MLJ on Being rather than Doing

In reading from Martyn Lloyd-Jones classic treatment of Matthew 5-7 titled Studies in the Sermon on the Mount this morning in preparation for my Bible study this evening on Matthew 5:7, I came across an excellent excursus by the good doctor on “being” rather than “doing.” The following is found on page 81-82 of the current Eerdmans edition:

The Christian gospel places all its primary emphasis upon being, rather than doing. The gospel puts a greater weight upon our attitude than upon our actions. In the first instance its main stress is on what you and I essentially are rather than on what we do. . . . A Christian is something before he does anything; and we have to be Christian before we can act as Christians. Now that is a fundamental point. Being is more important than doing, attitude is more significant than action. Primarily it is our essential character that matters. Or let me put it like this. We are not called upon as Christians to be, or to try to be, Christians in various respects. To be Christian, I say, is to possess a certain character and therefore to be a certain type of person. So often that is misinterpreted and people think that what the New Testament exhorts us to do is to try to be Christian in this and that respect, and to try to live as a Christian here and there. Not at all: we are Christians and our actions are the outcome of that.

Going a step further, we can put it like this. We are not meant to control our Christianity; our Christianity is rather meant to control us. From the standpoint of the Beatitudes, as indeed from the standpoint of the whole of the New Testament, it is an entire fallacy to think in any other way, and to say, for example, “To be truly Christian I must take up and use Christian teaching and then apply it.” That is not the way our Lord puts it. The position rather is that my Christianity controls me; I am to be dominated by the truth because I have been made a Christian by the operation of the Holy Spirit within.

What do you have to say about that?


  1. Oh for preachers who know how to BE and how to teach the church how to BE what God has called us all to BE! Then the doing is easy as it comes naturally out of who we are.

    Reminds me of Ravenhill’s preaching.

    Thanks for sharing this great snippet from MLJ. I never tire of reading his writings and only pray that I can put into practice what he shows us from the Word of God.


  2. Thank you for posting this. This fits right into my meditations on Proverbs 2. Seeking and receiving the fear and knowledge of God is foundational to living the commands of God. Because we are about being transformed. And that is only accomplished by the princple of 2 Cor 3:18, beholding the glory of the Lord. The transformation is what produces the fruit of works. “Being.”MLJ put in words what was going around in my mind.

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