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SUNDAY NT SERMON: Tim Keller “Politics of the King” – Ephesians

Series: The King and the Kingdom – Part 7

Tim Keller preaching image

Preached in Manhattan, NY on September 3, 1989

We’ve actually been studying Ephesians 2 for a few weeks now because it tells us so much about the church:

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. – Ephesians 2:14–22

What we’re doing these last few weeks of the summer in these messages is envisioning the church, getting a clear picture of what the Bible says the church ought to be. I want that picture to be so clear and bright that it burns a hole in your mind and ignites a passion in the core of your being to see that picture realized.

Recently, I read two different accounts of two individuals who lived in two different centuries, on two different continents, and yet the same thing happened to them both. They had lived all their lives in abject poverty. For one reason or another, both of them found someone died and left them a fortune. Millions. They were dressed, and it was brought to their attention now there were millions of dollars in the bank in their name, and each one of them said, “Ah, that’s great. Fine. I’ll get it when I need it,” and never drew a cent for the rest of their lives and continued to live in abject poverty.

Interesting stories. Maybe you’ve heard of one of them, and probably there are more cases than that. The reason that happened was not that they disbelieved it, but I believe, because after years and years of living on nickels and dimes and quarters, their imaginations couldn’t comprehend those figures. They knew there was something in there they could draw on when they had a need, but they really couldn’t get their imagination around it.

We’re exactly like that when it comes to the church. Exactly. Because the things the Bible says about the nature of the church are so magnificent they beggar the imagination, and without God’s help, our puny, shriveled little imaginations cannot get around it. So over the next three weeks, we’re going to take a look at Ephesians 2. For three weeks, we’re going to look at these verses I just read.

Many of you (those of you especially with a church background) have heard these things before. “The church is a holy temple. The church is the family of God. The church is one new man,” which means a new humanity. “The church is a colony of heaven. We’re citizens of heaven, and we’re a colony of heaven.” You’ve probably heard these things, right? They’re in the bank. They’re there to be drawn on, and we sit there, and we go, “Uh-huh,” and we live like beggars. Aren’t you tired of going around in rags yet?

Now Ephesians 2:13–22, is a bank account for a Christian, and all we’re going to look at this particular evening are the first few verses, especially verses 14–17, where it talks about the peace of the church. One of the things the church has is peace. It comes up three times: “For he himself is our peace …,” in verse 14; “In this one body, he reconciled both of them, and he made peace,” in verse 15; and in verse 17, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.”

The teaching of this passage, in summary, is the church is a place of supernatural unity and solidarity, and that supernatural unity and solidarity is craved by the world. They’re dying for it, but only the church can realize it. That is what the teaching is. Now let’s break it down.

In these verses, Paul, first of all, explains there’s a major problem mankind has with peace, a major problem, and then he gives a solution. The problem he talks about by giving us a case. He’s a casuist here. He’s giving us a case study, and what he’s doing is he gives us one particular case of the great hostility that exists between man and man, between men and women, between labor and management, between races and races. In this one case, he gives the example of the hostility between Jew and Gentile, and he talks about how that has been solved by the church, so let’s take a look at that.

The problem Paul gives us … He gives us a good analysis of the problem, the hostility you see in verse 14. He says he “… has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,” and then secondly what Paul says is the answer, what brings peace, and that is he destroys the hostility through what? Verse 16: “… through the cross …”

Let’s look at the problem, then the solution. The problem: Paul points out the hostility, and you could make a great case that the problem of the human condition is the lack of peace. We live in a world of great strife and enmity. We pay billions of dollars to diplomats. Now I know there are some of these in the room: policeman, lawyers, social workers, arbitrators, mediators. What are you all out there to do? To keep us from killing each other. Guess what. You’re failing. You’re failing.

The only reason there is some peace in the world is because of what’s termed enlightened self-interest. The Bible gives us a great analysis of the cause of the hostility and the continual strife. Why is there war? Why is there terrorism? Why is there litigation? Why is there divorce? The Bible says the reason for the lack of peace in the world is the inherent selfishness and pride of every human being.

The only way the world is able to go about getting peace … It can get it in a partial way, in a sort of way. There’s a sort of peace that can be developed when selfish people find they can work for peace because working for peace helps them toward their goals. Enlightened self-interest. It’s a partial, and it keeps the world from being an absolutely unlivable place. When somebody sees it’s beneficial to their goals to work and live at peace with other people, then they’ll do it. So we do everything we can to set that up, and I’m glad we do.

Did you notice, for example, this week, ARCO came out with a new gasoline, which is far more pollution-free than has ever been produced? It was right on the front page of The New York Times. The ARCO spokesman admitted freely they could’ve been doing this years ago but he said they had no incentive. Well, you know what the incentive is. California has passed certain laws about emission control, and now they’re going to be penalized a terrific amount of money if they don’t produce the gas.

Suddenly (isn’t this incredible?), they’re working for peace, peace with the environment, peace with the environmentalists. Why? Because they said, “Now we have incentives.” Well, what that means is … Our selfishness has been coordinated, your selfishness and my selfishness. Now we can work together, because by working together we can both get what we want. Enlightened self-interest.

Some years ago, do you remember a really, really great ad campaign for why people should not drive recklessly, why people should drive cautiously and soberly? “The life you save may be your own.” Why is it that the ad people didn’t put up there on the billboards, “The life you save may be somebody else’s?” Well, because it’s just not as powerful an argument. “The life you save may be some other poor slob.” Okay. “The life you save may be your own.” Oh, well, all right. Ooh, wow. Okay.

Don’t you see? That’s the only way the world can create peace. It’s doomed in the end. It has to be, because it’s only temporary. Eventually, it’s not in your best interest to work for peace. At some point, if you’re trying to reach your goals, the most beneficial thing for your self-interest will be to push somebody aside to cheat, to stab, or just to walk away. Because it’s the selfishness which creates the strife and the enmity and the conflict, and you can only harness it so far. It’s the selfishness and the pride that creates it.

Now Paul, I said, gives us a case study of how that works. He could’ve chosen all sorts of conflicts we have, but he chose one, which is very, very well known, and one, of course, which we have plenty of still in the world today, the conflict between Jew and Gentile. He says something pretty interesting. He says he “… destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.”

What does that mean? One thing we do know is Jesus Christ never abolished the Ten Commandments. We know that because the Sermon on the Mount is all about the Ten Commandments. You know, Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but I say unto you, if you hate your brother, you have killed him, and if you ignore and are cold to your brother, you have killed him.”

What is Jesus doing? Is he saying, “Ah, you don’t need to follow the Ten Commandments anymore?” He’s saying, “Oh, my friends, the Ten Commandments are far more broad in their ramifications than you ever thought. It’s critical we live according to the commandments.” So Jesus did not abolish the Ten Commandments, no. The key is Paul is thinking of something else. He is thinking, I think, literally, of a partition, a real wall, a literal wall.

Yes, there are figurative walls between labor and management, and there are figurative walls between male and female and between black and white, but there was a real wall between the Jews and the Gentiles. It was a wall. It was a partition in the temple, and the people inside were the Jews, who had not just the Commandments but the regulations, the ceremonial laws, the clean and the unclean laws, all the regulations by which they kept themselves separate from the world.

The Gentiles, who did not have all those laws, who were uncircumcised, who ate unclean meat, and so on, they were on the outside. What Paul points out is the Commandments and the regulations created hostility. That’s not the reason God gave the regulations. Why did God make Israel a separate people? Why did he set them apart with all those regulations?

Not to create enmity, not to create separation, but to make Israel a holy nation who would attract the Gentiles to God. That’s why so many of the calls to worship we do here … the first thing, when I call you to worship … very often, I read it from the Psalms. These were the calls to worship at the temple. Very often, in the Psalms, you see calls to worship from temple that don’t just go, “Come worship all ye people.” What does it say? “Come worship all ye peoples.”

God expected Israel to be drawing all peoples to the worship of God. But what happened was the regulations were distorted and twisted by the pride and selfishness in our hearts. The Jewish people began to take those regulations, which were a gift, and instead of being humbled by them, they became proud, and they said, “Look at these Gentile dogs who eat the wrong food. Look at these unwashed pagans. Why should we have anything to do with them?”

Their gift became a source of pride, and instead of serving the Gentiles with their gift, they scorn them and look down their nose at them. The Gentiles say, “Well, who needs these stuck-up people?” So they became a dividing wall of hostility.

Listen. Let me say, very clearly, this is only one case. Tonight we are not picking on Jewish people because this is a universal principle. Every person who receives a gift, every strength you have, everything that is good about you, sin will twist it and turn it around and turn it into something that makes you look down your nose at other people.

I remember, for example, the school district in my hometown came up with this brilliant idea. They said, “Let’s take the smartest kids from all the different parts of the school district together, and we’ll put them in one class, because they can really, really study, and we can get them three and four years ahead in math and three and four years ahead in all these things.” They put them all together. They didn’t say, “You are the gifted class,” but everybody in that class knew they were pretty intelligent.

Twelve years later, they evaluated the program, and they stopped it. I remember reading the evaluation, and the reason for that was there was tremendous hostility created between that class and everybody else. The class developed a sense of, “Oh, we know who we are. We are the smart kids, and we know who you are. You’re the ones who couldn’t cut it and get into this class.” Of course, everybody else says, “They’re the snobby, smart kids, and we want nothing to do with them,” and there was violence because of that.

I’ve counseled, and I sure hope I don’t do a whole lot more of it, but I did a lot of marriage counseling when I was in Virginia because the nearest therapist was about 300 miles away from my town, so I did it. One of the things I found in this little blue-collar town was the women were more adaptable than the men, by and large.

Everybody got married at the age of 16 or 17, and then as time went on, the women were more adaptable. They learned. They grew. They took courses. Even though most of them were just high school graduates, they would take other courses, and they changed and grew, and their husbands didn’t.

Ten to fifteen years later, here’s what happened: For whatever reason (and I can’t document this), the women were more adaptable to their environment. They were more responsive. They were more receptive, and the husbands, it was harder for them to admit when they were wrong. This was a gift these women had.

I don’t know if it’s inherent to the female brain. I don’t know. I haven’t read that, but I do know these women, almost all of them, would get together and talk about it, and they turned it into a tremendous source of pride. They would constantly scorn their husbands about their male ego. The male ego … he can’t admit when he’s wrong. The male ego is rigid.

What happened was they turned their gift into pride. Everybody does it. All of us do it. The gifts God gives us become walls of hostility, barriers. Don’t you see? What does God do about it? What does Jesus say is the solution? The solution is in verses 15 and 16: “by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross …”

The answer to the problem, the inveterate problem, the problem that cannot be solved any other way is here were two people, two groups, Jew and Gentile, at each other’s throats. Jesus reconciled them to God and thus to each other through the cross. Now how does the cross do that? Here we go. The cross does it (and only the cross) because it eliminates boasting.

