Doctrinal Preaching

I am currently reading through Iain Murray’s latest book on the preaching of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. There is much about the book I could comment on, but what caught my attention the other day was ML-J’s emphasis on doctrinal preaching. I offer a hearty amen to his unpopular stand on the necessity of clear, persuasive doctrinal preaching. Is there really any other legitimate kind? (That is a rhetorical question demanding a “no”!)

Murray, in speaking about the unpopular nature of books of sermons, notes that ML-J was the grand exception to the publishing rule. “It is true that unction cannot be put on the printed page, but the sermons showed what theology and doctrine should do in the exposition of Scripture. The Pauline method, ML-J believed, in addressing Christians was ‘to open out doctrines, to teach them, to instruct them, to establish them, to ground them…'” (21-22).

ML-J went on to point out that “Preaching is theology coming through a man that is on fire” (22). Preaching is not about telling stories. Yes, the Bible is a grand narrative, but it is that and so much more. But I am one of those odd ducks that thinks the Bible actually teaches something. And it needs to be told with conviction, boldness, and passion.

I first came in contact with the sermons of ML-J back in 1986 and have greatly benefited from them ever since. It is not as though I agree with everything ML-J taught. I have my disagreements. For instance, I am convinced of the redemptive-historical approach to theology and preaching (see Nick Batzig’s helpful comments in his recent post on the preaching on Derek Thomas). But ML-J strikes the right chord with his emphasis on doctrine. All doctrine, rightly conceived, leads to godliness. Can that trek get short-circuited? Undoubtedly. But we really do need to train our congregations to digest meaty sermons. Christianity in America is in a terrible mess because Christians fail to reckon with the teaching of the Bible. Bible knowledge is at an all time low. Does knowledge save by itself? Of course not. But one cannot be saved without it!

I pray that our Lord would raise up more men with a vision for preaching like David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. May his tribe increase!

* Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace, by Iain H. Murray, was published in 2008 by Banner of Truth Trust of Carlisle, PA and Edinburgh, UK. It includes a CD with a sermon on John 8:21-24 preached by ML-J on June 6th, 1960.

3 Responses

  1. Martin Downes

    Well, to be fair he remained a Presbyterian minister throughout his life even if he went to the cathedral of non-conformity that was Westminster Chapel.

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