Gems from Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Great truths from this great preacher:

If one cannot get to read all the many great books penned by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the next best thing is to read quotes from them. Hopefully they will stir you up enough to want to go get the volumes and read them in their entirety. Thus this piece is just one of many in which I quote freely from some of his great works.

Lloyd-Jones was one of the great expository preachers of recent times, and his influence has been enormous. For those who know little or nothing about the great Welsh preacher and teacher (1899-1981), see this piece for more information:

Here I want to offer some choice portions from the book, Preaching and Preachers. It began as a series of lectures he delivered at Westminster Theological Seminary in the spring of 1989. These lectures were released in book form in 1972. The version of the book I am quoting from is the 40th Anniversary Edition put out by Zondervan in 2011.

Interspersed in this classic work are brief essays by six men who have been greatly impacted by “The Doctor”: Bryan Chapell, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Timothy Keller, and John Piper. Here then are some key quotes from this 350-page volume:

“Why am I prepared to speak and to lecture on preaching? There are a number of reasons. It has been my life’s work. I have been forty-two years in the ministry, and the main part of my work has been preaching; not exclusively, but the main part of it has been preaching. In addition it is something that I have been constantly studying. I am conscious of my inadequacies and my failures as I have been trying to preach for all these years; and that has led inevitably to a good deal of study and of discussion and of general interest in the whole matter. But, ultimately, my reason for being very ready to give these lectures is that to me the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called. If you want something in addition to that I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.” p. 17

“[T]he primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.” p. 26

“Another argument that I would adduce at this point is that the moment you begin to tum from preaching to these other expedients you will find yourself undergoing a constant series of changes. One of the advantages of being old is that you have experience, so when something new comes up, and you see people getting very excited about it, you happen to be in the position of being able to remember a similar excitement perhaps forty years ago. And so one has seen fashions and vogues and stunts coming one after another in the Church. Each one creates great excitement and enthusiasm and is loudly advertised as the thing that is going to fill the churches, the thing that is going to solve the problem. They have said that about every single one of them. But in a few years they have forgotten all about it, and another stunt comes along, or another new idea; somebody has hit upon the one thing needful or he has a psychological understanding of modern man. Here is the thing, and everybody rushes after it; but soon it wanes and disappears and something else takes its place. This is, surely, a very sad and regrettable state for the Christian Church to be in, that like the world she should exhibit these constant changes of fashion. In that state she lacks the stability and the solidity and the continuing message that has ever been the glory of the Christian Church.” pp. 45-46

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Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Author), Bryan Chapell (Contributor), Mark Dever (Contributor), Kevin DeYoung (Contributor), Ligon Duncan (Contributor), Timothy Keller (Contributor), John Piper (Contributor) Amazon logo

“Any true definition of preaching must say that that man is there to deliver the message of God, a message from God to those people. If you prefer the language of Paul, he is ‘an ambassador for Christ’. That is what he is. He has been sent, he is a commissioned person, and he is standing there as the mouthpiece of God and of Christ to address these people. In other words he is not there merely to talk to them, he is not there to entertain them. He is there-and I want to emphasise this – to do something to those people; he is there to produce results of various kinds, he is there to influence people. He is not merely to influence a part of them; he is not only to influence their minds, only their emotions, or merely to bring pressure to bear upon their wills and to induce them to some kind of activity. He is there to deal with the whole person; and his preaching is meant to affect the whole person at the very centre of life. Preaching should make such a difference to a man who is listening that he is never the same again. Preaching, in other words, is a transaction between the preacher and the listener. It does something for the soul of man, for the whole of the person, the entire man; it deals with him in a vital and radical manner.” p. 64

“When I say zeal I mean that a preacher must always convey the impression that he himself has been gripped by what he is saying. If he has not been gripped nobody else will be. So this is absolutely essential. He must impress the people by the fact that he is taken up and absorbed by what he is doing. He is full of matter, and he is anxious to impart this. He is so moved and thrilled by it himself that he wants everybody else to share in this. He is concerned about them; that is why he is preaching to them. He is anxious about them; anxious to help them, anxious to tell them the truth of God. So he does it with energy, with zeal, and with this obvious concern for people. In other words a preacher who seems to be detached from the Truth, and who is just saying a number of things which may be very good and true and excellent in themselves, is not a preacher at all.” p. 101

“The trouble with some of us is that we love preaching, but we are not always careful to make sure that we love the people to whom we are actually preaching. If you lack this element of compassion for the people you will also lack the pathos which is a very vital element in all true preaching. Our Lord looked out upon the multitude and ‘saw them as sheep without a shepherd’, and was ‘filled with compassion’. And if you know nothing of this you should not be in a pulpit, for this is certain to come out in your preaching. We must not be purely intellectual or argumentative, this other element must be there. Not only will your love for the people produce this pathos, the matter itself is bound to do this in and of itself.” p. 105