Have you seen that? One of the problems with the new translations are they get rid of that word boasting? There are a lot of places where Paul says, “No one will boast,” or, “I will boast in nothing.” In fact, my favorite verse, and the verse I need to read you right now, is Galatians 6:14, a very important verse.

He says, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither Jew nor Gentile means anything but a new creation. Peace to all who follow this rule.” Did you hear that? He says, “I boast in nothing but the cross; therefore, Jew and Gentile mean nothing to me. I look at everyone differently, and peace comes to those who follow this rule.”

The cross eliminates boasting. The trouble with the word boast is what? When you think of boasting, what do you think of? You think of a braggart. You think of somebody at a party, huh? You think of the lady in the TV commercial where the lady says, “Now darling, enough about me. What do you think of my dress?” Do you remember that one? Yeah.

Anyway, you think of bragging. You think of somebody who’s always talking about their accomplishments. No. It’s a much deeper word than that. Many times this word boast is translated glory. “I will glory in nothing else but the cross.” You see, the word glory in the Bible means something of weight, and what Paul says here is, “There were many things I used to glory in.” Now what does that mean? “I used to boast in them. I used to glory.”

Does it mean I bragged about them at parties? No. Here’s what it means: To glory in something means to say, “This is what gives me weight. This thing is what makes me count. This thing is what gives me substance. It’s because of this that I am not chaff blown into the wind. I’m not smoke. I’m not an illusion. I’m not a holograph. It’s this thing that makes me real. It’s this thing that defines me. It’s this thing that makes me count.” Paul says that is eliminated by the cross, and only the cross can eliminate that.

He goes into more detail in another incredibly important passage where he gives, virtually, his life story in a few verses, and it’s in Philippians 3. It reads like this: “If any man has reasons to boast, I have more. Of the people of Israel …” He’s talking about himself. “[I was] of the people of Israel … a Hebrew of the Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”

Listen. “But whatever was to my profit, I now consider debit. For the sake of Christ, I consider them all as rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from obeying the law, but a righteousness that comes from God through faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.”

He makes a list. He says, “If anybody has things to glory in, I have more.” That list, he says, “I was a Hebrew of the Hebrews.” He’s talking about his family, pedigree, his social status. Then he says, “I was a Pharisee.” He was a scholar, “… as to knowledge, a Pharisee …” He was a scholar. His education was impeccable, all right? Ivy League, see?

Then thirdly, he says, “As to zeal, I persecuted the church.” That’s professional success as a rabbi, all right? Social status, educational excellence, professional success, and then he says, “… as to legal righteousness, faultless.” He says, “In every way, my moral record, all these things, I get glory in them. I looked at them, and they gave me weight. They made me feel like I count. I know who I am. I’m somebody.”

They gave him his identity. He says here, “In order to become a Christian, I had to stop glorying in any of them.” He didn’t just say, “It happened when I became a Christian.” He says, “That I might know Christ, I had to count them all as rubbish.” By the way, that is a euphemism, okay? That’s a euphemism because the Greek word means dung, excrement, urine, all those things that got the art banned in Washington, DC.

He says, “I had to count them as refuse. I stopped looking at them as being things I got my identity from.” Does that mean he threw his books away and stopped being a scholar? No. He enjoyed the fact he was a scholar. Did that mean he stopped being moral? Of course not. Did that mean he stopped being a member his family, stopped being a member of the tribe of Benjamin; he didn’t go to the Benjamin family reunions anymore? What did that mean? It meant they no longer were foundational to his identity. He no longer gloried in them.

Now my friends, when that happened, as a Jew, all the things he boasted in were knocked out, and that meant suddenly there was no difference between the Gentiles and him. It’s not just Jewish people who do that. Friends, every religion other than evangelical Christianity does the same thing. It says, “Here’s what you have to do. Go out and get it. Do it. When you succeed, then you know you count.”

I got an interesting little brochure. I won’t mention the church just in case … You know this is New York, and who knows? I might get sued, but there’s a place full of conflict. There’s not much peace here, you know, strife and litigation … But this particular church believes they can give you spiritual purification.

Here’s how their religion works: In the brochure, it says, “Come take our Purification Rundown. The rundown will return your energy and alertness to its natural, sparkling, clear, fresh state. The program is a strenuous one, but you can complete it by following the rules. The Purification Rundown is not concerned with the body. The aim of the Purification Rundown is freeing the individual spiritually. There are no medical recommendations or claims made for the program. The only claim is future spiritual improvement.”

On the back, there’s a testimony, and this person said, “After completing the rundown, I became vice president of marketing for an international cable company. I was able to complete all my work in just a few hours with my new energy level, and for the first time in years, I had evenings and weekends free.” Don’t you realize …? That’s crass. Of course, it’s crass. “Come. It’ll be hard work, but if you follow our religion you’ll reach all of your goals, and then you’ll feel so good about yourself.”

Of course, that’s crass, but friends, every religion, every philosophy outside of evangelical Christianity, whether you get an old one that’s been around for thousands of years or you make up your own, does the same thing. Can I give you a little more subtle personal example? When I was in college, I was very depressed at a period, and I went to a counselor, and the counselor said to me, “One of the things we have to do to help you in your depression is help your sense of self-esteem,” which, in other words, well, he says, “You’re not glorying in anything.”

Now he didn’t put it like that, of course, but that’s what he meant, and he said, “What are you good at?” I shudder to tell you this, because it was a long time ago, but at the time I was a trumpet player, and I said, “I’m a pretty good trumpet player.” He said, “Now I want you to do this: When you start to get depressed, I want you to imagine yourself playing a solo that brings down the house. Do that whenever you are feeling depressed,” and I tried it.

I can give you this testimony: In the short run, it does make you feel better, but then you’re on a treadmill. There are only two things that can happen to you; either you achieve what you imagine, and you build your identity on your gift, and next thing you know, you’re starting to look down your nose (just like Paul says here) at every other inartistic Philistine, every other boorish person who’s not like you.

If you really get successful, you can put yourself in a power bubble surrounded just by people who tell you how great things are. The only other alternative is you fail. Then what happens to you is you’re eaten up with envy and resentment all the rest of your life. In either sense, in either situation, peace is gone. You’re either eaten up with pride or you’re eaten up with envy and resentment. I’m speaking personally.

Paul says the gospel and the gospel alone, the cross and the cross alone, changes all that because what the cross does is it takes you and shows you all these things you’re glorying in, though good in themselves, are nothing before God. They cannot make you in even one iota acceptable to him. They are nothing before God, and compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, they’re less than nothing.

Years ago (I’ll use him as an illustration), there was a man named David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of my heroes, and I’ll quote him as often as I possibly can. He and C.S. Lewis, you’ll hear quotes all the time. Why not? They’re both dead, but they’re like my tutors, my friends, when I read them. Lloyd-Jones was a surgeon in London in the 20s, and he was a man of great standing and distinction. The trouble was, after he became a Christian, he discovered, to his consternation and everybody else’s, he was an incredibly good speaker, a tremendous preacher.

One of the best things you can do if you’re a Christian and a doctor is to be a great Christian doctor, and one of the worst things most Christian doctors could do would be to go out and try to preach. This man was clearly called to the ministry. He had to do it, and he did. He left being a surgeon and he went into the ministry. At that time he took a 90 percent cut in salary. His salary as a minister was one-tenth of what it was as a surgeon.

Some years after that happened, a reporter came to him, and the reporter said, “Dr. Lloyd-Jones, many people were intrigued when you made this choice. You gave up so much. There were so many things in your life you had to give up, and I’m sure there has been a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction doing what you’ve done, but I’ve come here to find out, on balance, after reflecting and weighing everything up, was it worth it?”

Lloyd-Jones growled at him in Welsh (because he was Welsh), and he says, “I gave up nothing. I received everything.” In other words, let me translate. He says, “My dear man, you don’t even understand the basic nature of Christianity. Christianity is not one way among many that can help you be happy. It’s not just a way that we have to say, ‘Will this help me really reach my goals in life?’ It’s a total reorientation.”

What Lloyd-Jones said is just what Paul said. He said, “All those things I used to glory in, all those things that used to be sources of pride for me, things through which I got my identity, I saw, compared to what I needed to be (acceptable before God), they were nothing. Compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, they were less than nothing, and so I gave them all up.” “I gave up nothing. I received everything.”

By the way, if there is anybody here tonight who has been thinking about committing your life fully to Jesus Christ … I’ll bet you some of you are sitting around saying, “Ah, but will it be worth it? I might have to give up so much.” Oh, you will have to give up some things. Of course, you have to give up some things. You’re weighing it up. My dear friends, you know what you’re weighing up? Good things in themselves, many of them, but compared to the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ, dust balls.

You won’t know this until you do it, until you give yourself to him. You are like a person sitting around saying, “I have millions in the bank, but I’m agonizing. Do I want to spend 25 cents on that stamp to send in my withdrawal request? Oh, I hate to do that.” You know, maybe a 25-cent stamp represents your life savings up to this point, but you have all that in the bank. “I gave up nothing. I received everything.”

The Bible says when a person is like that and when a person does that, there’s a fundamental change in their relationships to all other believers. Don’t you see why? Because now you have an identity which is deeper than your family identity. That doesn’t mean you stay out of your family, but now you have an identity deeper than your family, an identity deeper than your gender, an identity deeper than your race, an identity deeper than your culture.

Why do you think Jesus Christ can say, “You must hate your mother and father and love me?” He doesn’t mean you literally write poison-pen letters to your parents as soon as you become a Christian, but what he does mean is he says, “Now compared to what you feel about me, compared to your commitment to me, your commitment to your family is smaller.” Or put it this way: The Hatfields and the McCoys, remember them? They were fighting and shooting each other and killing each other for years and years back in the hinterland of West Virginia.

As a result, anybody who was a Hatfield, that defined them. If you were a Hatfield, you didn’t shoot at another Hatfield, and if you were a Hatfield, you shot at McCoy. That’s how your life was run. But if a Hatfield and a McCoy both became Christians, then those two people had far more in common with each other than they did with their own families. That is the nature of the gospel because that’s how radically different your identity is in Christ.

In a sense, everything I’m doing now, this passage, is a commentary on the claim I made last week. If you’re a Christian, you’re a Christian first and you’re an American second. If you’re a Christian, you’re a Christian first and you’re a white person or a black person second. If you’re a Christian, you’re a Christian first and you’re a ruling class or a poor person second. Don’t you see that?

Because the relationship you have in Christ is much more fundamental than any other relationship you have. That is absolutely the nature of the gospel. As a result, the unity and solidarity Christians can have is the sort of thing the world has been trying to get for years. It can’t get there because it doesn’t embrace the cross. The cross knocks down the sources of pride, the things that divide us, and unites us. Unites us completely.

Some of you have heard of Matthew Henry. He wrote a very famous commentary. He lived in the 1700s. It’s a very old commentary and a good favorite. His father’s name was Philip Henry. His father and mother were courting. They were dating, and unfortunately, Philip Henry was from the wrong side of the tracks. The girl he was dating, who was going to be Matthew Henry’s mother, was from Society Hill.

