When I interviewed Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones on local television on 24 May 1973 I asked him which of his many books he considered to be the best. He felt that his series on Romans was his most important but said that he received very many letters about his two volumes on The Sermon on the Mount.
I was not a student in London during the 1950s and 1960s when Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones held the crowds spellbound by his masterly expositions of the Scriptures. However, I did attend one of his evening Bible lectures on the letter to the Romans one Friday evening in the spring of 1954.
It was one of several that he gave on Romans 1:16 — and I was thrilled many years later to hear that same sermon on tape. I remembered it because he explained the term ‘litotes’ in relation to the phrase, ‘I am not ashamed’.
When I became a bookshop manager in the 1960s I discovered that very few of ‘the Doctor’s’ books were in print. But one that came out in 1965 made a huge impact upon my spiritual development. This was entitled, Spiritual Depression — its causes and cure. Two chapters in this book have stuck in my mind for all these years. They are ‘Men, as Trees, Walking’ (Mark 8:22) and ‘The Peace of God’ (Philippians 4, 6-7).
These chapters, based on sermons, helped me a great deal when the Bible was seldom expounded in such depth. I found them a great blessing to my mind and my soul. I still read them with profit — and even enjoyment.
The reason is that, unlike some of today’s preaching, these sermons are easy to understand. They have no strange words or difficult concepts in them and they deal with the issues of life that I, and huge numbers of other people, have to face day by day. This was the hallmark of the Doctor’s preaching.
In the 1950s and 1960s much of what was called ‘evangelistic preaching’ centred on ‘easy believism’ and the ‘simple gospel’. However, as a Christian in my late twenties and early thirties, I found that living as a Christian and belonging to a church congregation was not always easy.
I sometimes wondered whether I was a true Christian, or merely deluded into thinking that I was. This is why ‘the Doctor’s’ sermon on ‘Men, as Trees, Walking’ helped me to realise that this was an experience that the Lord Jesus Christ has already foreseen.
The blind man in the Gospel account could certainly see, but his sight was faulty. The Lord could have healed him completely and instantaneously but he chose to do so in two stages. The Doctor then explains why this is.
He is ‘concerned about those Christians who are disquieted and unhappy and miserable because of this lack of clarity’ (p.39). Then he explains how a person’s understanding, heart and will must be put in submission to Christ: ‘we are not meant to be left in a state of doubt and misgiving, of uncertainty and unhappiness’ (p.48).
Time and time again I have come back to Dr Lloyd-Jones’ writings, and have always found them appropriate to my present situation. And the reason for this is because each one unfolds, in a clear and simple way, the teaching of the Bible.
I often had the privilege of interviewing the Doctor for Radio 4. Unlike some pieces submitted by Evangelicals, the BBC broadcast every one of my interviews with Dr Lloyd-Jones.
This was not because the broadcasting executives accepted the doctrines that undergirded everything he said and believed! It was because his words always made sense.
In the television interview referred to above, the Doctor told me that during his illness in 1968 one of his most treasured letters was from a little girl whose family attended Westminster Chapel.
The words that touched Dr Lloyd-Jones so deeply were: ‘When are you coming back to our church? I can’t understand what these other men are saying’.
A bit of balance
Just as the ‘common people heard [Jesus] gladly’ (Mark 12:37, AV), so ordinary folk delighted in Dr Lloyd-Jones’ straightforward explanation and application of God’s Word. He was a man of the people and he had a keen sense of humour.
Eight days before I recorded my television piece with him, I interviewed Michael Ramsey, then Archbishop of Canterbury. I asked the Doctor if he would put his autograph on the page opposite the Archbishop’s. With a twinkle in his eye he said: ‘It might provide a bit of balance!’
Although he has been with the Lord since February 1981, his voice can still be heard through his recorded tape ministry and his printed books. It is so good that since 1960 large amounts of his preached material have been put into print; my bookshelves bear testimony to this fact.
Together with huge numbers of people who never met him or heard him preach, I praise God for his faithful ministry and long that more people will read his writings and meditate on the teaching they contain.