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Home School Of Preaching The Preacher - Martyn Lloyd Jones

The Preacher - Martyn Lloyd Jones

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Martyn Lloyd Jones

a sample of His preaching

By John Peters

MLl-J's life was primarily devoted to preaching - not teaching or  ministering, not pastoring or shepherding, but preaching, because that is what he was par excellence: a preacher. He was often referred to as the 'Prince of Preachers'. This was a task to which he was absolutely convinced God had called him, and at the beginning of Preaching and Preachers he said this: 'The work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.' (p.9) He went on to state his belief that 'the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.' (p.9)

The key phrase in this forthright statement is, of course, 'true preaching'. To him this was expository  preaching, which he defines in his volume on 2 Peter as 'preaching which is concerned to expound the Word of God and not merely to express the ideas of the preacher, preaching which is not merely topical and intended to suit the popular palate and conditions prevailing at the moment'.1 In his preface to Volume One of Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, he says this:

"A sermon is not an essay and is not meant, primarily, for publication, but to be heard and to have an immediate impact upon the listeners. This implies, of necessity, that it will have certain characteristics which are not found and are not desirable in written studies. To prune it of these, if it should be subsequently published, seems to me to be quite wrong, for it then ceases to be a sermon and becomes something quite nondescript. I have a suspicion that what accounts for the dearth of preaching at the present time is the fact that the majority of printed books of sermons have clearly been prepared for a reading rather than a listening public. Their flavour and form are literary rather than sermonic." 2.

He had equally decisive views concerning the form of his sermons: These are expository sermons which apart from minor corrections and adjustments were delivered as printed here. They are not lectures nor a running commentary on verses or passages. They are expositions which take the form of a sermon.

It has always been my view that this is how Scripture should be handled. Commentaries are of great value in arriving at an accurate understanding of the text, yet at their best they are only of value as scaffolding in the erection of a building. Moreover, it is vital that we should understand that an
epistle such as this is only a summary of what the Apostle Paul preached. He explains that in chapter 1 verses 11-15. He wrote the Epistle because he was not able to visit them in Rome. Had he been with them he would not merely have given them what he says in this Letter, for this is but a synopsis. He would have preached an endless series of sermons as he did daily in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19 .9) and probably have often gone on until midnight (Acts 20 .7). The business of the preacher and teacher is to open out and expand what is given here by the Apostle in summary form.3

But perhaps the best-and crispest-definition he gave of preaching is this sentence from Preaching and Preachers: 'Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire'. He saw the chief end of preaching as giving men and women 'a sense of God and His presence'. He adds this personal postscript:

As I have said already, during this last year I have been ill, and so have had the opportunity, and the privilege, of listening to others, instead of preaching myself. As I have listened in physical weakness this is the thing I have looked for and longed for and desired. I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself he is handling something
which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him.4

He frequently returned to the theme of 'true' preaching. Here is another succinct comment: ‘The true preacher does not seek for truth in the pulpit; he is there because he has found it’.5

It all seems so simple, so obvious, so profound.

What then were the main characteristics of MLl-J's preaching?

Firstly, it was

Authoritative preaching

It was positive and certain, confident and assured. It had a rocklike quality, utterly dogmatic and assertive. Alongside this quality was its fearlessness, its declarative nature. It had a convincing and convicting quality, and this authority was certainly an important factor for the people who crowded Westminster Chapel - and those before that in Wales - during his ministry there. The congregations during his heyday were huge: about
1,500 on a Sunday morning, 2,000 on a Sunday evening.

The authority of his preaching may be directly traced to the fact that he wanted the divine authority to be given the fullest possible place in his sermons. So he was not concerned with intruding himself into them. On the contrary, he wished God to speak and to influence the minds, hearts and consciences of his hearers. I shall never forget hearing him preach on 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 in Heath Presbyterian Church, Cardiff, and marvelling at the boldness, the complete assurance that the gospel brings of freedom from sin, the life of the Spirit, and the certain hope of being with Christ. That night in Cardiff people filled every seat in the Chapel and also occupied the aisles, the windowsills and the gangways - in short, they were crammed in to overflowing.

