The Plight of Man and the Power of God by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones is a collection of five messages delivered in 1941. The theme is the gospel. He begins by discussing the Christian faith in light of the history of religion and moves on from there to cover the foundation of the gospel: rebellion from God, the seriousness of sin, the wrath of God, and the only solution which is found in Jesus Christ.

In the message entitled, “The Religious History of Mankind” Lloyd-Jones critiques the study of comparative religion and its conclusion that religion has evolved into Judeo-Christian monotheism. He argues that the gospel, though unchanging, is always relevant. The church is not to be soothing the world or ignoring it entirely. After all, our faith did not evolve, but came by direct revelation. Thus, Christians have a message of great importance that must be presented.

In the message entitled “Religion and morality,” Lloyd-Jones argues that godliness should be our primary concern. In sin, man has made for himself new gods, one of which, Lloyd-Jones explains, is ethics. Many pursue ethics or morality commending religion as a means to that end. Here the case is made that “Godliness is essential to ethics;” that before there can be a Christian society there must be Christians. Some would argue that a Christian society would produce Christians, making this seem like a chicken or the egg type of argument. However, one needs to determine which is the primary Christian message: to live as Christ or to be crucified with Christ? If the gospel is that people should live as Christ, then nearly any means which results in Christ-like living would create Christians. However, if the cross is the gospel, then only lives being transformed by Christ will result in Christians and subsequently, Christian society. Understand, I am not dismissing Christ-like living. On the contrary, I am saying that the cross leads to Christ-like living (but not necessarily the other way around). Lloyd-Jones reiterates this in the final chapter when he says, “A new society is only possible when we have new men; and Christ alone can produce new men.” Ultimately, “ungodliness is the greatest and central sin.”

This brings the book to a message entitled “The Nature of Sin.” Lloyd-Jones argues that a modern view of sin is that man is simply increasing in his moral consciousness, thus what we may call sin is nothing more than lingering animalistic instincts. Using scripture, he shows that instead, sin is much more. It is deliberate, and it is debasing. As evidence, he points to how common it is to give up worshiping God, and how many view mocking God as a “hallmark of intelligence.” He attributes a diminishing intelligence in society as evidence of how sin depraves: “The modern man lives on newspapers and periodicals, repeats the views of others without thinking for himself, and spends his time listening to the wireless or sitting in a cinema.”

Having discussed sin, the book moves on to the next message, “The Wrath of God.” All are guilty of sin and punishment for sin is evident in the broken state of the world. Further, the Law of God was given, not as a means of fixing the world, but as a way to display the holiness of God. However, people reject the idea that a Holy God would have wrath against sin. Lloyd-Jones argues that such a view is flawed in that first, it only sees “wrath” in sinful, human terms, and second, it fails to realize the essential difference between people and God. Meanwhile, to dismiss the idea of wrath is to “ignore the announcement concerning the love and the grace, is not only the height of folly, it is also to condemn oneself to needless suffering and punishment; and at the same time it robs us of every excuse and plea.”

The book concludes with the message, “The Only Solution.” Lloyd-Jones acknowledges that for much of the world, the only accepted aspects of the gospel are moral teachings. However, it is the most often rejected aspects: of Christ and his atoning death, that are crucial. He points out that the Apostle Paul was proud of the gospel as it was God’s way of saving. Further, the gospel is ‘the power of God’ – it works. Finally, it is a way of salvation that is for “everyone, for anyone, for all.” Having laid out the great problem of rebellion against a Holy God, Lloyd-Smith simply proclaims the glorious solution found in Jesus Christ.

I recommend this book for two reasons. First, it presents a classical view of the gospel.; from the problem of our sin to the atonement on the cross. There are always new ways to view the gospel, and it is crucial that Christians stay focused. Second, the book addresses every aspect in light of the opposing view. Granted, times have changed since these messages were presented in 1941, but the views of the world concerning the gospel have not changed much at all. I personally found many of the points made in this book to be extremely relevant to conversations I was having at the time and to my preaching ministry. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones brings clarity to an all to often muddled gospel.