Lloyd Jones: Messenger of Grace

Article by   November 2009
Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace
By Iain Murray
274 p.
Banner of Truth (May 2008)

The Lord Jesus Christ has gifted his church with teachers and preachers in the past and for that we are truly grateful.  One, whose writings I first came into contact with twenty-two years ago, was the late Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Upon acquainting myself with his Preachers and Preaching (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1972) and several of the volumes in his sermon series on Romans (Carlisle:  Banner of Truth, 1985-2003), I was bitten by the "Doctor's" doctrinal preaching.  His was a powerful evangelical voice in the United Kingdom.  John Stott, writing an obituary in The Times in March of 1981, noted that, "With the death of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones the most powerful and persuasive evangelical voice in Britain for some 31 years is now silent."  Mark Dever, pastor of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. has more recently said, "Martyn Lloyd-Jones is one of the men I admire most from the 20th century, and the longer time goes on, my admiration of him increases.  He had a more profound spiritual vision than anyone else I know" (from the inside front flap of the dust jacket).  
Rev. Iain Murray tells us that he wanted to deal with three areas of major significance in this book.  The first is the nature of true preaching.  The second is the place of full assurance in the life of the Christian. The third area is a fresh consideration of Lloyd-Jones' understanding of the New Testament church.  All three topics come in for fascinating discussion and stem from what Murray calls in the first chapter, the "legacies of Lloyd-Jones."  These, according to the author, are:  (1)  Lloyd-Jones was an example of what a Christian minister ought to be; (2) the truth that Christianity is God-centered religion; with subsection (a) understanding what this truth means will change a person's whole viewpoint and (b) Lloyd-Jones also regarded what is called 'Calvinism' as essential to his spiritual peace; (3) the local church is always the primary means of evangelism; (4) true preaching of the Word has life-changing power; (5) the key to the times is the state of the church; and (6)  the growth of the church depends upon the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

In the second chapter, the author discusses ML-J's views concerning the importance of the unction or anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Preaching that would be used of God must be bathed in the power of the Spirit of God.  Murray organizes the chapter under three headings:  unction and the pew, unction and the preacher, and preparation for preaching.  Under the first heading, ML-J would want us to know that Holy Spirit anointed preaching brings with it a sensitive awareness of God.  He would also remind us that where preaching operates in the power of the Holy Spirit, minds are not prone to wander and children are more likely to pay attention too.  In a nutshell, Spirit-empowered preaching results in changed lives.  Under the second heading, Murray notes that ML-J would point out the fact that Spirit directed preaching is not something under human control.  And Spirit-directed preaching takes the preacher's mind off of himself and his work.  Under the third heading, Murray tells us that ML-J believed that Spirit-directed preaching will be truth which the Spirit can honor.  It was also mentioned that the life of the preacher can't help but be part of the sermon.  The preacher who experiences the unction or anointing of the Spirit is one who continually depends upon the Spirit for assistance.  Strikingly, ML-J would argue for preaching that evokes awareness that Christianity is "both a body of truth and doctrine, and a life to be experienced" (50).  Finally, preaching under the ministry of the Holy Spirit is preaching that points to and terminates on Christ.

Many readers will be interested to learn that Dr. Lloyd-Jones preached evangelistic sermons from the Old Testament.  This was as unusual in his day as were his doctrinal sermons.  Murray notes that ML-J is often thought of today as a teaching preacher, but his wife, Bethan Lloyd-Jones, considered her husband to be first and foremost an evangelist (55).  This contemporary misapprehension may simply be due to the sermons that have been published as over against those which have not been released to the public in print.  The assumption of publishers was that Christians would make up the lion's share of his readers, so the sermons that went to press were ones that it was thought were more geared to believers already in the way.  But Murray points out that in reality, "more than half" of Lloyd-Jones' preaching was evangelistic.  As already noted, the "Doctor" often used Old Testament texts in his evangelistic sermons and this was because he saw the "neglect and near disappearance of the Old Testament as exercising a detrimental influence on contemporary Christianity" (61).  Unfortunately it seems the problem is still with us these many years later.  ML-J also thought that the disuse of the OT would have serious practical consequences.  For these reasons ML-J used the Old Testament for evangelistic purposes.  The benefit of using the OT in this context involved the fact that as Scripture, the OT was effective in revealing sin in all its true colors.  It also pointed to the fact that a life lived without God was futile.  Ultimately Lloyd-Jones preached evangelistically from the OT because it was a "book about God" (76).

