MLJ Monday – The Doctor Changes His Mind

In the Preface to Great Doctrines of the Bible, the editors note that after World War II, Lloyd-Jones held discussion meetings at Westminster Chapel in London on Friday evenings to talk about practical issues in the Christian life. Because many people began asking him questions about biblical doctrines, the Doctor began a series of lectures on those subjects, which began in 1952 and lasted into 1955. This series of lectures eventually were published as part of Great Doctrines of the Bible.

In our MLJ post last Monday, Lloyd-Jones spoke about the mechanics of tongues as seen in Acts. The following quote is part of last week’s post and, again, was taken from Great Doctrines of the Bible.

” . . . I suggest that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the people who were listening were enabled to hear in their own language though their own language was not being spoken . . . . it is quite possible that the apostles were speaking in some kind of speech and the Holy Spirit, as it were, conveyed that speech to all these people as if it were coming in their own tongue and they understood what was being said. They understood these men telling forth these wonderful works of God.”

In fact, some time between 1955 and 1964-65, it appears that Lloyd-Jones changed his mind regarding the suggested explanation he proposed above. Between 1964 and 1965, he preached a series of sermons on the book of John, and the sermons that form the book, Joy Unspeakable, are a part of this longer series on John’s Gospel. This book is about the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. According to Christopher Catherwood, who penned the introduction to Joy Unspeakable, in the mid-1950’s Lloyd-Jones came to believe that “it was evident from Scripture that the sealing of the Spirit was indisputably separate from conversion after reading many of the Puritans and discovering that they testified, both from Scripture and from their own experience, that the two events were not necessarily simultaneous in the Christian’s life. The Christian should not just believe the truth and know it, the Puritans felt, but have a day-to-day living experience of it — what they called ‘experimental’ truth.” Catherwood goes on to say that MLJ’s conviction of what Scripture taught and his concern about the increasing aridity in the lives of many Christians around him, caused him to change both his views and his emphasis.

With this background, then, it is perhaps not surprising to find that in Joy Unspeakable, in the chapter entitled, “Control of the Tongue,” Lloyd-Jones says this:

“Now the tendency in some is to identify [the tongues described in Acts 2] with what the apostle is speaking about in 1 Corinthians 12-14. And yet it seems to me that that is sheer confusion. I say that because it is perfectly clear from what happened on the day of Pentecost that the apostles were speaking in known languages. We prove that by pointing out how the different people who were there were astonished that they were all hearing these men speaking in their own languages. (Acts 2:7-8). They were clearly speaking in their languages.

“There are some who say that what happened was that the apostles were speaking the normal language of Galileans, but that the gift of understanding them was given to the other people. That is wrong for this reason: if that were so, it would be the other people on whom the Holy Spirit had descended. The miracle would have happened in the listeners. But the account tells us that the miracle had taken place in the speakers, in the apostles, who were enabled to speak these various languages, and the people were able to hear them. In other words, there was no need of an interpreter. The people knew the languages and they understood what was being said.”

Let’s all be humble enough to allow ourselves, like Lloyd-Jones, to be molded by Scripture in these matters. The fact that a man like Lloyd-Jones could come to radically different positions on some of the verses in question at different points of his life should give us cause to hold our own postions with a degree of willingness to change, willingness to be pursuaded. The interpretation of some of the biblical data about the gifts of the Spirit and experiential fullness of the Spirit is far from straightforward. It is important for us, as we are increasingly beginning to engage with and debate others who feel differently about us concerning the Spirit that we continue to be charitable towards them and do so in an attitude of wanting to learn and be shaped by the Bible rather than our own pre-conceived notions.


All emphasis mine.

The current excerpt is taken from:

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Joy Unspeakable — The Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit, “Control of the Tongue,” Kingsway Communications, Ltd. Eastbourne, England, 1984, 1985, 1994, pp. 273-274.

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