“Prophecy and the Closed Canon, Part 3” by John MacArthur

“Prophecy and the Closed Canon, Part 3”

by John MacArthur

From the time of the apostles until the present, the true church has always believed that the Bible is complete. God has given his revelation, and now Scripture is finished. God has spoken. What He gave is complete, efficacious, sufficient, inerrant, infallible, and authoritative. Attempts to add to the Bible, and claims of further revelation from God have always been characteristic of heretics and cultists, not the true people of God.

Although charismatics deny that they are trying to add to Scripture, their views on prophetic utterance, gifts of prophecy, and revelation really do just that. As they add–however unwittingly–to God’s final revelation, they undermine the uniqueness and authority of the Bible. New revelation, dreams, and visions are considered as binding on the believers conscience as the book of Romans or the gospel of John.

Some charismatics would say that people misunderstand what they mean by prophetic utterance and new revelation. They would say that no effort is being made to change Scripture or even equal it. What is happening, they assume, is the clarifying of Scripture as it is applied or directed to a contemporary setting, such as the prophecy of Agabus in Acts 11:28.

The line between clarifying Scripture and adding to it is indeed a thin one. But Scripture is not clarified by listening to someone who thinks he has the gift of prophecy. Scripture is clarified as it is carefully and diligently studied. There are no shortcuts to interpreting God’s word accurately (cf. Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15).

Christians must not play fast and loose with the issues of inspiration and revelation. An accurate understanding of those doctrines is essential for distinguishing between the voice of God and the human voice. Men who professed to speak for God but spoke their own opinions were to be executed under the Old Testament law (Deut. 13:1-5). New Testament believers are also urged to test the spirits and judge all supposed prophecies, shunning false prophets and heretics (1 John 4:1; 1 Cor. 14:29).

The Holy Spirit is working mightily in the church today, but not in the way most charismatics think. The Holy Spirit’s role is to empower us as we preach, teach, write, talk, witness, think, serve, and live. He does lead us into God’s truth and direct us into God’s will for our lives. But He does it through God’s Word, never apart from it. To refer to the Holy Spirit’s leading and empowering ministry as inspiration or revelation is a mistake. To use phrases such as “God spoke to me,” or “This wasn’t my idea; the Lord gave it to me,” or “These aren’t my words, but a message I received from the Lord” confuses the issue of the Spirit’s direction in believers’ lives today.

Inviting that kind of confusion plays into the hands of the error that denies the uniqueness and absolute authority of Scripture. The terms and concepts of Ephesians 5:18-19 and 2 Peter 1:21 are not to be mixed. Being filled with the Spirit and speaking to one another in psalms and hymns is not the same as being moved by the Holy Spirit to write inspired Scripture.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Prophecy and the Closed Canon, Part 2” by John MacArthur

“Prophecy and the Closed Canon, Part 2”

John MacArthur

John MacArthur


How the Biblical Canon Was Chosen and Closed

Jude 3 is a crucial passage on the completeness of our Bibles. This statement, penned by Jude before the New Testament was complete, nevertheless looked forward to the completion of the entire canon:

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)

In the Greek text the definite article preceding “faith” points to the one and only faith: “the faith.” There is no other. Such passages as Galatians 1:23 (“He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith”) and 1 Timothy 4:1 (“In latter times some will fall away from the faith”) indicate this objective use of the expression “the faith” was common in apostolic times. Greek scholar Henry Alford wrote that the faith is “objective here: the sum of that which Christians believe” (Alford’s Greek Testament, 4:530).

Note also the crucial phrase “once for all” in Jude 3. The Greek word here is hapax, which refers to something done for all time, with lasting results, never needing repetition. Nothing needs to be added to the faith that has been delivered “once for all.”

George Lawlor, who has written an excellent work on Jude, made the following comment:

The Christian faith is unchangeable, which is not to say that men and women of every generation do not need to find it, experience it, and live it; but it does mean that every new doctrine that arises, even though its legitimacy may be plausibly asserted, is a false doctrine. All claims to convey some additional revelation to that which has been given by God in this body of truth are false claims and must be rejected. (Jude, 45).

Also important in Jude 3 is the word “delivered.” In the Greek it is an aorist passive participle, which in this context indicates an act completed in the past with no continuing element. In this instance the passive voice means the faith was not discovered by men, but given to men by God. How did He do that? Through His Word–the Bible.

And so through the Scriptures God has given us a body of teaching that is final and complete. Our Christian faith rests on historical, objective revelation. That rules out all inspired prophecies, seers, and other forms of new revelation until God speaks again at the return of Christ (cf. Acts 2:16-21; Rev. 11:1-13).

In the meantime, Scripture warns us to be wary of false prophets. Jesus said that in our age “false christs and false prophets will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). Signs and wonders alone are no proof that a person speaks for God. John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Ultimately, Scripture is the test of everything; it is the Christian’s standard. In fact, the word canon means “a rule, standard, or measuring rod.” The canon of Scripture is the measuring rod of the Christian faith, and it is complete.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“How Important Is Genesis 1-3?” by John MacArthur

“How Important Is Genesis 1-3?”

John MacArthur

I’m convinced the opening chapters of Genesis are not optional. They establish the vital foundation for everything we believe as Christians. Sadly, it is a foundation that is being systematically undermined by the very institutions that should be most vigorously defending it. More and more Christian educational institutions, apologists, and theologians are abandoning faith in the literal truth of Genesis 1-3.

I recall reading a survey a few years ago which revealed that in one of America’s leading evangelical accrediting associations, whose membership boasted scores of evangelical Bible colleges and universities, only five or six college-level schools remain solidly opposed to the old-earth view of creation. The rest are open to a reinterpretation of Genesis 1-3 that accommodates evolutionary theories.

Scores of well-known Bible teachers and apologists see the whole question as moot, and some even aggressively argue that a literal approach to Genesis is detrimental to the credibility of Christianity. They have given up the battle–or worse, joined the attack against biblical creationism.

I’m thankful for those who are still faithfully resisting the trend–organizations like Answers in Genesis, the Creation Research Society, and the Institute for Creation Research. These organizations and others like them involve many expert scientists who challenge the presuppositions of evolutionists on technical and scientific grounds. They clearly demonstrate that scientific proficiency is not incompatible with faith in the literal truth of Scripture–and that the battle for the beginning is ultimately a battle between two mutually exclusive faiths–faith in Scripture versus faith in anti-theistic hypotheses. It is not really a battle between science and the Bible.

As Christians, we believe the Bible is truth revealed to us by God, who is the true Creator of the universe. That belief is the basic foundation of all genuine Christianity. It is utterly incompatible with the speculative presuppositions of the naturalists.

In Scripture the Creator Himself has revealed to us everything essential for life and godliness. And it starts with an account of creation. If the biblical creation account is in any degree unreliable, the rest of Scripture stands on a shaky foundation.

But the foundation is not shaky. The more I understand what God has revealed to us about our origin, the more I see clearly that the foundation stands firm. I agree with those who say it is time for the people of God to take a fresh look at the biblical account of creation. But I disagree with those who think that calls for any degree of capitulation to the transient theories of naturalism. Only an honest look at Scripture, with sound principles of hermeneutics, will yield the right understanding of the creation and fall of our race.

