This is a difficult subject! Many books have moved me, but I am not sure that many have truly changed me. Though I love reading, it is preaching that has made the greatest impact on my life.
One book, however, that did make a huge impression on me is one of the volumes of sermons on Ephesians, by Dr D. M. Lloyd-Jones – Life in the Spirit, in marriage, work & home, an exposition of Ephesians 5:18 to 6:9 (Banner of Truth, 1974).
I read this about 15 years ago, when I had been married for only a couple of years. I had just begun a new job in a foreign country, and our first child had recently been born.
It was thus a most relevant book for my circumstances! I believe it was also the first book of Lloyd-Jones that I had read.
I was gripped from the start. I read the book on the bus to work in the morning, and on the way home again at night. Why, apart from its obvious relevance, did I find it so gripping?
Firstly, I was captivated by Dr Lloyd-Jones’s manner of reasoning. He begins, as always, with the Scriptures. He opens up their immediate meaning.
Next he compares them with other passages on the same subject. He then begins to relate the text to the Christian’s experience. He draws out implications.
He applies it to the mind, the heart, the soul, to daily relationships and duties, to every aspect of life. His reasoning can be followed with no difficulty.
This is not because it is simplistic – often it is complex – but because every step follows inevitably from the one before. The sermons are therefore a delight to read, as one is drawn from one step to the next.
Related to Christ
Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of the expositions is the way the teaching is always related to Christ. Dr Lloyd-Jones brings out to the full the apostle’s constant emphasis on the pre-eminent place of Christ in the life of the believer.
Every aspect of the believer’s life, every relationship, every responsibility, is related to Christ. Marriage itself is a great picture of Christ and the church.
Dr Lloyd-Jones brings out these glorious truths. The way we live and relate, as believers, derives from (and depends entirely upon) what Christ has done for us and in us.
Furthermore, the book gives the reader a cosmic understanding of the issues in question. This is no mere ‘how-to’ manual on particular practical problems of life.
We are given an entire biblical understanding of the institutions of marriage, the family and work, in the context of God’s eternal plan for the human race, in Christ.
We are also shown how to tackle all sorts of other, more distantly related, issues, almost incidentally – the place and importance of the Old Testament; how to understand difficult passages in the Bible; the relevance of Christ to every aspect of the believer’s life.
These and other issues arise naturally in the discussion of the passage. They are explained in a way that will equip the believer better to understand and apply the truths of the Scripture.
Then I was gripped by the way in which Dr Lloyd-Jones gives the exposition full context, in every sense. He gives historical context – showing how the views which he expresses agree or disagree with views held by Christians over the centuries.
He gives contemporary context, often showing how the biblical teachings contradict and undermine contemporary views on the issue concerned.
He gives doctrinal context. The passage expounded in this volume deals mostly with practical matters of daily life. But he ensures that we understand that the practical instruction is based entirely on the doctrine of Christ and the work of redemption, which the apostle has explained in the earlier chapters of the letter.
Then he gives a life context, demonstrating how the instruction of Scripture applies to believers in the most practical of ways.
It is this last aspect which is perhaps the most captivating. I was gripped by his ability to draw such specific direction and instruction in practical matters from the verses he was expounding.
He explains what it means, in biblical terms, for the wife to submit to her husband, and for the husband to love his wife.
What does the wife do, if she finds her understanding of some part of Scripture differs from that of her husband? What changes of attitudes are required on the part of a man, when he ceases to be single and marries?
When children arrive, how are the parents to treat them? What kind of discipline are they to exercise? How are employees to relate to their employers?
These sermons are of continuing relevance today, when there seems to be such misunderstanding amongst Christians about the biblical concepts of marriage, family life and working relationships; where the very idea of submitting to anyone is anathema; and, supremely, where we appear to have less and less conception of the relevance of Christ to every area of the believer’s life.
Yes, this was a book that changed me. Read it, and let it change you too.