Chapters four through six discuss Lloyd-Jones' sermon notes, provide an outline of a "memorable address" delivered at the Westminster Fellowship on October 9, 1968 after he had officially retired as pastor of the church due to serious illness but had subsequently recovered, and provide an informative comparison between David Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Charles Spurgeon.  Chapter seven discusses ML-J's book Joy Unspeakable at some length.  Here ML-J's concern that Christians experience the assurance of salvation is discussed in the context of the rising charismatic movement (130-135).  Clarity is important here since ML-J equated full assurance with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Because of this he is sometimes thought to be amenable to charismatic or Pentecostal teaching.  It is clear from the discussion here that ML-J was no charismatic in the popular sense of that word.  

Firstly, ML-J understood that the office of apostle had ceased and so the giving of the blessing of the Spirit could not happen by the laying on of hands.  Secondly, ML-J refused to equate baptism of the Spirit with tongues-speaking.  And thirdly, he believed that the baptism of the Spirit often came to mature believers after a period of patient waiting.  This highlights that Lloyd-Jones was not sympathetic to charismatic concerns as is sometimes alleged.  Rather, ML-J was concerned that many believers did not experience the joy of a full assurance of salvation.  He realized that all Christians enjoy the ministry of the Holy Spirit at conversion and so possess some measure of assurance.  Since the Holy Spirit is present in the life of the believer from regeneration forward there are not two classes of Christians as is sometimes taught in some quarters of the evangelical world.  However, ML-J did not agree fully with John Stott either.  In his booklet Baptism and Fullness Stott taught that the baptism of the Spirit occurred for every believer at regeneration.  ML-J thought this teaching, standard evangelical teaching that it was, would lead believers into complacency.  ML-J read the portions of Acts where the Holy Spirit is given on several different occasions (Acts 8:14-17, 10:44-46, and 19:6) as reason to encourage present day Christians to seek the experience of repetitive baptisms.  ML-J closely tied these baptisms with Christian assurance.  In brief, Murray notes that Lloyd-Jones held that Christian assurance is grounded in three things:  (1) the promises of God; (2) the changes in the life of the Christian as a result of growth in grace (i.e., sanctification); and (3) the direct witness of the Holy Spirit to the believer that he is a child of God.  

Murray offers an extensive critique of his mentor's views on this subject (142-163) that is worth pondering.  These comments ought to be considered carefully as they come from a man who highly esteems the good doctor.  The criticism is not offered lightly or glibly.  There is no specific incident described as the baptism with the Spirit.  All work of the Spirit is under the mediatorial work of Christ (142).  Is not all real assurance the work of the Spirit?  ML-J was concerned to uphold the extraordinary work of God in the church.  However, Murray is correct to note that God gives his Spirit in varying degrees.  ML-J was not warranted to label one work of the Spirit as the baptism of the Spirit.  ML-J was wrong in encouraging people to long for some special spiritual experience.  The tendency is for Christians to long for some special spiritual experience now rather than waiting on God to grant special seasons of blessing in his own time.  While I would not want to deny that God can exercise extraordinary providence in his world at his own discretion, I am afraid that encouraging Christians to long after these things is to undermine the ordinary means of grace that God has said he will honor.

The third major topic Murray discusses, in chapter 8 of Messenger of Grace, is the disagreement that occurred in British evangelical circles in 1966 when ML-J was perceived to have called for Christians in mixed denominations to come out from them and align themselves with their more consistent evangelical brethren in independent churches.  At the Evangelical Alliance sponsored National Assembly of Evangelicals held on October 18, 1966 at Central Hall in London, Lloyd-Jones addressed the topic of Christian unity and set off a chain of events he could not have envisioned (or, it seems, intended).  Murray provides counter-balance to the story oft-told in the stories of J. I. Packer and John Stott.  Stott's counter response at the conclusion of ML-J's address (Stott was the chairman of the conference), may have made matters worse than they might have otherwise been.  Even so, the divisions among British evangelicals were probably already present before the congress and may simply have become more visible.  Later developments arose over how evangelicals should handle the ecumenical movement.  After the publication of Growing Into Union, a call for Anglican unity co-authored by J. I. Packer, ML-J called for the dissolution of the Puritan conference.  Even with all these disagreements, ML-J still held Anglican evangelicals in high regard.  It should be remembered that before the EA congress, ML-J even asked Stott to become his successor at the Westminster Chapel and later encouraged Gerald Bray in his pursuit of Anglican ordination.

