Last Monday I shared some of the things that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed we should not do when weighing whether what appear to be gifts of the Spirit are genuinely from God. This week I am sharing his view on the positive ways of testing and examining these gifts. My paraphrase of his tests is as follows:
1. We should use our human reasoning and understanding.
It’s interesting to see his stress on wisdom, led, of course, by the Scriptures, but the use of our brains nonetheless. It’s a sad indictment on much of the charismatic church, where Christians have often been encouraged to hang their brains on a hook on the way into church. To MLJ, the use of this reason is enabled and enlightened by the Spirit. He says, “It happens like this: the Holy Spirit enlightens the understanding. He does not make us Christians apart from the understanding. What he does is to lift the understanding up to a higher level. There is nothing wrong with reason except that it is governed by a sinful disposition, and that is why it can never bring us into Christianity or into the kingdom. But the Spirit can lift up the mind and the reason. A man is never saved against his reason and his understanding—never! What happens is that his understanding and his reason are enabled to see the truth which he formerly rejected.”
2. We should test by comparing what is being said with the Bible.
MLJ made the excellent point that if the end result of any movement is to move away from what the Bible says, or even to study it less, that movement is clearly in error.
Here is a direct quote from him on this subject:
“. . . the answer is not to commit intellectual suicide, nor to stop thinking, nor deliberately to let yourself go and abandon the powers that God has given you. The answer is to trust yourself to the illumination and the guidance of the Spirit. . . .It is to me one of the most wonderful aspects of this truth—how at one and the same time you can be gripped and lifted up by the Spirit and still be in control. But that is the glory of Christianity, that is what differentiates it from everything that is false and spurious. So I argue that the first thing we have to do is to use our reason and understanding, the very powers that God has given us. Indeed I want to put this as a positive assertion, that it is the very central glory of the Christian salvation that takes up the whole man. It takes up his mind, his heart, and his will.
. . . These, then, are the two main principles involved in testing the spirits. We must use our minds and our understanding, and must never ‘let ourselves go’. We must not abandon ourselves for in doing so we lose the ability to be critical, to evaluate, to prove, and to control. Above all, we must apply the Scriptures. We have the Spirit in us, our mind is enlightened, and we have the Scriptures. We must put these things together. Nothing is more dangerous than to put a wedge between the word and the Spirit, to emphasize either one at the expense of the other. It is the Spirit and the word, the Spirit upon the word, and the Spirit in us as we read the word.”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Joy Unspeakable, (Eastbourne UK: Kingsway Communications, 1995) 199, 201, 205.