At one point, the parents of Matthew Henry’s mother came to her and said, “This Philip Henry who you’re dating, we’re concerned. We don’t know where he’s from. We don’t know who his parents are. We don’t know what part of the city he’s really from. We don’t know where he’s from.” She looked at them and said, “I don’t know where he’s from either, but I know where he’s going.”

You see, that’s all that matters. That’s why Paul can say, “… henceforth we know no man according to the flesh …,” which means, “I know longer think of people the same way.” Christians will find there’s more solidarity with other Christians of other races than they have with non-Christians of their own race. Christians will find there’s more solidarity between themselves and Christians of other families than they have with non-Christians of their own family, and so on, and so on.

The Greek word for church is ekklesia, called out, and you’re not called out of involvement with the world. You’re called out of the identity. That’s the reason why we can say you’re a Christian first and you’re white or you’re black second. You’re a Christian first and you’re this family or that family second. You’re a Christian a first and you’re rich or poor second. That’s the reason why the solidarity Christian can have should be, can be, unsurpassed.

We’re a new humanity. That’s what it means when it says, “The two have become one man.” What does that mean? It means there’s a new humanity, a new race. A new race. In conclusion, I want to just ask, “What are the implications of this?” I’ll give you two. Just two.

1. If this is true, don’t you see the church is not a nice place just to drop in on every so often?

Don’t you see the church is not a club? Do you begin to understand why there are these commands in the Bible who almost no one in this room, including me (because I’m new here), are obeying? I’m not sure I was obeying them in Philadelphia. The Bible says, “Confess your sins to each other …”

Here’s another one: “Exhort one another daily lest you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Do you have relationships that are so strong there’s somebody who understands you well enough to know day to day when you’re falling down on the job, so that person can encourage you and exhort you so you’re not hardened? Are you obeying that verse? Are you making provision to obey that verse?

“Exhort one another daily lest you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Confess your sins to one another. Welcome one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Submit to one another. The reason for this is the church is a place where you forge relationships that are full of accountability.

Do you know what real worldliness is, friends? To be conformed into the image of the world right now means you as Christians bring your Americanism in, and Americanism is, “I’m responsible for my own life. My problems are nobody else’s business. My sins are nobody else’s business because there is no relationship in which I can’t walk out if my needs aren’t being met.” That’s the American way today. That flies right in the face of everything we have been looking at.

An awful lot of Christians will come into the church … In fact, some of you might be considering … Well, you’re coming to listen to me. Because you want to know whether, if you have the need, you’d be willing to confess your sins to me. Okay … Only if you have the need, you know. Whether you would come and let me exhort you weekly, “… lest you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

You’re trying to figure out whether you want to just come to the place where you have one person who you’re doing that for occasionally. The Bible says you are still holding the church at arm’s length. You’re still refusing to come into the church. You’re still refusing to be truly committed because you’re not making provision for other believers to exhort you daily “… lest you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” If you don’t obey that verse, you will be hard. You have to be.

It’s not good enough just to come and to say, “Okay, the guy up front, I’ll listen to him. I’ll try to develop a relationship with him.” It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough. We have to be a church in which the truth is spoken in love, and my friends, it’s a church where people can walk up to you and say, “Excuse me. I’ve been praying about this for several weeks. I haven’t talked to anybody else about this. You can hit me. Maybe you will hit me later on. Possibly, we can still talk about. I’m trying my very best to do it right. Do you realize your temper is the talk of the whole office?”

Now you have to get ready. You duck. If you and that other person are a Christian, that’s the nature of the unity you have to have. That other person might hit you and later on come back and say, “Thank you.” Later on, you may find out, if the person hits you, they were right; you exaggerated. You didn’t act on proper information, but a church … That’s the church, a church where you’re forging ties that are as deep as the family.

What else does it mean when it says, “Hate your father and mother and love me?” It can’t mean you really hate your father and mother. It must mean you forge tremendously strong bonds with other believers in the church. Don’t forget, Jesus died on the cross to put you into the body. He didn’t die just to save little individual people to run around and go wherever they get blessed the most. He saved you to put you into the body and make you a new person with other people, okay?

By the way, if I was in New York, I’d probably be doing what a lot of you have been doing for years, but I’m trying to say, once you see what the Scripture says, and once you have opportunities, you need to make provision. You need to make provision. The other thing I just want to say is, keep this in mind. In Ephesians 1, Paul writes to the Ephesians, who he has never met, and he says, “I’ve heard you are true believers because of, one, your faith in Jesus Christ and, two, your love for all the saints.” Now those were the tests.

2. Your love for all the saints

Don’t you see? Some of you may say, “I know I’m a believer because I believe all the doctrines. I believe all the right things. I have faith in Jesus Christ.” But don’t forget the other test of whether you’re really a Christian. Do you love all the saints? All the saints.

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say one of the reasons he realized he had changed … After he became a Christian, he would sometimes wonder, “Have I really changed?” He suddenly realized something really weird had happened. You have to remember England (those of you who are from Britain realize this) is a lot more of a class-conscious society than we have here, though we have classes. Silly to say we don’t have classes, but Britain has that class-consciousness.

As he got into a church in a little mining community in Wales, he used to spend a lot visiting with what he called “old Welsh fisherwomen,” women with no formal schooling at all but who were godly women. He would sit down, and he would talk with them for hours by their hearth. Then he would go and spend time with his old friends, the people he went to Oxford with, the people he went to medical school with.

He suddenly realized one day, he says, “I enjoy, more, hours of fellowship with another Christian who is as opposite as these fisherwomen are to me than I do talking with my peers, the people who are of the same ilk, the same education with me.” He suddenly realized, “What could take a British ruling class person and do that?” Only the gospel, your love for all the saints.

There may be people in here who come in here and because of your gifts and your talents, you’ve always scorned the hoi polloi. Some of you may come here, you respectable types, and you’re not sure how you like to deal with these street types. Other people might come in here who have a kind of disrespectable background, and you’re afraid the respectable types won’t work. You might be the tough guy who kind of hates those artsy types.

My friends, I don’t care whether or not you believe all the doctrine. The way you know you’re a believer is you love all the saints, and you find that as you work for it. This is how I end … My weekly C.S. Lewis quote. He says, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal …” They’ll end, right?

“… and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”

We should be treating each other as infinitely precious vessels, as if you were in a house and you picked up a vase and looked at it, and you said, “Oh, what is this?” Then somebody said, “Oh, that’s a 2,000-year-old vase from the Ming dynasty.” You would be in shock. Suddenly, fear and trembling would overtake you, and you would treat that vase as the precious thing that it is. There’s something infinitely more precious in the pew next to you tonight.

 About the Preacher

In 1989 Dr. Timothy J. Keller, his wife and three young sons moved to New York City to begin Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 20 years it has grown to meeting for five services at three sites with a weekly attendance of over 5,000. Redeemer is notable not only for winning skeptical New Yorkers to faith, but also for partnering with other churches to do both mercy ministry and church planting.  Redeemer City to City is working to help establish hundreds of new multi-ethnic congregations throughout the city and other global cities in the next decades.

Dr. Tim Keller is the author of several phenomenal Christo-centric books including:

Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (co-authored with Greg Forster and Collin Hanson (February or March, 2014).

Encounters with Jesus:Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. New York, Dutton (November 2013).

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. New York, Dutton (October 2013).

Judges For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (August 6, 2013).

Galatians For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (February 11, 2013).

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World. New York, Penguin Publishing, November, 2012.

Center ChurchDoing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, September, 2012.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. New York: 10 Publishing, April 2012.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Trade, August, 2012.

The Gospel As Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (editor and contributor). Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, Dutton, 2011.

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Retitled: Jesus the KIng: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God). New York, Dutton, 2011.

Gospel in Life Study Guide: Grace Changes Everything. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010.

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, Dutton, 2009.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Priorities of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York, Riverhead Trade, 2009.

Heralds of the King: Christ Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney (contributor). Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.

The Prodigal God. New York, Dutton, 2008.

Worship By The Book (contributor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1997.

 

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SUNDAY SERMON: Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on “The Person of the Holy Spirit”

GDOTB Lloyd-Jones

THE PERSON OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

In our consideration of these biblical doctrines, our method has been to follow the order and the plan of salvation, so we come now, by a logical sequence, to the great doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Now I cannot begin to talk about this doctrine without pausing for a moment to express again my sense of wonder and amazement at the plan of salvation. I believe that people who are not interested in the plan of salvation as such, are robbing themselves of a great deal. When you try to stand back and look at it as a whole, you must at once be impressed by its glory, its greatness, its perfection in every part; each doctrine leads to the next until there it is, the complete whole.

It is a very good thing in the Christian life to stand back periodically and look at this great plan. That is why I think it is important to observe Christmas Day and Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and to preach on those days. They are convenient occasions for reminding ourselves of the whole plan of salvation. Look at it as a whole, look at the separate parts; but always remember that the parts must be kept in their relationship to the whole.

So it is very important that we should be studying the Bible in this particular way. I would always recommend that you read the Bible chapter by chapter, that you go steadily through it—that is also good. But in addition I do suggest that it is of vital importance to take out the great doctrines that are taught there, and look at them according to the plan or the scheme of salvation. The Church has done this from the very beginning, and it is a tragedy that it is done so infrequently at this present time because if you are content only with reading through the Scriptures, there is a danger of missing the wood for the trees. As you read through, you become so immersed in the details, getting the right translation, and so on, that you tend to forget the big, outstanding doctrines. So the reason for taking a series like this is to remind ourselves that the purpose of the Bible is to tell us God’s plan for the salvation of this world.

Another thing which I must emphasise is this: I know nothing which is such a wonderful proof of the unique, divine inspiration of the Scriptures as the study of Christian doctrine because we see then that this book is one, that it has one message though it was written at different times by different men in different circumstances. There is great unity in the message, one theme running from the beginning to the end. From the moment mankind fell, God began to put the plan of salvation into operation, and we can follow the steps and the stages right through the Bible. And so as we come to consider the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded that here again is a doctrine that appears both in the Old and the New Testaments. We find a reference to the Holy Spirit in the second verse of the Bible, and the teaching goes right the way through. This amazing unity, I repeat, is proof of the unique, divine inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures.

So, then, we find that in this great plan the Holy Spirit is the applier of salvation. It is His work to bring to us, and to make actual in us, in an experiential manner, that great salvation which we have been considering together and which the Son of God came into the world in order to work out. In the Godhead, the Holy Spirit is the executive, the executor. I shall have to come back to this again when we deal particularly and specifically with His work, but that is His great function in the plan.

Now it is a remarkable and an astonishing thing that this doctrine of the Holy Spirit, His person and His work, has been so frequently neglected in the Church—yet that is an actual fact of history. It is quite clear that the first Christians believed the doctrine, they almost took it for granted. Then you come to the early centuries of the Christian era and you find very little reference, comparatively speaking, to this doctrine. That is not surprising, in fact it was more or less inevitable, because the Church was constantly engaged, in those first centuries, in defending the doctrine concerning the Son. The Son of God had become incarnate: He had been here in this world. Jesus was preached, Jesus as the Christ, and, of course, the enemy was constantly attacking the person of Christ. This was the linchpin in the whole of the gospel and if it could be discredited, the whole scheme would collapse. So the attack was upon the person of the Son and the Church had to give herself in defence of that doctrine in order to establish it.

