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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.


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13 thoughts on “Lloyd-Jones on Scandalous Grace that Isn’t Cheap”

  1. Mark says:

    Thanks for this post. I think this balance is sorely needed, especially in light of the debate that went on a few months ago in Reformed circles. When I first came to faith, I came to faith believing that I was an utter wretch who could bring nothing of worth before God. God saved me by his grace alone, not by any of my works. I don’t know that I ever consciously asked whether that meant I could go on sinning so grace might abound, but the gospel of free grace apart from works resonated with me.

    I think that’s what Tullian and those who support Jesus+Nothing=Everything and similar statements are trying to preserve. The gospel of God’s completely free grace apart from works is a powerful message, and to some, debating the various uses of the law feels like an attack on that message. On the flipside, those who see a rising antinomianism in evangelicalism don’t want the church to so preach grace that we forget Paul’s response in Rom 6:2 – “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

  2. Ron says:

    I was 15 years old in December of 1980 when my 14 year old neighbor shared the Gospel with me. I distinctly remember asking him at the time, “Do you mean that if I became a Christian, that I could kill someone and God would still let me into heaven?” Without a bit of wavering this 14 year old boy (now an Elder in the PCA) said, “Yes.” and continued to explain the Gospel to me.
    It’s been almost 35 years later. Though I’ve been angry countless of times since, by God’s grace I haven’t killed anyone…yet (suiters of my daughters beware). And yet I am constantly reminded of God’s scandalous grace.

  3. Bernard says:

    This is an excellent post. Thank you very much Kevin. I love this MLJ quote in the third paragraph: “the fatal tendency to put up law and grace as antitheses in the wrong sense.”

  4. Bernard says:

    … [sorry sent previous comment too soon] It’s a great quote because we are saved by grace to serve by grace, and the law graciously teaches us how to serve.

  5. Charlie says:

    I love the ending of the post, specifically because it doesn’t call for us preachers to try to balance law and gospel, but to preach them both unashamedly and passionately in their proper theological context. To ignore the law or to seek to appease God by law-keeping are both underestimations of the holiness of God and of the nature and purpose of grace. Those who relish in the freedom of grace the most should be first in line to obey the law, not as a work for their taskmaster, but as a gift to their omnibenevolent benefactor and king; should they not?

  6. anaquaduck says:

    One thing I recall from a MLJ audio is that we should not dwell so much on what we have been saved from only, in the sense that we should dwell on what we have been saved for. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Mtt 6:10

  7. Paul Ridgewell says:

    J C Ryle is a master at declaring these complementary truths.

  8. a. says:

    I will give you shepherds after My own heart who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.

  9. One thing lacking in this post is that even if we don’t get better and we treat grace cheap we’re still covered regardless. Grace is that scandalous that it’s freely given regardless of how you live. It’s this message that reminds addicts or other ppl unable to get out of a cycle of sin that God’s grace might not be for them since it would appear that they treat it cheaply.

  10. Steve Monsma says:

    A wonderful post on Martin Lloyd-Jones. He was one of my favorite Evangelical authors while I was in university. He deeply affected my Christian development! There is in Scripture a certain tension between grace and law/works; we are saved by grace and grace alone, but then there is also right living . . . I now see this as a creative tension, not something we should try to resolve by our little minds.

  11. Ken McLain says:

    The question is whether a Christian should endeavor to keep the law but HOW he is to keep the law…By what means?

  12. Ken McLain says:

    *isn’t” for 3rd word in

  13. Hans says:

    I am beginning to find that the scandalous nature of an utterly unfettered grace, where sin is covered regardless of its boldness or frequency, can actually help us ESCAPE antinomianism by putting our paralyzing fears at bay. Like the child of a trapeze artist learning the ropes, we each need a safety net beneath us to truly soar without anxiety. When we thrill to the feel of the breeze through our hair from the exhilarating speed, when we simply cannot keep ourselves off the apparati, we come to know that we know we are regenerate.

    I am convinced that the Steve Browns and the Tullian Tchividjians of this world passionately believe this…but seldom preach it. And when they do, they express it poorly. Theologians often get their heads around either the costliness or the freedom of grace…when they need to fully embrace both.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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