Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones was born in Wales in 1899 and at the age of 27 he gave up a promising medical career to become a preacher. From 1938 to 1968 he was minister of the Westminster Chapel in London. Admittedly prior to this book I’ve had very limited exposure to the work of Lloyd-Jones, except for the occasional quotes mentioned in sermons. While I may not agree with some of his more charismatic views, this is a commendable book. Just 5 chapters totaling 120 pages, The Plight of Man and the Power of God offer’s Jones’ expositional insight into the latter half of Romans chapter 1, Paul’s introductory thesis on the sinful nature and depravity of man. This is a powerful little book that is bold in its description of: man’s attempts at “religion”, morality, the depth of our sinful nature, the wrath of God on sin, and the only solution, namely Jesus Christ.
Lloyd-Jones sets the tone early with his exposition on Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In this chapter he states:
“Men resent the very idea of God and feel that it means and implies their liberty is somehow curtailed. They believe that they are fit to be masters of their fate and captains of their souls, and believing that, they demand the right to manage themselves in their own way and to live their own lives. They refuse to worship and to glorify God. They disown Him and turn their backs upon Him and say that they do not need Him. They renounce His way of life and shake off what regard as the bondage and serfdom of religion and a life controlled by God. That is why man has always turned from God. He confuses lawlessness and license with freedom; he is a rebel against God and refuses to glorify God.”
If ever there was a statement that summarizes the nature of religion in this country, it is this powerful quote from Lloyd-Jones.
In chapter 2 the focus shifts to Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” as Lloyd-Jones addresses the morality of man, an appropriate read given the modern day attempts at “moralistic therapeutic deism” that has become so prevalent in the Church today. He summarizes as follows, “It [morality] provides us with no power to restrain ourselves from sin, for its arguments can easily be brushed aside. It provides no power to restore us when we have fallen into sin. It leaves us as condemned failures and, indeed, makes us feel hopeless. It reminds us that we have failed, that we have been defeated, that we have not maintained the standard. And even if it appeals to us to try again it really condemns us while so doing and dooms us to failure. For it still leaves the problem to us. It cannot help us. It has no power to give us. And having failed once, we argue, we are likely to fail again. Why try, therefore? Let us give in and give up and abandon ourselves to our fate.” Precisely the problem that every person faces who attempts to use morality to gain righteousness.
Chapter 3 summarizes “The Nature of Sin” as detailed in Romans 1:18, 28, 32, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Romans 1:28 “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Romans 1:32 Here he states that the Apostle Paul’s “first great principle is that sin is deliberate. At once he levels against sin the charge of deliberateness.” This is a point that often gets overlooked today as many are willing to view sin as something they just do and simply cannot help themselves, which in turn leads to a life of licentiousness.
In Chapter 4 Lloyd-Jones addresses the very topic that seeker-sensitive, easy believism churches so quickly dismiss, namely the nature of the wrath of God. He affirms this is the case even in his day as he states, “I content myself with saying that as men have ceased to believe in the wrath of God, and have discarded the idea of law and righteousness, so their moral standards have gradually deteriorated and conduct has become lax and loose.” Finally, as he concludes his exposition, Lloyd-Jones settles in on Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” This verse provides the solution for each of the previous problems he identifies by stating Jesus Christ is the only way and that we must “believe on Him…yield ourselves to Him…and begin to make of Him our only boast here and now.”
In summary this book by Jones hits home with several of the major issues facing the Church today, primarily with the attempts to replace Christ with morality, the avoidance and lack of sin recognition, and a lack of understanding for the wrath of God. This is a worthwhile book that is written in a straightforward tone with language that draws in the reader and doesn’t leave them trying to decipher what the author is saying. Though some of his views later in life may have diverged more from reformed tradition, nevertheless Martyn Lloyd-Jones is a solid expositional preacher and The Plight of Man and the Power of God is a commendable effort.
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