Friday, January 02, 2009

Jonathan Edwards on the Reality of the Spirit

Another quote from the great Jonathan Edwards and his "Notes on Scripture". Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones - while professing a great respect for the Puritans of the 17th century said that he preferred Jonathan Edwards because he felt that Edwards was more "experimental" in his theology than John Owen, Thomas Goodwin and so on. Reading a quote like this makes it clear why Dr Lloyd-Jones felt so.

Edwards was commenting on Hebrews 6:4-6.

"Tis not probable that they should have the Holy Ghost dwelling in them with respect to His miraculous influences and not feel anything of the power of it in their souls.

When the Holy Ghost was given them, they felt His Presence not only outwardly but inwardly, not only in their understanding but also affections.

They experienced the powers of the age to come, that is of the invisible world, felt the powers of the invisible agents of that world upon their minds. Tis certain none exercised miraculous gifts without extrordinary influence of the Spirit of God to convince their judgement".

Now ... it's been a while since I have mentioned the whole issue of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. For those who have been following this blog for a while - you will know that my church history brought about a personal and wider interest in this whole issue. Briefly - my home church was traditionally charismatic - but maintained a healthy balance between Word and Spirit (although I realise now that there was a dangerous mix also of law and grace). We were involved deeply with the Dales Bible Weeks and went to the Downs Bible Weeks before setting up our own Bible Week.

Church was an EXCITING place to be! Even I remember that as a child. I still remember when it was a communion service the pastor and elders would simply sit down and wait for the Holy Spirit to move throughout the congregation and inspire prophetic words or tongues. I found it almost nerve-wracking wondering what would happen. There was frequently times of testimony after the church had been away to the Bible Weeks where Ern Baxter was often the main speaker - and it was guaranteed that you would hear people testifying to how they had been baptised in the Holy Spirit.

Then everything changed. And not for the better. The key moment seemed to be when the senior pastor brought out a booklet announcing that he had decided to change his mind on the baptism of the Spirit. He had taught that it was a distinct experience that Jesus Christ poured out on believers. Now he was teaching that it was something that happened automatically and non-experientially at conversion. The trouble was that this happened in 1997. Just before he brought out that booklet I had gone to university and heard a sermon asking "Had I received when I believed?".

I became a Christian 10 years before in 1987 at a church crusade in Dunstable called; "Life with Purpose". An evangelist called Don Summers had preached a message and I was convicted and knew I had not come to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ Himself. However I never received "anyone" in experience and in power. It was a cerebral decision and there was no accompanying experience other than fear - because I had to go up the front to respond! So hearing this sermon at university convinced me and I went up the front again and had hands laid on me and received the baptism of the Spirit in power. About a week later I started speaking with tongues in the shower - of all places!

So when I read this booklet I was incredibly disturbed and upset. I was being told by a pastor I had the most respect for that what happened to me was not real. I knew from my experience that it most certainly WAS real! But I went to the Scripture and began looking through books to try and find out what was going on. I have John Piper to thank for putting me onto Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I read his message to the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors: "A Passion for Christ-Exalting Power" and learned it wasn't just mad charismatics who believed in this! Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones had preached a series of sermons on John 1 which was later put into an outstanding book called "Joy Unspeakable".

Dr Lloyd-Jones persuaded me - and no one has ever even come close to "un-persuading" me. One of the key issues for me is this - the original Jonathan Edwards quote.

"Tis not probable that they should have the Holy Ghost dwelling in them with respect to His miraculous influences and not feel anything of the power of it in their souls".

How can it be? The Bible describes the baptism of the Holy Spirit in such glorious terms. I wouldn't be quite as definitive as many Pentecostals in insisting that the baptism of the Spirit ALWAYS has to be accompanied by the gift of tongues - but I certainly do think that the book of Acts suggests that something outward will happen at this event - whether it be tongues, prophesying, a word of knowledge, visions. I realise that many of those teachers (such as my former pastor) who deny this insist and take pride in the fact that they are "men of the Word". But it just simply doesn't tie up for me.

HOW can this EVER be an event that is NON-experiential?!

I will close with one of my favourite Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones quotes where he addresses such men who teach this;

"There is nothing, I am convinced, that so ‘quenches’ the Spirit as the teaching which identifies the baptism of the Holy Ghost with regeneration. But it is a very commonly held teaching today, indeed it has been the popular view for many years. It is said that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is ‘nonexperimental’, that it happens to every one at regeneration.

So we say, ‘Ah well, I am already baptized with the Spirit; it happened when I was born again, at my conversion; there is nothing for me to seek, I have got it all’. Got it all? Well, if you have ‘got it all’, I simply ask in the Name of God, why are you as you are? If you have ‘got it all’, why are you so unlike the Apostles, why are you so unlike the New Testament Christians?".


Sheila said...

More, please.


That's all I have to say, startlingly enough. ACK!

More posts like this. JUST like this. God will use your boldness, Dan.

Can't get over it. I love this post so much! Makes me want to go find a place to pray. In tongues.

Dan Bowen said...

Muahahah!! :)

Thanks Sheila!! Love the idea of you charging off into the sunset to find somewhere to pray in tongues!!