I have heard people say that they are not convinced that John MacArthur teaches another gospel. My book review will attempt to prove that the free grace view and MacArthur’s Calvinistic view are two different things. Due to the length of the book I will attempt to do this in multiple parts over time with the passages and principles that justify my position to follow in the final post. I have placed MacArthur’s words in quotes and mine in ( ). All quotes are from the book By John MacArthur
MacArthur, John F. (2009-05-26). The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith? Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
“Unconverted sinners were not to be urged to repent. The cost of discipleship; the need to hate one’s own sin; Christ’s call to self-denial; His command to follow Him; and (especially) every mention of submission to Him as Lord were systematically expunged from the message Christians proclaimed to unbelievers.”
(How is it that MacArthur could come up with this? What should be proclaimed to the lost?)
“I expect, for example, that someone will accuse me of teaching salvation by works. Let me say as clearly as possible right now that salvation is by God’s sovereign grace and grace alone.”
(Sovereign grace – the Calvinist’s invention – is the way that MacArthur tries to get around his message being labeled as a works message. The problem however comes when this “sovereign grace” method is shown to be false. )
MacArthur continues to go on to say what this is: “Nothing a lost, degenerate, spiritually dead sinner can do will in any way contribute to salvation. (True so far) Saving faith, repentance, commitment, and obedience are all divine works, wrought by the Holy Spirit in the heart of everyone who is saved. (False. God does not give us or make us do any of these things. We are not puppets.)
“I have never taught that some presalvation works of righteousness are necessary to or part of salvation. (No, but it ends up being that way because God does not make us believe.)
“But I do believe without apology that real salvation cannot, and will not, fail to produce works of righteousness in the life of a true believer. (Hmm, why because God will do it for us as he did supposedly everything else for us? How is that Biblical?)
“There are no human works in the saving act, (True – Tit 3:5) but God’s work of salvation includes a change of intent, will, desire, and attitude that inevitably produces the fruit of the Spirit. (No, not in reality – read Eph 4 – we are told to put off the old man and put on the new – it is not automatic.) The very essence of God’s saving work is the transformation of the will, (Where does the Bible say that God transforms our will?) resulting in a love for God. Salvation thus establishes the root that will surely produce the fruit.
(Only if some things are true – which they aren’t. Those being:
1) Man being made to believe (name one verse that says this)
2) Man being made to do good works.
3) Man being given only the new nature (One nature). see Rom 7, Eph 4:20 – 32
However, the Bible refutes all three. Ask me about it if you don’t believe me.)
“Several who disagree with my views have said in print that the lordship controversy is a matter of eternal consequence. Whoever is wrong on this issue is seriously wrong about the most basic of Christian truths. On that we agree.”
(Yes, I agree with that.)
“ I went through a phase of thinking that the whole dispute might be a misunderstanding or semantic argument. But as I studied the issues, I came to realize that this is a fundamental difference in doctrine. After many conversations with those who disagree and hours of studying what they are saying, I am now convinced that the two sides in this argument have distinctly different views of salvation.”
(Thank you. People should take notice here of MacArthur’s own admission. This is indeed not about semantics. It is about salvation itself. What has to happen for a person to be saved from the penalty of sin? The answer to that is DIFFERENT if you listen to MacArthur versus free grace Biblicists.)
“Thus the good news of Christ has given way to the bad news of an insidious easy-believism that makes no moral demands on the lives of sinners. It is not the same message Jesus proclaimed.”
(Actually the good news is that Christ has purchased salvation for us and it is currently offered to ALL as a free gift. Jn 3:16, ITim 2:4 The insidious thing is that some have replaced that with a non-saving law message that confuses discipleship with salvation and frustrates the grace of God. Gal 2:21 The message Jesus proclaimed? Which one? The call to discipleship?)
“They have been told that the only criterion for salvation is knowing and believing some basic facts about Christ.” (Some make this mistake) “They hear from the beginning that obedience is optional.” (No, actually obedience on the part of the sinner is irrelevant – filthy rags – until they are converted. Isa 64:6 The only obedience necessary is to believe the gospel. Salvation is received through faith. Eph 2:8-9)
“It follows logically, then, that someone’s one-time profession of faith is more valid than the evidence of that person’s ongoing lifestyle in determining whether to embrace him or her as a true believer.” (Yes. MacArthur does not do it justice but this is a key point. It is not so much the profession but the fact that a person now trusts in Christ as Savior. This is infinitely more valid than any works. Christ is an absolute truth against which there is no rebuke. He is the Son of God as well as being the way, the truth, and the life. Jn 14:6 Those who stand by faith in Him alone to save are secure indeed for all eternity! Jn 3:36 Nothing can tarnish or change that. Works have no bearing on salvation – before or after. Our works can be questioned as to their motive but Christ’s motive cannot be questioned. We know also that we still have the sin nature so therefore believers can and will at times still sin. Col 3:5, Rom 6:11-14 This alone nullifies MacArthur’s assumption. )
“You cannot remove the lordship of Christ from the gospel message without undermining faith at its core.”
