Lloyd-Jones on Scandalous Grace that Isn’t Cheap

You may be familiar with the provocative idea from Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) that true test of gospel preaching is whether people mistake your gospel for antinomianism. Here, for example, is the Doctor preaching from Romans 6 on the charge “shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”

The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. This is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel. (The New Man, 8)

This is classic Lloyd-Jones overstatement. But it’s a provocative statement with an important point. We must share the gospel in all its scandalous grace. Lloyd-Jones does not want antinomianism preached, but he does want salvation by grace alone to be so celebrated that some people in that moment of gospel declaration might wonder if we care about good works. To which I say: preach on brother.

But that’s not all Lloyd-Jones said about law and grace, because Romans 6:1 wasn’t the only thing he ever preached on. In his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Lloyd-Jones sounded a different–though entirely biblical and entirely complementary–note:

Is it not true to say of many of us that in actual practice our view of the doctrine of grace is such that we scarcely ever take the plain teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ seriously? We have so emphasized the teaching that all is of grace and that we ought not to try to imitate His example in order to make ourselves Christians, that we are virtually in the position of ignoring His teaching altogether and of saying that it has nothing to do with us because we are under grace. Now I wonder how seriously we take the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The best way of concentrating on the question is, I think, to face the Sermon on the Mount. (p. 12)

Later, he goes even further in emphasizing the importance of the law in the Christian life.

The Christian is a man who of necessity must be concerned about keeping God’s law. I mentioned in chapter one the fatal tendency to put up law and grace as antitheses in the wrong sense. We are not ‘under the law’ but we are still meant to keep it. . . .So the Christian is a man who is always concerned about living and keeping the law of God. Here [in the Sermon on the Mount] he is reminded how that is to be done. (p. 26)

The mature Christian will say “Amen” to all three paragraphs from Lloyd-Jones. We want churches which love free grace and churches which do not put that grace in absolute opposition to the law of God. We need preachers who can preach all the good news and all the hard edges of Romans 5-8 and all the good news and all the hard edges of Matthew 5-8 with conviction and without apology.