Posted by: Tim | April 12, 2009

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Principles of Evangelism

In our weekly staff meeting we are reading through Will Metzger’s book on evangelism, Tell the Truth. We have been at it for a couple of weeks and have completed the preface, introduction and chapter one. Already we have found it to be a challenging and encouraging book. I read most of this book last year but found I did not digest everything in it and this time through I am already catching much more than I did the first time. In chapter one (p30), Metzger quotes Martin Lloyd-Jones, the famous Welsh preacher (who, I am told, visited Three Hills to speak at Prairie Bible Institute, many years ago), giving his foundational principles of evangelism. Here they are below, with my comments in italics:

1. The supreme object of the work of evangelism is to glorify God, not to save souls.

This makes sense in principle, but I have to admit that it is easy to neglect in practice. I need to keep this principle before me! It is easy to have tunnel-vision on the soul-saving part and forget the God-glorifying part.

2. The only power that can do this work is the Holy Spirit, not our own strength.

Since I don’t feel like I have much strength as an evangelist, this principle is easy for me to accept!

3. The one and only medium through which the Spirit works is the Scriptures; therefore we “reason out of the Scriptures” like Paul did.

This underlines the priority of speaking words of Scripture as central to our evangelist efforts. I have been thinking recently of how to share Scripture in the flow of my normal conversation, instead of pausing to say the reference, or ‘the Bible says’. My thought is that the appeal to authority (the Bible, God) is not meaningful to many people today, so rather than distract them with it, it may be better to share the Scripture in natural conversation and let the Holy Spirit apply it to their hearts, whether or not they realize it is Scripture they are hearing. I am wrestling with this thought a bit and would appreciate any thoughts you have about it – maybe introducing a quote as being God’s Word is important (this certainly happens a lot when the NT quotes the OT, though many OT allusions are not introduced directly – this would be an interesting study). What do you think?

4. These preceding principles give us the true motivation for evangelism-a zeal for God and a love for others.

I have thought for a while that a lot of challenges to evangelize place love for neighbour above love for God. I have been encouraged by John Piper’s book on missions, Let the Nations be Glad, where he writes, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t”. Our motivation for missions (and evangelism in general) is the greatness of God and our desire for others to worship Him. It is not that saving people from hell is not also an important motivator (it is!), but it is not the most important motivator.

5. There is a constant danger of heresy through a false zeal and employment of unscriptural methods.

If saving people from hell holds higher priority than the worship of God, then it seems to me that we will do anything to get someone saved, and that ‘anything’ which we employ may not be scriptural, and may not honour the Lord.

Thoughts? Comments?


  1. There was a time when I thought God only spoke through the Bible. How freeing to “hear” God’s Spirit on a regular basis as I walk through the day. I hear Him reminding me that I need Him. I hear Him tell me he loves me. I hear His prompting to love people, to talk to people.
    I can not imagine my relationship with my husband if he only gave me a book to read, only gave me letters to read. It is a one on one communication. And so it is with God.
    “Witnessing, evangelism” come as I walk with Jesus and share what Jesus is showing me to share. Sometimes that is just a listening ear or a hug.
    It happens as I allow God to “will and to act” according to His purpose. And I believe some people are gifted in evangelism more than others.
    I am so slow at learning but so enjoying the freedom of the Spirit living in me. So enjoying resting in the knowledge that He who began the work will complete it!

  2. Hi ‘Grandma Karin’,

    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.

    I have noticed that sometimes people put “Word” and “Spirit” in opposition to one another – either they follow the Bible or are led by the Spirit, but not both.

    But Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the ‘Spirit of truth’, who “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said” (John 14:16-17,26, 15:26), and the apostle Paul saw Word and Spirit as so complementary that He could use them interchangeably (compare Colossians 3:16 with Ephesians 5:18-19). The Biblical teaching is that we are to have the Word of Christ dwell in us richly AND that we are to be filled with the Spirit.

    God bless you and your family and thanks again for visiting my blog.


  3. Hello Pastor Tim,

    It’s nice to come on here and read your blog every once in awhile, it feels like I’m back in Three Hills again.

    I’m curious how the author expands on point 3 in his book. It sounds like he is saying that the Holy Spirit will only work through someone hearing or reading the Bible.

    Could you expound on what he is really saying? I understand the importance of reasoning from scripture but surely Prayer is a huge medium through which the spirit works as well. And that isn’t even mentioning healing, dreams, prophecy and the like.

    It’s great that he is coming from a foundational perspective though…


  4. Hey Tom,

    Glad you can drop by my blog from time to time! Things are good here in Three Hills. Prairie grad is this coming weekend and lots of good things are happening at the Tab.

    I pulled the quote from W. Metzger’s book “Tell the Truth”, but I don’t have the book by ML Jones from which he quotes.

    But I think his point about the Holy Spirit is meant to relate only to evangelism. The way a person becomes a Christian is through hearing the Word of God and trusting in Jesus (Romans 10:14-17, especially v17). For a person to become a Christian, God has to make alive the person who is dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-10, especially v5). This work of making us alive is the work of the Holy Spirit, through whom we are born again (John 3:1-8, esp vv5-8).