There was the usual MLl-J opening: his cultured Welsh voice quietly stating the abiding and sublime truths of God's Word, the essential principles; then their amplification, analysis, and application to the lives of believers. There was the perfect combination of teaching concerning doctrine and behaviour.
The sermon as a whole was designed to bring non-Christians to faith in Christ, and Christians to full maturity in him. At a time of considerable personal doubt, this sermon strengthened and encouraged me to go on with the 'fight of faith'. The beauty of it was that it was all so cogently, intelligently, and persuasively
argued. Here was a man preaching a message which God had revealed to him, the deep and meaningful outpouring of a soul after a meeting with God. The mind was informed, the heart warmed, and Jesus Christ extolled. Hundreds of people went out that night more determined to battle with the powers of darkness than when they entered the building. It was preaching of the most anointed sort.

His authority was not only apparent when expounding the great doctrines of the Christian faith, but also when defending it against liberals and detractors. This apologetic element is implicit in all true preaching, and MLl-J never shirked the duty of defending the faith when it was attacked by the so-called ‘Higher Critics’; or those who wished to water down the Scriptures, or by those who propounded wrong or
unbalanced teaching.

Here he is, for example, dealing with the ideas of T.S. Eliot and Middleton Murray: 'They advocate a religious society and a Christian education - or what they call such - simply because they have found all else to fail, and because they think that this is more likely to be successful. But they fail to realise that before you can have a Christian society and Christian education you must first of all have Christians. No education or culture, no mode of training, will ever produce Christians and the corresponding morality. To do that we must come face to face with God and see our sin and helpless plight; we must know something about the wrath of God, and repent before Him and then receive His gracious offer of salvation in Jesus Christ His Son. But that is not mentioned. Men ever desire the benefits of Christianity without paying the price'6

Of course this authoritative preaching gripped the minds of his hearers, for as Sir Fred Catherwood explains:

His style was that of sharp clinical diagnosis, analysing the worldly view, showing its futility in dealing with the power and persistence of evil, and contrasting the Christian view, its logic, its realism and its power. He had the ability to clothe his clinical analysis with vivid and gripping language, so that it stayed in the mind. He could be scathing about the follies of the world and give a contrasting vision of the wisdom and power of God in a way which brought strong reaction from his audience. People would walk out, determined never to come again; yet, despite themselves, they would be back in the pew the next Sunday until, no longer able to resist the message, they became

Biblical preaching

Never could it be said that his preaching depended upon frills or entertainment, gimmicks, 'up-to-date'
illustrations, or 'relevant' discussion of the burning issues of the day; what he sought to declare was 'the
whole counsel of God'. It was preaching soaked in the Word of God, and it dealt with the whole person. This
last point is worth stressing, because although he did not major in contemporary events, his preaching had
considerable impact. He saw - and consistently taught - that for salvation to be worthwhile it must affect and
control a person's mind, reason, heart and emotions. It was, he held, something radically life-transforming.
He wanted a person's response to the whole of life (not merely isolated parts of it) to be thoroughly
Christian, thoroughly biblical. As a result he never peddled easy answers or soft options; such remedies
never appealed to him and so he did not advocate them.

Needless to say, his view of the Bible was an exalted one. He conceived of it as the 'Word of God . . . the
greatest Book, because it is a Divine Book'. Frequently in his sermons he would allude to the nature, the
power, and the uniqueness of the Bible. To give but one example, consider this extract from 'Sound An
Alarm'; a sermon preached at a Civic Service in Cardiff on 1 January 1957:

The Bible claims to be the Word of God - the Word of God about Himself, the Word of God about
man, the Word of God about the world, the Word of God which tells us why the world is as it is, and
the Word of God as to how the world can be put right. That is the whole case of the Bible. It claims
that it has a unique teaching with respect to the problem of man. It tells us right at the very
beginning that man's troubles in this world and in this life, whether you think of man as an
individual or man as a collection of people, have come upon him because of something that
happened at the very beginning, at the very dawn of history. The Bible says that man fell from God,
that he sinned against God, and that as the result of so doing he is in a state of sin. It says that man,
the whole world, has been in that condition ever since the Fall, and that this is the most important
and the most significant thing about man that we can ever learn and understand.

