“When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.””
A few years ago I engaged in a study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. To do an exposition of one of Paul’s Gospel letters was both a challenge and a joy for me as it caused me to explore once again the subject of regeneration, the new birth, from the point of view of the Congregation’s need as well as from the point of view of my own personal need. I can remember reading years ago about the Victorian Baptist preacher C. H. Spurgeon that after a number of years spent in the preaching of the Gospel to others that he began to wonder whether it still had the same joyful hold that it once did upon his own life. Had he become too familiar with it? His response was to go and to hear a humble Gospel preacher expound on the subject of God’s redeeming love for us. With tears streaming down his face Spurgeon was able to say that the Gospel still had the same precious hold on him that it had had when he first believed it. To carefully study and expound the book of Galatians has renewed my feeling of wonder that I first had when I came to believe this precious truth. For that I am deeply grateful.
Today I want to focus attention for a few minutes upon an extended quotation from Iain Murray’s biography of Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years, 1899-1939. It concerns the nature of the new birth. I hope over the next few weeks to explore this theme more fully. I share this quotation as a brief exposition of the text from Matthew 11:2-6 which was shared above.
“Perhaps Dr. Lloyd-Jones did not altogether appreciate at this point the struggle which E. T. Rees was having in his own mind. Certainly the Church Secretary believed in a type of Evangelical religion, but he was later to feel that he had been as ignorant of the doctrine of regeneration as Nicodemus and he long studies in Socialism had led him to suppose that the coming of the Kingdom of God could scarcely succeed simply by the rebirth of individuals. But under the new preaching he was hearing, there came increasing doubts about the rightness of his position.
The crisis came on Sunday October 2, 1927, when the sermon was on the doubt of John the Baptist which led him to send the message to Jesus, ‘Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?’ (Matt. 11:2-5) Dr. Lloyd-Jones argued that the meaning of Christ’s reply to John’s question – ‘The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them’ – was proof that the Baptist’s problem arose out of his wrong views of what Christ had come to do. John did not appreciate the true significance of what Christ was actually doing and he supposed that the Messiah would have made political deliverance from Rome one of His priorities. ‘So great was the tyranny of his pre-conceived ideas,’ said the preacher, ‘that he even began to doubt what he had actually seen with his own eyes and what he had actually heard with his own ears.’ As the sermon proceeded, E. T. Rees’ whole system of thought finally collapsed and even from the pulpit the preacher could see from the look on his face what was happening. ‘I shall always remember how you rushed to speak to me before I was down from the pulpit,’ Dr. Lloyd-Jones was to comment twenty years later.” (Murray, Iain, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: the First Forty Years, 1899 – 1939, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1998, p. 164-165)
What a wonderful Biblical reality. When we hear and believe that the LORD Jesus Christ has come to regenerate us everything is changed. This reality ushers us into the presence of the LORD, walking, and leaping, and praising God.