“This element of pathos was a great characteristic of the preaching of Whitefield, one of the greatest master preachers of all the ages. It was David Garrick, the great actor of the eighteenth century who once said that he wished he could even utter the word ‘Mesopotamia’ as Whitefield uttered it. He also said that he would gladly give a hundred guineas if he could but utter the word ‘Oh.’ with the same pathos as Whitefield did. Modern sophisticated man may laugh at this, but it is only when we begin to know something of this melting quality that we shall be real preachers. Of course a man who tries to produce an effect becomes an actor, and is an abominable impostor. But the fact is that when ‘the love of God is shed abroad’ in a man’s heart as it was in Whitefield’s pathos is inevitable. This element of pathos and of emotion is, to me, a very vital one. It is what has been so seriously lacking in the present century, and perhaps especially among Reformed people. We tend to lose our balance and to become over-intellectual, indeed almost to despise the element of feeling and emotion. We are such learned men, we have such a great grasp of the Truth, that we tend to despise feeling. The common herd, we feel, are emotional and sentimental, but they have no understanding.” p. 106

“What is preaching? Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Are these contradictions? Of course they are not. Reason concerning this Truth ought to be mightily eloquent, as you see it in the case of the Apostle Paul and others. It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one.” p. 110

“Every Christian should be able to give an account of why he is a Christian; but that does not mean that every Christian is meant to preach.” p. 115

“What then is the young preacher to do? Let him listen to other preachers, the best and most experienced. He will learn a lot from them, negatively and positively. He will learn what not to do, and learn a great deal of what he should do. Listen to preachers. Also read sermons. But make sure that they were published before 1900. Read the sermons of Spurgeon and Whitefield and Edwards and all the giants. Those men themselves read the Puritans and were greatly helped by them. They seem to have lived on the Puritans.” p. 131

“I cannot reprobate too strongly this tendency to assume that because people come to church that they therefore must be Christian, or that the children of Christians are of necessity Christians. Looking at it from another aspect I would say that one of the most exhilarating experiences in the life of a preacher is what happens when people whom everybody had assumed to be Christians are suddenly converted and truly become Christians. Nothing has a more powerful effect upon the life of a church than when that happens to a number of people.” pp. 164-165

“‘Pray without ceasing’. That does not mean that you should be perpetually on your knees, but that you are always in a prayerful condition. As you are walking along a road, or while you are working in your study, you turn frequently to God in prayer. Above all – and this I regard as most important of all – always respond to every impulse to pray. The impulse to pray may come when you are reading or when you are battling with a text. I would make an absolute law of this – always obey such an impulse. Where does it come from? It is the work of the Holy Spirit.” p. 182

“I am thinking of a type of reading which will help you in general to understand and enjoy the Scriptures, and to prepare you for the pulpit. This type of reading comes next to the Scriptures. What is it? I would not hesitate to put into this category the reading of the Puritans. That is precisely what they do for us. Those men were preachers, they were practical, experimental preachers, who had a great pastoral interest and care for the people. . . . You will find, I think, in general, that the Puritans are almost invariably helpful. I must not go into this overmuch, but there are Puritans and Puritans. John Owen on the whole is difficult to read; he was a highly intellectual man. But there were Puritan writers who were warmer and more direct and more experimental. I shall never cease to be grateful to one of them called Richard Sibbes who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil. In that state and condition to read theology does not help, indeed it may be well-nigh impossible; what you need is some gentle tender treatment for your soul. I found at that time that Richard Sibbes, who was known in London in the early seventeenth century as ‘The Heavenly Doctor Sibbes’ was an unfailing remedy. His books The Bruised Reed and The Soul’s Conflict quieted, soothed, comforted, encouraged and healed me. I pity the preacher who does not know the appropriate remedy to apply to himself in these various phases through which his spiritual life must inevitably pass.” pp.186-187

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2 Replies to “Gems from Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones”

  1. Bill, every one of the Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones quotations you’ve reproduced above deserves to be widely read.

    What a mighty preacher he was.

    In one of his sermons, he explained to his congregation the internal work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. He described, in particular, the impact the Holy Spirit had on his preaching:

    “I say it again to the glory of God, this pulpit is the most romantic place in the universe as far as I’m concerned, and for this reason, that I never know what’s going to happen when I get here. Never. My anticipations are often falsified on both sides. This is wonderful. The temptation for the preacher, you see, is to think that if he has prepared what he regards as a good sermon, it’s going to be a wonderful service, and it sometimes can be a very bad one. On the other hand, the poor man may have had a very difficult and a trying week. He may have been very ill, a thousand and one things may have happened to him, and he may go into the pulpit with fear and trembling, feeling that he hasn’t done his work; he’s got nothing. And it may be one of the most glorious services he has ever had the privilege of conducting. Why? Because he doesn’t control the power [within of the Holy Spirit]. It varies. And not only in preaching but in daily life and experience. It is the well of water that is within us and we don’t control it. It controls us.”

    Source: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The power within: a sermon on John 4:13–14”, audio sermon #1160, MLJ Trust.

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