Steve Lawson (Reformation Trust: 2016)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones came with me on all my visits when I first arrived in Benalla. Sort of. The recordings that became his book Preachers and Preaching played wherever I travelled over the first several months. His insights, not only into the preparation and practice of preaching, but also into the character and ministry of the preacher were tremendously helpful.

We cannot explain the revival of either Reformed theology or expository preaching without Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Before Lloyd-Jones’ arrival at Westminster Chapel in London shortly before World War II, consecutive expository preaching was almost forgotten. In Preachers and Preaching, he wrote, “In preaching the message should always arise out of the scriptures directly.” The fact that so many of us can hardly imagine preaching being anything other than working verse by verse, section by section through a book of the Bible owes much to his influence. 

There are several books that introduce us to the Doctor. His assistant Iain Murray wrote a 2-volume biography (Banner of Truth: 1990); a reflection on his significance entitled Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace (Banner of Truth 2008), and a shorter single volume biography (Banner of Truth: 2013). There is a very engaging documentary called Logic on Fire (Media Gratiae: 2015), a kids’ book called The Doctor Who Became A Preacher by Rebecca VanDoodewaard (Banner of Truth: 2018), and a more controversial academic assessment of his life and ministry edited by Andrew Atherstone and David Ceri Jones entitled Engaging with Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Apollos: 2011).

What Steve Lawson gives us is something different to them all. There is a brief but informative biography at the start. But the remaining eight chapters answer the question, ‘What made Lloyd-Jones Lloyd-Jones?’ by drawing out themes from his life and ministry: He was sovereignly called, Biblically based, distinctly expository, carefully studied, divinely focused, doctrinally grounded, theologically Reformed, and Spiritually empowered.

Lawson dives deeply into the Doctor’s writings, not only to pluck out practical tips but to unearth the valuable principles and convictions that can shape faithful ministries today and in any age. It becomes abundantly clear that Lloyd-Jones’ ministry was not cold and intellectual, but vibrant and experiential. As he defined preaching, it is “logic on fire”.

He was never content to explain a passage unless it led to application to real lives. In fact, his prescription was to follow the New Testament epistles where – in a general sense – the first half was given to doctrine and the second half to the living out of the doctrine. How many preachers strive for that amount of application? And how many congregations gratefully receive it?

Ultimately, the essential mark of Lloyd-Jones’ ministry must be its anointing or unction. While the words ‘anointed’ and ‘anointing’ get used without much definition today, for Lloyd-Jones the meaning was clear. It is not about a feeling or a response. It is “freedom and clarity of speech, an authority” (Courageous Christianity, page 190-191).

That authority will not come just by imitating Lloyd-Jones’ practice. But it does come from embracing his convictions, and diligently and expectantly proclaiming the living God to dying people.

Lawson’s book is a helpful mirror in which to assess our own preaching and ministry. May God grow Lloyd-Jones’ convictions and expectation in us all.

Stephen McDonald is the Presbyterian minister at Benalla.