“Secrets of Contentment, Part 1” by John MacArthur

Click to view book at GTY


John MacArthur,

In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul said, “I have learned to be content .. . I have learned the secret.” Here he useda Greek term pregnant with meaning—an allusion to the mystery religions of Greece. Initiation into those pagan cults involved becoming privy to certain religious secrets. Paul became privy to the secret of contentment, and it’s one he passed on to all who have been initiated by faith in Jesus Christ. Over the next few days we will consider several secrets to contentment, coming out of Philippians 4.

1. Confidence in God’s Providence

Paul said, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that . . . you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity” (v. 10). Let me give you some background. About ten years had passed since Paul was last in Philippi. Acts 16 relates what happened during his first visit.

Paul and his traveling companions met a businesswoman named Lydia and preached the Gospel to her and her companions. Their conversion resulted in the formation of a church. During the early days of that church, Paul cast out a spirit of divination from a slave girl. The girl’s owners—livid over the loss of the income they had derived from her fortune-telling abilities—had Paul flogged, thrown into prison, and locked in stocks. Instead of complaining about the miserable situation in which he found himself, he praised God through thankful prayer and song far into the night.

God responded in an amazing way: He shook the foundations of the prison so violently that all its doors opened wide and the chains fell off the prisoners’ feet and wrists. That incredible experience, plus Paul’s incredible response to his dismal circumstances, led to the salvation of the jailer—and the jailer’s entire household. As the church at Philippi grew, it’s apparent they helped fund Paul for further missionary outreach.

Our text in Philippians makes it clear, however, that it had been awhile since they last were able to help support him in that endeavor. But that was fine with Paul. He knew it wasn’t that they lacked concern, but that they lacked “opportunity” (Gk., kairos). That’s a reference to a season or window of opportunity, not to chronological time.

In writing, “You have revived your concern for me,” Paul was using a horticultural term that means “to bloom again.” That’s like saying, “Your love has flowered again. I know it has always been there, but it just didn’t have an opportunity to bloom. Blooms are seasonal, and the right season hadn’t come along until now.”

The point is that Paul had a patient confidence in God’s sovereign providence. He was content to do without and wait on the Lord’s timing. He didn’t resort to panic or manipulation of others. Those things are never called for. Paul was certain that in due time God would order the circumstances so that his needs would be met. We can have that same certainty today.

Until we truly learn that God is sovereign, ordering everything for His own holy purposes and the ultimate good of those who love Him, we can’t help but be discontent. That’s because in taking on the responsibility of ordering our lives, we will be frustrated in repeatedly discovering that we can’t control everything. Everything already is under control, however, by Someone far greater than you or I.

A synonym for God’s providence is divine provision, but that’s a skimpy label for a complex theological reality. Providence is how God orchestrates everything to accomplish His purposes. Let me show you what that means by contrast.

There are two ways God can act in the world: by miracle and by providence. A miracle has no natural explanation. In the flow of normal life, God suddenly stems the tide and injects a miracle. Then He sets the flow back in motion, just like parting the Red Sea until His people could walk across and closing it up again. Do you think it would be easier to do that—to say, “Hold it, I want to do this miracle” and do it—or to say, “Let’s see, I’ve got 50 billion circumstances to orchestrate to accomplish this one thing”? The latter is providence. Think, for example, of how God providentially ordered the lives of Joseph, Ruth, and Esther. Today He does the same for us.

Contentment comes from learning that God is sovereign not only by supernatural intervention, but also by natural orchestration. And what an incredible orchestra it is! Appreciate the complexity of what God is doing every moment just to keep us alive. When we look at things from that perspective, we see what folly it is to think we can control our lives. When we give up that vain pursuit, we give up a major source of anxiety.

Paul was content because he had confidence in the providence of God. That confidence, however, never led him to a fatalistic “It doesn’t matter what I do” attitude. The example of Paul’s life throughout the New Testament is this: Work as hard as you can and be content that God is in control of the results.

This article originally appeared here at Grace to You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved.

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“Grow Up: Advice for YRRs” (Young, Restless and Reformed) (part 2) by John MacArthur

Dr. John F. MacArthur


John MacArthur,

If I could impress on Young, Restless, Reformed students just one word of friendly counsel to address what I think is the most glaring deficiency in that movement, this is what it would be: “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

I’m very glad the ranks of YRRs are growing numerically. Many good things about that movement are full of promise and potential. In order to fulfill that potential, however, this generation of Reformers desperately needs to move past the young-and-restless stage. Immaturity and unrest are hindrances to spiritual fruitfulness, not virtues.