The Bible gives a clear and cogent account of the beginnings of the cosmos and humanity. There is absolutely no reason for an intelligent mind to balk at accepting it as a literal account of the origin of our universe. Although the biblical account clashes at many points with naturalistic and evolutionary hypotheses, it is not in conflict with a single scientific fact. Indeed, all the geological, astronomical, and scientific data can be easily reconciled with the biblical account. The conflict is not between science and Scripture, but between the biblicist’s confident faith and the naturalist’s willful skepticism.

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To many, having been indoctrinated in schools where the line between hypothesis and fact is systematically and deliberately being blurred, that may sound naive or unsophisticated, but it is nonetheless a fact. Again, science has never disproved one word of Scripture, and it never will. On the other hand, evolutionary theory has always been in conflict with Scripture and always will be. But the notion that the universe evolved through a series of natural processes remains an unproven and untestable hypothesis, and therefore it is not “science.” There is no proof whatsoever that the universe evolved naturally. Evolution is a mere theory–and a questionable, constantly-changing one at that. Ultimately, if accepted at all, it must be taken by sheer faith.

How much better to base our faith on the sure foundation of God’s Word! There is no ground of knowledge equal to or superior to Scripture. Unlike scientific theory, it is eternally unchanging. Unlike the opinions of man, its truth is revealed by the Creator Himself! It is not, as many suppose, at odds with science. True science has always affirmed the teaching of Scripture. Archaeology, for instance, has demonstrated the truthfulness of the biblical record time and time again. Wherever Scripture’s record of history may be examined and either proved or disproved by archaeological evidence or reliable independent documentary evidence, the biblical record has always been verified. There is no valid reason whatsoever to doubt or distrust the biblical record of creation, and there is certainly no need to adjust the biblical account to try to make it fit the latest fads in evolutionary theory.

Again, a biblical understanding of the creation and fall of humanity establishes the necessary foundation for the Christian world-view. Everything Scripture teaches about sin and redemption assumes the literal truth of the first three chapters of Genesis. If we wobble to any degree on the truth of this passage, we undermine the very foundations of our faith.

If Genesis 1-3 doesn’t tell us the truth, why should we believe anything else in the Bible? Without a right understanding of our origin, we have no way to understand anything about our spiritual existence. We cannot know our purpose, and we cannot be certain of our destiny. After all, if God is not the Creator, then maybe He’s not the Redeemer either. If we cannot believe the opening chapters of Scripture, how can we be certain of anything the Bible says?

To those who will inevitably complain that such a view is credulous and unsophisticated, my reply is that it is certainly superior to the irrational notion that an ordered and incomprehensibly complex universe sprung by accident from nothingness and emerged by chance into the marvel that it is.

Scripture offers the only accurate explanations that can be found anywhere about how our race began, where our moral sense originated, why we cannot seem to do what our own consciences tells us is right, and how we can be redeemed from this hopeless situation.

Scripture is not merely the best of several possible explanations. It is the Word of God.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Getting the Gospel Right” by John MacArthur

“Getting the Gospel Right”

John MacArthur

I am amazed at some of the things that have been said and written in recent years about the gospel. I fear that in many circles a different message is replacing the good news of salvation. I’m not talking about the attacks on the gospel from liberal religion or the theology of the cults, but a skewed message that has sprouted from right within conservative evangelicalism.

I have a copy of a training film now being used internationally to teach Christians what they should and should not say when leading someone to Christ. A respected, conservative organization produced the film, but frankly, the warped view of the gospel it presents is appalling.

In the entire half-hour film, there is not one mention of the resurrection. It speaks of forgiveness without defining sin, and it talks of trusting Christ without describing faith. Incredibly, the film counsels believers never to speak to a non-Christian about the lordship of Christ, submission to Him, surrender of the will, forsaking one’s sin, or obeying God. Those truths, according to the film, have no place in the gospel message but should be saved for later, after someone becomes a Christian.

That sentiment reflects a viewpoint that is rapidly gaining momentum within evangelicalism. A handful of outspoken and increasingly vocal teachers are popularizing it. To their credit, most of those men are motivated by a passion to keep the gospel of God’s grace free from the influence of human works. Their desire, I’m sure, is to make clear the biblical truth that salvation may in no way be earned or obtained by man’s effort. Their approach, however, has been to eliminate from the gospel message anything that sounds like a work of righteousness, and to speak only of believing the objective data. They have erased the biblical words repentance, obedience, and submission from the vocabulary of evangelicalism.

Such teaching has taken a heavy toll. Faith has become merely an intellectual exercise. Instead of calling men and women to surrender to Christ, modern evangelism asks them only to accept some basic facts about Him. A person can believe without obeying. Thus faith is robbed of any moral significance, and righteousness becomes optional.

Even the way we invite people to Christ reveals this shift. “Make a decision for Christ,” we say. When was the last time you heard an evangelistic message that challenged sinners to repent and follow Christ? Yet isn’t that the language Jesus Himself used (Matthew 4:17; Mark 8:34)?

Those were the questions that prompted me to write The Gospel According to Jesus –I wanted to study the message Jesus preached to unbelievers. How could any issue be more important? The gospel we present has eternal consequences. If it is the true gospel, it can direct men and women into the everlasting kingdom. If it is a corrupted message, it can give unsaved people false hope while consigning them to eternal damnation. This is not a trivial matter for theologians to speculate on. It is an issue every lay person must understand and get right.

Here are some questions that need to be answered biblically:

Do we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, or as Savior only? Some say a person who refuses to obey Christ can still receive Him as Savior. They teach that the gift of eternal life is available by faith even to one who rejects the moral and spiritual demands of Christ. They accuse others of teaching “lordship salvation,” implying that it is novel to suggest that submission is a characteristic of saving faith.

Until relatively recently, however, no one would have dared suggest a person can be saved while stubbornly refusing to bow to Christ’s authority. Nearly all the major biblical passages calling for saving faith refer to Jesus as lord (cf. Acts 2:21, 36; Romans 10:9-10).

Is repentance from sin essential to salvation? Some say that turning from sin is a human work and therefore cannot be part of salvation. To accommodate the biblical call to repentance, they redefine repentance as nothing more than a change of mind about who Jesus is.

Biblically, however, repentance is a total about face–turning away from sin and self and unto God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9). That is no more a result of human effort than faith itself. Nor is it in any sense a pre-salvation work required to prepare a sinner for salvation. Real repentance is inseparable from faith and, like faith, is the work of God in a human heart. It is the response God inevitably generates in the heart of one He is redeeming.

What is faith? Some say faith is merely believing certain facts. One popular Bible teacher says saving faith is nothing more than confidence in the divine offer of eternal life.

Biblically, however, the object of faith is not the divine offer; it is the Person of Jesus Christ. Faith in Him is what saves, not just believing His promises or accepting facts about Him. Saving faith has to be more than accepting facts. Even demons have that kind of faith (James 2:19).

Believing in Jesus means receiving Him for all that He is (John 1:12). It means both confessing Him as Savior and yielding to Him as Lord. In fact, Scripture often uses the word obedience as a synonym for faith (cf. John 3:36; Acts 6:7; Hebrews 5:9).

