Monday 19 June 2006

For the love of God (17): Why I love Martyn Lloyd-Jones

A guest-post by Guy Davies

I never knew “the Doctor,” who died some years before I was converted. But his books and example have had a formative influence on my life and ministry.

As a new believer in my late teens, I read Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Prove All Things (1985). Most of the Christian literature I had read up to that point were testimony-type books, light on doctrine but full of experiences. But here, I encountered another world. The writer took the text of Scripture seriously and thought deeply about the things of God. I became disenchanted with shallow, experience-based Christianity and longed for something with more depth.

Here are some of the reasons why I love Lloyd-Jones:

Reformed Doctrine: He preached the sovereignty of our triune God in the salvation of sinners. He emphasized the biblical truths that were rediscovered at the Reformation and exemplified by the Puritans and the Calvinist Methodists. With him you get the theology of John Owen without the Latinized prose and rather large wig, and you get Jonathan Edwards’ emphasis on experiencing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Expository Preaching: Lloyd-Jones is well known for his sermons on Romans and Ephesians. He believed that theology is best communicated by preaching—“theology on fire.” What is the point of a theology that is not ablaze with the glory of God? His sermons are a mixture of considered exegesis, doctrinal depth and powerful application. Mrs Lloyd-Jones described her husband as “first of all a man of prayer and then an evangelist.” His Sunday evening services were invariably evangelistic. He urged ministers to seek the anointing of the Spirit on their preaching: “Seek him! Seek him! What can we do without him?”

The Life of the Mind: Lloyd-Jones emphasised the importance of study and scholarship, and he kept abreast of the latest trends in secular and theological thinking. This preacher-theologian helped deliver British evangelicalism from the shallows of anti-intellectualism.

Revival: “The Doctor” had a great burden for an outpouring of the Spirit on the church. He agreed with Jonathan Edwards that the church has grown throughout history as a result of revivals. The need of the hour is not “new ways of doing church,” but a heaven-sent, Christ-glorifying revival.


Anonymous said...

These are the books of Martin Lloy-Jones that have shaped my spiritual life to the understanding of God, his sovereignty , glory and majesty:
Preaching-Preachers, Spiritual Depression and Sermon on the Mount.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Guy, for your lovepost on DML-J. Great stuff.

As a gift for my ordination (in Swansea - as you know, just down the road from the Doctor's pulpit), my Llanelli-born father-in-law presented me with L-J's Preaching and Preachers (1971). I still treasure it, and occasionally turn to it. Its forward contains a commendation from none other than Emil Brunner: "reformed preaching at its finest" (and there is a blurb on the back cover from John Stott, with whom L-J famously fell out over matters ecclesiological). The book is full of much passionate and prudent advice, though it can be a bit over-earnest at times (e.g. L-J was not keen on humour in the pulpit). The man certainly had no reverse gear! He also libels Barthians, suggesting that they talk about the Word but don't actually preach it.

And then there is Bultmann. A colleague tells of the time he went with a friend to Port Talbot to hear the great Doctor preach. The sermon included a tirade against Bultmann. On leaving the chapel, my colleague's friend suggested that Jesus himself would have loved the sermon. "Perhaps," my friend replied, "but at least Jesus would have read Bultmann."

I am sure that's not fair. L-J himself emphasised the importance not only of theological and devotional reading, but also of "general reading", even if for the rather grudging reason of "relief for the mind" - and even though the only general reading he specifically advocates is history (that he doesn't mention literature follows, I think, from a general distrust of the imagination).

Anyway, sorry to be a bit polemical (though there I am taking a leaf out of the Doctor's own book!). Think of it as praising by faint damn. The thing I value most about L-J is his unrelenting assault on pelagianism. On that, at least, he and Barth are at one!

Thanks again.


thunderbeard said...

i have first editions of lloyd-jones' studies on the sermon on the mount from '59 and '60 respectively. they are pristine, and something i value greatly for more than just looks. i've turned to them many times.

Guy Davies said...

Cheers Kim,

So, you do think Ll-J was a pretty good theologian after all! ;-)

Yes, he did value theological reading. His daughters fondly remeber him reading Brunner's Divine Imperative while on holiday, sitting on the beach dressed in his customary Bible- black suit.

Thanks Celucien & Thunderbeard,

While in my early 20's I read through Ll-J on Romans. His expositions gave me a real sense of the glory of God and the wonder of his grace. I was especially helped by his sermons on Romans 8 on the witness of the Spirit. The message on Romans 8:18ff on the renewal of creation and the resurrection of the body helped me to see that Jesus came not just to "save my soul" but to renovate the cosmos.



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