Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

Striking Similarities Between Two Extraordinary Expositors

One of my favorite preachers and Christian authors is Dr. Steve Lawson.  Pastor Lawson is a humble servant leader and so it is not surprising to observe the various ways God has chosen to use and bless this faithful jar of clay.  Steve serves as the main teaching pastor at a local church in Alabama

Dr. Lawson hosts a unique conference each and every year for bible expositors.  You can find out more about this conference at

Pastor Lawson has given me permission to republish the following article that originally appeared in the TMSJ.


Martyn Lloyd-Jones
and John MacArthur 

Striking Similarities Between Two Extraordinary Expositors

In each generation, there is raised up by God one dominant voice in the church that speaks with greatest biblical authority and theological profundity, yet with far-reaching appeal. Through his prolific pulpit and pen, such a pivotal figure becomes the primary instrument that most influences the direction of God’s work around the world. Whether it be John Calvin in the sixteenth century, John Owen in the seventeenth, Jonathan Edwards in the eighteenth, or Charles Spurgeon in the nineteenth, every hour of human history has one such strategic leader who marries both depth and breadth of ministry, and most impacts the times in which he lives. For the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a compelling case can be made that these two individuals are, respectively, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John MacArthur.

Through Lloyd-Jones’ prolific Westminster pulpit in London, and later by the global distribution of his printed sermons, this formidable leader came to be widely regarded in his day as “the greatest preacher in Christendom.” Affectionately known as “the Doctor,” this brilliant physician-turned-preacher became the foremost expositor in the mid-twentieth century and was the leading influence in bringing about a resurgence of biblical preaching. “There is little doubt,” Eric J. Alexander writes, “that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was the greatest preacher the English-speaking world has seen in the twentieth century.” Through his strategic pulpit, only a short walk from Buckingham Palace, Lloyd-Jones spoke to the nation and impacted the evangelical church around the world.

With unflagging confidence in Scripture, this fiery Welch-born preacher burned like a bright torch in a day that had witnessed “the decline in powerful biblical preaching in the English-speaking world.” Despite contemporary trends to the contrary, Lloyd-Jones staunchly refused to cave in to the many pressures around him that clamored for man-centered programs to attract a crowd. While others looked to church growth techniques, this feisty Puritan-born-out-of-due-time relied chiefly upon the exposition of the Word to build the church. In spite of his many skeptics, Lloyd-Jones eventually preached to capacity crowds of 2,500 on Sunday mornings and evenings and 1,200 each Friday evening. Throughout his ministry, Lloyd-Jones emphasized that the preaching of the Word must always be the priority.

Recognizing Lloyd-Jones’ enduring legacy, Peter Lewis writes, “In the history of the pulpit in Britain, the preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is outstanding. He takes his place in a long line of great preachers since the Protestant Reformation, who have stood for the reformation and renewal of the church, the evangelization and awakening of the world.”

Despite the spiritual decline in post-World War II England, this exemplarily expositor stood virtually alone in his commitment to biblical preaching. Hughes
Oliphant Old states, “The greatest impact of Lloyd-Jones on the English-speaking pulpit of today is the recovery of true expository preaching.” In addition, Lloyd-Jones founded the Banner of Truth Trust, a publishing house for the distribution of Puritan and Reformed literature. Moreover, he chaired the annual Puritan Conference and moderated the Westminster Minister’s Fraternal, leaving an indelible mark upon the Christian church.

Raising Up of A New Voice

As Lloyd-Jones stepped down from his Westminster pulpit on October 9, 1968, none could have known that at that moment, the next strong voice was being raised up across the Atlantic Ocean, one that would continue this same resurgence of biblical preaching. On February 9, 1969, only four months after Lloyd-Jones resigned his pastorate, a twenty-nine year old preacher assumed the pulpit of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, California and launched what would become more than four decades of prodigious sermon output. His name is John MacArthur, and like Lloyd-Jones before him, the focal point of his prolific ministry would be the clear and compelling exposition of the Scripture. Under his preaching, Grace Church would witness explosive growth from the 300 who first heard him in a small chapel to two morning services and one evening service filled to capacity its newly-built 3,000-seat auditorium. As with Westminster Chapel, so Grace Church would witness the unmistakable power of the Word of God preached.