When Paul told Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12), he wasn’t suggesting that Timothy should forbid people in the church to disapprove if the pastor were to display immaturity, juvenile misbehavior, youthful indiscretion, or other traits of callow character.

Much less was the apostle suggesting that Timothy should cater exclusively to young people while purposely marginalizing the elderly. That, I’m sorry to say, is the kind of advice we sometimes hear nowadays from many self-styled church-growth
experts
….[continue reading at Grace To You]

John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock :: Book Review by Dr. Jon Payne :: Reformation 21

Click to view at WTS Books


Jon Payne,

In the concluding section of his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul challenges the brothers to “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, [and] be strong” (I Cor. 16:13), not least of all those men who have been set apart as under-shepherds of the flock. Sadly, in our increasingly effeminate culture, these biblical marks of manhood appear to be diminishing amongst both laymen and ministers. Dandified, progressive, culture-centric preachers (and preaching) are becoming as ubiquitous as Starbucks and American Eagle. Harder to find is Lionhearted, authoritative, expository, God-besotted, Law/Gospel-filled preaching like that which characterized the preaching of men like Calvin, Knox, Owen, Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones. It is, in part, for this reason that John Fullerton MacArthur Jr.’s long and steadfast ministry of the Word is a welcome and timely subject for reflection…..[continue reading at Reformation 21]

“Grow Up. Settle Down. Keep Reforming. Advice for the Young, Restless, Reformed” by John MacArthur

John MacArthur


John MacArthur,

It has been five years since Christianity Today published Collin Hansen’s article titled “Young, Restless, Reformed.” Hansen later expanded the article into a book with the same title (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). He has carefully documented a very encouraging trend: large numbers of young people (college age and younger) are discovering the doctrines of grace, embracing a more biblical and Christ-centered worldview, and beginning to delve more deeply into serious theology than most 20th-century evangelicals were prone to do.

In short, Calvinism, not postmodernism, seems to be capturing the hearts of Christian young people.

Hansen cites evidence that Calvinistic seminaries are growing. Several new national conferences feature speakers committed to reformed soteriology (R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and others)—and these conferences are consistently full to overflowing with students. Books rich with meaty doctrinal content rather than relational fluff have begun to show up on Christian best-seller lists. There is even a surge of interest in Jonathan Edwards….[continue reading at Grace To You]

“Scripture, Tradition, and Rome, Part 2” by John MacArthur

“Scripture, Tradition, and Rome, Part 2”

by John MacArthur

John MacArthur


Modern Roman Catholic Apologetics and Sola Scriptura

As we established yesterday, the official Catholic position on Scripture is that Scripture does not and cannot speak for itself. It must be interpreted by the Church’s teaching authority, and in light of “living tradition.” De facto this says that Scripture has no inherent authority, but like all spiritual truth, it derives its authority from the Church. Only what the Church says is deemed the true Word of God, the “Sacred Scripture . . . written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records.”

This position obviously emasculates Scripture. That is why the Catholic stance against sola Scriptura has always posed a major problem for Roman Catholic apologists. On one hand faced with the task of defending Catholic doctrine, and on the other hand desiring to affirm what Scripture says about itself, they find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. They cannot affirm the authority of Scripture apart from the caveat that tradition is necessary to explain the Bible’s true meaning. Quite plainly, that makes tradition a superior authority. Moreover, in effect it renders Scripture superfluous, for if Catholic tr adition inerrantly encompasses and explains all the truth of Scripture, then the Bible is simply redundant. Understandably, sola Scriptura has therefore always been a highly effective argument for defenders of the Reformation.

So it is not hard to understand why in recent years Catholic apologists have attacked sola Scriptura with a vengeance. If they can topple this one doctrine, all the Reformers’ other points fall with it. For under the Catholic system, whatever the Church says must be the standard by which to interpret all Scripture. Tradition is the “true” Scripture, written in the heart of the Church. The Church–not Scripture written in “documents and records”–defines the truth about justification by faith, veneration of saints, transubstantiation, and a host of other issues that divided the Reformers from Rome.

