Where does one begin with someone as important as Martyn Lloyd-Jones? The superlatives keep rolling off the tongue. He was such an important, needed and influential Christian leader, statesman, preacher, theologian, evangelist and expositor of Scripture. “The Doctor,” as he is often referred to, was one of Britain’s greatest evangelicals, not only of the last century, but of all time.
Born in Cardiff in 1899, his 80-plus years were full and rich. He could have excelled in so many fields, and his early training in medicine, in which he proved to be such a brilliant student, seemed to confirm an illustrative career as a medical doctor. Indeed, by age 25 he had a number of medical qualifications.
But a proper conversion experience in the early 1920s, and an embrace of Puritanism and what he called “Calvinistic Methodism” later that decade meant a change of course. He declined formal theological training, but soon embarked upon a lifetime of pastoral work. He first pastored in South Wales from 1927 to 1938.
From then he worked with another famous preacher, G. Campbell Morgan at Westminster Chapel in London, taking over his position in 1943. He stayed there until 1968, when bad health forced him into retirement. But he continued an itinerant ministry, and helped get his sermons into publishable form. He died in London in 1981.
During these years he also taught and preached at numerous colleges, and he had a long-standing involvement with the Inter-Varsity Fellowship. He also was involved in the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, and the Christian Medical Fellowship.
He helped to establish the Cambridge-based biblical research centre Tyndale House, and he was also partly involved in the founding of the Banner of Truth Trust in 1957. In 1950 the first annual Puritan Conference was held in his church, and he helped in the establishment of the London Theological Seminary in 1977.
Despite all these and other important activities, he is perhaps best known as one of our greatest expository preachers. So popular were these expository sermons that by the time of his retirement around 1500 people were packing in to hear him on Sunday mornings, and around 2000 on Sunday evenings.
Many of his lengthy series expounding on biblical books are now published in book form. For example, his exposition of the book of Romans, preached on Friday nights from 1955 to 1968, was eventually turned into a superb 14-volume set of around 5000 pages. Likewise his Sunday series of 260 sermons on Ephesians, preached from 1954 to 1962, is now available in eight volumes, totalling some 3000 pages.
Many volumes flowed from his hands, although he always gave priority to preaching. He discussed the nature and importance of preaching in his 1971 volume, Preaching and Preachers. His book The Puritans is a very valuable contribution to the subject, based on addresses delivered to the Puritan (later Westminster) Conferences from 1959 to 1978.
And his volume on revival reveals his deep interest in and love of Christian revivals. The book is based on a series of messages he gave on the topic to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Welsh Revival of 1859. Plenty of other volumes could be highlighted here, most of which are based on sermons or messages he gave.
For example, readers will want to get his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (based on 60 sermons); Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures; Great Doctrines of the Bible (3 vols.); and Authentic Christianity (6 volumes covering the first eight chapters of the book of Acts). All these volumes appear in various editions with various publishers – many from Banner of Truth.
Lloyd-Jones was a conservative evangelical and a Calvinist, although he greatly appreciated the experiential aspects of Methodism, and expressed his great gratitude to John Wesley. He had a great love of theology in general and the Puritans in particular. He championed the use of the mind and good theology, and was active in preaching, teaching and the promotion of evangelism and missions.
But he was not just someone to champion doctrine and biblical orthodoxy. He equally championed the Spirit-filled life, and the overwhelming importance of personal experience of the risen Christ. Thus he amply fulfilled the imperative of Paul: “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:16).
His life was not free of controversy, and several episodes demonstrate that even great saints can become entangled in theological and ecclesiastical squabbles. His emphasis on Spirit-baptism as an event following on from conversion was of course not warmly received by many of his colleagues, and became a real point of controversy. For more on this see his 1984 volume Joy Unspeakable, which features sermons he gave on this in 1964-1965.
Also, his insistence that true believers must pull out of doctrinally compromised churches, and form fellowship with other biblical believers caused not a small stir. As harmful ecumenicism was on the increase, Lloyd-Jones did want to see genuine Christian unity, but not on the basis of watered-down doctrine and theology. A strong appeal to this end on an October night in 1966 especially heightened tensions in this regard.
But controversy is to be expected of any great man of God. All have known it, from Paul to Spurgeon, from Augustine to Stott. But his legacy lives on, with new editions and new versions of his works still appearing. No Christian should deprive himself of this great man and his great work. If you see anything by MLJ, grab it at once.
For further reading:
Obviously we cannot go beyond the masterful two-volume biography by Iain Murray (Banner of Truth, 1982, 1990), totalling well over 1200 pages. But for those who cannot stomach such a large biography, Murray has kindly offered us a shorter thematic biography, Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace (Banner of Truth, 2008).
A number of other good biographies also exist. One which is brief but worth recommending is Eryl Davies, Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones (EP, 2011). Another recent book well worth consulting is Engaging With Martyn Lloyd-Jones, edited by Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones (Apollos, 2011).
Also of help is an anthology of quotations from the Doctor in Tony Sargent, Gems from Martyn Lloyd-Jones. (Paternoster, 2007). And for more on Lloyd-Jones’ views on Spirit-baptism, see the 1989 volume by Michael Eaton, Baptism With the Spirit (IVP).
Finally, to get access to over 1,600 of Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ sermons, see here: http://www.mljtrust.org/
So please, if you have not yet discovered the Doctor, you need to do so now. Happy reading and listening.