Heroes of the Faith

It is of great profit to study the lives of those who have gone before us, making their lives count for Christ and the Gospel.  Preacher and Biblical theologian, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, is certainly such a man. Often known as "the Doctor" because of his medical degree, Dr. Lloyd-Jones is counted among the greatest preachers of the twentieth century.

With several Pacific Hope Church mid-week study groups currently using his work, Great Doctrines of the Bible, this brief biography is offered to provide some context and insight into the life and work of this influential man of God.  As true now as during his lifetime, his message is that "the church needs revival, not so more people will come into the church but rather that God is returned to His rightful place in people's lives and thinking."

    D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

    "It is grace at the beginning, and grace at the end. So that when you and I come to lie upon our death beds, the one thing that should comfort and help and strengthen us there is the thing that helped us in the beginning. Not what we have been, not what we have done, but the Grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. The Christian life starts with grace, it must continue with grace, it ends with grace. Grace wondrous grace. By the grace of God I am what I am. Yet not I, but the Grace of God which was with me."

    As so often happens in regions where true revival takes place, the Holy Spirit rushed into turn-of-the-century Wales like a great tide. Men filled with the Holy Spirit cast out nets of the gospel call and many were caught up and brought into the Kingdom of God. Less than three decades into the 20th century, the tide ebbed, false converts faded away and the true followers of Christ were left with few shepherds to teach them and to counter the rising trend of liberalism that was creeping into the national churches of Britain. Throughout this time, God was preparing a young man to rise to his Master’s call and feed His sheep. The impact of the ministry that began in small town South Wales and moved to London, England is still, to this day, being felt and cherished by pastors and parishioners the world over.


    Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was born to blue collar parents in South Wales in 1899. He was one of three brothers, all raised in the Christian faith of Welsh Calvinist Methodism, that may well be described as a "head full of sound doctrine and a Spirit-filled heart of compassion for the lost." All the brothers were intelligent and enjoyed intellectual debates of reason, logic, doctrine and faith, but each chose to pursue careers in the secular world upon graduating college.


    “Martyn's career was medicine. He went from school to St. Bart's, one of the great London teaching hospitals, and was brilliantly successful. He succeeded in his exams so young that he had to wait to take his MD, by which time he was already chief clinical assistant to Sir Thomas Horder, one of the best and most famous doctors of the day. By the age of 26 he also had his MRCP and was well up the rungs of the Harley Street ladder, with a brilliant and lucrative career in front of him.”[1]


    About this time, God began stirring unrest inside "the Doctor." “Slowly, reading for himself, his mind was gripped by the Christian gospel, its compelling power and its balanced logic, like the majestic self-supporting arches of a great cathedral. He had no dramatic crisis of conversion, but there came a point when he had committed himself entirely to the Christian gospel. After that, as he sat in the consulting room, listening to the symptoms of those who came to see him, he realized that what so many of his patients needed was not ordinary medicine, but the gospel he had discovered for himself. He could deal with the symptoms, but the worry, the tension; the obsessions could only be dealt with by the power of Christian conversion. Increasingly he felt that the best way to use his life and talents was to preach that gospel.” [2]

    Dr. Lloyd-Jones began to preach the gospel in South Wales while continuing to practice medicine. The Doctor preached an uncompromising message of divine truth and Biblical doctrine. His preaching found a welcome reception among the working class of Wales and Jones’ heart was with his people there. Given his love for his home country, his next major ministry decision was one of his most difficult.


    The pre-eminent evangelical preacher in English speaking Europe was G. Campbell Morgan at Westminster Chapel in London, England. After hearing Lloyd-Jones preach, Morgan decided he would like Jones to come on at Westminster to serve with and ultimately succeed him in the pastorate there. For Dr. Jones, there was another offer also on the table in 1938. He had an opportunity to be the principal at the Theological College at Bala in Wales. Here he would have the opportunity to train up ministers for the gospel in his beloved hometown. But the call to Westminster and London was too strong and he moved with his wife Bethan and two daughters, Elizabeth and Ann in 1939.