Tragically, the result was that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was comparatively neglected, until the time of the Protestant Reformation. Now it is our custom to say that the Protestant Reformation is primarily the epoch in the history of the Church in which the great doctrine of justification by faith only was rediscovered in the Bible, and that is perfectly true. But let us never forget that it is equally true that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was also rediscovered in a most amazing manner, and the great Dr B. B. Warfield is surely right when he says that John Calvin was the great theologian of the Holy Spirit. With the whole Roman system the Holy Spirit was ignored; the priesthood, the priests, the Church, Mary and the saints were put into the position of the Holy Spirit.

So the Protestant Reformation rediscovered this mighty doctrine; and let us, in Britain, take partial credit for that. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit was, beyond any question whatsoever, worked out most thoroughly of all by a Puritan divine who lived in this country in the seventeenth century. There is still no greater work on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit than the two volumes by the mighty Dr John Owen, who preached in London and who was also at one time, during the period of Cromwell, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford. And not only John Owen. Thomas Goodwin and other Puritans also worked out the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It has never been done so thoroughly since, and certainly had never been done before.

Now generally speaking, the position today is that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is either neglected or it tends to be emphasised and exaggerated in a false manner. And I have no doubt at all that the second is partly the cause of the first. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is neglected because people are so afraid of the spurious, the false and the exaggerated that they avoid it altogether. No doubt this is why many people also neglect the doctrine of prophecy, the last things and the second coming. ‘The moment you start on that,’ they say, ‘you get into these extravagances and these disputes.’ So they leave the whole thing alone and the doctrine is entirely neglected.

So it is with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Because of certain exaggerations, excesses and freak manifestations, and the crossing of the border line from the spiritual to the scientific, the political and the merely emotional, there are many people who are afraid of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, afraid of being too subjective. So they neglect it altogether. I would also suggest that others have neglected the doctrine because they have false ideas with regard to the actual teaching concerning the person of the Holy Spirit.

In view of all this, therefore, it is obviously essential that we should consider this great doctrine very carefully. If we had no other reason for doing so, this is more than enough—that it is a part of the great doctrine of the blessed Holy Trinity. Let me put it very plainly like this: you would all agree that to neglect or to ignore the doctrine about the Father would be a terrible thing. We would all agree that it is also a terrible thing to neglect the doctrine and the truth concerning the blessed eternal Son. Do we always realise that it is equally sinful to ignore or neglect the doctrine of the blessed Holy Spirit? If the doctrine of the Trinity is true—and it is true—then we are most culpable if in our thinking and in our doctrine we do not pay the same devotion and attention to the Holy Spirit as we do to the Son and to the Father. So whether we feel inclined to do so or not, it is our duty as biblical people, who believe the Scripture to be the divinely inspired word of God, to know what the Scripture teaches about the Spirit. And, furthermore, as it is the teaching of the Scripture that the Holy Spirit is the one who applied salvation, it is of the utmost practical importance that we should know the truth concerning Him. I am very ready to agree with those who say that the low spiritual life of the Church, today or at any time, is largely due to the fact that so many fail to realise the truth concerning the person and the work of the Holy Spirit.

One other thing under this heading. I wonder whether you have ever noticed, those of you who are interested in hymns and in hymnology, that in most hymnbooks no section is so weak as the section devoted to the Holy Spirit? Here the hymns are generally weak, sentimental and subjective. For that reason, I have always found myself in great difficulties on Whit Sunday. We are lacking in great doctrinal hymns concerning the Holy Spirit and His work. Indeed, there are those who would say (and I am prepared to agree with them) that in many hymnbooks a vast majority of the hymns under the section of the Holy Spirit—these hymns that beseech Him to come into the Church and to come upon us, and to do this and that—are thoroughly unscriptural. That is another way of showing you again that this great doctrine has been neglected, that people have fought shy of it, and there is confusion concerning it.

The best way to approach the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is to start by noticing the names or the descriptive titles that are given to this blessed person. First of all, there are the many names that relate Him to the Father; let me enumerate some of them: the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2); the Spirit of the Lord (Luke 4:18); the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11). Then another is, the Spirit of the Lord God, which is in Isaiah 61:1. Our Lord speaks, in Matthew 10:20, of the Spirit of your Father, while Paul refers to the Spirit of the living God (2 Cor. 3:3). My Spirit, says God, in Genesis 6:3, and the psalmist asks, ‘Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?’ (Ps. 139:7). He is referred to as his Spirit—God’s Spirit—in Numbers 11:29; and Paul, in Romans 8:11, uses the phrase the Spirit of him [God the Father] that raised up Jesus from the dead. All these are descriptive titles referring to the Holy Spirit in terms of His relationship to the Father.

In the second group are the titles that relate the Holy Spirit to the Son. First, ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his’ (Rom. 8:9), which is a most important phrase. The word ‘Spirit’ here refers to the Holy Spirit. In Philippians 1:19, Paul speaks about the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and in Galatians 4:6 he says, ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son’. Finally He is referred to as the Spirit of the Lord (Acts 5:9).

Finally, the third group comprises the direct or personal titles, and first and foremost here, of course, is the name Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. Some people are confused by these two terms but they mean exactly the same thing. The English language is a hybrid which has borrowed from other languages, and ‘Ghost’ is an old Anglo-Saxon word while ‘Spirit’ is derived from the Latin spiritus.

A second title in this group is the Spirit of holiness. Romans 1:4 reads, ‘Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.’ A further title is the Holy One: ‘But ye have an unction from the Holy One’ (1 John 2:20). In Hebrews 9:14 He is referred to as the eternal Spirit and Paul says in Romans 8:2, ‘For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.’ In John 14:17 He is called the Spirit of truth, and in chapters 14, 15 and 16 of John’s Gospel, He is referred to as the Comforter.

Those, then, are the main names, or descriptive titles, that are applied to Him. But have you ever thought of asking why He is called the Holy Spirit? Now if you put that question to people, I think you will find that they will answer, ‘He is described like that because He is holy.’ But that cannot be the true explanation because the purpose of a name is to differentiate someone from others, but God the Father is holy and God the Son is equally holy.

Why, then, is He called holy? Surely, the explanation is that it is His special work to produce holiness and order in all that He does in the application of Christ’s work of salvation. His objective is to produce holiness and He does that in nature and creation, as well as in human beings. But His ultimate work is to make us a holy people, holy as the children of God. It is also probable that He is described as the Holy Spirit in order to differentiate Him from the other spirits—the evil spirits. That is why we are told to test the spirits and to prove them, and to know whether they are of God or not (1 John 4:1).

Then the next great question is the personality or the person of the Spirit. Now this is vital because it is essential that I should put it like this. The person of the Holy Spirit is not only forgotten by those whom we describe as liberals or modernists in their theology (that is always true of them), but we ourselves are often guilty of precisely the same thing. I have heard most orthodox people referring to the Holy Spirit and His work as ‘it’ and ‘its’ influence and so on, as if the Holy Spirit were nothing but an influence or a power. And hymns, too, frequently make the same mistake. There is a confusion about the Holy Spirit and I am sure there is a sense in which many of us find it a little more difficult to conceive of the third person in the blessed Holy Trinity than to conceive of the Father or the Son. Now why is that? Why is there this tendency to think of Him as a force, or an influence, or an emanation?

There are a number of answers to that question. They are not good reasons, but we must consider them. The first is that His work seems to be impersonal, because it is a kind of mystical and secret work. He produced graces and fruits; He gives us gifts and He gives us various powers. And because of that, we tend to think of Him as if He were some influence. I am sure that this is a great part of the explanation.

But, furthermore, the very name and title tends to produce this idea. What does Spirit mean? It means breath or wind or power—it is the same word—and because of that, I think, we tend, almost inevitably and very naturally, unless we safeguard ourselves, to think of Him as just an influence rather than a person.

Then a third reason is that the very symbols that are used in speaking of Him and in describing Him tend to encourage us in that direction. He descended upon our Lord, as John baptised Him in the Jordan, in the semblance of a dove (Matt. 3:16). And again, the symbols that are used to describe Him and His work are oil and water and fire. In particular, there is the phrase in the prophecy of Joel, which was quoted by Peter in Jerusalem, on the Day of Pentecost, about the Spirit being poured out (Acts 2:17). That makes us think of liquid, something like water, something that can be handled—certainly not a person. So unless we are very careful and remember that we are dealing with the symbols only, the symbolic language of the Scripture tends to make us think of Him impersonally.

Another reason why it is that we are frequently in difficulties about the personality of the Holy Spirit is that very often, in the preliminary salutations to the various New Testament epistles, reference is made to the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is not mentioned. Our Lord in the great high priestly prayer says, ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent’ (John 17:3)—He makes no specific reference to the Holy Spirit. And then John says the same thing in his first epistle: ‘And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:3). He does not mention the Spirit specifically at that point.

Then also, the word Spirit in the Greek language is a neuter word, and, therefore, we tend to think of Him and of His work in this impersonal, neutral sense. And for that reason, the King James Version, I am sorry to say, undoubtedly fell into the trap at this point. In Romans 8:16 we have that great statement which reads, ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God.’ You notice the word ‘itself’, not ‘Himself’. Again in the same chapter we read, ‘Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us’ (Rom. 8:26). At this point the Revised Version is altogether superior since in both instances it gives the correct translation: ‘Himself’, even though in the Greek the pronoun, as well as the noun, is in the neuter.

And thus we have, it seems to me, these main reasons why people have found it difficult to realise that the Holy Spirit is a person. People have argued—many theologians would argue—that the Scripture itself says the ‘Spirit of Christ’. The Holy Spirit, they say, is not a distinct person; He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Son, or of the Father, and thus they deny His personality.

How, then, do we answer all this? What is the scriptural reply to these reasons that are often adduced? Well, first of all, the personal pronoun is used of Him. Take John 16:7–8 and 13–15 where the masculine pronoun ‘He’ is used twelve times with reference to the Holy Spirit. Now that is a very striking thing. Jesus says, ‘Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth’ (v. 13)—and so on. And this, of course, is of particular importance when we remember that the noun itself is a neuter noun, so the pronoun attached to it should be in the neuter. Now this is not always the case but it is in the vast majority of instances. It is most interesting and it shows how important it is to realise that the inspiration of Scripture goes down even to words like pronouns! So that is the first argument, and those who do not believe in the person of the Spirit will have to explain why almost the whole Scripture uses the masculine pronoun.

The second reply to those who query the personality of the Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is identified with the Father and the Son in such a way as to indicate personality.

