finney and Moody (to whom he refers with approval) with his avowed Calvinism? It simply cannot be done. The second is: why is this baptism of the Spirit limited almost exclusively to revivals which are doctrinally suspect? That is, why was no baptism of the Spirit evident, say, among the Reformers of the 16th Century? an age unparalleled in the history of the church? But neither Calvin, Luther, Knox, nor any of the great Reformers ever so much as mentioned it and never made any claims to have had it? This is, after all, a serious matter.
When one gets into Jones’ views concerning the effects of this baptism of the Spirit, one is equally at a loss to understand how it is possible for such a noted preacher to hold to such a position. In fact it is at this point that Jones’ views become extremely confusing.
It must be born in mind as we discuss this matter that Jones insists repeatedly that this baptism of the Spirit must be distinguished from the work of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification. A Christian may be regenerated and sanctified and never experience this baptism all his life long. Again, he may experience it for a short time, but it soon disappears and he may or may not experience it again. It is in this connection that Jones argues from the principle of the sovereignty of God. Claiming allegiance to this fundamental truth, Jones insists that it lies within the Spirit’s prerogative to bestow this baptism on whom He will, when He will, and how He will. But here too are difficulties. No I rhyme or reason can be found for the Spirit’s work in this respect. This baptism comes at unexpected I times, in unexpected places, sometimes in new converts, sometimes in old saints, but never with any explanation or reason that we can determine. At the same time, the baptism of the Spirit is so eminently desirable that we all ought to seek it and pray for it; in fact, Jones sharply condemns the church of our day for deadness and spiritual lethargy and explains this in terms of the lack of the baptism of the Spirit, a situation which is to be deplored. This contradiction cannot be easily explained away.
But what does this baptism of the Spirit actually bring to the Christian when it comes? Although Jones is rather vague at this point, the following is a brief summary of its benefits. In the first place, I Jones emphasizes that this baptism of the Spirit has as its primary object boldness and power to witness and testify of the truth. Repeatedly he makes the point that this is the main purpose of it and the chief result. In the second place, however, much more must really be expected. Sometimes Jones outlines these benefits explicitly, sometimes he implies them when he describes what went on at various revivals when, in his judgment, the baptism of the Spirit came. These benefits include such things as a supreme and unalloyed joy—hence the title of this book; a religious ecstasy, which sometimes made those who experienced it even unaware of what was happening to them; a spiritual experience which lifted one up from the transient things of this earth and placed one in direct communion with God; a holiness and sanctity (for a period of time at least) which bordered on a perfect life; a clarity of understanding spiritual and heavenly things which was so luminous and superior to anything which one knows apart from this baptism that it cannot be described in mere earthly terms; an overwhelming sense of God’s nearness which was so ecstatic that those experiencing it even asked God to take it away; and a direct assurance of salvation which transcends any kind of assurance which mere Christians without this baptism can ever have.
In connection with this latter, Jones insists that this high and direct assurance of salvation is exclusively limited to the baptism of the Spirit. Jones speaks of three different levels of assurance: one level comes from more argumentation: Christ died for sinners; I am a sinner; Christ died for me. The second level is a bitmore intense and sure and comes from a work of the Spirit which gives me, through the Word, the consciousness that I belong to Christ. But the third level is direct and immediate, without the Word, which “drowns” one in ecstasy and is so complete and total that it all but consumes one. It is interesting to note in this connection that neither Scripture nor the Confessions of the church (either in the Reformed or Presbyterian tradition) speak of such levels of assurance—although all have recognized, of course, that the child of God struggles with doubts and fears all his life long.
But this separation of the baptism of the Spirit from the work of regeneration brings with it all kinds of other problems, problems which are also apparent in the book.
While we cannot mention all the problems which this distinction raises, we mention a few to demonstrate the impossibility of this position.
In the first place, Jones makes a point of it that Scripture also makes such a distinction, and one proof of this distinction is the fact that Scripture refers to the work of the Spirit in sanctification in terms of admonitions, while the baptism of the Spirit is never spoken of in terms of such admonitions—obviously because of his contention that the baptism of the Spirit is sovereignly given without any effort on our part. Nevertheless, it seems to have escaped Jones that one important text, which Jones claims to refer to the baptism of the Spirit, Eph. 5:18b—”but be filled with the Spirit”—is in fact an admonition.
