Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Preaching and Preachers, Revival and Religion

mljA few months ago I finished Iain Murray’s condensed version of his two-volume biography on Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1899–1981. For those who do not know of “The Doctor,” Martyn Lloyd-Jones left the medical profession to be a preacher. From the late 1920s to the 1970s he was a powerful Calvinistic evangelist, whose pastoral labors took his to Wales and London, England.

Situated at Westminster Chapel, Lloyd-Jones impacted many prominent scholars (J. I. Packer and Iain Murray), interacted with dozens of evangelical leaders, and carried out a preaching ministry that shaped the likes of John MacArthur and John Piper. Though a generation removed from the Young, Restless, and Reformed crowd, his expositional commitment and doctrinal convictions have been carried on in his preaching, his writing, and his publishing house—the Banner of Truth Trust, which was begun under his ministry.

In short, Lloyd-Jones lived remarkable life as a man committed to prayer and evangelistic, expositional preaching. I benefitted greatly from reading his biography, especially in his treatment of subjects like preaching, revival, religion, and evangelism. In what follows, I have listed a number of his insightful comments on these and others subjects.

May they spur you on towards love and good deeds and (re)fuel in you a hunger for the Word of God rightly preached and warmly embraced.

On Preaching

“It is not sufficient merely to tell a man that he is a sinner—you must prove it to him—give him examples and make him think, then there may be some hope for him.” (MLJ, 58)

Commenting on Romans 1:14 (“I am a debtor to the Greeks and the Barbarians . . .”), Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “A debtor is a man who is conscious of certain pressures being brought to bear upon him. He is a man who feels that he has got something to which other people have a right. Paul is a man who has got something to give. He has been given it by the Lord. He has received it; he has got it. It has transformed his life, and he feels that he must give it to others.” (MLJ, 64)

“He was certain true preaching makes its impact, in the first instance, upon the mind.” (97)

“I felt that in preaching the first thing that you had to do was to demonstrate to the people that what you were going to do was very relevant and urgently important. . . . I started with the man whom I wanted to listen, the patient. It was a medical approach really . . . I wanted to get the listener and then come to my exposition. They [other Welsh preachers] started with their exposition and ended with a bit of application.” (MLJ, 97)

“The greater the preaching, he came to believe, the easier it will be to understand.” (116)

“True expository preaching is, therefore, doctrinal preaching, it is preaching which addresses specific truth from God to man.” (MLJ, 307)

“The immediate purpose of evangelistic preaching is to drive men from all hope in themselves, and the scriptural means to that end is the proclamation of the truth about God and his holy law.” (MLJ, 316)

“The superficiality of modern evangelism was not the result of an over emphasis on justification, it was because it did not preach the law, the depth of sin and the holiness of God. The gospel was being preached in terms of the offer of a friend and a helper. The characteristic of Calvinistic evangelism, he insisted, is that the majesty and glory of God is put first and not some benefit provided for man. … Modern evangelicalism pays lip-service to regeneration, but it does not really believe in it. True Calvinistic preaching shows the complete helplessness of man in regards the humbling of man as the main part of its work. If that is left out, the true glory of salvation cannot begin to be measured.” (447)

On the Preacher

“You will always find that the men whom God has used signally have been those who have studied most, known their Scriptures best, and given time to preparation.” (MLJ, 102)

“The Spirit generally uses a man’s best preparation. It is not the Spirit or preparation; it is preparation plus the unction and the anointing that which the Holy Spirit alone can supply.” (MLJ, 102)

“Preaching ‘as a dying man to dying men’ is not a commitment arrived at in the pulpit. It requires an inner life in the preacher and a readiness for costly renunciations.” (226)

“Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the truth must lead to this.” (MLJ, 308)

On the Church

“If the church of Christ on earth could but get rid of the parasites who only believe that they ought to believe in Christ, she would, I am certain, count once more in the world as she did in her early days, and as she always has done during times of spiritual awakening.” (MLJ, 89)

