By Elizabeth Prata
I listened to a wonderful sermon recently. I’ve been enjoying and savoring Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ series called “The Great Biblical Doctrines.” The one I’m referring to was called Creation and Common Grace.
Jones was a preacher in the UK in the last century. The bio states, “
“David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh Protestant minister and medical doctor who was influential in the Calvinist wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. For almost 30 years, he was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London.”
It’s only 27 minutes long, because unfortunately the beginning portion has been lost. Nevertheless, you can easily understand the points this great pastor is making from the jumping off point where the sermon does open.
I was struck by the multi-layered aspect of the sermon. The sermon puts so many pieces together. The Bible is one great, unified work. It’s the revelation God wants us to know about Him and His work among the people and of earth. It is THE TRUTH, not a truth and not many truths. As you study to understand it precept by precept, a jot here, a tittle there, you begin to see a large picture emerge.
This sermon explains the work of the Holy Spirit through His ministry of common grace, and through understanding common grace, you’ll understand how when the restraining ministry of the Spirit ends at the rapture, this will be a dramatic moment as the Tribulation begins. (2 Thessalonians 2:7). You’ll understand how men could be so sinful that without the common grace of the Holy Spirit’s restraint we’d all kill each other immediately. You’ll understand why Jesus said that unless the days of the Tribulation were cut short, no flesh would survive. (Matthew 24:22). You’ll understand that the Holy Spirit has been working on earth since before earth was created. You’ll understand that it’s the Spirit who sustains all, Jesus does it through the Spirit. (Colossians 1:17).
The Spirit is the conscience that exists in all men. Though Jones’s sermons sadly are not transcribed on the site, someone took the time to publish long excerpts of this particular sermon here.
Jones said of man’s conscience,
You will remember that we are told in the prologue of John’s Gospel about ‘the true light which lighteth every man’ (John 1:9). It does not matter how you translate that verse – ‘the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ says the Authorised Version; ‘the Light that lighteth every man was coming into the world,’ says another. We are not concerned about that. We are interested in the phrase ‘the light which lighteth every man’. And there is such a light. It is a kind of natural light, as we call it, natural understanding. It is the light that is in the conscience and there is that light of conscience in every person born into this world. Now that is one of the operations of the Holy Spirit in what is called common grace.
You will remember that in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 it is written, For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. When the Spirit lifts his retraining hand from man’s conscience, sin will be loosed in such a way that it is today impossible to comprehend. No man will have a conscience. Sin will reach its full expression. The horror of the few believers who come to faith in the Tribulation and live long enough to see these horrors will be permanently scarred by what they see, save the promise that God will not allow them to remember. (Isaiah 65:17).
Dr Lloyd-Jones’ delivered this sermon in 1954, and already back then he could see the decaying effects of a society being given over to its sin. That was 68 years ago, and how much more we see the accelerating effects of societies being given over to sin now. He said,
God, through the Holy Spirit, restrains the foulest manifestations of sin, but there are times when He gives people up to them. Are we, I wonder, living in such an age? Compare the twentieth century with the nineteenth. It is obvious that the moral level is very much lower today. That does not mean that everybody was a Christian in the Victorian era, but it does mean that even people who were not Christians were better men and women, speaking generally, than people now. Why? It was because of the general influence of the Holy Spirit. But it does look as if again, today, God is giving humanity over ‘unto vile affections’ as Paul outlines in Romans 1.
The Holy Spirit’s influence in the world and upon the world is not to be underestimated in light of the more visible qualities of the Messiah Savior and Father God. Please listen to the sermon and its part 2, The Significance of Pentecost, where the Spirit’s ministry dramatically changed when the Church was formed.