The influence of MacArthur’s preaching has reached far beyond the walls of Grace Community Church, gaining “a reputation for solid expository preaching.” Flowing out of this pulpit has come nearly 400 books and study guides either written or edited by MacArthur. Included in this prolific ministry came the MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series, a thirty-one volume commentary set that when completed,will address every verse of every book in the New Testament. What is more, the MacArthur Study Bible is the direct fruit of this prolific pulpit and has become the cornerstone resource of his ministry, available in English, Spanish, Russian, German, French, Italian, Chinese, Arabic, with more languages on the way.

Reaching around the globe, the Grace pulpit has truly become a world pulpit, exerting an influence of staggering, if not unprecedented, proportions. Through “Grace to You” radio broadcasts, MacArthur’s sermons are heard daily some 1,000 times throughout the English-speaking world in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Philippines, South Africa, and beyond. In addition, his sermons are heard another 1,000 times daily in 23 Spanish-speaking countries, including Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and Columbia. Moreover, under this far-reaching pulpit, The Master’s Seminary was birthed in 1986 for the purpose of training men in expository preaching. Remarkably, a series of fourteen training centers have emerged around the world, known as The Masters Training Academy International (TMAI). These institutions are mostly staffed by TMS graduates and are designed to equip a new generation of biblical expositors throughout the world.

In the summer of 2011, MacArthur will complete his verse-by-verse exposition through the Gospel of Mark, which will mark a far greater milestone—the completion of his preaching at Grace Community Church through the entire New Testament. This monumental achievement of long term, consistent exposition will become a model inspiration and resource for pastors and teachers for generations to come. So remarkable is this accomplishment that one must go back to the voluminous output of Calvin in Geneva to find a comparable standard.

 A Striking Resemblance

Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur have proven to be, arguably, the premier expositors of the last two generations. What Lloyd-Jones was to the middle of the twentieth century, MacArthur has become to the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries. Though these two luminous preachers would never meet, and each would be his own man, many striking parallels can be identified between their pulpit ministries. The common ground shared by these two gifted preachers should serve as a positive example for all preachers to pattern their ministries.

In this article, the focus will be upon noted similarities
between the expository preaching of these two extraordinary men. What core commitments distinguished them as great preachers in their day? What can we learn from their distinguished ministries that are worthy of imitation by this generation of preachers? What are the common cornerstones upon which their pulpits were built? To answer these questions, the following parallels should be noted between these two extraordinary expositors.”  TO BE CONTINUED

John R. W. Stott (1921-2011)

“Preaching is indispensable to Christianity.” ~ Stott

John Stott passed earlier today. He will be remembered as a towering figure, not only in Anglicanism but in the broader evangelical movement. Some will fondly remember his astute clarity that he brought to the subject of the cross and the atonement. Others will surely lament (celebrate?) his agnosticism toward eternal punishment. Of interest to readers of this blog is his clear stance on the need for biblical expository preaching.

When Stott wrote Between Two Worlds in 1982, very few could be held up as champions of biblical preaching. To be sure, almost no one was writing about it. But 1982 was not an awakening for Stott, he had always believed this about preaching. In 1961 he penned The Preacher’s Portrait which would set the discussion of preaching today in its NT context. He said, “We need, I believe, to gain in the Church today a clearer view of God’s revealed ideal for the preacher, what he is and how he is to do his work.” To that, we can only say that the need is still great. The abiding legacy of Stott to we preachers, I believe, is the need for clarity in preaching.

“It requires much study, as we shall see later, not only of God’s Word but of man’s nature and of the world in which he lives. The expository preacher is a bridge builder, seeking to span the gulf between the Word of God and the mind of man. He must do his utmost to interpret the Scripture so accurately and plainly, and to apply it so forcefully, that the truth crosses the bridge” (The Preacher’s Portrait, 28).

Pastors reading theological journals

Darryl Dash has a good essay arguing that pastors should read theological journals. See the full essay here. In my sermon study, I tend to find that journal articles consistently offer more depth and insight than most commentaries. A few years ago I was able to buy a few shelves of journals from a retired pastor. These have been invaluable for researching writing projects and sermons. Another blessing has been my alma mater sending all graduates a lifetime subscription to our journal.

