CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Martin Lloyd-Jones on Ephesians 2

Oct 27, 2018

I have often written about the incredibly gifted and anointed Welsh preacher and teacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Many times I have spoken about his tremendous 14-volume set of expository sermons on the book of Romans. No Christian library should be without it.

See here for more on this superlative set: billmuehlenberg.com/2013/02/27/5000-pages-on-romans-by-the-doctor/

And see here for more on the man if you do not know much about him: billmuehlenberg.com/2013/11/25/notable-christians-d-martyn-lloyd-jones/

But I have not always spoken as much as I should have about another magisterial set of his, his 8-volumes of expository sermons on the book of Ephesians. He preached these sermons on Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London between 1954 and 1963. The eight volumes were released between 1974 and 1982.

If his 14 volumes on Romans contain some 5000 pages, his 8 volumes on Ephesians contain around 3000 pages. That is a lot of reading based on a lot of sermons. But all 22 volumes are invaluable works well worth getting, reading and treasuring.

I have recently been visiting the Ephesians’ volumes again, and I have been especially drawn to volume two: God’s Way of Reconciliation which covers all of Ephesians chapter 2. Of course if his commentary is so amazing, it is because he is dealing with such an amazing passage of Scripture.

The entire chapter by Paul is quite incredible, but let me just highlight Eph. 2:1-7. It says this:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

The reason why I am now writing about all this is because a terrific Christian friend of mine just posted this on the social media: “This morning I said to God. ‘Why on earth did you choose me Lord?’ It just hits me sometimes that I do not deserve salvation one iota. #whymelord.”

To which I replied: “None of us do – just the opposite. Which is why it makes it all so incredibly amazing and mind-boggling – simply reading Lloyd-Jones on Ephesians volume 2 will blow your mind on all this. If folks just read the first 160 pages or so of this and let it really sink in, it would change them forever. Of course if folks just read carefully and prayerfully Ephesians 2:1-7 it would change them forever!”

So here I just want to highlight a bit of what he said in those opening chapters of his second volume. Because Paul paints such a dark and all-inclusive picture on man’s lost condition, Lloyd-Jones of course spends plenty of time on this as well.

In nearly one hundred pages he looks at the shocking message Paul presents about our utterly wretched condition without Christ. Just look at what Paul says: we are dead, followers of Satan, sons of disobedience, following passions of the flesh, and by nature children of wrath.

Wow, what a damning indictment. We are no-hopers and we are doomed. There is utterly NO way we can reverse that ourselves. Indeed, how can dead people do anything? However, in verse four we read two of the most amazing words you will ever find in Scripture: “But God”!

And then Paul peels off an amazing list of what we now are if we are in Christ: he made us alive in Christ, we are saved, we are raised with him, and we are seated with him in the heavenlies. Wow again. And this is present tense. This is true of all believers NOW. It is not something we long for or hope for one day. We possess all this now in Christ.

So here in a few short verses we have some incredibly horrific, negative and depressing news about mankind and his condition apart from Christ. But we also have the amazing and mind-blowing news about what we are in Christ. It is all just so utterly hard to believe and understand – but it is all true.

So Lloyd-Jones paints both pictures, Like I said, he has almost a hundred pages on the really bad news of Eph. 2:1-3, and then some 70 pages on the terrifically good news of Eph. 2:4-7. I could offer here dozens of quotes from these opening eleven chapters. But let me just confine myself to the opening words of chapter 8: “Risen With Christ.” There we find these words:

We continue our study of this statement of what God has done to us in our helplessness and hopelessness as described in the first three verses of this chapter. Surely there is no more wonderful, no more striking statement of the truth concerning the Christian than that which is to be found in these verses! We must therefore all admit as we read the first seven verses of this chapter that most of our troubles are due to the fact that we are guilty of a double failure; we fail on the one hand to realise the depth of sin, and on the other hand we fail to realise the greatness and the height and the glory of our salvation. Oftentimes we are content to think of our salvation merely in terms of the forgiveness of sins. Not that one wants to depreciate that, for there is nothing more wonderful or more glorious. My point is that to stop at that is surely tragic. And I verily believe that the whole condition and state of the Church today is largely due to the fact that we fail at both points. It is because we never realise the depth of the pit out of which we have been brought by the grace of God that we do not thank God as we ought. And then there is our failure to realise the great heights to which He has raised us. That is what the apostle is dealing with now. He is telling us about the deliverance, the salvation. Here, of course, the apostle is not so much concerned about the way in which we are saved. At this point, he is not interested in evangelism; that is something that has already happened; he is writing to people who are already Christians, and he wants them to realise and to understand what is true of them as Christian people. He wants them to know ‘the exceeding greatness of God’s power to us-ward who believe’, and so he expounds it.