In view of this, the Bible says that the whole story of man from that first beginning has always
been the same. It does not matter what changes there may be, the real truth is that man is in a state of
sin and alienation from God, and that is the cause of all his troubles and of all his problems. So
whenever you read your Bible, it does not matter whether you read the Old Testament or the New
Testament, whether it is an historical portion, prophetic portion or Psalm, it does not matter whether
you are reading about one man, or whether you are reading about the Christian of Israel as a nation,
you will find that the story, the message, is always exactly the same in principle. It is always this
story of man in trouble because he is sinful. That is why the Bible is always contemporary, and
always up to date, for it says that man is still what man has always been ever since that original sin,
ever since that first fall in the Garden of Eden.8

Equally frequently he would comment on the essence of the biblical method:
The Bible always gives us comfort and encouragement by means of doctrine - never apart from
doctrine. Take that great eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. It is one of the most
theological, doctrinal passages to be found anywhere in the Bible; and yet there is nothing more
26 comforting, more consoling and more encouraging. The argument is this: 'Whom he did
predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he
justified, them he also glorified.' Doctrine! and apart from that doctrine, the Bible has no comfort
and consolation to offer us.9

So he deliberately set out to allow the Bible to be its own interpreter and arbitrator. To illustrate the extent
to which the Bible is quoted directly in his sermons, I counted the biblical references in his second sermon
on Romans 3:25 , entitled 'The Blood of Christ'. He refers directly and fully to the following verses: Acts
20:28; Romans 5:9 ; Ephesians 2:13 ; Hebrews 9:12 , 9:22, 10:19; 1 John 1:7 ; Romans 5:21 ; John 1:29 ;
Matthew 5:17-18 ; Matthew 20:28 ; Luke 24:44-45 ; 1 Corinthians 5:7 ; Revelation 1:5 ; John 3:16 , and
Romans 1:32 . He also refers to the following chapters: Isaiah 53 , 1 Peter 2 , and Romans 4 .

It hardly needs pointing out that MLl-J's knowledge of the Scriptures was encyclopedic. Throughout his
life he read the Bible systematically. He taught that the right way of approaching it was carefully and
studiously; to read it as a whole, with fairness and an open mind, with a spirit of humility and with a
willingness to learn, and finally prayerfully. From the early days of his ministry in Aberavon he made it his
business to bring himself under the authority of the Scriptures, prepared to be illumined and illuminated by
the Holy Spirit, in an attitude of obedience, and with an unquenchable enthusiasm for its essential messages.
Commenting on the word 'therefore' (Ephesians 4:1 ), he says this:

'Therefore 'is a word which in a very practical way tells us how to read the Scriptures. We need to be
taught how to read the Scriptures. The main principle is, as I have been indicating, that we must
never pick and choose in our reading of the Scriptures. We must read all the Scriptures, every part of
the Scripture. Instinctively we do not like to do so; we have our favourite passages; there are certain
Psalms or portions in the New Testament Epistles, or certain pictures in the Gospels in which we
delight, and which always move us when we read them. The tendency and the danger is to be ever
going back to such portions. But that is the high road to the development of an unbalanced and lopsided
Christian life and experience. Our invariable rule with the Bible should be to read it from
Genesis to Revelation, to read it constantly right through, not leaving out anything, but following it
through, and being led by it. If we believe that it is the Word of God, that all of it is the Word of
God, it follows that there is a meaning and a significance in every part, in the historical portions and
the genealogies as well as the explicitly teaching portions. So we must go through and read them all,
and try to grasp the meaning of all.10

Thus his approach to any issue or problem was quite simply to start with the biblical viewpoint, with the
fundamental doctrines and principles, rather than with the immediate situation. To argue from large
principles was his perennial method - something which is apparent, for example, in his sermons on Psalm
73, later published as Faith on Trial. And from the vantage point of the biblical perspective he proceeded to
show, time after time, how bankrupt, how devoid of any real or substantial comfort is the non-Christian
view of life; and from this standpoint he was able to help, comfort, and sustain others. The sermons referred
to above on Psalm 73 are a notable illustration of this:

The preparation and the preaching of the following sermons, expounding this rich teaching on
successive Sunday mornings, was to me a labour of love and a true joy. The sermon entitled
'Nevertheless' in the series was used of God to bring immediate relief and great joy to a man who
was in a great agony of soul and near breaking point. He had travelled some 6,000 miles and had
reached London only the previous day. He was convinced, and still is, that God in His infinite grace
had brought him that distance to hear that sermon.11

