5 Stars Out Of 5
Not for fans of Facebook & Twitter Christianity
October 29, 2013
This 14 volume set by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is arguably the finest exposition of Paul's epistle to the Romans ever written. Lloyd-Jones was the preeminent evangelical preacher of his era and this set is exceptionally good because its volumes are a series of verse-by-verse expository sermons written for a live audience (the evangelist's Westminster congregation during 1955-1968). Unlike a typical bible commentary which is structured to move in staccato steps through Scriptureâ€”abruptly alternating between text and technical exegesisâ€”this unique format, with a narrative commentary that flows smoothly through the epistle, captures the Welsh pastor's phenomenal oratory skills and his passion to expound the gospel.
Preaching allowed Lloyd-Jones space to breathe out a full exposition of Paul's epistle, and because he was speaking to an audience seated in the pews before him, there is a dynamic present in these volumes between expositor and reader that is absent in other commentaries. Each sermon progressively unfolds the meaning of verse, literary unit and themeâ€”in contrast to a commentary that merely dissects them in order. Imagine listening to a live version of your favorite album after hearing the studio version and you'll grasp the contrast between this remarkable commentary and others.
Throughout the volumes, Lloyd-Jones periodically reminds his listeners that the epistles are but mere summaries of the apostle's thought and that we should slow down the pace of our bible reading and reflect more on the text at hand. The greatest lesson these volumes have taught me is that I miss the breadth of the apostle's teaching when I forget that his epistles are succinct, not sustained, doctrinal arguments. To Lloyd-Jones, the only method to properly convey the riches of Paul's letters is not through arid academic commentary, but by preaching the text. As Lloyd-Jones states in volume 6, "The New Man",
"The Christian is meant to glory in this â€˜But now' [Rom. 6:22]. He asserts it. That is why I maintain, and maintain stoutly, that a man who understands this truth cannot merely lecture on it. A man who can lecture on this does not really appreciate what it means. If you know anything about this you are bound to preach! A man who can say â€˜But now' coldly, and merely regard them as two words, just a part of the construction of a sentence, a part of the syntax, has never seen their real meaning. No, the Christian cannot look at these words without being moved to the depth of his being."
The New Man, pg. 288
The impassioned style of Lloyd-Jones's expository sermons is the manner in which I imagine Paul himself would have expounded upon his own epistle.
Lloyd-Jones never wrote what I term "drive-thru theology"â€”that superficial brand of Christian writing that is so dominant among contemporary Christian pastors, authors, and evangelical social media websites. Lloyd-Jones would have abhorredâ€”abhorred!â€” the trivial pastoral tweets that rapidly accumulate on these Christian Facebook, Twitter, and blog sites. He was an expository preacher who loved to instruct his listeners on the importance of regularly reading Scripture to grasp the solid theological doctrine that aids and encourages Christian spiritual growth (Heb. 5:12-13). I wish there were more pastors and theologians alive today who possessed his talent for exposition and his dedication to that calling.
When I first saw this set many years ago, I snickered to myself, "Only an egomaniac would write 14 volumes about one New Testament epistle, only a sucker would buy them, and only a lunatic would read them." I could not have been more mistaken on all accounts. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was anything but a pedantic egoist, and anyone who values well-written and sound biblical commentary is neither foolish for investing in the purchase of this remarkable set nor for the enjoyable hours spent in reading it.