This brief snippet of course does not do justice to what he says so profoundly and in so much detail in 150 pages. But it just might whet your appetite for more. And I suspect that many of you are like me: you may have been a Christian for a long time, and many of these truths are so very well known.

But it is often just head knowledge instead of deep heart and soul knowledge. We know all these things in our heads, but they have not penetrated deep and richly into our very beings. When they do however do this, we will just drop to our knees in adoration, thanksgiving and worship. How could we not?

So here I am, getting on to being a Christian for nearly half a century. And I find that I still need to hear these truths afresh and let the Spirit of God brand them on my heart. I need to be reminded of these glorious truths which are so easily taken for granted.

Thank you Martyn Lloyd-Jones for restoring to us the wonder and majesty and glory of what Christ has done for us, especially given our wretched condition before we became Christians. Thank you Paul for laying out these wonderful truths. And thank you Lord Jesus for making it all happen.

We worship and adore you – now and forever.

[1421 words]

11 Responses to Martin Lloyd-Jones on Ephesians 2

  • Awesome Sovereign God. Thank you. I worship and adore you. Praise be to our God,that great I AM, Lord of All. Amen.
    Wow! Have you read all of these volumes I suppose that’s a silly question Bill. I’m a reasonable reader and have a few Christian books but nothing like this. One question what one book would you recommend for a simple understanding of basic foundations of Christianity? I have tried a couple of expositions on the bible but they were too over my head for me too understand Bill. What gives the basic doctrines of Christianity in a understandable manner simple for even a dummy like me?

  • Thanks Carmel. There would be many good books to choose from. For those wanting briefer treatments, perhaps these are worth getting:

    -John Stott, Basic Christianity
    -Wayne Grudem, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know
    -J I Packer, Knowing God
    -Charles Colson and Harold Fickett, The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It and Why It Matters
    -C S Lewis, Mere Christianity

    For those wanting a bit more, the various systematic theologies offer plenty of detail. See these for example:

    -Millard Erickson, Systematic Theology
    -Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology
    -Michael Horton, The Christian Faith

    And there are a number of good study Bibles – here is one: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/14/a-review-of-the-esv-study-bible/

  • Beautiful article, except for the nationality of the “good doctor” he is Welsh not Scottish (the clue is in his name “Lloyd Jones”).

    Thank you for all your hard work in bringing us your daily commentaries.

    GOD bless from Conway Salmon (I live nine miles east of the south west corner of Wales in Lydney Gloucestershire).

  • Oops, yes quite right of course Conway. My slip-up – which I have now corrected.

  • MLJ is a legend. “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount” is the best Christian book I have ever read. I’m currently reading his five volume compilation of studies in 1 John. Preachers of this calibre are almost extinct today.

  • Thanks Paul. Yes his Sermon on the Mount volume is another classic.

  • Thank you, Bill, for the list you provided for Carnel Parker, it’s very helpful. And thanks for another great, helpful article. I can’t wait to share this with my husband!

  • Recordings of the Doctor’s sermons are available on the internet.

  • Hallelujah. I believe he is a fine and concise preacher.

  • Immeasurable riches!!

    It is only as we gain an appreciation of our hopeless state that we can begin to unpack the real value of “sozo”, salvation.

    He who is forgiven little loves only a little.
    We are always tempted to think that our sins are relatively minor and our condition “suitable for restoration” and easily redeemable. But none of that is true.

    Understanding the extremes is an essential key to any theology. The extremes of God’s holiness and love must be explored to understand either one.

    Only the Christian gospel dares to be so thorough in both the diagnosis and the cure.
    No other religious system comes anywhere near dealing with the glory of God, and the helplessness of man.

    We dare not apologize for not being PC when we proclaim John 14.6.

    What unsurpassed glory!

Leave a Reply