The “Doctor”

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, affectionately known as “the Doctor,” was arguably the greatest preacher of the twentieth-century.  Born in Wales in the winter of 1899, Lloyd-Jones would at a young age show his medical abilities.  Before reaching the age of 22 he would already hold four degrees and would begin to work under the great Sir Thomas Horder at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital [1].  While working at St. Bartholomew’s, he discovered that he had never been a Christian at all, though he had considered himself one for many years. By God’s grace, he would be born again and called into the ministry. He went on to pastor two churches, Bethlehem Forward Movement Church in Wales, and Westminster Chapel in London. The latter he would retire from in 1968, and then enjoy over a decade of ministry before going to be with his Lord on March 1st, 1981. His impact on evangelicalism is still being felt in Britain and America through the revival of interest in Puritanism and Calvinism, both in which he was instrumental in.

Balance in the Ministry of the Word

One of the remarkable things in the ministry of Lloyd-Jones is the balance with which he applied Christian truth.  By the Holy Spirit he was capable of awakening sinners with great warnings, while also humbling saints.  Once preaching from Nahum 2:1 (“He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face against thee”), he said, “If you will not worship God, be ready to fight and attempt to defend yourselves against the One who has power to ‘dash in pieces’!” [2].  On another occasion he said,

I am not afraid of being charged, as I frequently am, of trying to frighten you, for I am definitely trying to do so.  If the wondrous love of God in Christ Jesus and the hope of glory is not sufficient to attract you, then, such is the value I attach to the worth of your soul, I will do my utmost to alarm you with a sight of the terrors of Hell [3].

Once when a woman came to make her decision known to Lloyd-Jones of wanting to be made “low,” he simply looked at her thoughtfully without speaking a word until after an embarrassing silence she backed out of the room and walked away! [4]

In this regard, Martyn Lloyd-Jones is perhaps best known for the way in which he applied God’s truth to struggling saints.  From Spiritual Depression to The Christians Warfare, he was truly used as a comfort to the afflicted. In Spiritual Depression he says, “The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself.  You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself” [5].  He would continue shortly after,

The essence of this matter is to understand that this self of ours, this other man within us, has got to be handled.  Do not listen to him; turn on him; speak to him; condemn him; upbraid him; exhort him; encourage him; remind him of what you know, instead of listening placidly to him and allowing him to drag you down and depress you [6].

Following Lloyd-Jones’ example, Christian preachers must learn to correctly apply God’s truth to themselves.  Once they do this, maybe then they will know how to apply God’s truth to others.

Suspicion of New Methodologies

While the Doctor had great confidence in the teachings of Scripture, he had little trust for what he saw as new methods in ministry.  When asked what to do with the wooden stage used at one time for dramas at his first pastorate, Lloyd-Jones said that they could use it to heat the church with [7]!  His services lasted over an hour, with usually at least ten minutes of public prayers [8]. Sometimes he would stop hymn-singing if songs were not sung appropriately [9].  He did not give “altar calls,” and never used phrases like “ask Jesus into your heart” (at least in the way it is used today).

A question that modern Christians may ask is, “If Lloyd-Jones did not practice such things, how were people born again?  How did the churches he pastored grow?”  The answer is that Lloyd-Jones did not employ any methods to bring people to Christ, for he believed if one was to be converted then God must do the work Himself [10].  His view of conversion would be similar to his view of revival: Christians should not try to “create” converts, neither should they try to “make” revivals.  In his words, “Pray for revival?  Yes, go on, but do not try to create it, do not attempt to produce it, it is only given by Christ himself.  The last church to be visited by revival is the church trying to make it” [11].  There have certainly been those who have been converted through methods Lloyd-Jones saw as unbiblical. However, just because God blesses bad preaching at times doesn’t mean we need to preach poorly on purpose.  In the same way, though God has blessed the use of unbiblical means before, once we know a better way we should walk in it [12].

Truly Confronting Sin

One of the great contributions that the ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones has made in my own life is the distinction he draws between “sins” and “sin.”  While he did believe that Christian ministers should address specific sins, it was possible to still deal with the problem in a merely superficial way. Lloyd-Jones cautioned,

The problem of life, my friends, is not individual sins but sin itself…It is no use our expecting to find figs on a thorn bush, however much we may treat and tend and care for it.  The trouble is the root.  We are wasting our time and neglecting our duty by preaching morality to a lost world.  For what the world needs is life, new life, and it can be found in Christ alone [13].

He knew that men could simply stop some bad outward behavior without any true change of heart taking place.

There seems to be a number today in this very condition; an outward morality but no conscious communion with God, no enjoyment of Him.  Lloyd-Jones perhaps understood this point as well as he did was because he once was in this very condition.  Though he did not live outwardly a glaringly sinful life growing up and then change to a strict external morality, he once thought of himself as a Christian when in fact he did not know God.  He made some of his own experience known when he said,

God knows I am preaching my own experience to you for I was brought up in a religious manner myself.  I am also preaching my experience as one who has frequently to help people who have been brought up in the same way.  Man is meant to know God.  So the question is:  Do you know God?  I am not asking if you believe in God, or if you believe certain things about Him.  To be a Christian is to have eternal life, and as our Lord says in John 17.3: ‘This is life eternal to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent’.  So the test we apply to ourselves is that.  Not, ‘Have I done this or that?’  My test is a positive one:  ‘Do I know God?  Is Jesus Christ real to me?’  I am not asking whether you know things about Him but do you know God, are you enjoying God, is God the center of your life, the soul of your being, the source of your greatest joy?  He is meant to be [14].