To put it another way, if we accept the voice of the Church as infallibly correct, then what Scripture says about these questions is ultimately irrelevant. And in practice this is precisely what happens. To cite but one example, Scripture very plainly says, “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). Nonetheless, the Catholic Church insists that Mary is her Son’s “co-mediatrix.” And in the eyes of millions of Catholics, what the Church says is seen as the final and authoritative Word of God. First Timothy 2:5 is thus nullified by Church tradition.

If Rome can prove her case against sola Scriptura, she overturns all the arguments for the Reformation in one fell swoop. If she can establish her tradition as an infallible authority, no mere biblical argument would have any effect against the dictates of the Church.

Modern Roman Catholic apologists have therefore mounted a carefully focused attack against sola Scriptura.Hoping to turn the Reformation’s greatest strength into an argument against the Reformation, they have begun to argue that it is possible to debunk sola Scriptura by using Scripture alone!This line of argument is now being employed by Catholics against evangelicalism in practically every conceivable forum.

For example, from some articles posted on the Internet:

• The Protestant teaching that the Bible is the sole spiritual authority–sola Scriptura–is nowhere to be found in the Bible. St. Paul wrote to Timothy that Scripture is “useful” (which is an understatement), but neither he nor anyone else in the early Church taught sola scriptura. And, in fact, nobody believed it until the Reformation.

• The Bible nowhere teaches that it is the sole authority in matters of belief. In fact, the Bible teaches that Tradition–the oral teachings given by Jesus to the apostles and their successors, the bishops–is a parallel source of authentic belief. (Quotes from 2 Thess. 2:15 and 1 Cor. 11:2 follow).

From some books written by Catholic Apologists:

• Nowhere does [the Bible] reduce God’s Word down to Scripture alone. Instead, the Bible tells us in many places that God’s authoritative Word is to be found in the church: her tradition (2 Th 2:15; 3:6) as well as her preaching and teaching (1 Pet 1:25; 2 Pet 1:20-21; Mt 18:17). That’s why I think the Bible supports the Catholic principle of sola verbum Dei, “the Word of God alone,” [with “Word of God” encompassing both tradition and Scripture], rather than the Protestant slogan, sola scriptura, “Scripture alone.”

• The Bible actually denies that it is the complete rule of faith. John tells us that not everything concerning Christ’s work is in Scripture (Jn 21:25), and Paul says that much Christian teaching is to be found in the tradition that is handed down by word of mouth (2 Tim. 2:2). He instructs us to “stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle” (2 Th 2:15). We are told that the first Christians “were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles” (Acts 2:42), which was the oral teaching given long before the New Testament was written–and centuries before the canon of the New Testament was settled.

And from a public debate on the question of sola Scriptura:

• Sola Scriptura itself must be proved from Scripture alone. And if it can’t be done, sola scriptura is a self refuting proposition, and therefore it is false.

• [In] 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul commands the Church to stand firm and hold fast in the traditions that they had been given, whether orally, spoken, or through an epistle of theirs. So in other words, tradition is one major category, and there are two subsets in the one category:oral tradition, written tradition. That’s what the Word of God says.

The Sufficiency of Scripture

First, it is necessary to understand what sola Scriptura does and does not assert. The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture.

It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that “scientific truth” for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture–but Scripture is a “more sure Word,” standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is “more sure,” according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our own senses (2 Pet. 1:19). Therefore Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter to which it speaks. But there are many important questions on which Scripture is silent. Sola Scriptura makes no claim to the contrary.

Nor does sola Scriptura claim that everything Jesus or the apostles ever taught is preserved in Scripture. It only means that everything necessary, everything binding on our consciences, and everything God requires of us is given to us in Scripture.

Furthermore, we are forbidden to add to or take way from Scripture (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32, cf. Rev. 22:18-19). To do so is to lay on people’s shoulders a burden that God Himself does not intend for them to bear (cf. Matt. 23:4).

Scripture is therefore the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved, and all that we must do in order to glorify God. That–no more, no less–is what sola Scriptura means.

The Westminster Confession of Faith defines the sufficiency of Scripture like this:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men (1:6).

The Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Church include this statement on sola Scriptura:

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation (article 6).

So sola Scriptura simply means that Scripture is sufficient. The fact that Jesus did and taught many things not recorded in Scripture (Jn. 20:30; 21:25) is wholly irrelevant to the principle of sola Scriptura. The fact that most of the apostles’ actual sermons in the early churches were not written down and preserved for us does not diminish the truth of biblical sufficiency one bit.What is certain is that all that is necessary is in Scripture–and we are forbidden “to exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).