What is a disciple? In the past hundred years or so, it has become popular to speak of discipleship as a higher level of Christian experience. In the new terminology, a person becomes a believer at salvation; he becomes a disciple later, when he moves past faith to obedience.

Such a view conveniently relegates the difficult demands of Jesus to a post-salvation experience. It maintains that when He challenged the multitudes to deny self, to take up a cross and follow Him (Mark 8:34); to forsake all (Luke 14:33); and to leave father and mother (Matthew 19:29), He was simply asking believers to step up to the second level and become disciples.

But how does that square with Jesus’ own words, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:13)? The heart of His ministry was evangelism, and those difficult demands are evangelistic appeals.

Every believer is a disciple and vice versa. A careful reading of Acts shows that the word disciple has been a synonym for Christian from the earliest days of the church (cf. 6:1-2, 7; 11:26; 14:20, 22; 15:10).

What is the evidence of salvation? In their zeal to eliminate good works as a requirement for salvation, some have gone to the extreme of arguing that good works are not even a valid evidence of salvation. They teach that a person may be genuinely saved yet never manifest the fruit of salvation–a changed life.

A few have even taken the absurd position that a born-again person may ultimately turn away from Christ into unbelief, deny God, and become an atheist–yet still possess eternal life. One writer invented a term for such people: “unbelieving believers”!

Scripture is clear that a saved person can never be lost. It is equally clear that a genuine Christian will never fall back into total unbelief. That kind of apostasy proves an individual was never really born again (1 John 2:19).

Furthermore, if a person is genuinely saved, his life will change for the better (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is saved “for good works” (Ephesians 2:10), and there is no way he can fail to bring forth at least some of the fruit that characterizes the redeemed (cf. Matthew 7:17). His desires are transformed; he begins to hate sin and love righteousness. He will not be sinless, but the pattern of his life will be decreasing sin and increasing righteousness.

You need to settle these critical questions in your own heart. Study the gospel Scripture presents. Listen with discernment to every speaker you hear. Measure everything by the Word of God. Above all, make sure that the message you share with unbelievers is truly the gospel of Christ.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“What’s Inside the Trojan Horse?” by John MacArthur

“What’s Inside the Trojan Horse?”

John MacArthur

By God’s grace, I have been the pastor of the same church now for forty years. From that vantage point, I have witnessed the birth and growth of menacing trends within the church, several of which have converged under what I would call evangelical pragmatism — an approach to ministry that is endemic in contemporary Christianity.

What is pragmatism? Basically it is a philosophy that says that results determine meaning, truth, and value — what will work becomes a more important question than what is true. As Christians, we are called to trust what the Lord says, preach that message to others, and leave the results to Him. But many have set that aside. Seeking relevancy and success, they have welcomed the pragmatic approach and have received the proverbial Trojan horse.

Let me take a few minutes to explain a little of the history leading up to the current entrenchment of the pragmatic approach in the evangelical church and to show you why it isn’t as innocent as it looks.

Recent History

The 1970s, for the most part, were years of spiritual revival in America. The spread of the gospel through the campuses of many colleges and universities marked a fresh, energetic movement of the Holy Spirit to draw people to salvation in Christ. Mass baptisms were conducted in rivers, lakes, and the ocean, several new versions of the English Bible were released, and Christian publishing and broadcasting experienced remarkable growth.

Sadly, the fervent evangelical revival slowed and was overshadowed by the greed and debauchery of the eighties and nineties. The surrounding culture rejected biblical standards of morality, and the church, rather than assert its distinctiveness and call the world to repentance, softened its stance on holiness. The failure to maintain a distinctively biblical identity was profound — it led to general spiritual apathy and a marked decline in church attendance.

Church leaders reacted to the world’s indifference, not by a return to strong biblical preaching that emphasized sin and repentance, but by a pragmatic approach to “doing” church — an approach driven more by marketing, methodology, and perceived results than by biblical doctrine. The new model of ministry revolved around making sinners feel comfortable and at ease in the church, then selling them on the benefits of becoming a Christian. Earlier silence has given way to cultural appeasement and conformity.

Even the church’s ministry to its own has changed. Entertainment has hijacked many pulpits across the country; contemporary approaches cater to the ever-changing whims of professing believers; and many local churches have become little more than social clubs and community centers where the focus is on the individual’s felt needs. Even on Christian radio, phone-in talk shows, music, and live psychotherapy are starting to replace Bible teaching as the staple. “Whatever works,” the mantra of pragmatism, has become the new banner of evangelicalism.

The Down-Grade Controversy

You may be surprised to learn that what we are now seeing is not new. England’s most famous preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, dealt with a similar situation more than 100 years ago. Among churches that were once solid, Spurgeon and other faithful pastors noticed a conciliatory attitude toward and overt cooperation with the modernist movement. And what motivated the compromise? They sought to find acceptance by adopting the “sophisticated” trends of the culture. Does that sound familiar to you?

One article, published anonymously in Spurgeon’s monthly magazine The Sword and the Trowel, noted that every revival of true evangelical faith had been followed within a generation or two by a drift away from sound doctrine, ultimately leading to wholesale apostasy. The author likened this drifting from truth to a downhill slope, and thus labeled it “the down grade.” The inroads of modernism into the church killed ninety percent of the mainline denominations within a generation of Spurgeon’s death. Spurgeon himself, once the celebrated and adored herald of the Baptist Union, was marginalized by the society and he eventually withdrew his membership.

The Effects of Pragmatism

Many of today’s church leaders have bought into the subtlety of pragmatism without recognizing the dangers it poses. Instead of attacking orthodoxy head on, evangelical pragmatism gives lip service to the truth while quietly undermining the foundations of doctrine. Instead of exalting God, it effectively denigrates the things that are precious to Him.

First, there is in vogue today a trend to make the basis of faith something other than God’s Word. Experience, emotion, fashion, and popular opinion are often more authoritative than the Bible in determining what many Christians believe. From private, individual revelation to the blending of secular psychology with biblical “principles,” Christians are listening to the voice of the serpent that once told Eve, “God’s Word doesn’t have all the answers.” Christian counseling reflects that drift, frequently offering no more than experimental and unscriptural self-help therapy instead of solid answers from the Bible.

Christian missionary work is often riddled with pragmatism and compromise, because too many in missions have evidently concluded that what gets results is more important than what God says. That’s true among local churches as well. It has become fashionable to forgo the proclamation and teaching of God’s Word in worship services. Instead, churches serve up a paltry diet of drama, music, and other forms of entertainment.

Second, evangelical pragmatism tends to move the focus of faith away from God’s Son. You’ve seen that repeatedly if you watch much religious television. The health-wealth-and-prosperity gospel advocated by so many televangelists is the ultimate example of this kind of fantasy faith. This false gospel appeals unabashedly to the flesh, corrupting all the promises of Scripture and encouraging greed. It makes material blessing, not Jesus Christ, the object of the Christian’s desires.

Easy-believism handles the message differently, but the effect is the same. It is the promise of forgiveness minus the gospel’s hard demands, the perfect message for pragmatists. It has done much to popularize “believing” but little to provoke sincere faith.