There are two great arguments here; the first is the baptismal formula: ‘baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’ (Matt. 28:19). Here He is associated with the Father and the Son in a way that of necessity points to His personality. And notice, incidentally, that this baptismal formula does not say, ‘baptizing them in the names’ but ‘in the name’. It uses the unity of the three Persons—the Three in One—one name, one God, but still Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And so if you do not believe in the person and personality of the Holy Spirit, and think that He is just a power or a breath, you would have to say, ‘Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the breath’ or of ‘the power’. And at once it becomes impossible. The second argument is based on the apostolic benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14: ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost …’—obviously the Holy Spirit is a person in line with the person of the Father and of the Son.

The third reply is that in a most interesting way we can prove the personality of the Spirit by showing that He is identified with us, with Christians, in a way that indicates that He is a person. In Acts 15:28 we read, ‘For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.’ This was a decision arrived at by members of the early Church, and as they were persons, so He must be a person. You cannot say, ‘It seemed good to a power and to us,’ because the power would be working in us. But here is someone outside us—‘It seemed good to him and to us’.

The fourth reply is that personal qualities are ascribed to Him in the Scriptures. He is said, for example, to have knowledge. Paul argues, ‘For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God’ (1 Cor. 2:11).

But—and this is very important—He has a will also, a sovereign will. Read carefully 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul is writing about spiritual gifts, and the diversity of the gifts. This is what we are told: ‘But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will’ (v. 11). Now that is a very important statement in the light of all the interest in spiritual healing. People say, ‘Why have we not got this gift in the Church, and why has every Christian not got it?’ To which the simple answer is that this is not a gift that anybody should claim. It is the Spirit who gives and who dispenses these gifts, according to His own will. He is a sovereign Lord, and he decides to whom and when and where and how and how much to give His particular gifts.

Then the next point is that He clearly has a mind. In Romans 8:27 we read, ‘And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit’—this is in connection with prayer. He is also one who loves, because we read that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love’ (Gal. 5:22); and it is His function to shed abroad the love of God in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). And, likewise, we know He is capable of grief, because in Ephesians 4:30, we are warned not to ‘grieve’ the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and especially this aspect of the doctrine which emphasises His personality, is of supreme importance. The ultimate doctrine about the Spirit, from the practical, experiential standpoint, is that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so that whatever I do, wherever I go, the Holy Spirit is in me. I know nothing which so promotes sanctification and holiness as the realisation of that. If only we realised, always, in anything we do with our bodies, the Holy Spirit is involved! Remember, also, that Paul teaches that in the context of a warning against fornication. He writes, ‘Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you …?’ (1 Cor. 6:19). That is why fornication should be unthinkable in a Christian. God is in us, in the Holy Spirit: not an influence, not a power, but a person whom we can grieve.

So we are going through all these details not out of an academic interest, nor because I may happen to have a theological type of mind. No, I am concerned about these things, as I am a man trying myself to live the Christian life, and as I am called of God to be a pastor of souls, and feel the responsibility for the souls and the conduct and behavior of others. God forbid that anybody should regard this matter as remote and theoretical. It is vital, practical doctrine. Wherever you are, wherever you go, if you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit is in you and if you really want to enjoy the blessings of salvation, you do so by knowing that your body is His temple.

ABOUT THE PREACHER:

Lloyd-Jones preaching at WC London images

Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) [hereafter – DMLJ] was a British evangelical born and brought up within Welsh Calvinistic Methodism, he is most noted for his pastorate and expository preaching career at Westminster Chapel in London.

In addition to his work at Westminster Chapel, he published books and spoke at conferences and, at one point, presided over the Inter-Varsity Fellowship of Students (now known as UCCF). Lloyd-Jones was strongly opposed to the liberal theology that had become a part of many Christian denominations in Wales and England.

DMLJ’s most popular writings are collections of his sermons edited for publication, as typified by his multi-volume series’ on ActsRomansEphesians1 John, and Philippians. My favorite writings are his expositions on the Sermon on the MountRevivalJoy UnspeakableSpiritual Depression; and his recently revised 40th Anniversary edition of Preaching and Preachers. The sermon above is from Volume Two, Chapter One  in the compilation of sermons entitled Great Doctrines of the Bible.

Born in Wales, Lloyd-Jones was schooled in London. He then entered medical training at Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital, better known simply as Bart’s. Bart’s carried the same prestige in the medical community that Oxford did in the intellectual community. Martyn’s career was medicine. He succeeded in his exams so young that he had to wait to take his MD, by which time he was already chief clinical assistant to Sir Thomas Horder, one of the best and most famous doctors of the day. By the age of 26 he also had his MRCP (Member of the Royal College of Physicians).

Although he had considered himself a Christian, the young doctor was soundly converted in 1926. He gave up his medical career in 1927 and returned to Wales to preach and pastor his first church in Sandfields, Aberavon.

In 1935, Lloyd-Jones preached to an assembly at Albert Hall. One of the listeners was 72-year-old Dr. Campbell Morgan, pastor of Westminster Chapel in London. When he heard Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he wanted to have him as his colleague and successor in 1938. But it was not so easy, for there was also a proposal that he be appointed Principal of the Theological College at Bala; and the call of Wales and of training a new generation of ministers for Wales was strong. In the end, however, the call from Westminster Chapel prevailed and the Lloyd-Jones family finally committed to London in April 1939.

After the war, under Lloyd-Jones preaching, the congregation at Westminster Chapel grew quickly. In 1947 the balconies were opened and from 1948 until 1968 when he retired, the congregation averaged perhaps 1500 on Sunday mornings and 2000 on Sunday nights.

In his 68th year, he underwent a major medical operation. Although he fully recovered, he decided to retire from Westminster Chapel. Even in retirement, however, Lloyd-Jones worked as a pastor of pastors an itinerant speaker and evangelist. “The Doctor”, as he became known, was one of the major figureheads of British evangelicalism and his books and published sermons continue to be appreciated by many within the United Kingdom and beyond. DMLJ believed that the greatest need of the church was revival.

 

 

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“Where Is Your Faith?” Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones Exposition on Luke 8:22-25

(*Disclaimer: There is much that Lloyd-Jones writes here and elsewhere that is to be commended. However, in this case I wholeheartedly disagree with his view that a Christian should “never be depressed.” Many godly men and women have battled with depression their entire lives – Martin Luther and Charles H. Spurgeon to name two (not to mention – David and Moses in the Bible). I think that certain personalities are prone to depression and some people are clinically depressed and can be helped tremendously with the aid of medication and biblically based counseling. If you are severely depressed and have battled chronic depression I think you would be wise to seek medical attention. I agree with Lloyd-Jones that the Holy Spirit is powerful to help anyone overcome anything, and that all Christians can and should grow in their faith in the Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence of God. The reality is that yes, Christians should never sin, but we do; and thanks to the work of the Trinity we are saved by grace and sanctified by grace. Sanctification is a journey of ups and downs and God-willing this sermon will help you to increase your faith – no matter what your doubts and struggles may be! – DPC) 

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” – Luke 8:22-25

I WANT to call attention particularly to this question which was addressed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the disciples. He said to them: `Where is your faith?’ Indeed I would call your attention to this entire incident as a part of our consideration of the subject of spiritual depression. We have already considered a number of causes of the condition and this particular incident in the life and ministry of our Lord brings us face to face with yet another cause.

The one that is dealt with here is the whole problem and question of the nature of faith. In other words, there are many Christians who get into difficulty and are unhappy from time to time because they clearly have not understood the nature of faith. `Well’, you may say, `if they have not understood the nature of faith, how can they be Christians?’ The answer is that what makes one a Christian is that one is given the gift of faith. We are given the gift of faith by God through the Holy Spirit and we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and that saves us; but that does not mean that we have fully understood the nature of faith. So it comes to pass that, while we may be truly Christian and genuinely saved through receiving this gift of faith, we may subsequently get into trouble with our spiritual experience because we have not understood what faith really is. It is given as a gift, but from there on we have to do certain things about it.

Now this very striking incident brings out the vital importance of distinguishing between the original gift of faith and the walk of faith, or the life of faith which comes subsequently. God starts us off in this Christian life and then we have to walk in it. `We walk by faith, not by sight’, is the theme that we are now considering.

Before I come actually to that particular theme, I must say a few words about this great incident in and of itself. Looked at from any standpoint it is a very interesting and important incident. It has a great deal to tell us, for instance, about the Person of our Lord Himself. It brings us face to face with what is described as a paradox, the seeming contradiction in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. There He was, weary and tired, so tired, in fact, that He fell asleep. Now this incident is recorded by the three so-called synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, and it is really important from the standpoint of understanding the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at Him. There is no doubt about His humanity, He is fatigued, He is tired and weary, so much so that He just falls asleep, and, though the storm has arisen, He still goes on sleeping. He is subject to infirmity, He is a man in the body and flesh like all the rest of us. Ah, yes, but wait a minute. They came to Him and awoke Him saying:

`Master, carest Thou not that we perish?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the sea, and they ceased and there was a calm-one of the others describes it as `a great calm’. Now it is not surprising that the disciples, seeing all this, wondered and said one to another: `What manner of Man is this! For He commandeth even the winds and water and they obey Him’.

Man, and yet obviously God. He could command the elements, He could silence the wind and stop the raging of the sea. He is the Lord of nature and of creation, He is the Lord of the universe. This is the mystery and the marvel of Jesus Christ-God and Man, two natures in One Person, two natures unmixed yet resident in the same Person.

We must start here, because if we are not clear about that there is no purpose in our going on. If you do not believe in the unique deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are not a Christian, whatever else you may be. We are not looking at a good Man only, we are not interested merely in the greatest Teacher the world has ever seen; we are face to face with the fact that God, the Eternal Son, has been in this world and that He took upon Him human nature and dwelt amongst us, a Man amongst men-God-Man. We are face to face with the mystery and the marvel of the Incarnation and of the Virgin Birth. It is all here, and it shines out in all the fullness of its amazing glory. `What manner of Man is this?’ He is more than Man. That is the answer-He is also God.

However, that is not, it seems to me, the special purpose of this particular incident. You get that revelation in other places also, it shines out right through all the Gospels; but the separate particular incidents in which it is seen, generally also have some special and peculiar message of their own to teach us. In this case there can be no doubt that that message is the lesson with regard to the disciples and their condition at this point-it is the great lesson concerning faith and the nature or the character of faith. I do not know what you feel, but I never cease to be grateful to these disciples. I am grateful for the record of every mistake they ever made, and for every blunder they ever committed, because I see myself in them. How grateful we should be to God that we have these Scriptures, how grateful to Him that He has not merely given us the gospel and left it at that. How wonderful it is that we can read accounts like this and see ourselves depicted in them, and how grateful we should be to God that it is a divinely inspired Word which speaks the truth, and shows and pictures every human frailty.

So we find our Lord rebuking these men. He rebukes them because of their alarm, because of their terror, because of their lack of faith. Here they were in the boat with Him, and the storm arose, and soon they were in difficulties. They baled out the water, but the boat was filling up and they could see that in a few moments it was going to sink. They had done everything they could but it did not seem to be of any avail, and what amazed them was that the Master was still sleeping soundly in the stern of the vessel. So they awoke Him and said: `Master, Master, carest Thou not that we perish?’ -are You unconcerned about it all? And He arose, and having rebuked the wind and the sea, He rebuked them.

