Everything from the pen of Iain Murray is worthy of attention, but this book on the ministry of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones is particularly timely. To those of us who knew him, it does not seem almost thirty years since he was taken from us. But for anyone under fifty this book will prove a helpful introduction to one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century.
In some circles in the UK a strange attitude appears to prevail regarding Dr Lloyd-Jones. He has been airbrushed out of the conversation, thinking and reading of many Evangelicals. That a man of such preaching gift, insight and world-wide influence should be ignored reflects badly on those who adopt such an attitude. We suspect the cause is prejudice and a post-modern refusal to recognise greatness. This book should help to redress the situation.
The author’s purpose is not to provide another biography, but ‘to restate some of the main lessons of the ministry of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, beginning with the preaching of the word of God’ (p.xi). God’s call to him to be a preacher was all-consuming.
Much of his preaching was of an evangelistic character. A helpful chapter is included on his evangelistic use of the Old Testament. A CD accompanying this book – and adding to its value — illustrates his approach and style, and the spiritual power of his preaching.
In this connection, Murray writes a chapter on ‘Preaching and the Holy Spirit’ and deals with the somewhat elusive subject of unction in preaching (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:4), illustrating it from Lloyd-Jones’ ministry.
In 1964-65 Lloyd-Jones preached a series of sermons on the baptism or sealing of the Spirit. He regarded this as the highest form of assurance for the Christian. These sermons later created considerable controversy after his death with the publication in 1984 of Joy unspeakable, the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Iain Murray gives a chapter to this, and entitles it ‘A controversial book’.
But the book would not have been nearly so controversial had not the publishers extracted eight sermons following sermon seven and later published them separately as Prove all things. This action, which Lloyd-Jones would never have sanctioned, produced a distortion in the presentation. So the biblical cautions were removed, giving the impression to some that Lloyd-Jones had become ‘a Charismatic’.
But the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was not the only subject on which Lloyd-Jones was misrepresented. His emphasis on the nature and unity of the New Testament church, as a biblical reply to false ecumenicity, gave rise to controversy and accusations of divisiveness (ch. 8). The responsibility for division, however, lay with his accusers.
Iain Murray’s book will help the reader to understand and appreciate the convictions which motivated Lloyd-Jones. He ministered through a period when evangelicalism was suffering from endemic adolescence. Against this background he called the church back to maturity in its evangelism and doctrinal strength in its understanding of biblical Christianity.
Hopefully this stimulating book will do much to revive a new interest in those truths which set him ‘on fire’.