Are we as ministers willing, not to neglect or minimize personal sins, but, as Lloyd-Jones did, to remember these are mere symptoms of a greater evil: a heart that is dead to God and needs to be regenerated?

Conclusion

In a time when ministers are chasing after the latest church growth technique, mimicking the lost world in an attempt to attract them to the Church, and using unbiblical methodologies, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones offers an example to every generation. His book Preachers and Preaching has been a mainstay in many seminaries for decades. His preaching was full of biblical doctrine and wonderful practical application.  And yet there was fire.  Listening to his recorded sermons today is like listening to a man on fire for God [15]. We should expect this coming from a man who truly believed that “the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called” [16].

(This essay first appeared at www.helwyssocietyforum.com. This version of the essay has some slight changes in it.)


1 Iain H. Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2008), 50.  Also see pg 75 For M.D. and M.R.C.P.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as John Bunyan and Charles Spurgeon before him, would be a rebuke to churches today requiring theological degrees from their Pastors.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ degrees were for medicine; not from seminary.

2 Ibid., 144-145.

3 Ibid., 216.

4 Iain H. Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009), 413.  Yet she would see the wisdom of this.  She said, “And now I do indeed thank God that he didn’t encourage anything so superficial and worthless as the thing I was looking for” (pg. 414).

5 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 21.

6 Ibid., 21.

7 Murray, vol. 1, 135.

8 Murray, vol. 2, 256.

9 Ibid., 266.

10 Murray, vol. 1, 162.  Though, Murray continues, “At the same time, however, he thought it well to continue the ‘after meeting’ on Sunday evenings.  At this meeting, which lasted for only a few minutes at the conclusion of the service, he indicated that if any who were present wished to become members of the church they should raise their hand.  There was no singing and no pressure of any kind.  If any did so indicate, Dr Lloyd-Jones would subsequently speak to them alone.”

11 Ibid., 204.

12 No, Lloyd-Jones did not give “altar calls” but this in no way means he was not calling men to repent, as the quote in the first section should show.  He also did not believe that a sinner could do “nothing” but wait for God for salvation. He said, “And we read, ‘Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent…’ He did not say to them, ‘You can do nothing. You must wait until the Holy Spirit moves you. You must make sure whether you are elect or not.’ He preached, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins’[Acts 2:37-38]” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Saving Faith (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009), 139.  Also, when I speak of “unbiblical means,” I am not saying that everything listed in this section is necessarily unbiblical, but I am specifically looking more at the “altar call” and the practice of “asking Jesus into your heart”.

13 Murray, vol. 1, 159-160. Preaching against particular sins is important because knowing particular sins can help lead you to know the condition of the heart. See Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 31, for a somewhat similar example.

14 Spiritual Depression, 30-31.  Yet at the same time Lloyd-Jones knew there are times of coldness in the Christian life.  Later in Spiritual Depression he advised Christians struggling with their feelings that “your business and mine is not to stir up our feelings, it is to believe. We are never told anywhere in Scripture that we are saved by our feelings; we are told we are saved by believing. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ Never once are feelings put into the primary position. Now this is something we can do. I cannot make myself happy, but I can remind myself of my belief. I can exhort myself to believe, I can address my soul as the Psalmist did in Psalm 42: ‘Why art thou cast down O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou’…believe thou, trust thou. That is the way. And then our feelings will look after themselves. Do not worry about them. Talk to yourself, and though the devil will suggest that because you do not feel, you are not a Christian, say: ‘No, I do not feel anything, but whether I feel or not, I believe the Scriptures. I believe God’s Word is true and I will stay my soul on it, I will believe in it come what may’. Put belief in the first place, hold on to it” (116-117).

15 Many of his sermons can be listened to online for free at http://www.mljtrust.org/.

16 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 9.  He would continue on the same page, “If you want something in addition to that [reasons for why he was speaking on preaching] 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 whole world also” (9). How right he was and is!

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About Clint Adams

Hello. I am the Pastor of Double Branch Free Will Baptist Church in Unadilla, Georgia. I am happily married. I enjoy sports in general, reading, and spending time with friends and family.
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5 Responses to The “Doctor”

  1. Preaching and Preachers — something I plan to read multiple times throughout my ministry.

    • amspencer1984 says:

      I take it you have read it and enjoyed it, then? What is the best part of it, in your opinion?

    • jclint33 says:

      I love “Preaching and Preachers.” I go back to it and read some from time to time. It is such a good book. Have you read much of Lloyd-Jones before, other than “Preaching and Preachers,” I assume?

  2. amspencer1984 says:

    So, a couple of questions for you, then:
    1. What is the favorite work of Lloyd-Jones’ that you have read?
    2. What one single lesson stands out the most to you from reading about/from Lloyd-Jones? What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned from him for your life?

    • jclint33 says:

      1. It would be close between “Spiritual Depression” and “The Christian Warfare.” I have maybe three sermons left to read in “The Christian Warfare,” and I might have to give it just a small advantage, though it is more fresh on my mind. But the best thing I have read about him would have to be Iain Murray’s two volume biography of him. These two books might be the greatest books I have every read, besides the Bible.
      2. That’s hard, but one thing is the distinction between “sins” and “sin,” an extremely important distinction in life and ministry, something which I think your last post spoke about.

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