The Story of the Woman Who Everyone Thought Was a Christian But Was Not

Dr Kendall Harmon has Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones’ story:

It was my pleasure and privilege to preach for nine Sundays in Canada, in Toronto, in 1932. I well remember being welcomed on the first Sunday morning by the minister of the church who, though on vacation, was still not out of town. He introduced me, and in responding to the welcome I thought it would be wise for me to indicate to the congregation my method as a preacher. I told the congregation that my method was to assume generally on Sunday morning that I was speaking to believers, to the saints, and that I would try to edify them; but that at night I would be preaching on the assumption that I was speaking to non-Christians as undoubtedly there would be many such there. In a sense I just said that in passing. We went through that morning service, and at the close the minister asked if I would stand at the door with him to shake hands with people as they went out. I did so. We had shaken hands with a number of people when he suddenly whispered to me saying, ‘You see that old lady who is coming along slowly. She-is the most important member of this church. She is a very wealthy woman and the greatest supporter of the work.’ He was, in other words, telling me to exercise what little charm I might possess to the maximum. I need not explain any further! Well, the old lady came along and we spoke to her, and I shall never forget what happened. It taught me a great lesson which I have never forgotten.

The old lady said, ‘Did I understand you to say that in the evening you would preach on the assumption that the people ljstening are not Christians and in the morning on the assumption that they are Christians?’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘having heard you this morning I have decided to come tonight.’ She had never been known to attend the evening service; never. She only attended in the morning. She said, ‘I am coming tonight.’ I cannot describe the embarrassment of the situation. I sensed that the minister standing by my side felt that I was ruining his ministry and bitterly regretted inviting me to occupy his pulpit! But the fact was that the old lady did come that Sunday night, and every Sunday night while I was there. I met her in her house in private conversation and found that she was most unhappy about her spiritual condition, that she did not know where she stood. She was a fine and most generous character, living an exemplary life. Everybody assumed-not only the minister but everybody else-that she was an exceptionally fine Christian; but she was not a Christian. This idea that because people are members of the church and attend regularly that they must be Christian is one of the most fatal assumptions, and I suggest that it mainly accounts for the state of the Church today.

–Martyn Lloyd Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), pp.147-149 (emphasis mine)


4 thoughts on “The Story of the Woman Who Everyone Thought Was a Christian But Was Not

  1. While this story is cute, I don’t believe it is our place to assume the state of anyone’s spiritual condition. There are reasons why people do things, and it should be left between God and them. However, I do agree that there are many people who go to church regularly yet have no relationship with God outside of church. Is it possible that they have not been woken up yet, have not experienced a spiritual conversion, therefore they are only exercising what they’ve been told…go to church every weekend to save your soul. That is the teaching of hundreds of years ago, and still goes on today. Yet, still, their state of spirituality is probably where God wants them at that moment. It shouldn’t be us who evaluates their faith.

  2. Martyn Lloyd-Jones ( a fellow countryman)was virulently anti Catholic. Ordained a Welsh Calvinstic Methodist ( they ordain by hand shakes and not laying on of hands. Furthermore he had no formal theological training) , he pastored a Congregational Church from the 1940s. He didn’t have the decency of resigning when in the late 1930s he rejected infant baptism. However in 1967 he challenged the evangelicals to leave the Cof E, but was rebuffed by Stott. Yet in a way, in this, he was right.

    His confusion as to what constitutes a Christian is because he beleived that baptism of the spirit was distinct from baptism of water. He never received adult baptism himself and believed taht baptism could be administerd by pouring. he tried to downplay this division amongst evangelicals, calling baptism ( a solemn command of Christ) secondary.

    1. Always just an amazing inclination toward your own personal bent and even prejudice! I find it very hypocritical that you find such theological fault with every other form of Christianity save Roman Catholicism! And very simply the medical Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones was a Reformed pastor. And it was also simply known that he did not like the CoE or Anglicanism! Odd though, he must not have read the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles? But surely he preached a Calvinist Gospel!

  3. Interesting comments above by Mr Williams. I believe it would be correct to say that Dr Lloyd-Jones believed what most any Reformed, Protestant Christian would believe. And to accuse him of dishonesty regarding his views on baptism is to be ignorant of the facts.

    You must also distinguish between Dr Lloyd-Jones’s views of church organizations and their beliefs with the personal friendliness he showed towards individuals that belonged to those groups with whom he disagreed. Just read the book of his letters and see for yourself.

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