However, I believe the single best resource for journals is the Theological Journal Software produced by Galaxie Software (runs in Logos, Accordance, and Wordsearch platforms). This is an amazing resource that would be impossible to amass in hard copy form and its value is only bolstered by amazing search capabilities. You can search thousands of articles in a matter of seconds and the more refined the search the better the results.

Most of my research is usually on a specific text that I’m preaching so this is how I employ the journals in text specific study. In Logos, I create a collection to which I add my favorite journals (or you can add all journals). Then when I create a passage guide, my results will also reveal all the relevant journal articles related to my passage search. I know there are similar features in Accordance as well. I also use the search engine to research specific phrases or words in the original languages. So a search on μονογενής in my favorite journals yielded 23 articles appearing in 21 different resources. It found all of these in 0.72 seconds!!! The view panel offers a brief synopsis of each article from the results so I can quickly scan them to determine their relevancy to my study.

So I think Mr. Dash is spot on. Pastors should read theological journals. Everyone will have their favorites. My search almost always includes something from BSac, GTJ, Trinity, and JETS. There have also been some helpful surprises for the pastor involved in exegesis. To mention a couple, Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal and the Tyndale Bulletin have proved to be enormously useful in my study. So what are your favorites? Also, do you have tech tips that have been helpful to your study (specifically with journals)?

10 Books Every Preacher Should Read in 2011

There’s no explanation or comment but Al Mohler offers what he thinks every preacher should read in 2011. See his list here. Is there anything you would add to this list (published this year)?

In defense of “celebrity bible teachers” (some of them anyways)

One of the common targets conservative bloggers and pastors like to take aim at are those quote on quote, “celebrity bible teachers”.  I’ve always argued that “celebrity” is probably not the best word to use when describing these giants of the faith (men like Piper, Mohler, MacArthur, Sproul, Carson, etc).  If you’ve ever lived in Los Angeles or New York City you know how “real” celebrities are worshiped and followed.  Have you ever watched a movie premier before?  The last time I checked out the magazine rack at the grocery store the tabloids had zero interest in following around R.C. Sproul or John Piper.  The only time a pastor finds himself in a large magazine is when he does a Ted Haggard or if he makes the masses feel good about themselves like Joel Osteen does.

The conservative Christian community may take a larger interest in what certain well-known and well-respected bible teachers have to say but that is often because they’re uniquely gifted communicators and are top notch students of the Word.  For example, when Al Mohler writes a commentary piece on his blog it normally expresses my own personal convictions on the topic, only he says it in a much more memorable way.  Praise God for the way He’s chosen to gift various persons in His church.  I am grateful God has determined to bless certain men of God with larger platforms that they might preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified to even more people.  If it is ultimately about making mature disciples and advancing the kingdom of God shouldn’t we all rejoice in such developments?

Something tells me during the days of the early church that children raised in Christian homes looked up to their own heroes of the faith (Abraham, Moses, David, Hebrews 11); and I imagine Titus and Timothy viewed the apostle Paul the same way I view my spiritual mentors in the faith.  Any Christian who is worthy of the name “hero of the faith” possesses the same heart attitude as Paul in Philippians 3:17, Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 1 Corinthians 11:1, Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

Obviously some people divide themselves into divisive Christian cliques (“I’m of Paul, I’m of Peter, I’m of Barnabas”) but that is not the fault of those godly men.  Still others stop attending church altogether because they sit at home on Sundays and listen to their own “personal pastor”.  Those persons are immature and are outside of the will of God.   I’ve heard all the celebrity pastors mentioned above say just that.  “We’re not your pastor!  God’s will for your life is that you plug into a local church and that you submit yourself under the leadership of those godly men.  We too are men of clay, sinners saved by grace, worship Christ alone, etc, etc.”

Some people attack celebrity bible teachers because they assume that to be popular by default indicates compromise.  Others believe that to be popular is to be proud and I could go on and on.  The fact that Pastor Steve Lawson is willing to come to a little town in Illinois to minister to my congregation says the exact opposite thing.  The fact that John Piper recently spent time ministering to a group of prisoners in Africa says the exact opposite thing.  Need I provide more examples?  As far as we know these humble servants of the Lord are working out their salvation with fear and trembling.  We love these “jars of clay” because they help us understand the truth better.  We imitate their examples because they themselves are running hard after Christ.

