The famous Doctor was one of my great heroes. For three years I studied in London and had the privilege of regularly hearing him preach from the historic Westminster Chapel pulpit. Gathering with the hundreds, I awaited the arrival of his bald dome as he ascended the stairs behind the rather massive pulpit, approached the podium and led us into our opening hymn.
Of course the atmosphere of the meeting was extraordinarily formal. Having said that, his long prayer which was part of the service wedged between two or three hymns was always uplifting and edifying, but what one actually attended the Chapel for and eagerly awaited was to hear the great man preach.
Often he would hold you absolutely spellbound by his exposition. The style differed considerably from most modern preachers. There was very rarely any humour or any personal reference. This was Bible exposition at its very best with very great dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit.
Inspired by the Spirit
I recall one particular evening hearing him preach on Acts 8, Philip’s arrival in Samaria. He spoke superbly about the impact of the gospel through Philip’s powerful ministry. After the service I asked him some questions about his sermon and was surprised to find that he initially asked me questions. ‘How many points did I say I had tonight?’ It was very rare for the Doctor to say in advance how many points he would make but I clearly remembered his saying that tonight he had three points. I replied, ‘Three.’ ‘Correct,’ he said and then asked another question, ‘And how many points did I preach?’ I paused for a moment and could not think of a second or third point being made. I replied, ‘One point.’ ‘Correct,’ he said.
He then told me that the Spirit of God had come upon him while he was preaching and had opened up all that he had said. He pointed to a few sheets of paper on the desk and smiled, ‘Those notes will do for next week!’ It was a memorable conversation.
I told him of my difficulties in being a ‘Reformed charismatic’ currently studying at Bible College in London where the power of the Holy Spirit was not welcome. His reply was that the greatest sin of the evangelical church was telling God what He could not do.
The fear of God
On another deeply memorable night at the Chapel, he started his sermon in Acts but was drawn into Romans 1 and concentrated on the three times where it is stated ‘God gave them up’. I haven’t heard such preaching before or since. I have never felt the sense of awe and fear of God as I felt during that amazing sermon.
As he concluded, we sang the inevitable closing hymn, but, having sung it, everyone sat in silence for long moments and no one rushed to leave the building. It was perhaps the most awesome moment I have ever known in church and an experience that was not simply personal to me but being felt across the whole hushed congregation.
If you have not noticed it yet, let me inform you that the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recording Trust has recently made freely available on its website nine sermons which were preached in 1969 in The Pensacola Theological Institute, the year after Dr Lloyd-Jones left Westminster Chapel.
Robin Lane has just made this known to me and I happily pass on the news.