After posting a series of quotes as I did yesterday there are many lines I could have taken to disagree with John MacArthur and defend what I believe clearly to be the Scriptural position. I posted quotes on MacArthur's view on Apostles (they've died out), on Spiritual gifts generally (there are permament and temporary gifts - even though I have yet to find a Scripture that tells me which are which), on Healing (noone heals today and Jesus and the apostles only healed to prove something), on the Gift of Miracles (doesn't exist), the Gift of Prophecy (it is preaching), the Gift of Discernment (it exists and only a few are present to protect the majority of the church against error) and finally the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (it doesn't exist ... well it does but it is synonymous with conversion so kind of swallowed up within it).
There are many authors who could be quoted who will ably disagree with MacArthur including Dr Jack Deere - who devotes an appendix in his book "Surprised by the Power of the Spirit" - to dismantling the entire problem with John MacArthur's cessationism - namely his dispensational eschatology. But I made a statement yesterday wondering about the concept of how John MacArthur's commentaries would developed prior to the Charismatic Movement. I therefore got to reading an author whose reputation was as a Bible teacher and certainly would not have counted himself as part of or sympathetic to the Charismatic Movement.
Therefore Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones words on the Gift of Prophecy and what it is needs to be read. The bulk of the teaching was from his monumental series on the Book of Romans -- Chapter 12. Firstly Dr Lloyd-Jones put the Gift of Prophecy into the context of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He said;
"I say again that my position is that I believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a seperate, distinct, unique experience. It may be accompanied by remarkable gifts; it may simply manifest the regular gifts in a heightened degree. It is not for us to say that none of these things can happen. Anything is possible in the sovereignity of the Spirit".
Dr Lloyd-Jones then went on to examine the Gift of Prophecy in particular. He (as was his common practice) dealt with what prophecy is not. Let us remind ourselves of how John MacArthur defines prophecy.
"A prophet of God, therefore, is simply one who speaks forth God's Word and prophecy is the proclaiming of that Word. The gift of prophecy is the Spirit-given and Spirit-empowered ability to proclaim the Word effectively".
One of the key problems I had with John MacArthur's view is that Joel 2 prophesies a general outpouring of prophecy. But Joel 2 says "Your sons and your daughters shall prophecy". Knowing MacArthur to be as avid a complementarian as Wayne Grudem, I wondered how he would deal with this prophecy. MacArthur assigns Joel 2 to occur within the Millenium. However Dr Lloyd-Jones was clearly aware of this view and mentioned that both Martin Luther and John Calvin had held it but as a reaction to the Anabaptists.
How then does Dr Lloyd-Jones define prophecy?
"What then is the gift of prophecy? Well I would define it as a direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What for? It's purpose is to give a word from God or the Word of God to the Church".
That could be mistaken as sounding quite similar to MacArthur's definition. But Dr Lloyd-Jones goes on;
"Prophecy is the inspired delivery of warning, exhortation, instruction, judging and making manifest the secrets of the heart. Someone who makes a prophecy has been given this gift of passing on, as it were, a word from God to the church and to individuals in the church".
Once again it could be said that this definition is the same as MacArthur's - prophecy is preaching! But Dr Lloyd-Jones clearly realised this and came to the point and compared prophecy WITH preaching and how they are different.
"But perhaps the best way of reaching a definition is to ask; what is the difference between prophecy on the one hand and preaching and teaching on the other?
Because there is a difference. And I would say that the difference is one word. Immediacy.
And this means that a word is given to people and comes to them. Now preaching and teaching are not like that. A preacher and teacher is a man who takes time to study, he takes time to think, to prepare; he arranges his material and gives it order and system. A preacher and teacher should not enter into the pulpit without any preparation and trust to the inspiration of the moment".
So that is Dr Lloyd-Jones's clear understanding of preaching and the very necessary preparation required for it. But prophecy on the other hand;
"Prophecy is something given to someone immediately and directly. Let me give you my proof for saying this. In 1 Corinthians 14:29 we read; "Let the prophets speak two or three and let the other judge" ... You can picture the meeting. Here is a prophet speaking a prophecy but a word is revealed to someone sitting by him. That is it; that is prophecy. It is a direct revelation".
John MacArthur on the other hand of course has problems with the verse that Dr Lloyd-Jones has just quoted - 1 Corinthians 14:29. The only way that he can explain it away is to assign that verse to the Corinthian age and the apostolic era - which of course has now finished.
Furthermore Dr Lloyd-Jones was aware of the Scriptural permission for women to prophecy and wrote this;
"There is a distinction between prophecy and preaching and teaching that can be proved quite clearly from Acts 21:9 and 1 Corinthians 11:5 ... those two verses alone prove that women can prophesy but the Scriptures also tells us that it is not permitted to a woman to preach or teach. That is why it is important to be clear in our minds about the difference between prophesying on the one hand and preaching and teaching on the other. A message may come to a woman but that does not make her a preacher or a teacher".
The Word of God commands us to "prove all things". John MacArthur himself said; "No preacher or teacher of the gospel should resent having what he says judged against Scripture". It isn't a question of chosing one's favourite Bible teachers but a case of which insight into the Word of God makes most sense. As I said before these things need to be defended - not because it is simply our preferred church life at stake - but because it is Word of God at stake and what it says and what it has to command about how we live.
For myself - Dr Lloyd-Jones makes the most sense.