Scripture clearly claims for itself this sufficiency–and nowhere more clearly than 2 Timothy 3:15-17. A brief summary of that passage is perhaps appropriate here as well. In short, verse 15 affirms that Scripture is sufficient for salvation: “The sacred writings . . . are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Verse 16 affirms the absolute authority of Scripture, which is “God-breathed” (Gk. theopneustos) and profitable for our instruction. And verse 17 states that Scripture is able to equip the man of God “for every good work.”

So the assertion that the Bible itself does not teach sola Scriptura is simply wrong.
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This article originally appeared here at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
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“Scripture, Tradition, and Rome, Part 1” by John MacArthur

“Scripture, Tradition, and Rome, Part 1”

by John MacArthur

John F. MacArthur

The tendency to venerate tradition is very strong in religion. The world is filled with religions that have been following set traditions for hundreds–even thousands–of years. Cultures come and go, but religious tradition shows an amazing continuity.

In fact, many ancient religions–including Druidism, Native American religions, and several of the oriental cults–eschewed written records of their faith, preferring to pass down their legends and rituals and dogmas via word-of-mouth. Such religions usually treat their body of traditions as a de facto authority equal to other religions’ sacred writings.

Even among the world’s religions that revere sacred writings, however, tradition and Scripture are often blended. This is true in Hinduism, for example, where the ancient Vedas are the Scriptures, and traditions handed down by gurus round out the faith of most followers. Tradition in effect becomes a lens through which the written word is interpreted. Tradition therefore stands as the highest of all authorities, because it renders the only authoritative interpretation of the sacred writings.

This tendency to view tradition as supreme authority is not unique to pagan religions. Traditional Judaism, for example, follows the Scripture-plus-tradition paradigm. The familiar books of the Old Testament alone are viewed as Scripture, but true orthodoxy is actually defined by a collection of ancient rabbinical traditions known as the Talmud. In effect, the traditions of the Talmud carry an authority equal to or greater than that of the inspired Scriptures….[continue reading at Grace to You]

Ten steps to becoming a “Pragmatic Church” — John MacArthur

John MacArthur on the dangers of worldly, pragmatic church methodologies:

John MacArthur


Ten steps to becoming a “Pragmatic Church”

1. “Easy-believism” gospel.

2. Place emphasis on some “work” for salvation and not the need to recognize and approach a holy God.

3. Teach half-truths.

4. Teach that grace replaces (instead of produces) holiness.

5. Teach that love and truth are opposed and obedience is legalism or optional.

6. Use fleshly things to attract unbelievers for evangelism and teach them that carnal, worldly lifestyles are acceptable.

7. Avoid the Biblical teachings that create humility in man and exalt God.

8. Teach the means of grace are optional.

9. Be “seeker-friendly” and avoid being “offensive.”

10. Place being “relatable” above “biblical accuracy.”

— John MacArthur

Does the Truth Matter Anymore? Video Tape Series.

(via: Grace Christian Quotes)

BIBLIOPHILE BOOKNOTES: Learn New Testament Greek, Think Biblically! and Other Books I Am Reading

I thought I would share with you more books on my current reading list:

1. Murray, Iain. Evangelicalism Divided. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth. 2000.

2. MacArthur, John. et. al. Think Biblically! Wheaton: Crossway. 2003.

3. Frame, John. The Doctrine of God. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing. 2002.
4. Dobson, John. Learn New Testament Greek. 2nd. ed. Grand Rapids: Baker. 1993. (Picture is of Learn New Testament Greek with CDROM, 3rd ed., but I am actually using the older 2nd. edition).

“Do We Need the Local Church” by John MacArthur

Do We Need the Local Church?

by John MacArthur


The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the importance of local assemblies. In fact, it was the pattern of Paul’s ministry to establish local congregations in the cities where he preached the gospel. Hebrews 10:24-25 commands every believer to be a part of such a local body and reveals why this is necessary.

“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

It is only in the local body to which one is committed that there can be the level of intimacy that is required for carefully stimulating fellow-believers “to love and good deeds.” And it is only in this setting that we can encourage one another.

The New Testament also teaches that every believer is to be under the protection and nurture of the leadership of the local church. These godly men can shepherd the believer by encouraging, admonishing, and teaching. Hebrews 13:7 and 17 help us to understand that God has graciously granted accountability to us through godly leadership.