Jonathan Edwards is My Hero

In June of 1850, Jonathan Edwards’ congregation in Northampton voted whether or not to retain him as their pastor. Only 23 of 230 voted in favor of Edwards—a mere 10 percent—and he was therefore terminated from the pastorate he held for 23 years. Leading up to his farewell sermon on July 1, 1750, Edwards’ demeanor was said to be remarkably calm, as noted at the time by Reverend David Hall in his diary:

I never saw the least symptoms of displeasure in his countenance the whole week, but he appeared like a man of God, whose happiness was out of the reach of his enemies, and whose treasure was not only a future but a present good, overbalancing all imaginable ills of life, even to the astonishment of many, who could not be at rest without his dismission.

“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).

What else do Spurgeon and MacArthur have in common?

Today Charles Spurgeon would have celebrated his 175th birthday while John MacArthur celebrates his 70th. Happy birthday gentlemen.

Interview with Walter Kaiser

Andy Cheung has a nice interview with Walter Kaiser. He notes:

More recently, there has been a view, from a good reformed position, that the New Testament has the right to reinterpret or attach meanings that were not in the text of the Old Testament. My way of thinking, as I have argued very hard in the book, is that this is eisegesis and I don’t see how that has any apologetic strength.

Read the entire interview here.

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)

This is why I like Buckley, “A precocious controversialist, William was but 8 years old when he wrote to the king of England, demanding payment of the British war debt.”

From Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review

I’m devastated to report that our dear friend, mentor, leader, and founder
William F. Buckley Jr., died this morning in his study in Stamford, Connecticut. He died while at work; if he had been given a choice on how to depart this world, I suspect that would have been exactly it. At home, still devoted to the war of ideas. As you might expect, we’ll have much more to say here and in NR in the coming days and weeks and months. For now: Thank you, Bill. God bless you, now with your dear Pat. Our deepest condolences to Christopher and the rest of the Buckley family. And our fervent prayer that we continue to do WFB’s life’s work justice.

A personal encounter with Al Mohler

By now most have heard that Al Mohler will soon undergo a very serious surgery for a tumor that has been found in his colon. Not only are our prayers with this great minister but my thoughts turned this evening to an unusual meeting I had with him a number of years ago.

When I was wet behind both ears I had an encounter with Dr. Al Mohler that I will never forget. I was the student leader at the University of Mobile for the ministerial student association. One of my jobs was to line-up speakers for our meetings and a major coup at that time was to book Dr. Mohler for a special dinner where he could address potential students for SBTS. He was fresh into his presidency at Southern and still facing enormous challenges from his own administration and faculty. Students were actively protesting against him and death threats were being made. In the midst of this turmoil he agreed to come to UM for one evening and address our ministerial students. If memory serves me correctly about twelve showed up for the meeting.

Before Dr. Mohler was to speak we had a nice quiet dinner and I had him all to myself at the front table. For about thirty minutes we talked about military history, preaching, theology, SBC politics, Jacques Barzun and whatever else I could think to ask him about. Looking back I am amazed he was able to eat anything at all because I had peppered him with so many questions. What I remember is that he was incredibly gracious and patient with me. He listened and he helped me enormously.

When it was his time to speak to a packed house of twelve he spoke as if he was addressing a thousand yet was very personable and warm. At the end of his message which was about the need for preaching and the vision he had for SBTS he opened the floor for questions which came at a steady pace for about thirty minutes. He answered every question and stayed around to talk to the students after the dinner. Dr. Mohler stayed until every student left.

In the time since he has become a household name among evangelicals. He is a man that is hated as much as he is loved. However, his impact as the ninth president of Southern Seminary will continue to reach far beyond their own graduates. Although I didn’t know it the night I met with Dr. Mohler, I would not go on to Southern as I had originally planned. The Lord had other plans for me that took me well beyond my SBC comfort zone. Though I would not become one of his many students I remain grateful for those quiet moments we shared where he encouraged me to be a faithful minister and shepherd of God’s people.

We at Expository Thoughts are praying for a healthy recovery and God’s peace for Dr. Mohler’s family.

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