Christ is no longer the focus of the message. While His name is mentioned from time to time, the real focus is inward, not upward. People are urged to look within; to try to understand themselves; to come to grips with their problems, their hurts, their disappointments; to have their needs met, their desires granted, their wants fulfilled. Nearly all the popular versions of the message encourage and legitimize a self-centered perspective.

Third, today’s Christianity is infected with a tendency to view the result of faith as something less than God’s standard of holy living. By downplaying the importance of holy living-both by precept and by example-the biblical doctrine of conversion is undermined. Think about it: What more could Satan do to try to destroy the church than undermining God’s Word, shifting the focus off Christ, and minimizing holy living?

All those things are happening slowly, steadily within the church right now. Tragically, most Christians seem oblivious to the problems, satisfied with a Christianity that is fashionable and highly visible. But the true church must not ignore those threats. If we fight to maintain doctrinal purity with an emphasis on biblical preaching and biblical ministry, we can conquer external attacks. But if error is allowed into the church, many more churches will slide down the grade to suffer the same fate as the denominations that listened to, yet ignored, Spurgeon’s impassioned appeal.

Make it your habitual prayer request that the Lord would elevate the authority of His Word, the glory of His Son, and the purity of His people in the evangelical church. May the Lord revive us and keep us far from the slippery slope of pragmatism.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org

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John MacArthur: On Why Sound Living Can Only Come Through Sound Doctrine

“What Does This Verse Mean ‘to Me’?”

Titus 1:9, Romans 12:1-2

by John MacArthur

That’s a fashionable concern, judging from the trends in devotional booklets, home Bible study discussions, Sunday-school literature, and most popular preaching.

The question of what Scripture means has taken a back seat to the issue of what it means “to me.”

The difference may seem insignificant at first. Nevertheless, our obsession with the Scripture’s applicability reflects a fundamental weakness. We have adopted practicality as the ultimate judge of the worth of God’s Word. We bury ourselves in passages that overtly relate to daily living, and ignore those that don’t.

Early in my ministry, I made a conscious commitment to biblical preaching. My first priority has always been to answer the question, “What does this passage mean?” After I’ve explained as clearly and accurately as possible the meaning of God’s Word, then I exhort people to obey and apply it to their own lives.

The Bible speaks for itself to the human heart; it is not my role as a preacher to try to tailor the message. That’s why I preach my way through entire books of the Bible, dealing carefully with each verse and phrase-even though that occasionally means spending time in passages that don’t readily lend themselves to anecdotal or motivational messages.

I am grateful to the Lord for the way He has used this expository approach in our church and in the lives of our radio listeners.

But now and then someone tells me frankly that my preaching needs to be less doctrinal and more practical.

Practical application is vital. I don’t want to minimize its importance. But the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is artificial; doctrine is practical! In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine.

Too many Christians view doctrine as heady and theoretical. They have dismissed doctrinal passages as unimportant, divisive, threatening, or simply impractical. A best-selling Christian book I just read warns readers to be on guard against preachers whose emphasis is on interpreting Scripture rather than applying it.

Wait a minute. Is that wise counsel? No it is not.

There is no danger of irrelevant doctrine; the real threat is an undoctrinal attempt at relevance. Application not based on solid interpretation has led Christians into all kinds of confusion.

No discipline is more sorely needed in the contemporary church than expositional biblical teaching. Too many have bought the lie that doctrine is something abstract and threatening, unrelated to daily life.

It is in vogue to substitute psychology and spoon-fed application for doctrinal substance, while demeaning theological and expositional ministry.

But the pastor who turns away from preaching sound doctrine abdicates the primary responsibility of an elder: “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

Practical insights, gimmicks, and illustrations mean little if they’re not attached to divine principles. There’s no basis for godly behavior apart from the truth of God’s Word.

There are only three options: We teach truth, error, or nothing at all.

Before the preacher asks anyone to perform a certain duty, he must first deal with doctrine. He must develop his message around theological themes and draw out the principles of the texts. Then the truth can be applied.

Romans provides the clearest biblical example. Paul didn’t give any exhortation until he had given eleven chapters of theology.

He scaled incredible heights of truth, culminating in 11:33-36: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

Then in chapter 12, he turned immediately to the practical consequences of the doctrine of the first 11 chapters. No passage in Scripture captures the Christian’s responsibility to the truth more clearly than Romans 12:1-2. There, building on eleven chapters of profound doctrine, Paul calls each believer to a supreme act of spiritual worship-giving oneself as a living sacrifice. Doctrine gives rise to dedication to Christ, the greatest practical act. And the remainder of the book of Romans goes on to explain the many practical outworkings of one’s dedication to Christ.

Paul followed the same pattern in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. The doctrinal message came first. Upon that foundation he built the practical application, making the logical connection with the word therefore (Rom. 12:1; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 4:1; Phil. 2:1) or then (Col. 3:1; 1 Thess. 4:1).

True doctrine transforms behavior as it is woven into the fabric of everyday life. But it must be understood if it is to have its impact. The real challenge of the ministry is to dispense the truth clearly and accurately. Practical application comes easily by comparison.

No believer can apply truth he doesn’t know. Those who don’t understand what the Bible really says about marriage, divorce, family, child-rearing, discipline, money, debt, work, service to Christ, eternal rewards, helping the poor, caring for widows, respecting government, and other teachings won’t be able to apply it.

Those who don’t know what the Bible teaches about salvation cannot be saved. Those who don’t know what the Bible teaches about holiness are incapable of dealing with sin. Thus they are unable to live fully to their own blessedness and God’s glory.

The nucleus of all that is truly practical is sown up in the teaching of Scripture. We don’t make the Bible relevant; it is inherently so, simply because it is God’s Word. And after all, how can anything God says be irrelevant?
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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John MacArthur: On the Bible’s Clarion Call to Repentance

“Repentance in Apostolic Preaching”

John MacArthur

Even the most cursory study of the preaching in Acts shows that the gospel according to the apostles was a clarion call to repentance. At Pentecost, Peter concluded his sermon–a clear lordship message–with this: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). The message penetrated his listeners’ hearts, and they asked Peter what response was expected of them. Peter said plainly, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (v. 38).

Note that he made no mention of faith. That was implied in the call to repentance. Peter was not making baptism a condition of their salvation; he simply outlined the first step of obedience that should follow their repentance (cf. 10:43-48). Peter’s audience, familiar with the ministry of John the Baptist–understood baptism as an external corroboration of sincere repentance (cf. Matt. 3:5-8). Peter was not asking them to perform a meritorious act, and the whole of biblical teaching makes that clear.

But the message he gave them that day was a straightforward command to repent. As the context of Acts 2 shows, the people who heard Peter understood that he was demanding unconditional surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Acts 3 we encounter a similar scene. Peter and John had been used of the Lord to heal a lame man at the Temple gate (vv. 1-9). When a crowd gathered, Peter began to preach to them, rehearsing how the Jewish nation had killed their own Messiah. His conclusion was precisely the same as it had been at Pentecost: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (vv. 19-21 , emphasis added). The King James Version says, “Repent… and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Again, Peter’s meaning was unmistakable. He was calling for a radical, 180-degree turning from sin. That is repentance.