In the second place, Jones finds abundant texts in the epistles which also refer to the baptism of the Spirit in his judgment. The trouble is that the epistles are written to all the saints in a given congregation or group of churches. This, however, does not square with his insistence that the baptism of the Spirit comes only to some in the church in the post-apostolic period. He faces this question at length, but rather lamely explains the dilemma by claiming that the baptism of the Spirit was so common in apostolic days that Paul could assume that all had it. But this flies in the face of his own description of this baptism and of the historical data of post-apostolic times. This problem is compounded when one thinks of the fact that the Spirit Himself comes upon those whom He chooses. Why so general in the apostolic times? and so rarely in the post-apostolic times? Jones has no answer for this.
In the third place, confusion reigns when Jones distinguishes between sanctification and the baptism of the Spirit. He speaks, e.g., of the fact that the baptism of the Spirit can come in times of crisis, such as illness, nearness to death, loss of a loved one, etc. Now it is simply a fact, and all Reformed theologians as well as our Confessions recognize it, that the life of the Christian is not on one level. There are times in our lives when the flame of spiritual consciousness and nearness to God flickers low and seems nearly to have gone out. There are other times when we live very near to God, when God’s presence is rich and sweet, when we have extraordinary grace to bring peace and comfort, joy and thankfulness, even in the greatest trials. These are, as the Scriptures teach and as especially the Psalms (those wonderful spiritual biographies of the Christian life) make clear, a part of the work of the Spirit in sanctification and daily conversion. They are the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise that His grace is sufficient for every need. They are the experience of every child of God and not limited only to a few. They are not at all to be ascribed to some baptism of the Spirit which is added as some special gift to the work of sanctification. What child of God has not experienced in rich and abundant measure the joy of salvation, the assurance of God’s love, the peace that passes understanding, the consciousness of God’s presence in Christ? To make these unusual, limited to only a few of the saints, marked out as special works of the Spirit bestowed upon only some, is to belittle the work of sanctification and denigrate what every child of God possesses from time to time in his life.
Finally, there is a great danger in the book. I felt this danger strongly as I read the book. You see, as long as we live in this world we still, according to Scripture, carry about with us our old man of sin. We have only a small beginning of the new obedience. We walk in this life which is nothing but a continual death. The result is that life is a constant struggle, a warfare, a battle—also against all the sins of the flesh. Every child of God knows this; but every child of God longs for a greater life of sanctification and renewal. He earnestly wishes that his life were more in harmony with God’s law. He earnestly desires the blessedness of walking consciously with God every moment. He pants after God as a hart pants after water brooks. To have an immediate and direct experience of the riches of perfect fellowship with God is eminently desirable to him. But because of the battle, his life seems dull and prosaic, constantly plagued by the sins of his flesh, a spiritually poverty-stricken life in comparison with what Jones holds out as the effects of the baptism of the Spirit. And so, this baptism of the Spirit seems to him to be wonderful and worth having above all else. If then he is persuaded that this indeed is the portion of some, he earnestly desires to have such riches. But there is nothing he can do about it; the Spirit works where He will and when He wills.
But then he faces the problem of why that baptism of the Spirit never comes to him. And he reproaches himself. He cannot help but wonder why others receive it and he does not. He lives a half-life, a life of a spiritual pauper, and cannot understand why, when he longs so earnestly for more, it never comes. All the seeds of doubt and disillusionment are then sown in his soul, and the devil has an open door to rob him of what he actually does possess. Jones’ book, if true, makes for unhappy and doubting people of God.
This is a great danger. Anyone who reads this book must be warned that the spiritual dangers of journeying on the pilgrimage which Jones prescribes will lead to endless troubles.
We must learn not to expect any such baptism of the Spirit, but to strive earnestly in the difficult and wearying battle of faith seeking our help and strength from the cross of our Savior and looking only to the full perfection of heaven where joy shall be unalloyed, where sin shall be forever taken from us, and where all tears shall be wiped from our eyes for “joy unspeakable.”
I and many with me have enjoyed Jones’ books and profited from them, even if one could not always agree with everything he wrote. His warning that the church of today is seriously weak because of her deadness and spiritual lethargy is well-taken, as Ian Murray points out in the review mentioned above. But Jones’ prescription for new life in the church is wrong, dead wrong. This book is a bad book. It gives an entirely different perspective on Jones’ thought and shows that in this important respect Jones was far from the teaching of Scripture. It is well to read it if you have read other of Jones’ writings because it will give you warning to be aware of these ideas as they appear somewhat more subtly in his other books.