Analytical preaching

As a medical physician MLl-J had insisted on the value of a correct and perceptive diagnosis, and he
brought to his preaching the same insistence on the absolute necessity of a searching analysis of the soul's
need. To this end all his learning and all the resources of his heart and mind were brought to bear. His
27 preaching had a pellucid clarity, as this extract from Romans 3:20-4:25 , where he is laying down the
essential argument of Romans chapter 4, shows:

In verses 1 to 5 he takes the case of Abraham, giving the facts and the statements of the Scriptures
on the facts. In verses 6, 7 and 8 we have what David said explicitly in Psalm 32 . Then from verse 9
to verse 12 he points out that all this had happened to Abraham before he was circumcised; so
circumcision cannot be the vital thing. Then in verses 13 to 17 he proves that this also was before
the Law had been given. Indeed God had ordered things in this way in order that He might show
once and for ever that salvation is by grace, through faith not by circumcision or by the Law,
because grace is the only way whereby it can be made certain and sure. From verse 18 to the end of
the chapter he gives an exposition of how this faith was manifested in the case of Abraham and how
it all redounds to the glory of God. At the end he brings it back to the point at which he originally
started, by saying, As God did it then He is still doing it now: 'Now it was not written for his sake
alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him
that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences and raised again for
our justiflcation.'12

He then asks this revealing question: 'Are you not moved to admiration at the wonderful way in which this
Apostle is able to deploy a great argument?'

Ultimately his aim was to lay bare God's truth and to stress that only truth can make a person really free.
Such preaching of course annoyed some, outraged others, but liberated many more.

‘The Doctor' always showed great pastoral concern for those who were suffering, as this sentence from his
letter of 30 May 1968 to members of Westminster Chapel shows: Above all I shall treasure the privilege of
ministering to those with grievous problems of various types and enjoying the trust and confidence of those
passing through dark and deep waters.' But he opposed any suggestion that the church should be a
greenhouse for tender plants. In Evangelistic Sermons he points out that there are many good reasons why a
church should have an unsettling effect on some of its members:

The church is regarded as a sort of dispensary where drugs and soothing mixtures are distributed and
in which everyone should be eased and comforted. And the one theme of the church must be 'the
love of God.' Anyone who happens to break these rules and who produces a disturbing effect upon
members of his congregation is regarded as an objectionable person, is disliked and is charged with
voicing his own opinions and prejudices instead of preaching the gospel which is said to be nothing
but a constant refrain concerning 'the love of God'. Now, as I have already indicated, that charge
may be perfectly true, a man's ministry may be objectionable just because he is a mean, petty soul
who makes the pulpit 'a coward's castle' and uses it simply that he may vent his spleen upon his own
personal enemies. But that is not the only condition under which a ministry can make itself
objectionable to certain people - there is another reason, and that the highest and best reason, namely
that the man is simply and honestly preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.13

This was the blend of intelligence and deeply spiritual thinking that made him so valuable to the student
body (formerly the I.V.F. now U.C.C.F.), as we shall see later in this chapter. It was also the blend which
attracted thinking people in general to his preaching: people of all shades of opinions (Methodists, Baptists,
Brethren, Church of England and others all found spiritual sustenance and encouragement at Westminster
Chapel). This capacity for analytical thought is nowhere more apparent than in Christian Unity: An
Exposition of Ephesians 4:1-16 , in which he stresses time after time the need for correct thinking on this
vexed matter. Here is one of his initial comments on Paul's method of dealing with church unity:
He does not leave it as a personal appeal to us to be kind and longsuffering and good. These graces
are essential but the fundamental principle is that we should see ourselves as members of the
Church, and see the Church as a reflection on earth of the oneness of the Triune God – Three in One,
One in Three, Holy Spirit, Son, Father. Surely it must be evident that the real trouble with modern
Christians is that they neglect doctrine! We talk about being practical, but we cannot be practical

unless we know how to be practical, and why we should be so. Before we can respond to direct
personal appeals we have got to see what we are, where we are, and where God has placed us. We
have been 'called'.14