In Acts 4 , the day after Peter and John had been instrumental in the healing the lame man, they were brought before the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel. Boldly, Peter said, “Let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” ( Acts 4:10-12 ). While there is no mention of the word repentance there, it was Peter’s obvious message to these rulers. They had rejected and killed their rightful Messiah. Now they needed to do an about-face: turn from the heinous sin they had committed, and turn to the One whom they had sinned against. He alone could grant them salvation.

When Peter was called of God to proclaim the gospel to Cornelius and his household, the message had a different emphasis: “that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43).

But did Peter overlook the issue of repentance in his ministry to Cornelius? Not at all. It is evident that Cornelius was repentant. When Peter later recounted the incident to the church at Jerusalem, the church leaders responded, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life. ” (Acts 11:18 , emphasis added). Obviously the entire Jerusalem church understood repentance as tantamount to a saving response.

No-lordship advocates usually gravitate to Acts 16:30-31 to find support for their view that repentance is not essential in the call to saving faith. There the apostle Paul answered the Philippian jailer’s famous question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” What did Paul tell him? Simply, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Evidently Paul did not call the jailer to repentance.

But wait. Is that a fair conclusion to draw from this passage? No, it is not. The jailer knew very well the cost of being a Christian (vv. 23-24). He was also obviously prepared to repent. He was about to take his own life when Paul stopped him (vv. 25-27). He had clearly come to the end of himself. Moreover, Paul gave him a more extensive gospel presentation than is recorded for us in Acts 16:31. Verse 32 says “they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.” Ultimately the jailer did repent. He proved his repentance by his deeds (vv. 33-34). This passage cannot be used to prove that Paul preached the gospel without calling sinners to repentance.

Repentance was always at the heart of Paul’s evangelistic preaching. He confronted the pagan philosophers of Athens and proclaimed, “Having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). In his farewell message to the elders of Ephesus, Paul reminded them, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ ” (Acts 20:20-21 , emphasis added). Later, when he was hauled before King Agrippa, Paul defended his ministry with these words: “I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring … even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” ( Acts 26:19-20 ).

Clearly, from the beginning of the Book of Acts to the end, repentance was the central appeal of the apostolic message. The repentance they preached was not merely a change of mind about who Jesus was. It was a turning from sin (3:26; 8:22) and a turning toward the Lord Jesus Christ (20:21). It was the kind of repentance that results in behavioral change (26:20). The apostolic message was nothing like the no-lordship gospel that has gained popularity in our day.

I am deeply concerned as I watch what is happening in the church today. Biblical Christianity has lost its voice. The church is preaching a gospel designed to soothe rather than confront sinful individuals. Churches have turned to amusement and show business to try to win the world. Those methods may seem to draw crowds for a season. But they’re not God’s methods, and therefore they are destined to fail. In the meantime, the church is being infiltrated and corrupted by professing believers who have never repented, never turned from sin, and therefore, never really embraced Christ as Lord or Savior.

We must return to the message God has called us to preach. We need to confront sin and call sinners to repentance–to a radical break from the love of sin and a seeking of the Lord’s mercy. We must hold up Christ as Savior and Lord, the one who frees His people from the penalty and power of sin. That is, after all, the gospel He has called us to proclaim.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“What Does the Bible Teach About Election?” by John MacArthur

“What does the Bible teach about election?”

by John MacArthur

Election is the act of God whereby in eternity past He chose those who will be saved. Election is unconditional, because it does not depend on anything outside of God, such as good works or foreseen faith (Romans 9:16). This doctrine is repeatedly taught in the Bible, and is also demanded by our knowledge of God. To begin with, let’s look at the biblical evidence.

The Bible says prior to salvation, all people are dead in sin–spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). In this state of death, the sinner is utterly unable to respond to any spiritual stimulus and therefore unable to love God, obey Him, or please Him in any way. Scripture says the mind of every unbeliever “is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8, emphasis added). That describes a state of total hopelessness: spiritual death.

The effect of all this is that no sinner can ever make the first move in the salvation process. This is what Jesus meant in John 6:44, when He said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

This is also why the Bible repeatedly stresses that salvation is wholly God’s work. Consider these passages:

• In Acts 13:48 we read, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

• Acts 16:14 tells us that Lydia was saved when, “… the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

• Romans 8:29-30 states, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

• Ephesians 1:4-5,11 reads, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will … also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

• Ephesians 2:8 says even our faith is a gift from God.

• In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, the apostle Paul tells his readers, “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.”

• Second Timothy 1:9 informs us that God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

Occasionally someone will suggest that God’s election is based on His foreknowledge of certain events. This argument suggests that God simply looks into the future to see who will believe, and He chooses those whom He sees choosing Him. Notice that 1 Peter 1:2 says the elect are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” and Romans 8:29 says, “whom He foreknew, He also predestined.” And if divine foreknowledge simply means God’s knowledge of what will happen in advance, then these arguments may appear to have some weight behind them.

But that is not the biblical meaning of “foreknowledge.” When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person. The word know, in both the Old and New Testament, refers to much more than mere cognitive knowledge of a person. Such passages as Hosea 13:4-5; Amos 3:2 (KJV); and Romans 11:2 clearly indicate this. For example, 1 Peter 1:20 says Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Surely this means more than that God the Father looked into the future to behold Christ! It means He had an eternal, loving relationship with Him. The same is true of the elect, whom we are told God “foreknew” (Romans 8:29). That means He knew them–he loved them–before the foundation of the world.

If God’s choice of the elect is unconditional, does this rule out human responsibility? Paul asks and answers that very question in Romans 9:19-20. He says God’s choice of the elect is an act of mercy. Left to themselves, even the elect would persist in sin and be lost, because they are taken from the same fallen lump of clay as the rest of humanity. God alone is responsible for their salvation, but that does not eradicate the responsibility of those who persist in sin and are lost–because they do it willfully, and not under compulsion. They are responsible for their sin, not God.

The Bible affirms human responsibility right alongside the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Moreover, the offer of mercy in the gospel is extended to all alike. Isaiah 55:1 and Revelation 22:17 call “whosoever will” to be saved. Isaiah 45:22 and Acts 17:30 command all men to turn to God, repent and be saved. First Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 tell us that God is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all should be saved. Finally, the Lord Jesus said that, “the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

In summary, we can say that God has had a special love relationship with the elect from all eternity, and on the basis of that love relationship chose them for salvation. The ultimate question of why God chose some for salvation and left others in their sinful state is one that we, with our finite knowledge, cannot answer. We do know that God’s attributes always are in perfect harmony with each other, so that God’s sovereignty will always operate in perfect harmony with His goodness, love, wisdom, and justice.

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For further study on this crucial question, consider these resources:

• J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1961

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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Dealing with Sorrow” by John MacArthur

“Dealing with Sorrow”

John MacArthur

Dr. John MacArthur

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”(Matt. 5:4).

Most people in our society have an amusement-park mentality. They spend much of their time and money on entertainment, wanting to enjoy life and avoid problems whenever possible. To them, Matthew 5:4 is a paradox. How can someone who mourns be happy? The answer lies in the difference between godly sorrow and human sorrow. Godly sorrow is sorrow over sin; human sorrow is sorrow over some tragic or disappointing turn of events (2 Cor. 7:8-11).