“Spiritual power is not something which belongs to the world of mathematics, and so if we united all the denominations and added all the powers which each has together, even that would not create spiritual life. The burial of many bodies in the same cemetery does not lead to resurrection. Life is more important than unity.” (MLJ, 264)

The low level of the life of the church today is due to the lack of doctrinal preaching. This is a question never to be asked: we have the commission of God to preach, not a call to satisfy the popular palate. ‘Preach the Word.’ Our one concern should be to preach the truth.” (MLJ, 267, emphasis mine)

“What is the Christian church? Here is the great divide. The ecumenical people put fellowship before doctrine. We, as evangelicals, put doctrine before fellowship.'”

On Revival and Religion

“He saw a revival as the extension to many of the same divine power which is present in the conversion of every individual. . . . So a time of revival does not witness results different in nature from those attending God’s more normal work, but the multiplied instances of divine grace present at such a period reveal the glory of Christ to a degree, and upon a scale, which is extraordinary, exceptional and unparalleled. True zeal for revival is there for nothing other than zeal for the glory of God in the conversion of many.” (127)

“The last church to be visited by revival is the church trying to make it.” (MLJ, 128)

“A church that is always praying for a continual revival is a church that has not understood her mission.” (MLJ, 128)

“Present-day religion far too often soothes the conscience instead of awakening it; and produces a sense of self-satisfaction and eternal safety rather than a sense of unworthiness and the likelihood of eternal damnation.” (MLJ, 130)

“To concentrate upon external expansion [i.e., church growth] to the neglect of the biblical requirements of doctrinal and ethical purity is to risk internal disloyalty, disunity, and confusion.” (MLJ, 345)

“We are never promised automatic blessing. . . . Get rid of the idea, ‘If I do this, God will give the blessing.’ God knows when to give blessing and when not to. We are not fit to have it. He couldn’t trust us to have it. There is the sovereignty of God in this.” (MLJ, 438)

“Do you still believe in the wrath of God? There are people in England — evangelicals — who think modern needs entertainment. There is a mania for singing, for drama, for mime. People cannot take preaching, it is said, give them singing. Teach them how to dance. In the name of God I say that is to do violence to Scripture. The church is not here to entertain. It is here to call people to be wise, To be instructed. It is not just an appeal to come to Jesus,, they are to be instructed, taught. People are dying to lack of knowledge. We are not here to be popular but to tell the naked truth: ‘Serve the Lord with fear, rejoice with trembling (verse 11)'” (MLJ, 448)

On Evangelism and Conversion

“You can never reason at Truth, you can never find it by looking for it. Truth is revealed to us, all we do is to reason about it after having seen it” (MLJ, 62)

“True feeling must be the result of truth believed and understood, and he frequently gave warning against that type of service where attempts are made to induce emotion by ‘working up’ the meeting with music and choruses, or by the telling of moving stories. . . . To aim at emotion is the surest way to produce counterfeit Christians.” (137, emphasis mine)

“Evangelism is pre-eminently dependent upon the quality of the Christian life which is known and enjoyed in the church. The community around Sandfields was reached not by advertising or organised visitation, but by the manner of life of men and women whose very faces seemed to be new. No one in the congregation was offered courses on ‘personal evangelism,’ nor told how to ‘witness.’ It was done in a whole variety of spontaneous and natural ways, differing according to circumstances and temperaments or individuals.(153, emphasis mine)

“After conversion we need bruising by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy.” (MLJ, 281)

“The worst sin of all is the false thinking about God of which the natural man is so terribly guilty.” (MLJ, 316)

“To teach men that they possess the ability to turn from sin when they choose to do so is to hide the true extent of their need. Certainly the offer of salvation is to be urged upon all, and men must be shown the necessity of their believing and repenting if they are to be saved, but faith and repentance are given to those who come to an end of themselves.” (317)

May the Lord use these quotes to stir up in you affections in you for Christ, his gospel, and his church.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds