I have just completed preaching through the twelfth chapter of Romans, thirty years after I had first preached through the letter. It is the Everest of New Testament ethics, corporate and individual, ecclesiastical and personal. I preached fifteen sermons on it and found much helpful material available compared to thirty years ago. There is the world wide web and the preaching scripts of American preachers which are worth consulting. Then there are the commentaries, Murray, Cranfield, Stott, Hendriksen, Haldane, Moo and Schreiner. There are many more but you will hardly need them for even these seven say much the same thing. I still felt most at home with John Murray. I attended his lectures on Romans 13 at Westminster Seminary in 1962. There are also books of sermons like Barnhouse’s and Boice’s, (the latter to be preferred to the former). But I found Candlish’s Studies in Romans 12 (Kregel) to be fine Scottish theology.
My discovery and delight, however, was Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Romans: Exposition of Chapter 12 - Christian Conduct (Banner of Truth, 2000)*. At over 500 pages it is the longest of all his studies in the letter to the Romans, and I would not have it one page less. He took 35 sermons to preach through this chapter at what seems to me the correct pace not only for him but for anyone who does not want to give a congregation mere ‘glorified Bible studies’ (his disparaging phrase).
I have always felt that his greatest gift was in the realm of describing the Christian life, his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount has always been my personal favourite. This book most reminded me of what he preached there as it also continually addresses the conscience. The Doctor uses other Scriptures so well and occasionally lightens the sermon up with a personal illustration. For example:
Every time we get a victory, it commends the gospel and helps to win other people and take them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son. This has happened often. As I was thinking about all this, an illustration came to my mind of a young lady I once saw as a candidate before a certain missionary society. She was eventually accepted and went out to work in the Far East, and this, in a nutshell, was her story. She had been a student in Cambridge where she was the secretary of the Communist Party. She happened to be in Cambridge during that very severe winter of 1946 to 1947 when everything was frozen up, in Cambridge and in most other parts of the country. She lived in a room off one of the staircases in the college, and, of course, there was a terrible shortage of water. You could only have a bath once a week and there was always a queue. There was one other girl on that staircase, a Christian, the only Christian on the staircase. The Communist girl noticed that instead of asserting her rights and always going to the front and always complaining, as the others were, the Christian girl bore with it all. She allowed people to be assertive and selfish while she just went on quietly. This shook the Communist. She said, 'Here's someone who really is practising and living what I claim to believe but do not do.' The attitude of the Christian not only opened her eyes and made her think, it led to conviction, to repentance, and to conversion, and she went out as a missionary. The simple action of this Christian girl led to that great result (p.510).
At times it reminded me of J.C. Ryle’s Holiness especially in its preachy page-turning style. Sell your shirt and buy it.
* Romans: Exposition of Chapter 12 - Christian Conduct
D Martyn Lloyd-Jones
526 pages, clothbound
ISBN 978 0 85151 794 0