In Matthew 5:4 Jesus is referring to godly sorrow, which is our topic for tomorrow. But we all face human sorrow, so I want to discuss it briefly today.

Human sorrow is a natural emotion. Our Lord Himself was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Many things can cause it: we might mourn out of love, disappointment, loneliness, or physical illness. There is nothing wrong with that kind of mourning. It is a God- given relief valve for the pain and sorrow in this fallen world, and promotes the healing process.

Scripture gives many examples of human sorrow. Abraham wept when his wife, Sarah, died (Gen. 23:2). Through tears Jeremiah preached God’s message of judgment (Jer. 9:1). Paul expressed his concern for the church with his tears (Acts 20:31). Those are natural, healthy expressions of human sorrow.

However, sorrow can also be caused by evil desires or a lack of trust in God. King Ahab mourned to the point of sulking and not eating when he couldn’t have another man’s property (1 Kings 21:4). Some Christians mourn excessively when they lose a loved one. Forsaking the comfort of the Spirit, they focus only on their own grief. Extreme or prolonged manifestations of sorrow are sinful and must be confessed rather than comforted.

God is gracious to His children amid times of human sorrow. Ultimately He will do away with mourning and pain forever (Rev. 21:4). Rejoice in that promise and be comforted by His wonderful grace!

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the ministry of the Spirit, who is the great Comforter or Helper (John 14:16-17). When sorrow occurs, lean on the Spirit, feed your soul on God’s Word, and commune with Him in prayer.

For Further Study:

Read Psalm 55. How did David express his desire to escape his difficult situation? What was his final resolve?
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Can Christians Become Too Heavenly-Minded?” by John MacArthur

“Can Christians become too heavenly-minded?”

by John MacArthur

Dr. John MacArthur

“No! It may sound paradoxical to say this, but heaven should be at the center of the Christian worldview. A proper Christian worldview is uniquely focused heavenward.

Though some would deride that as escapism, it is, after all, the very thing Scripture commands: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). The apostle Paul penned that command, and his approach to life was anything but escapist.

In fact, Paul is a wonderful example of the proper biblical perspective between heaven and earth. He faced overwhelming persecution on earth and never lost sight of heaven. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 he says,
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Then in verses 16-17 he adds, “We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Elsewhere he told the church at Rome, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

Paul was saying exactly what Peter told the scattered and persecuted believers he wrote to: we endure the sufferings of this world for the sake of the glory of heaven (1 Pet. 1:3-7). Whatever we suffer in this life cannot be compared with the glory of the life to come.

In other words, we don’t seek to escape this life by dreaming of heaven. But we do find we can endure this life because of the certainty of heaven. Heaven is eternal. Earth is temporal. Those who fix all their affections on the fleeting things of this world are the real escapists, because they are vainly attempting to avoid facing eternity–by hiding in the fleeting shadows of things that are transient.”
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You
© 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
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“Which Bible Translation Is Best?” by John MacArthur

The common question of which Bible translation to use is very important—it concerns the most important words ever spoken, the words of God the Creator. It’s crucial to understand at the outset that behind each version is a fundamental philosophy of Bible translation. You want to make sure the version you use reproduces in your own language what God actually said.

Translation Philosophy

You can separate modern Bible translations into two basic groups—formal equivalency and dynamic equivalency. Formal equivalency attempts a word for word rendition, providing as literal a translation as possible. Dynamic equivalency is more like a paraphrase, trying to convey ideas thought by thought.

Since no one language corresponds perfectly to any other language, every translation involves some degree of interpretation. A translation based on formal equivalency has a low degree of interpretation; translators are trying to convey the meaning of each particular word. When faced with a choice between readability and accuracy, formal equivalency translators are willing to sacrifice readability for the sake of accuracy.

By its very nature, a translation based on dynamic equivalency requires a high degree of interpretation. The goal of dynamic equivalency is to make the Bible readable, conveying an idea-for-idea rendering of the original. That means someone must first decide what idea is being communicated, which is the very act of interpretation. How the translators view Scripture becomes extremely important in the final product.

Sadly, there are many in the Bible-translation industry who have a low view of the Scripture. They think the Bible is merely a product of man, replete with mistakes, contradictions, and personal biases. Many translators today have also adopted the postmodern idea of elevating the experience of the reader over the intention of the author. They make the contemporary reader sovereign over the text and demote the intended meaning of the historic human writers who were carried along by one divine author (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Therefore, it’s vital that you find a translation that represents what the Holy Spirit actually said as faithfully as possible. Who’s interested in some contemporary translation committee’s spin on what they think contemporary readers want to read? We want to read what the author intended us to read, which is what the Holy Spirit originally inspired.

Translation Survey

The most popular dynamic-equivalency translations, which dominate the evangelical world, are the New International Version (NIV), Today’s New International Version (TNIV), The Message (MSG), The Living Bible (TLB), the Good News Bible (GNB), and the New Living Translation (NLT). Of those, the NIV is the most reliable.

The NIV was completed in 1978. Its translators did not attempt to translate strictly word for word, but aimed more for equivalent ideas. As a result, the NIV doesn’t follow the exact wording of the original Greek and Hebrew texts as closely as the King James Version and New American Standard Bible versions do. Nevertheless, it can be considered a faithful translation of the original texts, and its lucid readability makes it quite popular, especially for devotional reading.

The four most popular formal equivalency translations in English are the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the English Standard Version (ESV).

The KJV is the oldest of the four and continues to be the favorite of many. It is known as the Authorized Version of 1611 because King James I approved the project to create an authoritative English Bible. Although it contains many obsolete words (some of which have changed in meaning), many people appreciate its dignity and majesty. The NKJV is a similar translation, taken from the same group of ancient manuscripts, that simply updates the archaic language of the KJV.

The NASB, completed in 1971 and updated in 1995, is a revision of the American Standard Version of 1901. It is a literal translation from the Hebrew and Greek languages that incorporates the scholarship of several centuries of textual criticism conducted since the original KJV. It quickly became a favorite translation for serious Bible study.

The ESV is the most recent translation, which stands firmly in the formal equivalency tradition. It is a very solid translation in updated language that aims to reproduce the beauty of the KJV. The result is one of the most poetic and beautifully structured versions that maintains a high degree of accuracy and faithfulness to the original languages.

Translation Choice

Which version is the best to use? Ultimately, that choice is up to you. Each of the formal-equivalency versions has strengths and weaknesses, but they are all reliable translations of the Bible. If you want to read a dynamic-equivalency translation, the NIV is the most reliable.

Ideally, as a serious student of Scripture, you should become familiar enough with concordances, word-study aids, and conservative commentaries so that even without a thorough knowledge of the original languages, you can explore the nuances of meaning that arise out of the original texts.

For more study on Bible translations, the following resources provide reliable overviews and analyses:

The Canon of Scripture, F. F. Bruce

How to Choose a Bible Translation, Robert L. Thomas

The King James Only Controversy, James White

The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism, D. A. Carson

Words of Delight: A Literary Introduction to the Bible, Leland Ryken

The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation, Leland Ryken
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Hebrews 6 and the Loss of Salvation” — John MacArthur

“Hebrews 6 and the Loss of Salvation”

Does Hebrews 6:4-6 teach that a true believer can lose his salvation?

