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Who was Martyn Lloyd-Jones?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899—1981) was a brilliant and successful young British physician who left medicine to become one of the twentieth century’s most gifted preachers, authors, and theologians. He ministered for 30 years at London’s Westminster Congregational Chapel, where many of Britain’s cabinet members and leading social figures attended services. With no formal theological training, Lloyd-Jones delivered compelling sermons that attracted thousands and established him as one the “greatest Bible expositors in the English-speaking world” (Henry, C. F. H., “Martyn Lloyd-Jones: From Buckingham to Westminster,” Christianity Today, 1980, p. 155).

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones was one of three boys born to Welsh parents in Cardiff, UK. When he was six, the family moved to Cardiganshire, where his parents joined the local Calvinistic Methodist church. The family moved again in 1914 to London to operate a dairy business. In 1916, David Martyn began to study medicine at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London along with 81 other students, including his future wife, Bethan Phillips.

At 22, Lloyd-Jones’s intelligence earned him a position as junior house physician to the renowned Sir Thomas Horder, doctor to the royal family. Within two years, he was promoted to Horder’s chief clinical assistant. He obtained his MD from London University in 1923 and became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians while working at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital until 1926.

In early 1927, Martyn Lloyd-Jones married Bethan Phillips. The couple would later have two daughters, Elizabeth and Ann. Leading up to this time, the up-and-coming physician had begun to sense a change. He saw a deep need in his patients—a soul sickness that ordinary medicine could not heal. Although Lloyd-Jones had been active in the church, his faith had held a minor focus until this point. Now, as he pondered these concerns, he came to understand his own need for God and His gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Lloyd-Jones was born again and committed himself to Christian ministry.

Martyn was ordained in 1927, and he and Bethan returned to South Wales to minister to the small Presbyterian congregation in Aberavon, Port Talbot. Before long, Martyn caught the attention of G. Campbell Morgan, who called him in 1938 to assist and later co-pastor with him at Westminster Chapel in London. After Morgan retired in 1943, Lloyd-Jones became the sole pastor at Westminster Chapel until his formal retirement in March 1968.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones faithfully led the London congregation for three decades, including the difficult years of World War II. According to him, delivering God’s message required three essentials: the message had to be biblical, informative, and Christ-centered. He considered preaching “the highest and greatest and the most glorious calling” (Douglas, J., “Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn,” Who’s Who in Christian History, ed. Douglas and Philip Comfort, Tyndale House, 1992, p. 428).

Lloyd-Jones’ aptitude for Bible exegesis took Westminster Chapel to the forefront of evangelical pulpits in England. He preached “45-minute sermons on Sunday mornings” directed toward believers and “hour-long expositions at night” directed toward unbelievers. “His Friday evening Bible studies . . . attracted 1,200 persons. He taught without interruption for an hour, and many listeners wished he would continue longer” (Henry, op. cit.). Lloyd-Jones was famous for teaching extended verse-by-verse series, like the one on Ephesians, which included 260 sermons, starting in October 1954 and lasting until July 1962. He spent twelve years teaching through the Book of Romans.

A voracious reader, Lloyd-Jones read through the entire Bible every year and devoured volumes of major works from great preachers and theologians such as John Owens, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Charles Spurgeon, J. C. Ryle, and B. B. Warfield. Historians describe him as a robust Calvinist and a conservative evangelical who was uncompromising in his Reformed theology.

In 1966, Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave an address on Christian unity at the Assembly of the National Association of Evangelicals in London. He challenged evangelicals to leave theologically liberal mainline denominations that had dangerously compromised their witness. This confrontation sparked controversy between him and Anglican leaders, including his friend John Stott.

As a minister, Martyn Lloyd-Jones was deeply devoted to God, to his family, and to shepherding his congregation. His sense of humor was disarming, and his intense desire for spiritual renewal within evangelical churches was galvanizing. Lloyd-Jones was also a pastor to other pastors, offering advice and encouragement and speaking in their churches. From 1943 to 1967, he chaired the Westminster Ministers’ Fraternal, a monthly meeting of evangelical ministers from all denominations. By the 1960s, the gatherings included as many as 400 pastors.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones also helped establish and lead the Inter-Varsity Fellowship (later known as the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship), the Evangelical Library in London, the Banner of Truth Trust, the London Theological Seminary, the Christian Medical Fellowship, and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. However, his most remarkable contributions were in preaching, teaching, and evangelism. His authoritative exposition and application of the Scriptures were radically distinctive.

When illness forced him to retire from the pulpit in 1968, Martyn Lloyd-Jones poured himself into editing his sermon transcripts for publication and writing numerous books. Some of his most influential works include Truth Unchanged, Unchanging (1951), From Fear to Faith (1953), Conversions: Psychological and Spiritual (1959), Sermon on the Mount (two volumes, 1959—1960), and Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures (1964).

Martyn Lloyd-Jones died in London on March 1, 1981. A few days earlier, he had written to his wife and daughters, “Do not pray for healing. Do not hold me back from the glory” (Rusten S., with Michael, E., The Complete Book of When & Where in the Bible and throughout History, Michael E Rusten, 2005, p. 480).

Here are some standout quotes from Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“The business of the church and of preaching is not to present us with new and interesting ideas, it is rather to go on reminding us of certain fundamental and eternal truths.” (Expository Sermons on 2 Peter)

“Instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way . . . remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged himself to do.” (Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure)

“Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God.” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)

“I sometimes think that the very essence of the whole Christian position and the secret of a successful spiritual life is just to realize two things . . . I must have complete, absolute confidence in God and no confidence in myself.” (Reflections: A Treasury of Daily Readings)

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This page last updated: March 20, 2024