WHAT CHARACTERIZED HIS PREACHING MINISTRY?
What characterized the preaching ministry of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones? Did he follow the pattern of his times? Or did he stand against the ever-growing tide? In the twentieth century, “increasing numbers of people seem[ed] to be depreciating the value of preaching, and they [were] turning more and more to pragmatic means” to win people to Christ. Lloyd-Jones, however, stood against the crowd and believed that the people needed to hear straightforward, doctrinal preaching from the Scriptures, which would later be called “logic on fire.” Lloyd-Jones argued that true “preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.” The Puritan convictions on preaching were desperately needed in England, and it is ever needed in our day as well. In this article, we will learn three things from the preaching ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Authority in Preaching
First, Lloyd-Jones preaching ministry was marked by a high view of Scripture and a high view of the Spirit’s work through the preaching of God’s Word. In the context of Lloyd-Jones’ ministry, the church at large had lost her beliefs “in the authority of the Scriptures, and a diminution in the belief of the truth had led them away from proclamation and ultimatum to suggestion and speculation.” As a result, the church began to partake in pragmatic means to ‘win’ people to Christ. Lloyd-Jones however based his entire pulpit ministry on the Bible. He understood that the Bible is the very Word of God, making it is a timeless and final word to all people. Lloyd-Jones understood that whatever the Bible says, God says. Lloyd-Jones set “clear priorities of Scripture as God’s unchanging pronouncement on the matter.” The Bible was his source of theology since it is God’s revealed truth to man. His entire ministry was yielded from the Bible.
In his preaching, he never cracked jokes, nor used any personal stories. He knew that it was a serious thing to enter the pulpit and open God’s Word. Lloyd-Jones’ view on the authority of Scripture governed how he would preach and what he would preach. He saw himself as an ambassador for Christ. He knew that as he preached the Word of God, it was God speaking and making his appeal to man (2 Cor. 5:20). Therefore, Lloyd-Jones knew that the message does not come from the preacher, but from God.
Additionally, not only did Lloyd-Jones have a high view of Scripture, but he also had a high view of the Holy Spirit’s role in preaching. Dr. Lloyd-Jones knew that if the Word was going to transform lives, it must come “not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5). As the Doctor preached, “he was yearning for the afflatus of the Spirit to fall on him,” which he called ‘unction.’
Lloyd-Jones believed that “unction prompts greater boldness, clarity, and power in the preacher. He described it as an ‘accession’ or ‘effusion of power.’ This affects the preacher, lifting him out of himself and giving him abilities which are not naturally his as he discourses.” Lloyd-Jones was a preacher who longed for empowered preaching, knowing that it is the Holy Spirit alone who can supply. Leigh Powell said that as Lloyd-Jones preached, “at times the wind of the Spirit would come and sweep us and him aloft and we would mount with wings like eagles into the awesome and felt presence of God.” Therefore, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ preaching was first marked by a high view of scripture and a high view of the Holy Spirit’s work through the preaching of God’s Word. He knew what he must proclaim, and he knew where this transforming power came from.
Doctrinal and Evangelistic Preaching
Secondly, Lloyd-Jones’ preaching was doctrinal and evangelistic. The Doctor knew that preaching is central in the edification of the church and the salvation of souls. Preaching God’s Word is “the most important thing of all.” True preaching must always be theological since it is God’s primary method of delivering the truth. As a result, Lloyd-Jones was committed to biblical exposition, where he would work through a text, explain its meaning, pull out any major doctrines, and then apply it to the individual. Lloyd-Jones understood that it is only doctrinal preaching that can properly feed Christ’s sheep. “In preaching the message should always arise out of the Scriptures directly.” To be a faithful preaching, the Doctor realized that you must be expository in your preaching. Therefore, Lloyd-Jones understood that his duty was to be a mouthpiece for the text. He was only called to open the Scriptures and apply the given doctrine to the individual.
Alternatively, the Doctors preaching was also evangelistic in nature. Of all the different preaching qualities that characterized the Doctor’s ministry, it was his evangelistic preaching that thrilled, impelled and challenged the hearer. When asked about his own preaching ministry, Lloyd-Jones saw himself primarily as an evangelist. “He knew what the greatest glory of the greatest calling was – the glory of God in the salvation of souls.”
The preaching of Lloyd-Jones was not dead and dry doctrinal preaching; rather it was theology on fire. Every moment in the sermon, Lloyd-Jones was determined to “take his hearers with him step by step to the heart of his message and, if possible, into the heart of God himself… He never forgot his hearers even in his zeal for the truth he was expounding, addressing himself to their difficulties”
The main thrust of his pulpit ministry was directed to the unconverted. In his preaching, he always sought to show them their utter helpless apart from Christ, urgently pointing them to the Saviour. The Doctor would first diagnose his patients’ symptoms, determine its cause, and then prescribe the cure. Lloyd-Jones began by pointing out one’s sinful condition, and then showed them the cure in the gospel. The evangelistic preaching of Lloyd-Jones has been commonly summarized under the three main headings: ruin, redemption, and regeneration. These categories address “the fall of man and his consequent helplessness, the cross of Christ and its way of atonement, and the necessity of the new birth, the birth ‘from above’, if men were to live new lives.” Therefore, we have seen that the Doctor was a doctrinal and evangelistic preacher. Whenever he entered the pulpit, he expounded the text, pulled out its major doctrines, and called sinners to repentance.
Thirdly, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ preaching was largely applicatory to his hearers. After arriving at the doctrine of the text, Lloyd-Jones sought to show its relevance to the Christian. Lloyd-Jones stated that “the preacher is a man who is speaking to people who are alive today and confronted by the problems of life… you are to show that this message is vitally important for them.” In other words, if a sermon is not applicatory in nature, then it is a lecture, not a sermon. A sermon must be one that is filled with application to the hearer. The Puritan idea of preaching was concerned with an exact exegesis of a text and its proper application. “The first business is to discover its exact meaning. Then, find the doctrine in that text. Then, apply the doctrine and text to the hearers.”
In many ways, Lloyd-Jones followed Puritans in practical and experiential preaching. Lloyd-Jones stated that “the Word of God is vital in its operation only when applied to hearts and consciences of believers by way of consolation and rebuked. The Doctor understood that true preaching was not merely to give knowledge and information to people. Rather, true preaching is to give the text “more heart, to give life to it, to give power to it, to bring it home to the hearers.” As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached, he was constantly applying Scriptural truth to the lives of his hearers, even in his doctrinal teaching. In his preaching, “he never finished a sermon without applying the doctrine to the hearts and lives of his hearers – indeed in his case, as we saw earlier, the ‘application’ was sustained throughout the sermon from the start.”
This section began with the following question, “What characterized Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ preaching ministry?” To answer this question, we looked at three different areas of his preaching ministry. First, we saw the foundation of Lloyd-Jones’ ministry, namely, a high view of Scripture and a high view of the Spirit’s work in preaching. Secondly, we saw that his preaching was doctrinal and evangelistic to his hearers. Thirdly, we looked at his applicatory preaching, where he sought to analyze and address the whole man by applying his text to the hearer throughout his sermon. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones followed the pattern of Richard Baxter; he ‘preached as one that never should preach again, as a dying man to dying men.’