A Different Preaching––such is the title of chapter seven in Iain Murray’s biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (volume 1).
If anyone today reckons the biblically weak, entertainment focused and cultural catering of the pulpit in present day America is merely a modern, 21st century infamy, Lloyd-Jones’s conviction and courage to stand against such foolishness nearly one-hundred years ago teaches us otherwise. It was Lloyd-Jones who held the line, often times with little support from others as he preached the pure gospel of God—Unconcerned with the approval of his hearers, eloquence or wisdom, proclaiming Christ crucified.
Leaving London and his blossoming medical career behind, Lloyd-Jones, a mere twenty-eight year old, took a pastorate in a small, blue collar working town in Wales. It was here in 1927 he began to preach.
Lloyd-Jones was a different preacher with different preaching. It wasn’t unique compared to the apostles, the faithful early church or that of the reformers and puritans, but unique compared to the anemic cultural religiosity of his day. It wasn’t movie, professional sports or pop culture sermon references and themes that plagued the words of preachers then as they do today but the latest literature, poets, stories and speaking style employed—the same poison in a different bottle.
His mortal enemy homiletically, Lloyd-Jones bemoaned the trivial nature and belittled status cultural preachers assigned to the riches of God’s grace and power in the gospel by dressing it up to be attractive to carnal man.
In September of 1930 Lloyd-Jones preached from John 5:44 with the following words being spoken from the pulpit that Sunday:
“The world’s medicine is always nice, always a ‘soothing syrup’. ‘Come on, old chap, don’t be so depressed,’ says the world. ‘Don’t go to that chapel, don’t go and hear that man preach if it makes you feel down in the mouth! Why should you be turned inside out Sunday after Sunday? Why should you read the Bible and think about death? My dear chap, cheer up!’, says the world with a slap on the back. The world is crying peace where there is no peace…’.
Instead of healing man, all the world can do is to offer stimulants with short-lived effects: ‘When we are facing the worst, what has the world to offer? You cannot get up from your deathbed and go to a dance or to the races. The world cannot help us to face God and eternity… But God be praised! there is a way whereby man in the last stages of the disease can find peace and healing. ‘I’, says God, ‘will heal him and will cure him’. God will not pamper us or give us some temporary measure to tide us over. He will not put a soothing plaster on the open sore of our soul. The remedy of God is radical. It tackles diseases beneath the surface––it reaches to the very centre of our being and scrapes out the core of the matter which is poisoning us. The gospel does not pat you on the back, and tell you that all is right. No, the gospel says, ‘all is not right’; not, ‘all is well’, no, but, ‘in the name of God, all is wrong’. And you can never put it right. The remedy of God is different from the remedy of the world.”
Lloyd-Jones, in another sermon, cried out, “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”.1
On another occasion, while preaching on John 4:29––the woman of Samaria––he said, “What an extraordinary message! ‘come and see a man, not which told me all my good points, not one who praised me and told me what a good woman I was, but one who told me my faults, told me about my sins, revealed to me my own past life with all its horror’. Ah! that is the very secret of the gospel of Christ. Christ exposes our sins and weaknesses, but God be praised, he does not stop at that. Why was this woman shouting about the streets? Simply because Christ had not merely exposed [her sins] but had removed them. Why are Christian converts less ashamed than others to refer to heir past, why are they so free to speak about it? Simply because they know it is gone and no longer counts”.2
Notably, Lloyd-Jones labored to never leave men with merely the law, merely an indictment against them without any remedy. Indeed, the remedy was alien to any man or woman themselves but in Christ we are fully reconciled to God. Expounding this such wonder out of Jeremiah 30:18-19 where God promises to rebuild Israel’s dwelling places, he preached, “How can [our sin] be cleared away? There is only one answer… Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by dying that death on Calvary’s hill has cleared way the ruins and the wreckage. He has borne your guilt and borne it away. He has paid your penalty and died your death. ‘He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our only, but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2). You cannot deal with your past. He can and has done so. The old site has been cleared from the ruins and the wreckage of the past. The old foundation is again revealed. He has cleared away the rubbish.
But he does not stop at that. That is merely the beginning, the preliminary work. Alas there are many who seem to think that that is the whole story of the gospel, that it just tells us that God will forgive us. As if God were to do no more than clear away the ruins and wreckage produced by the work of the enemy and then leave the old site vacant. But a site, however clean, is not a city and for God to end there would really mean he had been defeated by the enemy. But he does not stop there. He only starts there! ‘The city shall be builded upon her own heap’! Jesus Christ the Son of God not merely died for our sins, he rose again and ascended into heaven, and from heaven he sent the Holy Spirit who brings us a new birth and a new life, who creates us anew and makes us new men and women in Christ Jesus”.3
Lloyd-Jones came not with own message, his own advice or experiences to share, but rather to herald the good news of Jesus Christ. Truly, as the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation” and we ought not be ashamed of it––Not of it’s glorious simplicity or unattractiveness to carnal men apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. To preach Christ and Christ alone is a high and worthy calling.
1Murray, I. (1982). Revival. In D.M. Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years 1899-1939 (pp. 215-216). Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth.
2Murray, I. (1982). Revival. In D.M. Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years 1899-1939 (pp. 219). Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth.
3Lloyd-Jones, D.M. (1995). The Amazing Gospel. In Old Testament Evangelistic Sermons (pp. 254-255). Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth.