T4G Article 4 – Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Expository Preaching

Most Mondays I take the time to raid my electronic version of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ materials, which is produced by Logos Bible Software. Today’s quote comes from a biography of the Doctor and includes several quotes from his writings that build a clear picture of the Doctor’s view of expository preaching. The passage begins with a well-known statement from the Doctor’s book, Preaching and Preachers, about the critical importance of preaching.

This post follows on from the quote I shared from John Piper on Expository Preaching last Friday. Earlier posts in this series on the Together for the Gospel Statement can be found in my post on The Place of Truth.

“The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.” (p.9)

The key phrase in this forthright statement is, of course, ‘true preaching.’ To him this was expository preaching, which he defines in his volume on 2 Peter as “preaching which is concerned to expound the Word of God and not merely to express the ideas of the preacher, preaching which is not merely topical and intended to suit the popular palate and conditions prevailing at the moment.” In his preface to volume one of Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, he says this:

A sermon is not an essay and is not meant, primarily, for publication, but to be heard and to have an immediate impact upon the listeners. This implies, of necessity, that it will have certain characteristics which are not found and are not desirable in written studies. To prune it of these, if it should be subsequently published, seems to me to be quite wrong, for it then ceases to be a sermon and becomes something quite nondescript. I have a suspicion that what accounts for the dearth of preaching at the present time is the fact that the majority of printed books of sermons have clearly been prepared for a reading rather than a listening public. Their flavour and form are literary rather than sermonic.

He had equally decisive views concerning the form of his sermons:

These are expository sermons which apart from minor corrections and adjustments were delivered as printed here. They are not lectures nor a running commentary on verses or passages. They are expositions which take the form of a sermon.

It has always been my view that this is how Scripture should be handled. Commentaries are of great value in arriving at an accurate understanding of the text, yet at their best they are only of value as scaffolding in the erection of a building. Moreover, it is vital that we should understand that an epistle such as this is only a summary of what the Apostle Paul preached. He explains that in chapter 1, verses 11-15. He wrote the Epistle because he was not able to visit them in Rome. Had he been with them he would not merely have given them what he says in this Letter, for this is but a synopsis. He would have preached an endless series of sermons as he did daily in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9) and probably have often gone on until midnight (Acts 20:7). The business of the preacher and teacher is to open out and expand what is given here by the Apostle in summary form.

But perhaps the best-and crispest-definition he gave of preaching is this sentence from Preaching and Preachers: “Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.” He saw the chief end of preaching as giving men and women “a sense of God and His presence.” He adds this personal postscript:

As I have said already, during this last year I have been ill, and so have had the opportunity and the privilege of listening to others instead of preaching myself.As I have listened in physical weakness this is the thing I have looked for and longed for and desired. I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him.

He frequently returned to the theme of “true” preaching. Here is another succinct comment: “The true preacher does not seek for truth in the pulpit; he is there because he has found it.” It all seems so simple, so obvious, so profound . . . .

JOHN PETERS, The Preacher – Biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1986 (Joseph Kreifels).

The biographer ends this section by quoting the doctor’s own description of his particular approach to expository preaching:

“My training in medicine and surgery are always with me. I look at a text, diagnose the condition and decide where I am to make the first incision. I cut deep through the layers of the tissue until I reach the heart of the problem. I deal with it and then rebuild and sew up.”

The T4G Statement series continues with Lloyd Jones on Spurgeon: Are Sermon Series Compulsory?

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he seves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso.

Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus.

Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway.

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