Now we must be careful to observe this rebuke and to understand what He was saying. In the first place, He was rebuking them for being in such a state at all. `Where is your faith?’ He says. Matthew puts it: `O ye of little faith!’ Here as elsewhere `He marvelled at their unbelief’. He rebuked them for being in that state of agitation and terror and alarm while He was with them in the boat.

That is the first great lesson we have to apply to ourselves and to one another. It is very wrong for a Christian ever to be in such a condition. I do not care what the circumstances may be, the Christian should never be agitated, the Christian should never be beside himself like this, the Christian should never be at his wit’s end, the Christian should never be in a condition in which he has lost control of himself. That is the first lesson, a lesson we have emphasized before because it is an essential part of the New Testament teaching. A Christian should never, like the worldly person, be depressed, agitated, alarmed, frantic, not knowing what to do. It is the typical reaction to trouble of those who are not Christian, that is why it is so wrong to be like that.

The Christian is different from other people, the Christian has something which the non-Christian does not possess, and the ideal for the Christian is that which is stated so perfectly by the Apostle Paul in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians : `I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content . . . I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me’. That is the Christian position, that is what the Christian is meant to be like. The Christian is never meant to be carried away by his feelings, whatever they are-never. That is always wrong in a Christian. He is always to be controlled, as I hope to show you. The trouble with these men was that they were lacking in self-control. That is why they were miserable, that is why they were unhappy, that is why they were alarmed and agitated, though the Son of God was with them in the boat. I cannot emphasize this point too strongly. I lay it down as a simple proposition that a Christian should never lose self-control, should never be in a state of agitation or terror or alarm, whatever the circumstances. That is obviously our first lesson.

The position of these people was alarming. They were in jeopardy and it looked as if they were going to be drowned the next moment, but our Lord says in effect: `You should not be in that condition. As My followers you have no right to be in such a state even though you are in jeopardy’. That is the first great lesson, and the second is, that what is so wrong about being in this condition is that it implies a lack of trust and of confidence in Him. That is the trouble and that is why it is so reprehensible. That is why He reprimanded these men at that point. He said in effect: `Do you feel like this in spite of the fact that I am with you? Do you not trust Me?’ Mark reports them as saying: `Master, carest Thou not that we perish?’ Now I do not think that they were referring only to themselves or to their own safety. I do not think that they were so self-centred.

I do not think that they simply meant: Don’t You care that we are going to drown? without considering Him at all. I believe they were including Him as well, that they thought they were all going to be drowned. `Master, carest Thou not that we perish?’ But still, this agitation and alarm always carries with it a lack of implicit trust and confidence in Him. It is a lack of faith in His concern for us and in His care for us. It means that we take charge and are going to look after the situation ourselves, feeling either that He does not care, or perhaps that He cannot do.

It means that we take charge and are going to look after the situation ourselves, feeling either that He does not care, or perhaps that He cannot do anything. That is what makes this so terrible, but I wonder whether we always realize it. It seems obvious as we look at it objectively in the case of these disciples; but when you and I are agitated or disturbed and do not know what to do, and are giving the impression of great nervous tension, anybody looking at us is entitled to say : `That person has not much faith in his or her Lord. There does not seem to be much point in being a Christian after all, there is not much value in Christianity as I see it in that person’.

Now during the war we were all subject to these trials in an exceptional way, but even now in days of peace anything that comes across our path and puts us in difficulty, at once shows whether we believe in Him and trust in Him, by our response and reaction to it. There seems to me, therefore, on the very surface to be these two great lessons.

We must never allow ourselves to be agitated and disturbed whatever the circumstances because to do so implies a lack of faith, a lack of trust, a lack of confidence in our blessed Lord and God. However, let us look at the passage in detail, let us now draw some general principles out of the incident and its great teaching.

First of all, in looking at this whole question of faith, let me say a word about what I might call `the trial of faith’. Scripture is full of this idea of the trial of one’s faith. Take the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. That is, in a sense, nothing but a great exposition of this theme of the trial of faith. Every one of those men was tried. They had been given great promises and they had accepted them, and then everything seemed to go wrong. It is true of all of them. Think of the trial of a man like Noah, the trial of a man like Abraham, the trials that men like Jacob and especially Moses had to endure. God gives the gift of faith and then the faith is tried.

Peter, in his First Epistle in the first chapter, says exactly the same thing. He says : `Though ye are in heaviness for a season’ because of certain circumstances, the object of that is `that the trial of your faith which is more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ’. That is the theme of all the Scriptures. You find it in the history of the Patriarchs and of all the Old Testament saints, you find it running through the New Testament. Indeed, it is peculiarly the theme of the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.

Let us then be clear about this. We must start by understanding that we may well find ourselves in a position in which our faith is going to be tried. Storms and trials are allowed by God. If we are living the Christian life, or trying to live the Christian life, at the moment, on the assumption that it means just come to Christ and you will never have any more worry in the whole of your life, we are harboring a terrible fallacy. In fact it is a delusion and it is not true. Our faith will be tried, and James goes so far as to say: `Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (trials)’ (James 1:2). God permits storms, He permits difficulties, He permits the wind to blow and the billows to roll, and everything may seem to be going wrong and we ourselves to be in jeopardy. We must learn and realize that God does not take His people and lead them into some kind of Elysium in which they are protected from all `the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. Not at all, we are living in the same world as everybody else. Indeed, the Apostle Paul seems to go further than that.

He tells the Philippians: `Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake’ (Philippians 1. 29). `In the world’, says our Lord, `ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33) `Be of good cheer’-yes, but remember that you will have the tribulation. Paul and Barnabas going on their missionary journey visited the churches and warned them, `that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22).

We must start by realizing that `to be forewarned is to be forearmed’ in this matter. If we have a magical conception of the Christian life, we are certain to find ourselves in trouble, because, when difficulties come, we shall be tempted to ask: `Why is this allowed?’ And we should never ask such a question. If we but realized this fundamental truth, we never would ask it. Our Lord goes to sleep and allows the storm to come. The position may indeed become quite desperate and we may appear to be in danger of our lives. Everything may seem to be against us, yet-well here it is, a Christian poet has said it for us:

`When all things seem against us To drive us to despair’ .. .

But it does not drive him to despair because he goes on to say:

`We know one gate is open One ear will hear our prayer’.

But things may be desperate: `All things seem against us, to drive us to despair’. Let us then be prepared for that. Yes, but we must go further. While all this is happening to us, our Lord appears to be utterly unconcerned about us. That is where the real trial of faith comes in. The wind and the billows were bad enough and the water coming into the ship. That was terrible, but the thing that to them was most terrible of all was His apparent unconcern. Still sleeping and not apparently caring. `Master, carest Thou not that we perish?’ He appears to be unconcerned, unconcerned about us, unconcerned about Himself, unconcerned about His cause, unconcerned about His Kingdom.

Just imagine the feelings of these men. They had followed Him and listened to His teaching about the coming of the Kingdom, they had seen His miracles and were expecting marvelous things to happen; and now it looked as if everything was going to come to an end in shipwreck and drowning. What an anti-climax and all because of His unconcern! We must be very young indeed in the Christian life if we do not know something about this. Do we not all know something of this position of trial and difficulty, yes, and of a feeling that God somehow does not seem to care? He does not do anything about it. `Why does He allow me, a Christian, to suffer at the hands of a non-Christian?’ says many a person. `Why does He allow things to go wrong with me and not with the other person?’ `Why is that man successful while I am unsuccessful? Why does not God do something about it?’ How often do Christian people ask such questions. They have asked it about the whole state of the Church today. `Why does He not send revival? Why does He allow these rationalists and atheists to take the ascendancy? Why does He not break in and do something, and revive His work?’ How often we are tempted to say such things, exactly as these disciples in the boat were!

The fact that God permits these things and that He often appears to be quite unconcerned about it all really constitutes what I am describing as the trial of faith. Those are the conditions in which our faith is tried and tested, and God allows it all, God permits it all. James even tells us to `count it all joy’ when these things happen to us. This is a great subject-the trial of faith. We do not talk much about it these days, do we? But if we went back to the seventeenth or eighteenth century we would find that it was then a very familiar theme. I suppose that in many ways it was the central theme of the Puritans. It was certainly prominent later on in the evangelical awakening of the eighteenth century. The trial of man’s faith and how to overcome these things, the walk of faith, and the life of faith, was their constant theme.

Let us now go on to the second question–What is the nature of faith, the character of faith? This is above everything the particular message of this incident and I feel that it is brought out especially clearly in this record of it in the Gospel according to St. Luke. That is why I am taking the incident from that particular Gospel and emphasizing the way in which our Lord puts the question: `Where is your faith?’ There is the key to the whole problem. You observe our Lord’s question. It seems to imply that He knows perfectly well that they have faith. The question He asks them is: `Where is it? You have got faith, but where is it at this moment? It ought to be here, where is it?’ Now that gives us the key to the understanding of the nature of faith.

Let me first of all put it negatively. Faith, obviously, is not a mere matter of feeling. It cannot be, because one’s feelings in this kind of condition can be very changeable. A Christian is not meant to be dejected when everything goes wrong. He is told to `rejoice’. Feelings belong to happiness alone, rejoicing takes in something much bigger than feelings; and if faith were a matter of feelings only, then when things go wrong and feelings change, faith will go. But faith is not a matter of feelings only, faith takes up the whole man including his mind, his intellect and his understanding. It is a response to truth, as we shall see.

The second thing is still more important. Faith is not something that acts automatically, faith is not something that acts magically. This, I think, is the blunder of which we have all, at some time or another, been guilty. We seem to think that faith is something that acts automatically. Many people, it seems to me, conceive of faith as if it were something similar to those thermostats which you have in connection with a heating apparatus, you set your thermostat at a given level, you want to maintain the temperature at a certain point and it acts automatically. If the temperature is tending to rise above that, the thermostat comes into operation and brings it down; if you use your hot water and the temperature is lowered, the thermostat comes into operation and sends it up, etc. You do not have to do anything about it, the thermostat acts automatically and it brings the temperature back to the desired level automatically. Now there are many people who seem to think that faith acts like that. They assume that it does not matter what happens to them, that faith will operate and all will be well. Faith, however, is not something that acts magically or automatically. If it did, these men would never have been in trouble, faith would have come into operation and they would have been calm and quiet and all would have been well. But faith is not like that and those are utter fallacies with respect to it.

What is faith? Let us look at it positively. The principle taught here is that faith is an activity, it is something that has to be exercised. It does not come into operation itself, you and I have to put it into operation. It is a form of activity.