Furthermore, when Paul gave Timothy special instructions about the public meetings, he said “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Part of the emphasis in public worship includes these three things: hearing the Word, being called to obedience and action through exhortation, and teaching. It is only in the context of the local assembly that these things can most effectively take place.

Acts 2:42 shows us what the early church did when they met together: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They learned God’s Word and the implications of it in their lives; they joined to carry out acts of love and service to one another; they commemorated the Lord’s death and resurrection through the breaking of bread; and they prayed. Of course, we can do these things individually, but God has called us into His body-the church is the local representation of that worldwide-body-and we should gladly minister and be ministered to among God’s people.

Active local church membership is imperative to living a life without compromise. It is only through the ministry of the local church that a believer can receive the kind of teaching, accountability, and encouragement that is necessary for him to stand firm in his convictions. God has ordained that the church provide the kind of environment where an uncompromising life can thrive.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace to You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
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“What Doctrines Are Essential? – Part 2” by John MacArthur

“What Doctrines Are Essential? – Part 2”

by John MacArthur

Hebrews 11:6; John 17:3; Acts 4:12; 1 John 5:20; John 8:58

John MacArthur

III. Everything Essential to Saving Faith Is Essential

Third, a doctrine must be regarded as fundamental if eternal life depends on it. Scripture is full of statements that identify the terms of salvation and the marks of genuine faith.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). That verse makes faith itself essential to a right relationship with God. It also expressly identifies both the existence and the veracity of God as fundamental articles of the Christian faith.

Elsewhere we are told that eternal life is obtained through the knowledge of the true God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3; 14:6; Acts 4:12). Since Jesus Himself is the true God incarnate (1 John 5:20; John 8:58; 10:30), the fact of His deity (and by implication the whole doctrine of the Trinity) is a fundamental article of faith (see 1 John 2:23). Our Lord Himself confirmed this when He said all must honor Him as they honor the Father (John 5:23).

The truths of Jesus’ divine Sonship and Messiahship are also fundamental articles of faith (John 20:31).

Of course, the bodily resurrection of Christ is a fundamental doctrine, because 1 Corinthians 15:14 tells us, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.”

Romans 10:9 confirms that the resurrection is a fundamental doctrine, and adds another: the lordship of Christ. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”

And according to Romans 4:4-5, justification by faith is a fundamental doctrine as well: “Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.” In other words, those who seek acceptance before God on the ground of their own righteousness will find they fall short (Romans 3:27-28; Galatians 2:16-3:29). Only those who trust God to impute Christ’s perfect righteousness to them are accounted truly righteous. This is precisely the difference between Roman Catholic doctrine and the Gospel set forth in Scripture. It is at the heart of all doctrine that is truly fundamental.

In fact, an error in understanding justification is the very thing that was responsible for the apostasy of the Jewish nation: “For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). Is that not the precise failure of Roman Catholicism? But “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (v. 4).

IV. Every Doctrine We Are Forbidden to Deny Is Fundamental

Certain teachings of Scripture carry threats of damnation to those who deny them. Other ideas are expressly stated to be affirmed only by unbelievers. Such doctrines, obviously, involve fundamental articles of genuine Christianity.

The apostle John began his first epistle with a series of statements that establish key points of the doctrine of sin (hamartiology) as fundamental articles of faith. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1:6). That condemns wanton antinomianism (the idea that Christians are under no law whatsoever) and makes some degree of doctrinal and moral enlightenment essential to true Christianity. A second statement rules out the humanistic notion that people are basically good: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (v. 8 ). And a third suggests that no true Christian would deny his or her own sinfulness: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (v. 10).

First Corinthians 16:22 makes love for Christ a fundamental issue: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed.” And a similar verse, 1 Corinthians 12:3, says that no one speaking by the Spirit of God can call Jesus accursed.

The truth of Jesus’ incarnation is also clearly designated a fundamental doctrine: “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:2-3). “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7). Those verses by implication also condemn those who deny the Virgin Birth of our Lord, for if He was not virgin-born, He would be merely human, not eternal God come in the flesh.

And since those who twist and distort the Word of God are threatened with destruction (2 Peter 3:16), it is evident that both a lofty view of Scripture and a sound method of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) are fundamental tenets of true Christianity.

