The Doctor

by Bernard R. DeRemer

D. [David] Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) ranks "among the greatest preachers of all time,"* yet he began studying medicine and was on the threshold of a promising career in that field. Then came the clear call of God and his response.

Lloyd-Jones was born in Wales and early became a church member, yet did not come to know the Lord for several years. He received a medical degree in 1921 and joined the Royal College of Physicians. But he became convinced that men needed most the new birth. As he pondered spiritual issues, he was born again in his own study.

Now he was so drawn to the work of gospel-preaching that he left medicine to become a lay preacher. After ordination, he was soon in demand for services in many parts of Wales. Large numbers heard him, many were converted, and "blessed days of revivalcame in the work at Sandfields."

He had entered the ministry without the usual seminary education. But his medical background and training served him well; the study and research, which had guided his scientific work, now led him "into a lifelong course of theological reading and inquiry."

His deep, wide reading included the Works of John Owen (16 volumes). When he discovered the Works of Jonathan Edwards, he testified, "I devoured these volumes and literally read and read them. It is certainly true that they helped me more than anything else." He grew rapidly in grace and in knowledge of the Lord.

In 1938 the great G. Campbell Morgan (see "Prince of Expositors," Pulpit Helps, October, 2000) invited him to become co-pastor of Westminster Chapel, London. But World War II, which started the following year, caused great hardships and difficulties. The huge earlier congregations had dwindled to a few hundred by the time Morgan went to be with the Lord in 1945.

At war's end, Lloyd-Jones found himself in charge, but preaching to pitifully small numbers in a badly deteriorated chapel. Nevertheless he accepted the challenge. His preaching alone built up a new congregation so that by the 1950s and beyond his hearers numbered in the thousands. "Success of this kind and on this scale was not granted to any other British preacher of that period," according to R. B. Lanning.

Sometimes his sermons were faulted for their lack of illustrations. However, this overlooks the vast array of citations from Scripture and the use of hymns. These were used skillfully "both to illustrate his meaning and to give force and point to his applications."

When illness ended his ministry at the chapel in 1968, he took up the task of editing sermon transcripts for publication. At his death many had appeared in print; since then many more have been issued. Lloyd-Jones titles available now would fill "a fair-sized bookshelf and more await publication." Demand for his books throughout the world continues.

Preaching and Preachers is not a homiletics text but rather a sort of autobiography. It reveals much about his spiritual outlook and experience, "and shows how he went about his work and what principles guided him along the way. [It provides] a good starting point for anyone setting out to make a thorough study of the preacher and his preaching."

Aside from medicine and theology, Lloyd-Jones pursued many other interests, including history, literature, politics, and current events.

He had a "keen sense of humor and a capacity for good fun," but kept them out of his messages.

Disease slowly consumed him physically, yet he seemed to grow in spiritual strength, "becoming radiant at times and knowing greatly the peace of God." On Feb. 26, 1981, in a shaky hand, he wrote to his family, "Do not pray for healing. Do not hold me back from the glory."

On the following Lord's Day, known as St. David's Day, he entered that glory, his prodigious labors ended and his glorious mission fully accomplished.


*Quotes from "The Doctor," by R. B. Lanning, in More Than Conquerors; 1992, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; excerpts used by permission.

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