(That is funny because faith is undermined at its core by saying that God makes people believe. Act 16:31 Paul’s answer to the jailer was legit. He did not tell him that he had to wait for God to make him believe in His timing or any such thing. The jailer had to decide to place his faith in Christ to save. Besides, Christ is Lord meaning God. No one is trying to remove that. MacArthur is referring to his slave/master concept.)
“When Jesus called people to follow Him, He was not seeking companions to be His sidekicks or admirers whom He could entertain with miracles. He was calling people to yield completely and unreservedly to His lordship.”
(What does this have to do with salvation? See my review on the book Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman which delves more into this particular topic.)
“Jesus Himself introduced the slave metaphor in the New Testament. He frequently drew a direct connection between slavery and discipleship.”
(So? Please tell me what this has to do with salvation. Does discipleship = salvation? Matt. 4:18-22 – following and learning vs Acts 16:30-31 believing on Christ.)
“He never muted His description of what it would cost to follow Him. And (contrary to what some church leaders advocate today) He didn’t reserve the hard words for people who were already believers.”
(Unbelievers can begin learning about Jesus to but they need to come to the point where they decide to trust him alone for salvation. The lost in our churches need to be presented the clear gospel free of works or things like discipleship which will just confuse the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Cor 11:3-4)
“So understood correctly, the gospel is an invitation to slavery. When we call people to faith in Christ, we need to stress that fact in the same way Jesus did.”
(Wow, see the logical progression here – or lack thereof. Salvation = discipleship = slavery…. The gospel is a call to slavery. Hmm. I Cor15:1-4)
“If we want true liberty from sin and all its fruits, it is not autonomy that we need, but a different kind of bondage: complete surrender to the lordship of Christ.”
(Meaning that God supplies us with faith against our will therefore the necessity of fruit inspection? Gotcha… but no sir. I’ll take my free gift of salvation earned by Christ and not me. Eph 2:8-9, Rom 5:15-21)
“The gospel according to Jesus calls sinners to give up their independence, deny themselves, submit to an alien will, and abandon all rights in order to be owned and controlled by the Lord. By confessing Jesus as Lord (Kurios), we automatically confess that we are His slaves (douloi).
(Discipleship does call for self denial but the gospel calls for a sinner to trust Christ alone for salvation. Acts 10:43)
“There is also no legitimate way to adjust that message to make it sound appealing to people who admire Jesus but are not prepared to serve Him. Jesus Himself never catered to that perspective. He was not seeking admirers; He was calling followers — not casual followers, but slaves. That explains why He demanded His disciples’ implicit obedience, and when He encountered people who were unwilling to obey unconditionally, He discouraged them from following Him at all.
(Yeah, more confusion of discipleship with salvation/conversion.)
“Listen to the typical gospel presentation nowadays. You will hear sinners entreated with words like, “accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior”; (this could be true as long as you mean trust Christ alone) “ask Jesus into your heart”; (no, the Bible does not tell us to do this) “invite Christ into your life”;(nor this) or “make a decision for Christ.” You may be so accustomed to hearing those phrases that it will surprise you to learn that none of them is based on biblical terminology. (No they aren’t but they are not the free grace view.) They are the products of a diluted gospel. (Yes, but JMac’s discipleship/works gospel isn’t any better. Rom 4:5) It is not the gospel according to Jesus. (None of it is.) The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, (NO, discipleship is not the gospel I Cor 15.) a call to follow Him in submissive obedience, (NO) not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer. (Irrelevant because JMac is referring to discipleship anyway – not salvation – so obviously you don’t have to pray for discipleship or salvation.) Jesus’ message liberated people from the bondage of their sin (which message – the call to discipleship?) while it confronted and condemned hypocrisy. It was an offer of eternal life and forgiveness for repentant sinners, but at the same time it was a rebuke to outwardly religious people whose lives were devoid of true righteousness. It put sinners on notice that they must turn from sin and embrace God’s righteousness. It was in every sense good news, yet it was anything but easy-believism.”