See also:

“What Doctrines Are Essential? – Part 1” by John MacArthur
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This article originally appeared here at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
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“What Doctrines Are Essential? – Part 1” by John MacArthur

“What Doctrines Are Essential? – Part 1”

by John MacArthur

2 Timothy 3:15; Psalms 19:7; Matthew 11:25

John MacArthur


How can a Christian determine which doctrines are essential and which are not?

To begin with, the strongest words of condemnation in all the New Testament are aimed at false teachers who corrupt the Gospel. Therefore the Gospel message itself must be acknowledged as a primary point of fundamental doctrine.

But what message will determine the content of our gospel testimony? Let’s turn to Scripture itself and attempt to lay out some biblical principles for determining which articles of faith are truly essential to authentic Christianity.

I. All Fundamental Articles of Faith Must Be Drawn from the Scriptures

First, if a doctrine is truly fundamental, it must have its origin in Scripture, not tradition, papal decrees, or some other source of authority. Paul reminded Timothy that the Scriptures are “able to make thee wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15, KJV). In other words, if a doctrine is essential for salvation, we can learn it from the Bible. The written Word of God therefore must contain all doctrine that is truly fundamental. It is able to make us “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). If there were necessary doctrines not revealed in Scripture, those promises would ring empty.

The psalmist wrote, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7). That means Scripture is sufficient. Apart from the truths revealed to us in Scripture, there is no essential spiritual truth, no fundamental doctrine, nothing essential to soul-restoration. We do not need to look beyond the written Word of God for any essential doctrines. There is nothing necessary beyond what is recorded in God’s Word.

This, of course, is the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura — Scripture alone. According to the Bible itself, no supposed spiritual authority outside “the sacred writings” of Scripture can give us wisdom that leads to salvation. No papal decrees, no oral tradition, no latter-day prophecy can contain truth apart from Scripture that is genuinely fundamental.

II. The Fundamentals Are Clear in Scripture

Second, if an article of faith is to be regarded as fundamental, it must be clearly set forth in Scripture. No “secret knowledge” or hidden truth-formula could ever qualify as a fundamental article of faith. No cryptic key is necessary to unlock the teaching of the Bible.

The truth of God is not aimed at learned intellectuals; it is simple enough for a child. “Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes” (Matthew 11:25, KJV). The Word of God is not a puzzle. It does not speak in riddles. It is not cryptic or mysterious. It is plain and obvious to those who have spiritual ears to hear. “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).

The point is not that every fundamental article of faith must be supported with an explicit proof text. The doctrine of the Trinity, for example, is certainly essential to true Christianity-and it is very clear in Scripture-but you will find no comprehensive statement of the Trinity from any single passage of Scripture.

This does not mean that a doctrine must be non-controversial in order to be considered a fundamental article. Some would argue that the only test of whether something is essential to true Christianity is whether it is affirmed by all the major Christian traditions. By that rule, hardly anything of any substance would remain to distinguish the Christian Gospel from the “salvation” offered by pagan morality or Islamic theology. “There is much truth in the remark of Clement of Alexandria; ‘No Scripture, I apprehend, is so favourably treated, as to be contradicted by no one.’” (Herman Witsius, Sacred Dissertations on the Apostles’ Creed [Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1993 reprint], 1:21)
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
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“God’s Plan for the Gay Agenda” by John MacArthur

“God’s Plan for the Gay Agenda”

by John MacArthur

John MacArthur


If you’ve been watching the headlines over the last couple years, you may have noticed the incredible surge of interest in affirming homosexuality. Whether it’s at the heart of a religious scandal, political corruption, radical legislation, or the redefinition of marriage, homosexual interests have come to characterize America. That’s an indication of the success of the gay agenda. And some Christians, including some national church leaders, have wavered on the issue even recently. But sadly, when people refuse to acknowledge the sinfulness of homosexuality–calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20)–they do so at the expense of many souls.

How should you respond to the success of the gay agenda? Should you accept the recent trend toward tolerance? Or should you side with those who exclude homosexuals with hostility and disdain?

In reality, the Bible calls for a balance between what some people think are two opposing reactions–condemnation and compassion. Really, the two together are essential elements of biblical love, and that’s something the homosexual sinner desperately needs.

Homosexual advocates have been remarkably effective in selling their warped interpretations of passages in Scripture that address homosexuality. When you ask a homosexual what the Bible says about homosexuality–and many of them know–they have digested an interpretation that is not only warped, but also completely irrational. Pro-homosexual arguments from the Bible are nothing but smokescreens–as you come close, you see right through them.