Now let me divide that up a little. Faith is something you and I have to bring into operation. That is exactly what our Lord said to these men. He said: `Where is your faith?’ which means, `Why are you not taking your faith and applying it to this position?’ You see, it was because they did not do so, because they did not put their faith into operation, that the disciples had become unhappy and were in this state of consternation. How then does one put faith into operation? What do I mean by saying that faith is something we have to apply? I can divide my answer in this way. The first thing I must do when I find myself in a difficult position is to refuse to allow myself to be controlled by the situation. A negative, you see. These men were in the boat, the Master was asleep and the billows were rolling, the water was coming in, and they could not bale it out fast enough. It looked as if they were going to sink, and their trouble was that they were controlled by that situation. They should have applied their faith and taken charge of it, and said: `No, we are not going to panic’. They should have started in that way, but they did not do so. They allowed the position to control them.

Faith is a refusal to panic. Do you like that sort of definition of faith? Does that seem to be too earthly and not sufficiently spiritual? It is of the very essence of faith. Faith is a refusal to panic, come what may. Browning, I think had that idea when he defined faith like this: `With me, faith means perpetual unbelief kept quiet, like the snake ‘neath Michael’s foot’. Here is Michael and there is the snake beneath his foot, and he just keeps it quiet under the pressure of his foot. Faith is unbelief kept quiet, kept down. That is what these men did not do, they allowed this situation to grip them, they became panicky. Faith, however, is a refusal to allow that. It says: `I am not going to be controlled by these circumstances-I am in control’. So you take charge of yourself, and pull yourself up, you control yourself. You do not let yourself go, you assert yourself.

That is the first thing, but it does not stop at that. That is not enough, because that may be nothing but resignation. That is not the whole of faith. Having taken that first step, having pulled yourself up, you then remind yourself of what you believe and what you know. That again is something these foolish disciples did not do. If only they had stopped a moment and said:

`Now then what about it? Is it possible that we are going to drown with Him in the boat? Is there anything He cannot do? We have seen His miracles, He turned the water into wine, He can heal the blind and the lame, He can even raise the dead, is it likely that He is going to allow us and Himself to be drowned in this way? Impossible! In any case He loves us, He cares for us, He has told us that the very hairs of our head are all numbered!’ That is the way in which faith reasons. It says: `All right, I see the waves and the billows but’-it always puts up this `but’. That is faith, it holds on to truth and reasons from what it knows to be fact. That is the way to apply faith.

These men did not do that and that is why they became agitated and panic stricken. And you and I will become panic stricken and agitated if we fail to do the same. Whatever the circumstances, therefore, stand, wait for a moment. Say: `I admit it all, but–‘ But what? But God! but the Lord Jesus Christ! But what? The whole of my salvation! That is what faith does. All things may seem to be against me `to drive me to despair’, I do not understand what is happening; but I know this, I know that God has so loved me that He sent His only begotten Son into this world for me, I know that while I was an enemy, God sent His only Son to die on the Cross on Calvary’s Hill for me. He has done that for me while I was an enemy, a rebellious alien. I know that the Son of God `loved me and gave Himself for me’. I know that at the cost of His life’s blood I have salvation and that I am a child of God and an heir to everlasting bliss. I know that. Very well, then, I know this, that `if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life’ (Romans 5:10). It is inevitable logic, and faith argues like that. Faith reminds itself of what the Scripture calls ‘the exceeding great and precious promises’.

Faith says: ‘I cannot believe that He who has brought me so far is going to let me down at this point. It is impossible, it would be inconsistent with the character of God’. So faith, having refused to be controlled by circumstances, reminds itself of what it believes and what it knows.

And then the next step is that faith applies all that to the particular situation. Again, that was something these men did not do, and that is why our Lord puts it to them in this way: `Where is your faith?’ –`You have got it, why don’t you apply it, why don’t you bring all you know to bear on this situation, why don’t you focus it on this particular problem?’ That is the next step in the application of faith. Whatever your circumstances at this moment, bring all you know to be true of your relationship to God to bear upon it. Then you will know full well that He will never allow anything to happen to you that is harmful. `All things work together for good to them that love God.‘ Not a hair of your head shall be harmed, He loves you with an everlasting love.

I do not suggest that you will be able to understand everything that is happening. You may not have a full explanation of it; but you will know for certain that God is not unconcerned. That is impossible. The One who has done the greatest thing of all for you, must be concerned about you in everything, and though the clouds are thick and you cannot see His face, you know He is there. `Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.’ Now hold on to that. You say that you do not see His smile. I agree that these earthborn clouds prevent my seeing Him, but He is there and He will never allow anything finally harmful to take place. Nothing can happen to you but what He allows, I do not care what it may be, some great disappointment, perhaps, or it may be an illness, it may be a tragedy of some sort, I do not know what it is, but you can be certain of this, that God permits that thing to happen to you because it is ultimately for your good. `Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness’ (Hebrews 12:11).

That is the way faith works. But you and I have to exercise it. It does not come into operation automatically. You have to focus your faith on to events and say: `All right, but I know this about God, and because that is true I am going to apply it to this situation. This, therefore, cannot be what I think it is, it must have some other explanation’. And you end by seeing that it is God’s gracious purpose for you, and having applied your faith, you then hold on. You just refuse to be moved. The enemy will come and attack you, the water will seem to be pouring into the boat, but you say: `It is all right, let the worst come to the worst’. You stand on your faith. You say to yourself: `I believe this, I am resting on this, I am certain of this and though I do not understand what is happening to me I am holding on to this!’

That brings me to my final word, which is my third principle –the value of even the weakest or smallest faith. We have looked at the trial of faith, we have looked at the nature of faith, let me say a closing word on the value of even the weakest and smallest faith. However poor and small and however incomplete the faith of these disciples was on this occasion, they at any rate had a sufficient amount of faith to make them do the right thing in the end. They went to Him. Having been agitated and distressed and alarmed and exhausted, they went to Him. They still had some kind of feeling that He could do something about it, and so they woke Him and said: `Master, are you not going to do something about it?’ That is very poor faith you may say, very weak faith, but it is faith, thank God. And even faith `like a grain of mustard seed’ is valuable because it takes us to Him. And when you do go to Him this is what you will find. He will be disappointed with you and He will not conceal that. He will rebuke you, He will say: `Why did you not reason it out, why did you not apply your faith, why do you appear agitated before that worldly person, why do you behave as if you were not a Christian at all, why didn’t you apply your faith as you should have done? I would have been so pleased if I could have watched you standing like a man in the midst of the hurricane or stormy why didn’t you?’ He will let us know that He is disappointed in us and He will rebuke us; but, blessed be His Name, He will nevertheless still receive us. He does not drive us away. He did not drive these disciples away, He received them and He will receive us. Yes, and He will not only receive us, He will bless us and He will give us peace. `He rebuked the wind and the sea and there was a great calm.’ He produced the condition they were so anxious to enjoy, in spite of their lack of faith. Such is the gracious Lord that you and I believe in and follow. Though He is disappointed in us often and though He rebukes us, He will never neglect us; He will receive us, He will bless us, He will give us peace, indeed He will do for us what He did for these men.

With this peace He gave them a still greater conception of Himself than they had had before. They marveled, and were full of amazement at His wonderful power. He, as it were, threw that into the bargain on top of all the blessings. If you find yourself in this position of trial and trouble and testing, take it as a wonderful opportunity of proving your faith, of showing your faith, of manifesting your faith and bringing glory to His great and Holy Name. But if you should fail to do that, if you should apparently be too weak to apply your faith, if you are being so besieged and attacked by the devil and by hell and by the world, well, then, I say, just fly to Him at once and He will receive you and will bless you, He will give you deliverance, He will give you peace. But remember always that faith is an activity, it is something that has to be applied. `Where is your faith?’ Let us make certain that it is always at the place and at the point of need and of testing.

The Article/Sermon above was adapted from Chapter 10 in the Classic book of Sermons by Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes and Cure. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965.

 About the Preacher:

Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) [hereafter – DMLJ] was a British evangelical born and brought up within Welsh Calvinistic Methodism, he is most noted for his pastorate and expository preaching career at Westminster Chapel in London.

In addition to his work at Westminster Chapel, he published books and spoke at conferences and, at one point, presided over the Inter-Varsity Fellowship of Students (now known as UCCF). Lloyd-Jones was strongly opposed to the liberal theology that had become a part of many Christian denominations in Wales and England.

DMLJ’s most popular writings are collections of his sermons edited for publication, as typified by his multi-volume series’ on Acts, Romans, Ephesians, 1 John, and Philippians. My favorite writings are his expositions on the Sermon on the Mount; Revival; Joy Unspeakable; Spiritual Depression; and his recently revised 40th Anniversary edition of Preaching and Preachers.

Born in Wales, Lloyd-Jones was schooled in London. He then entered medical training at Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital, better known simply as Bart’s. Bart’s carried the same prestige in the medical community that Oxford did in the intellectual community. Martyn’s career was medicine. He succeeded in his exams so young that he had to wait to take his MD, by which time he was already chief clinical assistant to Sir Thomas Horder, one of the best and most famous doctors of the day. By the age of 26 he also had his MRCP (Member of the Royal College of Physicians).

Although he had considered himself a Christian, the young doctor was soundly converted in 1926. He gave up his medical career in 1927 and returned to Wales to preach and pastor his first church in Sandfields, Aberavon.

In 1935, Lloyd-Jones preached to an assembly at Albert Hall. One of the listeners was 72-year-old Dr. Campbell Morgan, pastor of Westminster Chapel in London. When he heard Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he wanted to have him as his colleague and successor in 1938. But it was not so easy, for there was also a proposal that he be appointed Principal of the Theological College at Bala; and the call of Wales and of training a new generation of ministers for Wales was strong. In the end, however, the call from Westminster Chapel prevailed and the Lloyd-Jones family finally committed to London in April 1939.

After the war, under Lloyd-Jones preaching, the congregation at Westminster Chapel grew quickly. In 1947 the balconies were opened and from 1948 until 1968 when he retired, the congregation averaged perhaps 1500 on Sunday mornings and 2000 on Sunday nights.

In his 68th year, he underwent a major medical operation. Although he fully recovered, he decided to retire from Westminster Chapel. Even in retirement, however, Lloyd-Jones worked as a pastor of pastors an itinerant speaker and evangelist. “The Doctor”, as he became known, was one of the major figureheads of British evangelicalism and his books and published sermons continue to be appreciated by many within the United Kingdom and beyond. DMLJ believed that the greatest need of the church was revival.

 

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David Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Authority in Preaching by Iain H. Murray

During the Second World War a Scot who was in the services and visiting London went to Westminster Chapel but the Chapel was closed, damaged by bombing, but on a piece of paper visitors were directed to a nearby hall. He described a ‘thin man’ wearing a tie calling the people to worship. He thought the man was a church officer, and he appreciated his prayer, but then the man began to preach, beginning quietly enough. “This must be Lloyd-Jones,” he thought. But for the next 40 minutes he was unconscious of anything else in the world, hearing only this man’s words. He had been caught up in the mystery of preaching. That man later became a well-known Church of Scotland minister called Tom Allen.