(Wow, another huge batch of confusion there. )
“One segment of evangelicalism even propounds the doctrine that conversion to Christ involves “no spiritual commitment whatsoever.”1 (How does an unregenerate person make a Spiritual decision!? Regeneration before faith is false. Eph 1:12-13; Rom 10:17;1 Cor 1:21 -more on this in the final series post. A person must be converted before any spiritual decision can be made using the new man.) Those who hold this view of the gospel teach that Scripture promises salvation to anyone who simply believes the facts about Christ and claims eternal life. (The correct way of saying this is that a person CAN believe the gospel and be saved. John 3:15-18) There need be no turning from sin, no resulting change in lifestyle, no commitment — not even a willingness to yield to Christ’s lordship. (Don’t worry about any of this before conversion. An unregenerate person won’t want to do these things anyway. This is why the Calvinist invents the idea of regeneration before faith so that God will make them want to. ) Those things, they say, amount to human works, which corrupt grace and have nothing to do with faith. (They are human works if God doesn’t do them for us – are they not? ) The fallout of such thinking is a deficient doctrine of salvation.” (So God making people believe and adding in discipleship to the gospel is better?)
“It is justification without sanctification, and its impact on the church has been catastrophic.” (Quite the opposite is true. The church today is filled with works gospels including Calvinistic Lordship salvation – slave-ation – probation –whatever you want to call it. Btw, the Bible mentions that believers are the sons of God – how does that square with the slave thing? Gal 3:26; Gal 4:5-9, 31; Eph 1:5; Rom 8:15-17)
“The community of professing believers is populated with people who have bought into a system that encourages shallow and ineffectual faith.” (They are also populated with many who think that God makes the elect believe and that they must toil in law keeping hopefully proving that they are one of the chosen ones. Talk about frustrating grace for believer and keeping the lost lost. I’d gladly like to see a person with a weak faith that is solely placed on Christ for salvation versus any person with strong faith placed in Christ plus their own works. Gal 3:1-2)
“Many sincerely believe they are saved, but their lives are utterly barren of any verifying fruit.” (Maybe so, but why is that? Is this always because they are not saved? Or, is it because they have not yet matured in their growth? I Cor 3 Who is the judge of fruit anyway? I Cor 3:13-15
God looks at the person and knows if they are identified with Christ or not. Col 3:3-4; 2Cor 5:21; Isa 61:10; Rom 3:25; I John 5:12; If they are, then He sees Christ’s righteousness anyway – not whatever sins they commit. All sins committed in the past, present, or future are forgiven for a believer. Ps 103:12; I John 2:2; Rom 5:1; 8:1; Eph 1:7)
“Contemporary Christians have been conditioned to believe that because they recited a prayer, signed on a dotted line, walked an aisle, or had some other experience, they are saved and should never question their salvation”
(Straw man – this is true however we should never question our salvation once we believe Christ for it. To do so would be to question the very Person we have believed in.
1Jn 5:9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
1Jn 5:10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
1Jn 5:11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
1Jn 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
1Jn 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.)
“Scripture encourages us to examine ourselves to determine if we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).”
(Wrong, in the sense that this is not to be done by fruit inspection but by checking who we believe in for salvation. Phil 3:8-9, Eph 1:13, Gal 3:5)
“Peter wrote, “Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10). It is right to examine our lives and evaluate the fruit we bear, for “each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44). The Bible teaches clearly that the evidence of God’s work in a life is the inevitable fruit of transformed behavior (1 John 3:10). (No. Walking in the Spirit does have view-able results at times but fruit alone does not prove or disprove salvation.) Faith that does not result in righteous living is dead and cannot save (James 2:14 – 17).3 “(False, this is a common Calvinist misconception and view of these verses. The faith being called dead here is relating to its inability to be any good for those around you by way of good works. This is dealing with justification before men (James 2:16), not God. Rom 4:2-9)
“Professing Christians utterly lacking the fruit of true righteousness will find no biblical basis for assurance of salvation (1 John 2:4). (Yeah, good luck trying to quantify “utterly”. People living in sin surely have an occasion to struggle with doubts – Satan will be trying to use this to their detriment. Rev 12:9-10; I Pet 5:8 – but assurance is found in Christ and the erring believer can confess and get right – fellowship wise – with God (I John 1:9.))
“Real salvation is not only justification. It cannot be isolated from regeneration, sanctification, and ultimately glorification. “(No, it can’t in one sense but the gospel message leading to conversion results in justification once the message is received by faith. This is why we have to make sure to keep discipleship in the realm of ongoing sanctification for the believer. To mix the two is to confuse the whole thing. )
“Salvation is the work of God through which we are “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29; cf. 13:11). Genuine assurance comes from seeing the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in one’s life, not from clinging to the memory of some experience.”