God’s condemnation of homosexuality is abundantly clear–He opposes it in every age.

– In the patriarchs (Genesis 19:1-28)

– In the Law of Moses (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13)

– In the Prophets (Ezekiel 16:46-50)

– In the New Testament (Romans 1:18-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Jude 7-8)

Why does God condemn homosexuality? Because it overturns God’s fundamental design for human relationships–a design that pictures the complementary relationship between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 19:4-6; Ephesians 5:22-33).

Why, then, have homosexual interpretations of Scripture been so successful at persuading so many? Simple: people want to be convinced. Since the Bible is so clear about the issue, sinners have had to defy reason and embrace error to quiet their accusing consciences (Romans 2:14-16). As Jesus said, “Men loved the darkness rather than the Light, [because] their deeds were evil” (John 3:19-20).

As a Christian, you must not compromise what the Bible says about homosexuality–ever. No matter how much you desire to be compassionate to the homosexual, your first sympathies belong to the Lord and to the exaltation of His righteousness. Homosexuals stand in defiant rebellion against the will of their Creator who from the beginning “made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4).

Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by homosexual advocates and their futile reasoning–their arguments are without substance. Homosexuals, and those who advocate that sin, are fundamentally committed to overturning the lordship of Christ in this world. But their rebellion is useless, for the Holy Spirit says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; cf. Galatians 5:19-21).

So, what is God’s response to the homosexual agenda?

Certain and final judgment. To claim anything else is to compromise the truth of God and deceive those who are perishing.

As you interact with homosexuals and their sympathizers, you must affirm the Bible’s condemnation. You are not trying to bring damnation on the head of homosexuals, you are trying to bring conviction so that they can turn from that sin and embrace the only hope of salvation for all of us sinners–and that’s through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Homosexuals need salvation. They don’t need healing–homosexuality is not a disease. They don’t need therapy–homosexuality is not a psychological condition. Homosexuals need forgiveness, because homosexuality is a sin.

I don’t know how it happened, but a few decades ago someone branded homosexuals with the worst misnomer–”gay.” Gay used to mean happy, but I can assure you, homosexuals are not happy people. They habitually seek happiness by following after destructive pleasures. There is a reason Romans 1:26 calls homosexual desire a “degrading passion.” It is a lust that destroys the physical body, ruins relationships, and brings perpetual suffering to the soul–and its ultimate end is death (Romans 7:5). Homosexuals are experiencing the judgment of God (Romans 1:24, 26, 28), and thus they are very, very sad.

First Corinthians 6 is very clear about the eternal consequence for those who practice homosexuality–but there’s good news. No matter what the sin is, whether homosexuality or anything else, God has provided forgiveness, salvation, and the hope of eternal life to those who repent and embrace the gospel. Right after identifying homosexuals as those who “will not inherit the kingdom of God,” Paul said, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

God’s plan for many homosexuals is that they come to salvation. There were former homosexuals in the Corinthian church back in Paul’s day, just as there are many former homosexuals today in my church and in faithful churches around the country. With regenerated hearts, they sit in biblical churches throughout the country praising their Savior, along with former fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, coveters, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers. Remember, such were some of you too.

What should be your response to the homosexual agenda? Make it a biblical response–confront it with the truth of Scripture that condemns homosexuality and promises eternal damnation for all who practice it. What should be your response to the homosexual? Make it a gospel response–confront him with the truth of Scripture that condemns him as a sinner, and point him to the hope of salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Stay faithful to the Lord as you respond to homosexuality by honoring His Word, and leave the results to Him.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. © 1969-2011. Grace to You. All rights reserved.
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John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock. New Biography by Iain H. Murray (Banner of Truth)

Iain Murray’s new biography, John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock will be available from Banner of Truth May 30th (U.S. and Canada). Click here to pre-order.

On a side note, I encourage everyone to buy all the books they can from Banner of Truth. They are my all-time favorite publisher, and have done more than any publisher bringing back into print great Puritan literature. Solid resources that will not only educate your mind, they will also feed your soul. Their is nothing shallow or superficial about the books published by Banner. You can read a bit of their history here. You can also subscribe to their monthly magazine here.

(Thanks to my friend Tony Zabala for the heads-up on the release date).