As Martyn Lloyd-Jones stepped into the pulpit at Westminster Chapel, he bore the appearance of a man who was physically fragile and frail. He was short and had a small frame. His bald head, ringed with thin hair on the side, added to the appearance of weakness. In the eyes of the world, this was not a powerful individual who projected strength.
This is how the Doctor appeared to one visitor who came to Westminster Chapel during World War II. When this man arrived, he found a note posted to the front door. It said that damage suffered from German bombings necessitated moving the worship service to a hall at another location. This individual walked to the temporary location and easily found a seat in a sparsely attended congregation.
As the service began, the visitor noted, “A small man in a collar and tie walked almost apologetically to the platform and called the people to worship. I remember thinking that Lloyd-Jones must be ill and that his place was being taken by one of his office-bearers.” This man standing before the people could not possibly be the preacher of note he had come to hear.
As the service continued, the first impression of the visitor remained unchanged. “This illusion [of weakness] was not dispelled during the first part of the service, though I was impressed by the quiet reverence of the man’s prayers and his reading of the Bible.” Introverted and monotone, this man who was leading the service surely had to be a last-minute stand-in.
When it came time for the sermon, the same mild man stepped into the pulpit with a quiet demeanor: “Ultimately he announced his text and began his sermon in the same quiet voice.” As the sermon started, little changed. However, it is what followed that bears our notice. The visitor recounted:
Then a curious thing happened. For the next forty minutes I became completely unconscious of everything except the word that this man was speaking—not his words, mark you, but someone behind them and in them and through them. I didn’t realize it then, but I had been in the presence of the mystery of preaching, when a man is lost in the message he proclaims.
This firsthand account could have been given by any one of countless individuals who heard the preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. As was so often the case, the Doctor was captured by the power of God in his exposition. How could this man of slender figure and quiet demeanor be transformed into a powerhouse for God? There can be no explanation for this dramatic change apart from the dynamic activity of the Holy Spirit that controlled him.
Throughout his preaching ministry, Lloyd-Jones was consciously aware of his complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit to ensure the effectiveness of the sermon. His total reliance upon God was needed for divine illumination in his study and for supernatural energy in the pulpit. In his preparation, he knew the Holy Spirit had to be his Teacher, the One who would open his eyes and instruct him in the text. Moreover, the Spirit had to deepen his convictions in these truths. The same reliance was true in the role of the Spirit in delivering the sermon. Lloyd-Jones believed there can be no real preaching apart from the internal empowering of the Spirit of God.