His analytical skill was never more in evidence than when dealing with the 'wiles of the devil' or with the
teaching of the ‘false prophets’, and he very often returned to the idea of testing the messages of such people
in a diagnostic way, as this extract shows:

But, still more seriously, the ultimate way of testing a message is this. The false prophet and teacher
denies the Lord that has bought him - 'denying the Lord that bought them' and there are more ways
than one of doing this. Sometimes they deny the Lord that has bought them by just leaving Him out
altogether. They purport to give a Christian message, and yet the name of Christ is never mentioned.
God is mentioned, but Christ the Lord is not. They deny Him by leaving Him out. Sometimes they
deny Him by not making Him absolutely central, vital and essential. If Christ is not in the centre, He
is being denied. He is either in the centre or He is nowhere. Again, they may deny Him by denying
His Person, by regarding Him as a man only, as a great teacher, a wonderful example, but denying
His Deity - denying Him as God-Man, the 'theanthropos’, in all the glory and fullness of His blessed
Person. Or they deny Him most of all and most seriously by denying His atoning work, by denying
the fact that if He had not gone to the cross every man would remain doomed and under the wrath of
God, by denying that this is the only way to God, by failing to see themselves as hopeless, damned
sinners who are only saved because He bore their sins in His own body on the cross - denying the
centrality of the cross! 'denying the Lord that bought them'. Whatever teaching a man may have to
offer to you, if the Christ on Calvary's Cross is not the central pivot at the heart of it, I say he is a
false prophet and a false teacher. And no one can give hope, either to the individual or to the world
today, who is not centred absolutely upon that atonement. He is a false prophet and teacher. 15

Persuasive preaching

His view of 'Calling for Decisions' is set out in chapter 14 of Preaching and Preachers. It was never his
practice to issue an appeal, his reasons being: (1) his belief that it is wrong to place the will under direct
pressure; (2) that when too much pressure is applied, the various psychological factors become more
influential than the truth itself; (3) that the calling for decisions should not be separated from the preaching
of the Word of God; (4) the erroneous implication that 'sinners have an inherent power of self-decision and
self-conversion'; (5) the implication likewise that the evangelist can somehow manipulate the Holy Spirit
and his work; (6) the fact that such a process may only produce a superficial conviction of sin; (7) that by so
doing, it encourages people to think that this act of going forward saves them; (8) that it ultimately means a
distrust of the Holy Spirit; (9) that regeneration is solely and entirely - like the conviction of sin and the gift
of faith - the work of the Holy Spirit; and finally (10) because no sinner ever really 'decides' for Christ.
Rather, in MLI-J's words, he 'flies' to Christ, utterly helpless and despairing. It was never his custom
therefore to make 'altar calls'. Instead he believed that the persuasiveness of his preaching was implicit - and
cumulative - as the exegesis unfolded and progressed. Put another way, the total effect of argument,
illustrations from the Bible, the logical outworking of the great doctrines of Christianity, and his sheer
delight in the 'glorious gospel' constituted an appeal in themselves. Indeed an appeal, as a separate act, was
unnecessary; because what was required of his congregation in terms of responsibility and commitment,
both from Christians and non-Christians alike, had been made obvious long before the end of the sermon.
Argument and analysis then, together with the use of the rhetorical question at a crucial point, of which one
example must suffice:

Well, what was that gospel? Just this, that Jesus Christ, is the Son of God, that in dying He fulfilled
the Law and destroyed the power of death, and that by so doing He cancelled the power of sin and
wiped out the sinful debt of humanity and that by the power of His Spirit a man can be created anew
and start upon a new life which is an eternal life. How can I be happy and be free with the load of all
my past sins upon me? How can I answer this voice within me that mocks and taunts me while I am

still conscious of my guilt? But when I see and believe that Christ has taken it upon Himself to deal
with my sins, when I know that I am forgiven by God through Christ, when I know my past sins are
blotted out, - let all the devils mock and laugh, let all the voices within me and in hell jeer and
attempt to enslave me - I know I am free and can turn upon them. I know their power, thousands of
times have I experienced it, but God be praised, I now know a greater power. I know a power that
can lead captivity captive, a power that has swallowed up death and the grave 'in victory'. My past is
clear and I am free.16 (My italics.)