    Putting it all together, someone preaches the Word of God to another. The Holy Spirit works in their heart and makes them alive in Christ.

    In the case of a miraculous healing, a person may be amazed at God’s power, but they would still need to hear the gospel message and be made alive by the Holy Spirit to become a Christian.

    In the case of dreams or prophecy (realizing that there are different understandings of how prophecy works today, but not wanting to go into it here!), the person would still need to hear the gospel message and be reborn by the Spirit.

    Regarding prayer, the Spirit works in and through our prayers, even making our prayers right when we need help (Romans 8:26-27), but I don’t think that changes the need for a person to hear the Word of God and be reborn of the Spirit.

    I hope this explanation helps. I think the key to explaining point 3 is to remember that ML Jones is talking about principles of evangelism.

    I hope you and Leah are doing well as you move to a new location up north.

    God bless!

    • Thanks for the thorough reply Tim! That makes much more sense to me. Keep up the good work. Leah and I always valued your insight into the Word thorough teaching. Thanks for taking the time to explain it further.

      • Hey Tom,

        Glad to help! Thanks for the encouragement.


  5. It’s interesting that Martin Lloyd-Jones was one of the very first to emphasize the need for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in Britain as a Welsh Expositor/Preacher and Teacher- as well as – to embrace the Charismatic movement to a large degree. I have always admired the writings of this man and dubbed him a true theologian worth respect in God’s House.

    It’s interesting to see the responses to point 3 here when all along Jones would be the first to put up a fuss to be infused with power by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. His point is simple- “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God”– Jesus said, “If I be lifted up I’ll draw all men unto myself”– I know Dr. L-Jones would be the first to say though- It’s one thing to talk about the Lord Jesus– It’s a whole other thing to be infused with boldness and power that only the Holy Spirit can give in preaching who still convicts sinners through the hearing of The Message of The Cross of Christ…….

    I’m noticing these days there’s a bit of reactionism to phrases like point three. Me thinx it wells up from a certain strictness that once clung to the letter of THE WORD to the exclusion of being infused with power from on high. Word for Word King James stuff in sharing the gospel that excluded also bringing that “Word” into modern terms/summations for their modern fellow-man. Thus, a swing towards a desperate escape from a Spiritless use of and time in the Bible. Me thinx Jesus hinted at that when he scolded the religious folk who had similar views for not finding Him- the Living Word/Spirit Born.

    Tim- you are so right to emphasize– the two are not in opposition to each other– the Message and the Spirit.

    A long time ago I went through the book of Acts and underlined the word “reasoned.” Paul reasoned with people while using the scriptures many times and many hours. He did however use other sources while infused with the power of God (remember the Kingdom is not a matter of words but Power I Cor. 4:20)… speaking of the stone dedicated to the unknown God… he used a poem that stated that a certain ethnic group were even known to be stark liars among their own people to get them to the cross of Christ… Yes, during Paul’s ministry he used outside sources and could still say at the end of the day, “I have not gone beyond what which was written.” He became all things to all people by employing their truth since “All Truth is God’s Truth” (which one text-book we used at Prairie Bible College stated) to make his way to the Cross of Christ– and yes, while infused with Power.

    As for motive… “to the glory of God’ is used several times in the NT as our primary motive. Good outcomes too– like snatching people from fire and a multitude of sins are there also at the heart of glorifying God (What is being perfect as He is perfect? Giving rain/sunshine to who??? These activities would be glorifying God through obedience- for to obey is better than what? We cannot untie this shoe-lace relationship without tripping! )

    Anyway– we need to drop all the things that may come so close to the Blaspheme of the Holy Spirit, get infused with the Power from on High Charismatic in emphasis or not as the locus of control, and to lift the Lord Jesus up in terms that our nihilistic society can come to grips with in the Wisdom of the Cross and the Power of the Cross. We need to pray to this end whether it appeals to our current Christian culture/sensitivities or not (even corporations have a culture that sometimes leads them to the brink of shutting-down).

  6. Titus 1:12-13 Miss-quoted by me— one of their prophets said, not poets/poem– still the point is “outside sources” and I really shouldn’t be quite so lazy in quotes… other theologians have hinted at Paul using other sources on top of the 2 I quoted as “outside”– but I don’t really know if that’s true or not.

  7. Hey Kam, thanks for your comments. I have a commentary by M.L. Jones on the Sermon on the Mount that I used when I preached through the Beatitudes. It is excellent!

    That must have been an interesting study seeing how many times Paul ‘reasoned’ in the book of Acts. I just read a book called “Tactics” (i wrote a review for it here on the blog) where the author Greg Koukl makes a similar point. Also I am in the midst of William Lane Craig’s “Reasonable Faith”, and I think I recall that he made the same point. It is an important point, that the apostles reasoned with people and tried to persuade them, as they shared the gospel, especially in a time where many people wrongly think that faith and reason do not go together.

    Thanks also for your encouragement on emphasizing both Word and Spirit.

    God bless!

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