On June 8, 1980 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached his final sermon. The text was Joshua 4:6 – “What do those stones mean to you?” As far as I know, there is no transcript or recording of this sermon. But he preached this text at least once before in 1977, giving a firm call to remember the works of the Lord in history- first and foremost, the work of Christ in the gospel. Lloyd-Jones died the next year on March 1, 1981.
A Snap Shot of His Life
Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was born in Cardiff, Wales. Trained as a medical physician at Barts in London, he entered the ministry after a two-year struggle with a call to preach the gospel. He first ministered in the small Welsh town of Sandfields, Aberavon for 10 years before returning to London to serve as the associate pastor of Westminster Chapel with G. Campbell Morgan in 1939. Lloyd-Jones became the pastor of Westminster Chapel in 1943 upon Morgan’s retirement.
For the next 29 years, Lloyd-Jones would carefully, slowly, and passionately preach the word to the people of Westminster Chapel. He was known for his desire for revival, simplicity of exposition, and his sharp medically-trained, investigative mind. Lloyd-Jones left no stone unturned in a text as is reflected in his surprisingly long sermon series’ through books of the Bible (12 years in Romans!).
Many of his sermon series were edited into book form, including his enduring works like Revival, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Great Doctrines of the Bible, and Spiritual Depression. In 1969, Lloyd-Jones gave a series of lectures on preaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. These great explorations on the nature and centrality of preaching became the classic Preaching and Preachers. Two comments he makes in the preface of this work wonderfully capture Lloyd-Jones:
“Some may object to my dogmatic assertions, but I do not apologize for them. Every preacher should believe strongly in his own method; and if I cannot persuade all of the rightness of mine, I can at least stimulate them to think and to consider other possibilities.” (Preaching and Preachers, 14)
This was Lloyd-Jones; firm in his convictions, unapologetic, and aiming to persuade. Yet the end of that same paragraph gives us another glimpse:
“With many others, I pray that ‘the Lord of the harvest may thrust forth’ many mighty preachers to proclaim ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ.’
This is why Lloyd-Jones wielded his logic on fire and longed for others to do the same. Because in Christ there are unsearchable riches and unimaginable treasures the world must discover!
I remember hearing John Piper encouraging young pastors to find a theologian from history to study and learn from. I chose Lloyd-Jones for a number of reasons. Here are four:
I tend to struggle with people-pleasing. When left unchecked, this will kill a ministry. Lloyd-Jones exhibited a backbone that I need. Ministers need to stand firmly upon the truth against the blowing winds of worldliness. Even those who do not agree with all of his convictions can learn from his consistent faithfulness.
His Emphasis on The Holy Spirit & Revival
He was greatly concerned for the Church to be continually revived by the Holy Spirit for the glory of God and usefulness in the world. This led to constant warnings of the dangers of worldly influence upon the church as well as an urgent call for prayerful-reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
His Long-Haul Pastoral Faithfulness
He loved the people of small-town Sandfields, Aberavon for 10 years. Then the people of London for nearly 30. He loved them well in many ways, but the primary way was through the Word of God – a feeding of his own soul that he served up to others week-in and week-out. This is a refreshing reminder of the simplicity of pastoral ministry and the necessity of patient faithfulness.
He was a Family Man
Many men in church history were beasts in the pulpit, but failures in the home. This kind of inconsistency tarnishes the legacy of such figures. Lloyd-Jones was consistent. He loved his wife, his children, and his grandchildren well. They speak highly of him to this very day. Lord, make this true of me!
Lloyd-Jones was only human, and thus flawed like all of us. But God used him mightily. This is the value of Christian biography. Looking back and learning from him and Christians like him helps us look upward to Christ and press on in our pursuit of Him (Hebrews 11:39-12:2)