    "The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also." ~Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ)


    Lloyd-Jones followed in the town and tradition of Charles H. Spurgeon, but each preacher had his differences. Both men adhered to the same doctrines, but Jones’ approach to preaching differed from Spurgeon in that he believed in preaching steadily and consecutively through whole books of the Bible. Lloyd-Jones would preach in a style that has been labeled “logic on fire”. The doctor would take a passage, a verse or even part of a verse and surgically dissect it to explore the meaning of the text, how the text fit in with other portions of Scripture and how the text applies to life between the secular and Christian worldviews, but also the different views on particular doctrines held within the Christian community.


    “I have never heard such preaching…it came to me with the force of electric shock, bringing to at least one of his hearers, more of a sense of God than any other man….” ~J.I. Packer on MLJ


    Shortly after WWII, Lloyd Jones began a series of lectures on the doctrines of God, focusing on and teaching from Scripture alone.  He taught in a systematic fashion through the doctrines of God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, the church and the last things. The lectures began as a Friday night meeting in one of the halls in Westminster Chapel in London, but quickly grew in size and popularity and needed to be moved into the main Chapel.


    “Like Tyndale, he wanted the truth to be in words ‘understanded of the people’ [sic]. Also he did not want the teaching to remain in the head only, so there is an application in each lecture to make sure that the heart and will are touched also. The glory of God was his greatest motive in giving these lectures.” [3]    


    These lectures took place from 1952-1955 and have since been compiled into a three-volume work entitled Great Doctrines of the Bible. [Note: These volumes are the current studies for both the Pacific Hope Church Men’s Discipleship and Home Fellowship Groups.]  Dr. Lloyd Jones has become one of the most trusted and respected theologians for churches the world over.


    Certainly, as history has shown, a man who holds to Biblical doctrine with a firm and unwavering resolve will have a ministry marked at some point by controversy. This would be one more thing that the Doctor would have in common with C.H. Spurgeon.

    D. Martyn spoke out against the liberalism that was creeping into the Church of England. “Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a strong believer in evangelical unity. He did not believe that denominational barriers should separate those who had a true faith in common. And, as the ecumenical movement gathered impetus and the liberal wing in the churches made greater and greater concessions to the currents of worldly opinion, he came to believe that the right answer was for the evangelicals to leave the compromised denominations and form their own grouping. He had no illusions about the possible ultimate fate of new church groupings. They might, in their own time, go astray. But he maintained that each of us had to do the best for our own generation, regardless of what might come later, and that the ecumenical movement put those who stood for the long line of truly Christian theology and practice in an impossible position.”[4]

    Jones believed whole heartedly in the work of the Holy Spirit in all things, especially the conversion of souls. He publicly spoke out against the ministries of men like Charles Finney and their ‘evangelistic meetings,’ in which they stirred emotions for a response to the altar call, and then called it revival.

    I have always believed that nothing but a revival—a visitation of the Holy Spirit, in distinction from an evangelistic campaign—can deal with the situation of the church and of the world”.[5] - MLJ

    The Doctor also turned down requests to speak at Billy Graham crusades. When asked about this he replied:

    I am unhappy about organized campaigns and even more about the invitation system of calling people forward. Mark you, I consider Billy Graham an utterly honest, sincere, and genuine man. He, in fact, asked me in 1963 to be chairman of the first Congress on Evangelism, then projected for Rome, not Berlin. I said I'd make a bargain: if he would stop the general sponsorship of his campaigns—stop having liberals and Roman Catholics on the platform and drop the invitation system (altar calls)—I would whole-heartedly support him and chair the congress. We talked for three hours, but he didn't accept these conditions.