Practical preaching

As has already been illustrated, he constantly emphasized the importance of doctrine, but it was never
doctrine in a vacuum. His constant aim was to bring men and women to God, and then to maturity 'in
Christ'. He promoted practical holiness by helping Christians to grow in the 'knowledge of the Lord Jesus
Christ', to understand truth and then to apply it in their daily lives. In a sermon entitled 'The Salt of the
Earth,' he defined the Christian's function in society:

It seems to be that the first thing which is emphasized by our Lord is that one of the Christian's main
functions with respect to society is a purely negative one. Now what is the function of salt? There
are those who would say that it is to give health, that it is health- or life-giving. But that seems to me
to be a serious misunderstanding of the function of salt. Its business is not to provide health; it is to
prevent putrefaction. The principal function of salt is to preserve and to act as an antiseptic. Take,
for instance, a piece of meat. There are certain germs on its surface, perhaps in its very substance,
which have been derived from the animal, or from the atmosphere, and there is the danger of its
becoming putrid. The business of the salt which is rubbed into that meat is to preserve it against
those agencies that are tending to its putrefaction. Salt's main function, therefore, is surely negative
rather than positive. Now clearly this is a very fundamental postulate. It is not the only function of
the Christian in the world, because, as we shall see later, we are also to be the light of the world, but
in the first instance this is to be our effect as Christians. 17

But unlike many other evangelicals, he did not advocate that a Christian should not vote, because he
considered it the Christian's duty to play his or her role as an individual in society; though he was adamant
that it was not the Church's role to intervene in social, economic and political matters. But as citizens,
Christians could have an indirect influence as salt in society:

Think of great men, like the Earl of Shaftesbury and others, who, as private Christians and as
citizens, worked so hard in connection with the Factory Acts. Think also of William Wilberforce
and all that he did with regard to the abolition of slavery. As Christians we are citizens of a country,
and it is our business to play our part as citizens, and thereby act as salt indirectly in innumerable
respects. But that is a very different thing from the Church's doing so. 18

Ultimately, however, the supreme purpose of his preaching was to produce men and women whose lives
did in a real way 'Glorify' God.

Systematic preaching
During his years at Westminster Chapel, MLl-J went verse-by-verse through such epistles as Romans
(preached on Friday evenings from October 1955 to March 1968) and Ephesians (preached on Sunday
mornings between 1954 and 1962). These expositions had a tremendous appeal for an age of doubt and
uncertainty about the relevance and appeal of preaching. They touched the hearts and minds of their original
hearers, and they continue to do so today in printed form and, of course, as cassette recordings. Sir Frederick
Catherwood made this observation:
Although sermons are notoriously unpublishable today, all the volumes in these series sell well
throughout the English-speaking world, showing that there is a real demand for reasoned, analytical
and applied Bible exposition. He had many letters from all corners of the earth. One day, for
example, he was visited by the Rev. Chuck Smith of Calvary Church, Costa Mesa, California, who
told him that the books had transformed his preaching. He had once driven himself into mental
breakdown trying to use his personality to put over the message. Since then he had let the Bible
speak for itself and said that both his ministry and his own health had benefitted enormously. What
he did not say was that his Sunday morning congregation was then up to 24,000! 19

Spirit-filled preaching

That his preaching had the unction and anointing of the Holy Spirit is self-evident; or to use the language
of chapter 16 of Preaching and Preachers, it was the 'demonstration of the Spirit and of power'. He defined
the anointing of the Spirit like this:

It is the Holy Spirit falling upon the preacher in a special manner. It is an access of power. It is God
giving power, and enabling, through the Spirit, to the preacher in order that he may do this work in a
manner that lifts it up beyond the efforts and endeavours of man to a position in which the preacher
is being used by the Spirit and becomes the channel through whom the Spirit works.20
During MLl-J's last-but-one sermon, preached at Ashford Congregational Church, Middlesex, on 4th June
1980, he said:

'Although the preacher may be a small and a feeble man, if he's filled with the Spirit there is a power
in him that can bring men and women to conviction of sin, can open their eyes to see their darkness
and their lost estate, and can give them faith and capacity to believe'.21

The above characteristics could be added to in many other and diverse ways, but they seem to me to
represent the essential quality of his preaching. Doubtless some readers will have noticed the absence of any
reference to Calvin, for MLl-J was a convinced Calvinist with an immense influence on evangelicalism; but
this approach is easily justified by the tact that he did not refer, as such, to the five 'TULIP' points of
Calvinism22. An alternative explanation is provided by the fact that his theological explanations were not
abstruse or overtly technical. They were above all balanced, fluent, and pastoral.

