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REVIEW OF IAIN MURRAY'S THE LIFE OF MARTYN LLOYD-JONES

06/26/2018

REVIEW OF THE LIFE OF MARTYN LLOYD-JONES
By Iain Murray; BANNER OF TRUTH; 2013; 475 pages; paperback

This is the only book, besides the Bible, that I have read 12 times! Why, you say, would I want to do that?

Well, in 1984 as a young pastor I was given this book in its original format (2 volumes in hardback) for my edification and growth. Coming out of broad
Evangelicalism into seeing the so-called ‘doctrines of grace’, I still clung to the idea that men who knew God deeply and preached with power were long gone. Where were the men God was using and where were the men who knew God deeply?

Various types of contemporary theology tempted me to disregard the godly heritage of men whom God used since the Protestant Reformation. But seminary with its accompanying temptations to spiritual aridity prompted me to read the life of George Whitefield. I found an 18th century man who knew God deeply and preached with incredible power his whole life (from age 24 until he died at age 56). I read of 19th century giant Charles Spurgeon and saw another great man of God. But I was not convinced that men of God of a Reformed persuasion were being used by God in the 20th century.

After all, I was a 20th century parachurch whiz and we saw results. We were pragmatists. Whatever worked was right! Then I read of the life and ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones and I saw my foolish heart revealed. Dr. Lloyd-Jones (hereafter MLJ) left a prominent and promising medical practice in London to become the pastor of a church plant in a small town in Wales—with a 40% unemployment. The usual suspects—drunkenness, prostitution and gambling—were rife. The town was
solidly blue collar—coal miners, longshoremen and steel workers. MLJ wanted to go to a place where was no sociological reason for interest in the gospel other than the fact that God honored the preaching of the gospel of His Son.

He preached evangelistic sermons unlike so-called evangelistic sermons in America today.He reasoned with his hearers from the Scriptures, showing them the pride and foolishness of man’s solutions to his problems and the answers only found in Christ and His gospel. He saw
the first convert six months into his ministry and some two years later a mini-revival took place that shook the community and from which the ripples went out across Wales.

With students and fellow pastors I have demanded that they prayerfully read chapters 4-11. They the heart of the material covering MLJ’s pastorate in Wales. Church historian Carl Trueman said that all young pastors needed to read this material to truly grasp what they
should be about. Chapter 4 covers his conversion from an assumed Christianity to a real and living Christianity. Chapter 5 covers his call to the ministry while a doctor working for the famous Lord Horder, Doctor to the Queen of England. Isn’t a minister just a man with the gift of gab who can work up a message for Sunday and return to his regular job on Monday? Chapter 7 is a different kind of preaching. Most ministers preached to their people as if they were all converted and doing well. As a medical doctor, MLJ helped them diagnose and see
their true spiritual condition before the holy God. Chapter 9 shows a leader without a party.Evangelicalism was going in one direction but MLJ was going in another. Was he right? Was his diagnosis of the problems and the biblical solutions correct? Chapter 10 almost always makes me weep. It is about the mini-revival that came upon the church and the community.

What took me many reads to see was that the converts were not little girls in Sunday School. They were the hardest and from the church’s perspective the most lost people of the community. The town drunk, the palm reader, the hard man whose hobby was bare-knuckle
fighting at fairs (while in his 50’s). The church and the world had given up on these people and they had probably given up on themselves but then they heard about the preaching going on at the church. I will stop my ringing endorsement here for time's sake.

This paperback volume is a condensation of the magisterial two volume edition (400+.pages in volume one and 700+ pages in volume two). The two volume edition is still available but this one volume is just right in size and scope for most folks. The great material from
volume one is not shortened and MLJ’s critics are answered too. I give both this paperback edition and the two volume edition my highest approval.

And by the way, why did I read this 12 times? Because as a young pastor in 1984 and following, I did not know any other men who were doing what MLJ was obviously doing and had accomplished (he had gone to be with his Lord in 1981). I read and reread and reread the book to keep me on track and clear about where I was going and where I wanted to take my church God had entrusted to me.

Steve Martin (31 years a pastor in Atlanta)
Dean of Students; IRBS Theological Seminary in Texas

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