Saturday, September 06, 2014

Book Review: "Joy Unspeakable" by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book is a must read for anyone wanting to seriously study the doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. If you want a well-rounded view of the subject and want to learn from all sides of the debate, you simply cannot pass by "Joy Unspeakable". Lloyd-Jones is in an unique position to write on this topic since he is one of the most celebrated Reformed preachers of all time. Lloyd-Jones sees himself as defending the "old evangelical" view of the Holy Spirit against the modern view of his day which equated the baptism in the Spirit with regeneration. Whether Lloyd-Jones is correct about this or not is for you to decide.

Lloyd-Jones cannot be categorized with the Pentecostals, nor with the non-Pentecostals. For example, he argues in favor of Pentecostalism that the baptism in the Spirit is a subsequent and distinct experience from conversion. It is experiential and comes with evidences. However, also he argues against Pentecostalism that the evidences of the baptism in the Spirit have nothing to do with the gifts of the Spirit such as speaking in tongues. Nor does he agree with the Holiness camps that the baptism in the Spirit has to do with sanctification. He strongly denies this. Lloyd-Jones contends that the chief end of the baptism in the Spirit is to bring Christians assurance, which is the indispensable power to be witnesses of Christ. Therefore the evidences of the baptism in the Spirit will be a man empowered with assurance.

Lloyd-Jones argues that the baptism in the Spirit is not something one can work up or make happen, but rather that it is a sovereign work of God to happen in His timing and in His way. He emphasizes this greatly. It is not something man initiates, but something God initiates. It is not us doing things to fill ourselves with the Spirit (as in Ephesians 5:18, which Lloyd-Jones calls the normal way), but it is something different. The Spirit "falls on" people, and it is exceptional, an experience they do not make happen.

Throughout the book Lloyd-Jones repeatedly uses examples from history, seeking to prove his points not only from Scripture but from the lives of saints who have claimed a distinct experience with the Spirit. It sometimes struck me that what Lloyd-Jones is calling the baptism in the Spirit is nothing more than when a Christian catches a glimpse of the glory of the truth of the gospel. It is that experience that many of us have had that only seems to last for a brief moment, when you are overwhelmed with emotion due to a more vivid sight of the truth.

Finally, Lloyd-Jones is greatly concerned with the need for revival in the Church. He inseparably connects one's doctrine of the baptism in the Spirit with one's doctrine of revival. If you believe the baptism in the Spirit to be indistinct from conversion, you will therefore not believe in revival. To Lloyd-Jones, the Pentecostal experience is essentially revival, and vice versa. Revival is when God pours His Spirit upon the Church, giving them fresh power to proclaim the gospel.

This book is full of strengths and weaknesses. It is greatly challenging. It hardly deals with spiritual gifts. It constantly asks you to examine your own Christian experience. It doesn't fully satisfy the exegetical questions. However, the best part about Lloyd-Jones is that he actually attempts to prove his position from the Scriptures. He does not just say, as many do, "I can't explain it, you just have to experience it for yourself." Thankfully, Lloyd-Jones gives us more than that.

While I do not fully agree with Lloyd-Jones's conclusions, I consider this book an excellent contribution to the study of the Spirit. Want to wrestle with the doctrine of the baptism in the Spirit? You must at least read this book.


hhg said...

I couldn't disagree more with your evaluation of MLJs book, Joy Unspeakable. He approached the subject with an already full conclusion, which was not arrived at via exegeting the scripture, but via generalizations, incorrect suppositions, unusual experience of others, even reverting to quoting heretical teachers and leaders of the past.
Because of his status and the fact that most readers of this book are not discerning, those reading this book will be potentially lead to serious error. I would not recommend this book.

Renee said...

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is one of the most respected theologians in history, at least in modern history. His bravery in tackling this explosive subject is admirable. This is a remarkable book and one that I will be eternally grateful for finding. I am certain that God brought me to read it as a result of a sincere and on going prayer to understand Jesus' promise to his disciples that HE WOULD GIVE THEM THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT (without any reference to hysterical behavior). While there is a plethora of historically wrong teaching on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the truth remains that Jesus said He would send the baptism of the Holy Spirit to His disciples to empower them to be His witnesses. This book sorts out the chaff from the wheat and brings light to the third person of the trinity in a most liberating way. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is not hysterical or overly cautious. He just goes through scripture after scripture and provides clarity on the person and work of the Spirit as it concerns the people belonging to Christ. Of course, his conclusions will not suit everyone because not all want to tackle a subject fraught with so much misunderstanding and fear. But we must remember Jesus own words in Luke 11! Especially Luke 11:11-13 "What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"