    I just can't subscribe to the idea that either congresses or campaigns really deal with the situation. The facts, I feel, substantiate my point of view: in spite of all that has been done in the last 20 or 25 years, the spiritual situation has deteriorated rather than improved. I am convinced that nothing can avail but churches and ministers on their knees in total dependence on God. As long as you go on organizing, people will not fall on their knees and implore God to come and heal them. It seems to me that the campaign approach trusts ultimately in techniques rather in the power of the Spirit. Graham certainly preaches the Gospel. I would never criticize him on that score”[6]


    Even within his own church and denomination, he faced controversy. Jones was an ardent non-cessationist and he believed that the Holy Spirit still worked in and through the lives of believers in signs and wonders. Dr. Jones preached this primarily in the context of revival and not so much in isolated events or people. He preached a number of sermons on this topic near the end of his ministry in the mid 1960’s. It has been said that he requested that these sermons not be published until after his death so as not to stir up any more internal controversy. Lloyd-Jones’ work was published primarily by Banner of Truth publishing, a company that he had helped establish with his long time assistant, Iain Murray. (Note to reader: Banner of Truth is adamantly cessationist in their beliefs and publications. 


    D. Martyn has been credited with the Church’s renewed interest in the Puritan preachers, theologians and their writings. “Under God, it was the ministry of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones that helped to create a demand for Puritan books. He so often referred to Puritan works in his preaching that people asked him where they could be found. He directed them to the Evangelical Library. Then he also chaired the Puritan Conference from its beginning in 1950 several years before the Puritan reprints began to appear. Thus, many people were longing for them by the time that they were available.”[7]


    “Preaching has been my life’s work; to me, the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” ~ MLJ


    “Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a phenomenon in the evangelicalism of Britain in the 20th century. What accounts for this was not only the powerful effect of his evangelistic preaching at a time of considerable apathy and spiritual decline. It was not only the call of a formidable intellect to his Christian and ministerial contemporaries to think through their evangelical faith to its implication for church and world - and an example of how to do it. It was not only the call to reformation and revival, a return to foundational doctrines and a prayerful hunger for an apostolic experience. What made Dr. Lloyd-Jones the phenomenon he was on the evangelical scene was the extra-ordinary combination of all these things.


    “He was a Bible man, but no mere scribe; he had a strong sense of history but he was also utterly abreast of his time; he was a preacher of eloquence, force and passion but one who scorned to be a performer. To hear his sermons on tape is to lose something of the atmosphere of the hour of their delivery, and yet they create their own atmosphere still. The truths are as forceful as ever, the message as relevant as ever and the pastoral and evangelistic wisdom is strengthening as ever.


    “This preaching carries conviction and strengthens conviction. These tapes will "restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast" (I Peter 5:10) as the God of all peace prepares you for your generation as He prepared Dr. Lloyd-Jones for his.” [8]

    D. Martyn Lloyd Jones retired from preaching after a major surgery in 1968. He did make a full recovery from the operation, but decided it was the right time for him to step down from the pulpit. He had seen too many other men press on long after they should have retired and he turned his focus to other ministry. For the next twelve years, he did the bulk of his writing, turning his sermons into books and that is when he produced one of his most well known and cherished works, the two-volume exposition of the Sermon on the Mount. During these last years the Doctor also spent a great deal of time meeting with, encouraging and mentoring other ministers.

    “Towards the end of February 1981, with great peace and assured hope, he believed that his earthly work was done. To his immediate family he said: 'Don't pray for healing, don't try to hold me back from the glory.' On March 1, 1981, St. David's Day and the Lord's Day, he passed on to the glory on which he had so often preached to meet the Savior he had so faithfully proclaimed.” [9]


    Additional Resources:

    D. Martyn Lloyd Jones: The Fight of Faith by Iain Murray

    Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

    John Piper’s biographical sermon on MLJ:


    MLJ Recordings Trust



    [1] http://www.mlj.org.uk/ (from an article in The Evangelical Times)

    [2] http://www.mlj.org.uk/ (from an article in The Evangelical Times)

    [3] Great Doctrines of the Bible, Editor’s Preface

    [4] http://www.mlj.org.uk/ (from an article in The Evangelical Times)

    [5] Christianity Today, 1980

    [6] Ibid.

    [7] Meet the Puritans, pg xiv, 2006

    [8] http://www.mlj.org.uk/ (intro by Rev. Peter Lewis)

    [9] http://www.mlj.org.uk/ (from the Rev. Peter Lewis’ introduction)