The Puritans too were an important influence on his thinking and on the form of his sermons. Like them,
he felt that preaching was central to the whole work of the church and that it should be governed by
theology. This was of course reflected by the Puritans in their definitions of the church and its nature. To
them the first 'mark' was the preaching of the Word of God, followed by the administration of the
sacraments, and finally the carrying out of discipline. Faithful exposition of the Word of God was, in their
view, the biblical way of promoting holiness.

Sermonic structure

Finally, what of the structure of 'the Doctor's' sermons? My training in medicine and surgery are always with me. I look at a text, diagnose the condition and decide where I am to make the first incision. I cut deep through the layers of the tissue until I reach the heart of the problem. I deal with it and then rebuild and sew up.

This was the illuminating reply the Revd. Raymond Norman received in the 1940’s when as a student at the Western College, Bristol (a Congregational College) he asked MLl-J for advice and guidance in sermon preparation. The medical metaphor he used is a most apt and constructive starting-point for a brief comment on the structure of his sermons, two examples of which will be considered. 31

1: 'So Great Salvation' - Hebrews 2: l-3*

A: An initial statement about its nature He defines the greatness of salvation in terms of the health, the wholeness it bestows. He shows how this greatness is expressed in four areas:

a) Hymnology: reference is made to Charles Wesley's hymn 'Oh for a thousand tongues to sing,' to Samuel Davies's 'Great God of wonders,' and also to Handel's Messiah;
b) Church architecture;
c) Preaching and oratory;
d) Art and music.

*Available on cassette from Send the Light Trust, Bromley, Kent.

B: A detailed analysis of the elements of its greatness MLl-J exemplifies it under four heads:

a) Its authorship This principle is operative in literature (Sir Walter Scott), and Art (El Greco): a work is assessed in relation
to the person who brought it into being. Salvation, he affirms, is the message of Almighty God. It is not man's message, it is God speaking (Heb.1:1-4). Salvation was conceived and brought into being by the blessed Holy Trinity.

b) Because of that from which it saves us Salvation delivers us from judgement and death. After death we are assessed by God's standards, his holy law. Our standards don't count. All is failure and defeat, but salvation saves us from eternal punishment: it is the only escape; it imparts peace of conscience, a knowledge of sins forgiven, and all without money and without price.

c) That for which it saves us

It (i) reconciles us to God (Heb. 2:17 );
(ii) introduces us to God and enables us to speak to and with him;
(iii) gives us a new nature, a new heart, a new outlook, a totally new beginning in life;
(iv) means Jesus is with us, especially in life's extremities;
(v) gives us a vision of the world to come. As heirs of salvation, new heavens and a new earth are being
prepared for us.

d) How it has been prepared for us

He discusses at length what he calls the 'drama of salvation' as it is centred upon the person of Jesus Christ: the incarnation, the temptation in the wilderness, his atoning death, the resurrection, ascension, and coming again.

C: A brief conclusion

Not only is salvation great, it is an incomparable message.
'New Creatures' - 2 Corinthians 5:17 *
Delivered at Send Evangelical Church, 27 May 1975.

A: Opening remarks

MLl-J comments on the Pauline method of giving a definition of what it means to be a Christian. He describes it as the most important consideration in the world: it applies to both time and eternity.

B: Radical change

Next, MLl-J emphasises the radical nature of the change when a person becomes a Christian. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is as profound a change as it is possible to imagine. It is not something superficial, something added on, an addendum, a varnish: it is something revolutionary.32

Illustrations of this theme are then given:

John 3:3 ; 'born again': regeneration;
2 Corinthians 5:17 : 'new creatures';
2 Corinthians 4:6 : 'light of the knowledge of the glory of God'.
C: The greatest change of all

Then he concentrates on the greatest change of all that occurs in a man when he becomes a Christian: in his thinking and understanding. The Christian has a totally new way of looking at everything: it's not merely a question of imbibing new ideas. Illustrations of this are taken from 1 Corinthians 2: l4ff., Romans 12:1-2 , and Ephesians 4:23 .

