Authentic Christianity: Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles, Volume 2: Acts 4-5, by D M Lloyd-Jones, published by the Banner of Truth Trust, hardback, 328 pages, £15.95, obtainable from the F P Bookroom.
It appears that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) influenced many towards a high view of the authority and “timelessness” of Scripture, and an appreciation of preaching which sets out to expound the mind of God in the passage which is the basis of the sermon. His intensity as a preacher arose largely from his often-avowed conviction of the divine and infallible truth of the Scripture expounded and its “relevance” to sinners today. During his time at Westminster Chapel he came to be regarded as the mentor and (Welsh) voice of much English Evangelical Nonconformity and assisted many, in pulpit and pew, who sought a more Biblical understanding of truth and life.
We regret that his idea that a form of Church Government cannot be derived from Scripture prevented him from presenting coherent Biblical guidance in this matter to those who looked to him. His position with regard to worship is further evidence of how one who had such a high regard for the Puritans, and did so much to commend them, did not apply their regulative principle in some areas of church life. We cannot follow him in his views of ecclesiology in general or, in particular, baptism and Church-state relations and other important matters. Neither can we agree with all his interpretations, emphases and expressions in preaching. But many of his publications have proved instructive, stimulating and edifying to readers who differ from him in these things, and these points are mentioned here just to alert readers to the fact that in this volume they will find evidence that a preacher’s position on such matters will affect his interpretation and application of truth. We must always follow the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
This is the second in a projected series of volumes of sermons on the Acts of the Apostles under the general title Authentic Christianity. Most of the sermons in this volume on Acts 4:1-5:14 were preached in 1965-66 at evening services in Westminster Chapel. They do not present a detailed, systematic or concise commentary on the text and they range widely in their reiterative method of teaching – hence the number of sermons on one passage. They repeatedly affirm the objective, historical facts of the gospel. They have the unconverted primarily in mind and aim at showing the folly of the arrogant self-confidence of the unregenerate sinner’s mind. They set out to demonstrate that unbelief is not accounted for by reason or by the alleged findings of science but by the depraved will and affections of the sinner.
The earlier sermons concentrate on how Acts 4:1-12 illustrates the essential nature, causes, folly and futility of the unbelief which rejects the gospel in all ages and the necessity of responding to that unbelief with the reiteration of the truth. In this way the preacher supports what one might say is the basic thesis of this volume: that Acts “is a book of history but that it is more than that . . . in this book we are given, in embryo, as it were, practically the whole history of the Christian Church” (p 20). Modern man is essentially the same as man in the first century AD and needs the same gospel. The preacher hopes to help hearers to diagnose what is really wrong with them so that they will see their need of the right treatment. He hopes that in the process those who think that they are Christians, but are not, will discover their true state. In these aims he confesses the absolute dependence of preacher and hearer on the grace of God the Holy Spirit. In the Acts of the Apostles “we are mainly looking at the activity of God the Holy Spirit and this is as essential to the Christian message as the activity of the Father and of the Son” (p 195). “I am simply here to put the truth before you and it is the Spirit of the living God alone who can apply that truth, and He does” (p 328).