When he left that service Tom Allen was taken up with the message, not the preacher. DMLJ would have thought little of conferences addresses like this one about himself. He thought messages about contemporary men had done great injury especially during the Victorian period. With man-centeredness being the terrible bane of today’s church there is a danger in drawing attention to personalities. DMLJ would quote the words of God, “My servant Moses is dead so arise and go over to Jordan.” DMLJ prevented several would-be biographers writing anything, and reluctantly consented to Iain Murray’s official biography if only something could be written which would encourage those who were entering the gospel ministry.

DMLJ believed that God was the God of tomorrow who would raise up servants who would enjoy blessings that he himself had not known. Frequently when he prayed it was particularly for a recovery of authority and power in preaching.

One must add another observation, that preaching was not DMLJ’s exclusive concern. He was concerned with the church fellowship, prayer meetings, and the promotion of foreign missionaries, but he was convinced that the spiritual health of the church depended on the state of the pulpit. On behalf of Christ the true preacher speaks and the Lord himself is building his church in his sovereign way. So DMLJ was conscious of what he spoke of as the romance of preaching. The preacher is but an instrument in the Lord’s hands: the preacher is not in control. Preaching is the highest and most glorious calling to which anyone could be called.

So when we come to the subject of authority in preaching there are a number of ways this could be addressed and the New Testament terminology on this theme should be studied, e.g. that ‘Jesus spoke with authority’, the phrase ‘the word came with power’, and the word ‘boldness’ which is surprisingly frequent in the NT. Iain Murray’s approach was to take the characteristics of preaching with power.

(1) It always is attended by a consciousness of the presence of God.

Though a worshipper may be meeting in the midst of a large congregation of people when the preaching is with authority the individual forgets the person he has come with, and the building they are sitting in, and even the one who is preaching. He is conscious that he is being spoken to by the living God. Thus it was in Acts 2. A remarkable illustration of this is the spiritualist woman in Sandfields, drawn to hear DMLJ and conscious that she was surrounded by ‘clean’ power. For the first time she was conscious she was in the presence of God. Thomas Hooker had such a sense of God about him that it was said that he could have put a king in his pocket.

(2) There is no problem of holding the attention of the people.

It is a problem to keep people’s attention. The preacher has his chain of thought, and all the people also may have theirs which are all very different so that they are taking in very little from the preaching. But authoritative preaching gets inside people because it speaks to the heart, conscience and will. Skillful oratory cannot come anywhere near to that preaching. It made a moral and emotional earthquake in those who heard the word at Thessalonica. The well-remembered ship builder who built ships in his mind during Sundays’ sermon could not lay the first plank when he was listening to George Whitefield preach. Conviction of sin and the reality of the living God became far more important to him than his business.

One Friday night in his series of lectures on theology DMLJ was preaching from Revelation on the final judgment on Babylon and listening to that exultant message it would have been impossible to have been occupied with any other subject, the great reality was such that awareness of anything else disappeared. The very date of that occasion was accurately quoted, easily memorable to the speaker because the next day he was getting married, but all thoughts of that were gone as he saw the overthrow of great Babylon.

(3) Even children can understand it.

There is a mistake in thinking that preaching is chiefly to address the intellect, and thus the will. Rather preaching is to address the heart and soul of men and women. Preaching which accomplishes that can arrest a child as easily as a grown-up. Children did listen to DMLJ because of the character of the preaching and the sense of God about it.

(4) It is preaching that results in a change in those who listen.

It may be repentance; it may be restoration, or reconciliation; it may be strength given for those in the midst of trials, but powerful preaching brings that change. Sometimes they went away indignant and some of them were later converted. You cannot be apathetic under true preaching. Felix trembled. There was no certainty of conversions but there was a degree of certainty that there will be power in that preaching. In Mrs Bethan Lloyd-Jones’ book on Sandfields there is a reference to a professor of law at Liverpool who said that there were two men who kept the country from communism – Aneurin Bevan and DMLJ. His preaching affected communities. On November 15 1967 he was preaching in Aberfan a year after the disaster. His text was Romans 8:18 “the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory to be revealed in us.” It had a great impact on the perplexed little religious community in the Taff valley.

What is Necessary for Powerful Preaching? What elements produce it?

(1) Sermons will not be marked by authority and power unless they are marked by truth that the Holy Spirit can honor.

The word of God is to be exegeted and explained. That has to be the heart of the sermon. There is a real danger that we become over concerned about such things as delivery, while the New Testament is insistent on the content: “let him speak as the oracles of God.” The authority of the preaching comes from the text of Scripture. It is God- given power which honours his own word.

Dr Lloyd-Jones grew up in a vague sentimental era with churches fascinated with the personalities and quirks of famous men. DMLJ as a man was absorbed with the glory and the greatness of the truth. A preacher lives in the truth. DMLJ expected the preacher to go through the whole Bible in his personal devotions once each year. He expected him to continue to read theology as long as he lived. The more he read the better. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.

In the latter part of his ministry there was a change in emphasis. In the first 30 years there was a stress on the importance of the historic faith, and then in the last decades a new emphasis emerged, not now on the recovery of truth but with the accompanying need of power to proclaim it.

(2) The man himself is a part of the message. He can read all the best books and give out a whole rounded exegesis of the text, but somehow the man himself has not become a part of the truth.

The less we say of ourselves in preaching the better, but the Holy Spirit does not work in preaching except through the man, and so, inevitably, not only does the message compel attention but the man himself. The man becomes a part of the message. What does that mean?

The preacher must know the power of the message he is bringing to others.

When DMLJ was 25 and at the cross-roads of his life, he became engaged to Bethan Philips, and she became conscious that her future husband was considering becoming a preacher. She was very concerned because she had never heard him preach. At that point a letter came from a missionary society inviting them to become medical missionaries in India. She was challenged by this invitation but DMLJ had no interest at all. Bethan said to him, “But how do you know that you can preach?” “I know I can preach to myself” he replied. He knew the power of the truth in his own heart.

When he was preaching on Ephesians 2 on fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and the mind he raised the question what they were? He interjected that “as I was preparing this sermon it filled me with a loathing and hatred of myself. I look back and I think of the hours I have wasted in mere talk and argumentation. And it was with one end only, simply to gain my point and to show how clever I was” (“God’s Way of Reconciliation” p.65). So DMLJ was preaching to himself before he spoke to others.

The Holy Spirit must produce the feelings in the preacher’s heart that must be in harmony with what the Spirit has breathed out.

Paul writes, “Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men.” Again he speaks of some “with tears” that they are enemies of the cross. One finds phrases like, “I tell you weeping …I am glad and rejoice with you all.” There was something in the way these preachers used by God spoke – “I preached what I smartingly did feel,” said Bunyan. A most important part of preaching is exhortation. In preaching we move people to do what they are listening to, and to this end there has to be a felt consciousness in the preacher of the truth of what he is saying. We have to bring our feelings into harmony with the stupendous nature of what we are saying. The men most used of God in their pulpits are those who know they had fallen far short of the wonder that should characterise the preaching.

The more he becomes part of his message then the more he forgets himself.

What is the main feeling in the preacher? It should be love – to God and to man. It is the very opposite of self-centredness. Love seeks not her own. The needs of the people spoken to take over. We forget ourselves. A baptism of Holy Spirit love gives us a love for people.

Preaching Under the Influence of the Holy Spirit.

There is a total insufficiency in ourselves or in anyone else in the world, so that we cannot preach without the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:3 – is the key text, “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.” God makes us weak and so enables us to become true preachers. Real authority always comes out of felt weakens, and then God uses us. The preacher is the last person to be praised. To be clapped when he had finished would have horrified him.

Bethan Lloyd-Jones once listed to some men speaking about her husband and she interjected, “No one will understand my husband who does not realise that he was first an evangelist and a man of prayer.” DMLJ loved the hymn of Oswald Allen, “Today thy mercy calls us…” especially these final lines:

When all things seem against us,


To drive us to despair,


We know one gate is open,


One ear will hear our prayer

That is what he believed. His public pastoral prayer lifted many burdens long before the preaching began. He rested ultimately on the Holy Spirit being given to them that ask him. The real preacher is a mere voice sounding in the wilderness. DMLJ was criticized for being too dogmatic and authoritarian. If we are preaching from God then that has to be delivered with faith and confidence that we knows what God is saying. You have to believe definite truths in order to be saved. Men have to know that they are condemned before they can be saved. There is the utter certainty of a preacher in what he is preaching. Paul says, “We have the same spirit of faith … we also believe and we speak.” That is the fundamental thing. We are going against all that the natural man believes.

DMLJ’s faith came out in what he preached, that man was under the wrath of God, depraved and lost. He preached this with absolute conviction, and he followed it up with the cross, week by week. That authority was given by the Holy Spirit. It influenced DMLJ’s whole way of looking at things. He was a man who stood alone for most of his life and one reason was that he was conscious that the problem with man was far deeper than people in the church were prepared to acknowledge They were thinking of ‘communication to the modern man’ etc. DMLJ believed that we face not the problem of communication but what was wrong in the church itself. One of the reasons that he did not take part in the big crusades was because there was something wrong in the churches themselves. He quietly stood aside, God having kept him in the way he did, he preached evangelistically each Sunday.

The test of the presence of the Holy Spirit’s work is the presence of Christ himself in the assembly and known by the congregation. A maid worked in a Manse and there was great anticipation for the coming of the powerful preacher, Mr Cook. One maid was not enthusiastic, and she told the butcher she was fed up, “with all this fuss you would think Jesus Christ himself was coming.” Mr Cook duly came and preached and as she heard him something happened in her life. The butcher said to her with a grin on the following Tuesday, “Did Jesus Christ come?” “Yes, he did come,” she said seriously.

William Williams of Pantycelyn said, “Love is the greatest thing in religion, and without it religion is nothing.” DMLJ often quoted those words. Love has to lead the way. He thought the people were not ready to hear extended series of systematic expository sermons for the first 20 years he was in the ministry. The needs of the people were paramount because love is in our hearts.

*Summary of an Address given by Iain H. Murray at the Carey Conference 2001 at Swanwick. Iain Hamish Murray (b. 1931; Lancashire, England) was educated in the Isle of Man and at the University of Durham. He entered the Christian ministry in 1955. He served as assistant to Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel(1956–59) and subsequently at Grove Chapel, London (1961–69) and St. Giles Presbyterian Church, Sydney, Australia, (1981–84). In 1957 he and Jack Cullum founded the Reformed publishing house, the Banner of Truth Trust, where he has periodically worked full-time and remains the Editorial Director.

*David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (December 20, 1899 – March 1, 1981) was a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. For almost 30 years, he was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London. Lloyd-Jones was strongly opposed to Liberal Christianity, which had become a part of many Christian denominations; he regarded it as aberrant. He disagreed with the broad church approach and encouraged evangelical Christians (particularly Anglicans) to leave their existing denominations. He believed that true Christian fellowship was possible only amongst those who shared common convictions regarding the nature of the faith. One of his classic works has been republished as a 40th Edition – with many new features –  (reviewed on this blog) and is entitled Preaching and Preachers.

 

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