MLl-J then shows that the Christian has an entirely new conception of himself, and this is also demonstrated with particular reference to:

a) The life of Paul
See Philippians 3:4-9 , Romans 7:24 , and 1 Timothy 1:15 .
b) The experience of Charles Wesley
'I am all unrighteousness,' and 'False and full of sin I am' -such a man despairs of himself, but has
complete acceptance 'in' him.
c) The Lord Jesus Christ
Many people view him as just a man, but he is in reality the Christ, the Lord of Lords.
d) Reconciliation
Only Jesus Christ can reconcile guilty, sinful man to God.
e) Life in the world
Shown from 2 Corinthians 5:2 . Because of his own internal happiness the Christian is burdened for the world, and he walks through it by faith, trying 'to persuade' men of their lostness.

The Christian is thus a journeyman, a stranger and a pilgrim in this world, and seeks for the glory that is to come (2 Cor.4:17-18).

These bare outlines do scant justice to the vigour of these sermons that was apparent when they were delivered orally. Enough has been adduced, however, to preserve some of the main structural features of MLl-J's sermons:

1. A brief comment on the dominating theme of the sermon.
In the case of that on 'So Great Salvation,' it concerns the first change that occurs when a man becomes a
2. Careful definition;
3. Detailed exemplification;
4. Concluding statement: no appeal as such, rather the implication built up cumulatively and powerful
throughout the sermon, that to reject this message is folly. In all of these sections the illustrations are drawn,
almost exclusively, from the Bible.

We can sum up this first aspect of MLl-J's significance by saying that in his sermons we observe the pastor who preached Christ, the shepherd who fed God's flock, the teacher who expounded the Word of life, the watchman who gave warnings, and the evangelist who persuaded men to believe. Put another way, his sermons fulfilled a famous nineteenth-century dictum: 'The power of the minister is in his living relationship with God and his capacity to act as a connecting link between God and the human soul. It is God in the soul which is the secret of true pulpit power.'

Taken from Chapter Three of Martyn Lloyd Jones Preacher by John Peters


1 Expository Sermons on 2 Peter (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), p.135.
2 Studies In The Sermon On The Mount (I.V.F. reprint, 1966), volume 1 (Matthew 5 ), p.vii.
3 Romans 3:20-4:25 : Atonement and Justification (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1970), p.xn.
4 Preaching and Preachers (Hodder and Stoughton, 1971), pp. 97-8.
5 Romans 8:5-17 : The Sons of God (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), p.47.
6 The Plight Of Man And The Power Of God (Pickering and Inglis reprint, 1966), p.32.
7 Evangelical Times (April 1981), p.9.
8 Sound An Alarm (Westminster Chapel Bookroom, 1957), p.4.
9 Expository Sermons on 2 Peter, p.157.
10 Ephesians 4:10-16 : Christian Unity (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1980), pp. 13-14.
11 Faith on Trial (I.V.F., 1965), ‘Preface’.
12 Romans 3:20-4:25 : Atonement and Justification, p.159.
13 Evangelistic Sermons at Aberavon (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), p.153.
14 Ephesians 4:10-16 : Christian Unity, p.49. This comment is part of MLl-J’s treatment of verses 4-6.
15 Ephesians 4:10-16 : Christian Unity, pp. 13-14.
16 Evangelistic Sermons, pp. 63-64.
17 Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, volume 1, p.153.
18 Ibid., p.155.
19 Evangelical Times (April 1981), p.10.
20 Preaching and Preachers, p.305.
21 Evangelical Times (April 1981), p.14.
22 The acronym TULIP stands for: Total Depravity of Man, Unlimited Election, Limited Atonement,
Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints.
23 Dedication (May-June 1981), p.22.
24 Evangelical Times (April 1981), p.18.
25 In 1977 he made his fiftieth consecutive yearly visit there.
26 See chapter 17 of Murray’s biography.
27 Evangelical Times (April 1981), p.14.
28 Contending for the Faith (Inter-Varsity Press, 1979), p.185.
29 Ibid., p.233.
30 See Appendix on ‘The Doctor’ and the Inter-Varsity Fellowship in Wales.
31 Preaching and Preachers, p.126.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 January 2011 11:37  

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