No. In that passage, the writer of Hebrews is speaking to the unsaved who have heard the truth and acknowledged it, but who have hesitated to embrace Christ. The Holy Spirit warns them, “You had better come to Christ now, for if you fall away it will be impossible for you to come again to the point of repentance.” They were at the best point for repentance–full knowledge. To fall back from that would be fatal.

Because they believe the warning is addressed to Christians, many interpreters hold that the passage teaches that salvation can be lost. If this interpretation were true, however, the passage would also teach that, once lost, salvation could never be regained. There would be no going back and forth, in and out of grace. But Christians are not being addressed, and it is the opportunity for receiving salvation, not salvation itself, that can be lost.

The believer need never fear he will lose his salvation. He cannot. The Bible is absolutely clear about that. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29; see also Rom. 8:35-39; Phil. 1:6; and 1 Pet. 1:4-5).

If you are in Christ, rejoice. Your salvation is secure forever.

(Today’s post adapted from the MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Hebrews, p. 146.)
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org

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“What Is Repentance And How Does It Relate To Salvation?” — John MacArthur

“What Is Repentance And How Does It Relate To Salvation?”

John MacArthur

The meaning of the word repentance has been twisted in recent years to the point that its biblical meaning is now obscured in the minds of many. The idea that genuine repentance could result in anything but a change of life is completely foreign to Scripture.

What does the Bible teach about the relationship between salvation and repentance? First, it teaches that repentance is essential to salvation. One cannot truly believe unless he repents, and one cannot truly repent unless he believes. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin (but they are not synonymous terms). Acts 11:18 and 2 Peter 3:9 are two of the many verses that teach that repentance is necessary for salvation. Perhaps 2 Timothy 2:25 best sums up the relationship between repentance and saving faith when it speaks of “repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (see also Acts 20:21).

Second, the Greek word for repentance (metanoia) means “to have another mind,” but it cannot properly be defined to exclude a sense of hatred of and penitence for sin. The biblical concept of repentance involves far more than merely a casual change of thinking. Biblically, a person who repents does not continue willfully in sin. Repentance is a turning from sin, and it always results in changed behavior (Luke 3:8). While sorrow from sin is not equivalent to repentance, it is certainly an element of scriptural repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Finally, despite what is being widely taught today, affirming that repentance and acknowledgement of Jesus’ lordship are necessary to salvation does not “add” anything to the requirement of faith for salvation. It is not “faith plus repentance” that saves, but rather a repentant faith. The notion that salvation is possible apart from a genuine, heartfelt repentance, which includes a deep hatred of sin, is a relatively new one, neither believed nor taught by the people of God until the twentieth century.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Should We Fight for the Truth?” by John MacArthur

“Should We Fight for the Truth?”

by John MacArthur

Dr. John MacArthur

Many self-styled evangelicals today are openly questioning whether such a thing as truth even exists. Others suppose that even if truth does exist, we can’t be sure what it is, so it can’t really matter much. This type of thinking is epidemic, even among some of the evangelical movement’s most popular authors and spokespersons. Some flatly refuse to stand for anything because they have decided that even Scripture isn’t really clear enough to argue about.

Except for the massive scale on which such thinking has attained popularity today, and the way it is seeping into the church, such ideas themselves are really nothing new or particularly shocking. It is exactly the same attitude with which Pilate summarily dismissed Christ: “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

Certain avant-garde evangelicals sometimes act as if the demise of certainty is a dramatic new intellectual development, rather than seeing it for what it actually is: an echo of the old unbelief. It is unbelief cloaked in a religious disguise and seeking legitimacy as if it were merely a humbler kind of faith. But it’s not faith at all. In reality, the contemporary refusal to regard any truth as sure and certain is the worst kind of infidelity.

The church’s duty has always been to confront such skepticism and answer it by clearly proclaiming the truth God has revealed in His Word. We have been given a clear message for the purpose of confronting the world’s unbelief. That is what we are called, commanded, and commissioned to do (1 Corinthians 1:17-31). Faithfulness to Christ demands it. The honor of God requires it. We cannot sit by and do nothing while worldly, revisionist, and skeptical attitudes about truth are infiltrating the church. We must not embrace such confusion in the name of charity, collegiality, or unity. We have to stand and fight for the truth–and be prepared to die for it–as faithful Christians always have.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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The above photo added by this blog, and was not in original article at Grace To You.
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“Controlling Yourself” by John MacArthur

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth”(Matt. 5:5).

The Greek word translated “gentle” in Matthew 5:5 speaks of humility, meekness, and non-retaliation–traits that in our proud society are often equated with weakness or cowardice. But in reality they are virtues that identify kingdom citizens.

The same word was used by the Greeks to describe a gentle breeze, a soothing medicine, or a domesticated colt. Those are examples of power under control: a gentle breeze brings pleasure, but a hurricane brings destruction; a soothing medicine brings healing, but an overdose can kill; a domesticated colt is useful, but a wild horse is dangerous.

Christ Himself is the epitome of gentleness. Even when officially announcing His messiahship to Jerusalem, He humbly entered the city astride a donkey (Matt. 21:5). His behavior amid persecution was exemplary: “Christ . . . suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats” (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Despite His humility and restraint, Jesus wasn’t weak or cowardly. He never defended Himself, but when His Father’s house was being desecrated, He made a whip and beat those who were defiling it (John 2:13-16; Matt. 21:12-13). He never shirked from pronouncing judgment on unrepentant sinners, and never compromised His integrity or disobeyed His Father’s will.

The hypocritical Jewish religious leaders expected that when Israel’s Messiah came He would commended them for their wonderful spirituality. Instead, Jesus condemned them and called them children of the devil (John 8:44). In retaliation they had Him murdered. His power was always under control; theirs wasn’t.

Our society has little use for gentleness. The macho, do-your-own-thing mentality characterizes most of our heroes. But you are called to a higher standard. When you pattern your life after Jesus, you will have a significant impact on society and will know true happiness.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Thank God for the virtue of gentleness, which He is producing in you by the power of His Spirit. Follow Christ’s example today so that gentleness will mark your character.

For Further Study:

Read the following passages, noting the responsibilities and blessings that accompany self-restraint: Proverbs 16:32, Ephesians 4:1-2, Colossians 3:12, and Titus 3:1-2.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Is It Possible for Redeemed People to Lose Their Salvation?” — John MacArthur

“Is It Possible for Redeemed People to Lose Their Salvation?”

John MacArthur

Dr. John F. MacArthur (Pastor/Teacher - Grace Community Church)

The Bible says, “No!” One who is saved “has everlasting life, and … is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). Eternal life by definition cannot be temporary. It is the present possession of all those who have truly trusted Christ.

Romans 8:28-39 reveals clearly that there is nothing in the universe that can separate the elect from the love of God. The One who chose to save you “is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).

According to Scripture, people who profess to know Christ at one time but later deny Him were never really saved to begin with. First John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”

A true believer will never depart from the faith (Philippians 1:6), so those who do so are revealing that they were never truly saved (John 8:31; Hebrews 3:14).

