Understanding the fiery preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones requires an apprehension of the exceedingly high view he possessed of preaching. He believed that the chief business of the church is what Paul charged Timothy with his dying words, to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Preaching must come first in the life of the church before anything else can find its rightful place. With compelling clarity, he stated, “The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.” Nothing, he maintained, must ever supplant the primacy of biblical preaching in the pulpit. The Doctor believed everything in the life of the church is defined and directed by the proclamation of the Scripture.
Through the many challenges Lloyd-Jones faced, the public exposition of Scripture consistently occupied the central place in his ministry in Wales and London. In his estimation, the pulpit held the chief place in his ministry, and it was here that he exerted his greatest influence. Through his preaching, he left an indelible imprint upon those who came to hear his expositions.
Lloyd-Jones believed that preaching worthy of the name—biblical preaching, expository preaching, true preaching—is the loftiest task to which anyone could commit himself. This one-time physician came to see that preaching the Word most effectively brings about the healing of the soul.
When he asked, “What is a preacher?” Lloyd-Jones replied with the following succinct description:
The first thing, obviously, is that he is a speaker. He is not primarily a writer of books, he is not an essayist or a literary man; the preacher is primarily a speaker. So if the candidate has not got the gift of speech, whatever else he may have, he is not going to make a preacher. He may be a great theologian, he can be an excellent man at giving private advice and counseling, and many other things, but by basic definition, if a man has not got the gift of speech he cannot be a preacher.
For Lloyd-Jones, the preacher possessed the gift of speech first and foremost, and with this gift he proclaimed the truths of Scripture. No matter how intelligent a man is or how well he knows theology, a preacher is a man with the supernatural endowment to speak divine truth in a way that is clear and compelling to the listener.
In substantiating the primacy of preaching, Lloyd-Jones pointed to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ: “In the life and ministry of our Lord Himself, you have this clear indication of the primacy of preaching and of teaching.” Lloyd-Jones saw preaching as the chief activity to which the Lord devoted Himself in His public work. Christ also assigned this same priority of preaching to His Apostles. These men, Lloyd-Jones noted, were “filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost” and as a result, they immediately “began to preach.”
Other pressing needs arose in the early church, yet church leaders remained focused on their primary calling. Lloyd-Jones paraphrased Peter’s assertion in Acts 6:4: “We are here to preach this Word, this is the first thing, ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.’ “ By this statement, Lloyd-Jones stressed that preaching the Word with prayer is the primary task of the church. He strongly asserted that these “priorities are laid down once and forever . . . and we must not allow anything to deflect us from this.” He believed that the priority of preaching the Word needed to be reestablished in his day.