Chapter 9 is comprised solely of the letter ML-J composed to J. I. Packer calling for the suspension of the Puritan conference.  In chapter 10 Murray provides a topical summary of ML-J's views on such things as God, assurance, the Bible, the Christian, church unity, death, the devil, disunity, doctrine, evangelism, and a host of other items.  In chapter 11 Murray discusses ML-J's sermons and in chapter 12 he provides a statistical analysis of the Ephesians sermons.  As an added bonus Murray includes his own review of the Noll/Nystrom book Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism.  This might seem like a strange addition, but it makes eminent sense in light of the discussion of ML-J's so-called "Come Out" address and it shows that the issues involved in the 1966 dispute within British evangelicalism are still with us and, quite honestly, have intensified and spread around the world.

As I noted at the beginning of this review, I first encountered David Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1986 and was captivated by his preaching and have been interested in his publications ever since.  Iain Murray has done us a great service in bringing ML-J to the forefront of our minds again.  Lloyd-Jones:  Messenger of Grace makes a fine companion to Murray's mammoth two-volume biography and Lloyd-Jones's own publications.  There are a few items that I should like to address if I may.  The first two comments are about ML-J himself and the third is about both ML-J and Murray.  While I am pleased that ML-J preached from the Old Testament, and especially that he preached evangelistically from the OT, I am less thrilled with his use of the materials in the examples provided in this book.  ML-J jumps from the OT text right into the contemporary Christian context without significant consideration of the redemptive historical shift that occurred with the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.  There is little to evince familiarity with typology and how persons, events, and institutions in the OT pointed to and found their fulfillment in Christ.  Now undoubtedly ML-J would agree that Christ fulfills the OT, but his exegesis and hermeneutic appears to ignore this.  And I would have liked to see how the Christian is called to imitate an OT hero via the believer's union with Christ, who is the antitype to all the heroes of the OT.  Nevertheless I must admit that the sermon form was simple and powerful and apparently effective.

I must also say that I would have to side with John Stott over against ML-J on baptism with the Spirit and I wonder whether ML-J's concern for the third element in his understanding of the foundations of assurance wasn't problematic as well.  Clearly the risen Lord's pouring out of his Holy Spirit on the church at Pentecost was closely and organically connected with his work in life, death, resurrection and ascension.  In other words, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is part of that series of events connected with our Lord's life and ministry that cannot be repeated and ought not to be expected to be replicated in the individual life of the Christian.  Does that mean that the Holy Spirit is not active in the life of the believer or the church as a whole?  May it never be!  But we do need to properly understand how the Holy Spirit works among the people of God and what we can expect in our Christian experience.  Also, assuredly the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirits that we are children of God.  But ought we to expect some mystical direct encounter apart from the Spirit's witness in the Word and in sanctification?  Clearly there is room here for further reflection.    

What I especially appreciated was further discussion of the 1966 EA assembly.  For the longest time I was familiar with the events surrounding this affair, but only from the perspective of John Stott and J. I. Packer.  Murray has provided a corrective (both here and in his previous work Evangelicalism Divided) and that is beneficial, especially to those like myself who were too young to appreciate then what was going on in the UK.  Disagreement among brothers is always unfortunate in terms of personal relations.  However, the truth must be upheld.  Murray goes out of his way to show that ML-J was probably misunderstood and did not in fact call for Christians in mixed denominations (i.e., denominations not uniformly orthodox) to withdraw from their churches.  Lloyd-Jones, was, however, asking his Anglican evangelical friends especially, to consider what they were trying to do.  Did Anglican evangelicals really want a place at the ecumenical table where orthodoxy was played down?  It seems to me that in light of recent events, such as the controversy over the doctrine of penal substitutionary doctrine in the UK, and the fragmentation of the worldwide Anglican communion over, among other things, Scriptural authority and homosexuality, that ML-J was not far from the mark whether he called for Christians to come out the Anglican church or not.  Things have gotten so bad in the US and Canada that J. I. Packer resigned from the Anglican Church of Canada and brought himself under the oversight of a primate in another part of the world.  At least the Anglican churches in the two-thirds world are standing for the truth.  

All of this is to say that the more things change the more they stay the same.  Though Dr. Lloyd-Jones is with the Lord he still speaks through his sermons and books.  Iain Murray has made ML-J much more understandable and for that we can be thankful.

Jeffery Waddington is a PhD candidate at Westminster Theological Seminary and a teaching elder at Calvary OPC Church in NJ.

Lloyd Jones: Messenger of Grace by Jeffery Waddington (November 2009)

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