Even true Christians can sin, however, and because of that may lack assurance of salvation (Psalm 51:12). A failure to grow spiritually can also rob us of the confidence that we are God’s children (2 Peter 1:9). But anyone indwelt by the Holy Spirit is secure eternally, because He is the “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14).
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This article (here) originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Living One Day At a Time” by John MacArthur

“Living One Day At A Time”

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

The believer is not to worry about his future

John MacArthur

Worry is a tremendous force that will endeavor to defeat you. It will try to destroy you today by making you upset and anxious. But if it loses today, it will take you into the future until it finds something to make you worry about….Take the resources of today for the needs of today, or you will lose the joy of today…Lack of joy is a sin…Many people lose their joy because of worry about tomorrow, and they miss the victory God gives them today. That is not fair to Him. God gives you a glorious and blissful day today; live in the light and fullness of the joy of that day, and use the resources God supplies.
Hovering Hummingbird

Don’t push yourself into the future and forfeit the joy of today over some tomorrow that may never happen…God gives strength for only one day at a time. He doesn’t give you grace for tomorrow until tomorrow…If you have any questions about the future, look at the past. Did He sustain you then? He will sustain you in the future.John MacArthur (Strength For Today, excerpted from devotion for August 30)

(John MacArthur, Strength For Today: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith [Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1997], excerpt from devotion for September 30th)
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Picture added by me.
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“If God Is Sovereign, Is He Responsible For Evil?” by John MacArthur

“Is God Responsible for Evil?”

by John MacArthur

If God is sovereign, is He responsible for evil?

No. Scripture says that when God finished His creation, He saw everything and declared it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Many Scriptures affirm that God is not the author of evil: “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13). “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33)-and if that is true, He cannot in any way be the author of evil.

Occasionally someone will quote Isaiah 45:7 (KJV) and claim it proves God made evil as a part of His creation: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (emphasis added).

But the New American Standard Bible gives the sense of Isaiah 45:6-7 more clearly: “There is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” In other words, God devises calamity as a judgment for the wicked. But in no sense is He the author of evil.

Evil originates not from God but from the fallen creature. I agree with John Calvin, who wrote,

. . . the Lord had declared that “everything that he had made . . . was exceedingly good” [Gen. 1:31]. Whence, then comes this wickedness to man, that he should fall away from his God? Lest we should think it comes from creation, God had put His stamp of approval on what had come forth from himself. By his own evil intention, then, man corrupted the pure nature he had received from the Lord; and by his fall drew all his posterity with him into destruction. Accordingly, we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity-which is closer to us-rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God’s predestination. [Institutes, 3:23:8]

It is helpful, I think, to understand that sin is not itself a thing created. Sin is neither substance, being, spirit, nor matter. So it is technically not proper to think of sin as something that was created. Sin is simply alack of moral perfection in a fallen creature. Fallen creatures themselves bear full responsibility for their sin. And all evil in the universe emanates from the sins of fallen creatures.

For example, Romans 5:12 says that death entered the world because of sin. Death, pain, disease, stress, exhaustion, calamity, and all the bad things that happen came as a result of the entrance of sin into the universe (see Genesis 3:14-24). All those evil effects of sin continue to work in the world and will be with us as long as sin is.

First Corinthians 10:13 promises us that God will not permit a greater trial than we can bear. And James 1:13 tells us that God will not tempt us with evil.

God is certainly sovereign over evil. There’s a sense in which it is proper even to say that evil is part of His eternal decree. He planned for it. It did not take Him by surprise. It is not an interruption of His eternal plan. He declared the end from the beginning, and He is still working all things for His good pleasure (Isaiah 46:9-10).

But God’s role with regard to evil is never as its author. He simply permits evil agents to work, then overrules evil for His own wise and holy ends. Ultimately He is able to make all things-including all the fruits of all the evil of all time-work together for a greater good (Romans 8:28).
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
www.gty.org
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John MacArthur: On The Undeniable Truth Of Sovereign Election

“Considering Election (Not Politics)”

John MacArthur

“Election is the act of God whereby in eternity past He chose those who will be saved. Election is unconditional, because it does not depend on anything outside of God, such as good works or foreseen faith (Romans 9:16). This doctrine is repeatedly taught in the Bible, and is also demanded by our knowledge of God. To begin with, let’s look at the biblical evidence.The Bible says prior to salvation, all people are dead in sin — spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). In this state of death, the sinner is utterly unable to respond to any spiritual stimulus and therefore unable to love God, obey Him, or please Him in any way. Scripture says the mind of every unbeliever “is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8, emphasis added). That describes a state of total hopelessness: spiritual death.The effect of all this is that no sinner can ever make the first move in the salvation process. This is what Jesus meant in John 6:44, when He said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

This is also why the Bible repeatedly stresses that salvation is wholly God’s work. In Acts 13:48 we read, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Acts 16 tells us that Lydia was saved when, “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

Romans 8:29-30 states, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

Ephesians 1:4-5,11 reads, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

Ephesians 2:8 suggests that even our faith is a gift from God.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, the apostle Paul tells his readers, “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.”

Second Timothy 1:9 informs us that God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

Occasionally someone will suggest that God’s election is based on His foreknowledge of certain events. This argument suggests that God simply looks into the future to see who will believe, and He chooses those whom He sees choosing Him. Notice that 1 Peter 1:2 says the elect are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” and Romans 8:29 says, “whom He foreknew, He also predestined.” And if divine foreknowledge simply means God’s knowledge of what will happen in advance, then these arguments may appear to have some weight behind them.

But that is not the biblical meaning of “foreknowledge.” When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person. The word “know,” in both the Old and New Testament, refers to much more than mere cognitive knowledge of a person. Such passages as Hosea 13:4-5; Amos 3:2 (KJV); and Romans 11:2 clearly indicate this. For example, 1 Peter 1:20 says Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Surely this means more than that God the Father looked into the future to behold Christ! It means He had an eternal, loving relationship with Him. The same is true of the elect, whom we are told God “foreknew” (Romans 8:29). That means He knew them — He loved them — before the foundation of the world.

If God’s choice of the elect is unconditional, does this rule out human responsibility? Paul asks and answers that very question in Romans 9:19-20. He says God’s choice of the elect is an act of mercy. Left to themselves, even the elect would persist in sin and be lost, because they are taken from the same fallen lump of clay as the rest of humanity. God alone is responsible for their salvation, but that does not eradicate the responsibility of those who persist in sin and are lost — because they do it willfully, and not under compulsion. They are responsible for their sin, not God.

The Bible affirms human responsibility right alongside the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Moreover, the offer of mercy in the gospel is extended to all alike. Isaiah 55:1 and Revelation 22:17 call “whosoever will” to be saved. Isaiah 45:22 and Acts 17:30 command all men to turn to God, repent and be saved. First Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 tell us that God is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all should be saved. Finally, the Lord Jesus said that, “the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

In summary, we can say that God has had a special love relationship with the elect from all eternity, and on the basis of that love relationship chosen them for salvation. The ultimate question of why God chose some for salvation and left others in their sinful state is one that we, with our finite knowledge, cannot answer. We do know that God’s attributes always are in perfect harmony with each other, so that God’s sovereignty will always operate in perfect harmony with His goodness, love, wisdom, and justice.”
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. – © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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