The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones 1899-1981, Iain H. Murray,
The Banner of Truth Trust, 2013, 476pp
Although I never heard Martyn Lloyd-Jones preach, his ministry had a huge effect on my early Christian life as I hungrily devoured his sermons on Romans and Ephesians and other published addresses besides. Wanting to know more about the man behind the messages I read and very much enjoyed Iain Murray’s two volume biography of the preacher, also published by the Banner of Truth. This edition of Murray’s life of Lloyd-Jones is a condensed and updated version of the larger works, which between them add up to over 1200 pages.
Lloyd-Jones’ story makes for a gripping read. He turned his back on an eminent medical career in order to become a preacher in Mission Hall in depression era Port Talbot. The Lord blessed his work there and many were converted under his earnest and passionate evangelical preaching. He was then called to Westminster Chapel in London, where he served for thirty years. There he regularly preached to thousands who were captivated by his powerful expository ministry.
Lloyd-Jones helped to spearhead the recovery of Reformed teaching in the United Kingdom, both through his preaching and by his involvement in organisations and initiatives such as IVF (now UCCF), the Evangelical Library and the Westminster Conference. He helped to found the London Theological Seminary.
His ministry was not without controversy. In 1966 he urged evangelicals to come together rather than be subsumed in the Ecumenical Movement. While many heeded his call and left the mixed denominations, other evangelicals such as John Stott and J. I. Packer followed a policy of integration rather than separation. Ironically the preacher’s call for Evangelical Unity left evangelicals badly divided and much ink has been spilt in trying to determine exactly what ‘the Doctor’ hoped to achieve. Murray interacts with some of Lloyd-Jones’ critics in an attempt to set the record straight.
This is not a critical biography that aims at presenting a coolly detached view of is subject. Lloyd-Jones and Murray were great friends and it shows. The author’s evident sympathy for the physician-cum-minister shines through on every page and enables him to present a convincing psychological and spiritual portrait of ‘the Doctor’. Murray’s treatment of Lloyd-Jones’ boyhood years and the account he gives of his death in the final chapter are especially moving.
Mrs Lloyd-Jones said that her husband was ‘first of all a man of prayer and then an evangelist’. In our era of media courting celebrity pastors, it is refreshing to read of an evangelical leader who refused to stand for a press photographer. He preached not himself, but Christ Jesus the Lord and did so in demonstration of the Spirit and power. Through his books and recordings of his preaching being dead, Lloyd-Jones still speaks to today, urging us to hold fast to the gospel that he lived to proclaim and died believing. This condensed biography serves as a welcome reminder of the man and his message.
* Reviewed for Evangelical Times.