(No, as I said, genuine assurance comes from the genuine object of our faith – Christ- not by our works. Rom 8:33-34)
“Faith, like grace, is not static. Saving faith is more than just understanding the facts and mentally acquiescing. (It is trusting/believing) It is inseparable from repentance, surrender, and a supernatural longing to obey. (No, where is this in the Bible?) None of those responses can be classified exclusively as a human work, (false – like I said – they can be if a human does them) any more than believing itself is solely a human effort. Misunderstanding on that key point is at the heart of the error of those who reject lordship salvation. (Prove it from scripture) They assume that because Scripture contrasts faith and works, (YES!!! Gal 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?) faith must be incompatible with works. (They indeed are incompatible as far as conversion goes. JMac is looking at this from and all encompassing angle with God doing everything for us. Believers are not saved by any works though they “should” walk in them. Eph 2:10)
“They set faith in opposition to submission, yieldedness, or turning from sin, and they categorize all the practical elements of salvation as human works. (Likewise MacArthur lumps meanings of everything else into the idea of faith making it end up to be an all inclusive term – which it isn’t.) They stumble over the twin truths that salvation is a gift, yet it costs everything. (No, MacArthur stumbles over the fact that salvation is a free gift and his type of discipleship for the believer comes after conversion if at all.)
“Salvation is a gift, (Yes) but it is appropriated through a faith that goes beyond merely understanding and assenting to the truth. (No, there is no such thing as a kind of faith concerning conversion.) Demons have that kind of “faith” (James 2:19). (Irrelevant. Demons believe there is one God James 2:19 and can’t believe on Christ for salvation anyway because it is not offered to them.) True believers are characterized by faith that is as repulsed by the life of sin as it is attracted to the mercy of the Savior. (False! See where the logic leads with this. Dangerous.)
On repentance MacArthur says, “The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, literally means “to think after.” It implies a change of mind, and some who oppose lordship salvation have tried to limit its meaning to that.29 (It means what it means. Is he trying to say that he is trying to expand it from that meaning? Why would he do that unless he wants it to mean something else based on his Calvinistic presuppositions?) But a definition of repentance cannot be drawn solely from the etymology of the Greek word. (Since when? Yes we must compare scripture with scripture but, even in that, the meaning of the word presents no problem.) Repentance as Jesus characterized it in this incident involves a recognition of one’s utter sinfulness and a turning from self and sin to God (cf. 1 Thess. 1:9). (No, they were saved by faith, not by turning from idols. That was something that happened after conversion.) Far from being a human work, it is the inevitable result of God’s work in a human heart. (No, regeneration is the result of faith in Christ to save but it is not inevitable that we will always walk in the new man.) And it always represents the end of any human attempt to earn God’s favor. It is much more than a mere change of mind — it involves a complete change of heart, attitude, interest, and direction. It is a conversion in every sense of the word. The Bible does not recognize “conversion” that lacks this radical change of direction (Luke 3:7 – 8). (False, these verses do not prove this point. We should do works meet for repentance but that is different than saying you must do them in order to prove that you are saved.) A true believer cannot remain rebellious — or even indifferent. (False. You would have to advocate a “one nature” position to argue this and that position would be false anyway.
Rom 8:10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
We still have the old sin nature – the body – but also the Spirit.) Genuine faith will inevitably provoke some degree of obedience. (No, faith in the correct object results in the new birth but it does not make the flesh go away.) In fact, Scripture often equates faith with obedience (John 3:36; Rom. 1:5; 16:26; 2 Thess. 1:8).30 “By faith Abraham [the father of true faith] . . . obeyed” (Heb. 11:8). That’s the heart of the message of Hebrews 11, the great treatise on faith. Faith and works are not incompatible. Jesus even calls the act of believing a work (John 6:29) — not merely a human work, but a gracious work of God in us. (He is explaining this wrong. That is not what Jesus meant there.) He brings us to faith, enables and empowers us to believe unto obedience (cf. Rom. 16:26). (NO, this verse is talking about us being able to believe because of the gospel – look back at verse 25.) It is precisely here that the key distinction must be made. Salvation by faith does not eliminate works per se. (It eliminates it as far as conversion goes.) It does away with works that are the result of human effort alone (Eph. 2:8). (False, see the danger of the “faith is a gift” view yet?)
It abolishes any attempt to merit God’s favor by our works (v. 9). But it does not deter God’s foreordained purpose that our walk should be characterized by good works (v. 10). (Irrelevant, don’t confuse conversion with sanctification.) We must remember above all that salvation is a sovereign work of God. (No, this is the crux of the matter. Salvation is earned by Christ who paid our sin debt by His sacrificially death on the cross, shed blood, and resurrection. Salvation is offered to all based on that work done for us – NOT – Christ/God believing or repenting for us etc)
Speaking of salvation by faith, MacArthur goes on to say, “Biblically it is defined by what it produces, not by what one does to get it.” (No, it is defined by Christ and all one does to get it is believe!!! Think about how many times JMac prompts me to say this.)
“Works are not necessary to earn salvation. But true salvation wrought by God will not fail to produce the good works that are its fruit (cf. Matt. 7:17). (Irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints are both false. This means that God does not force us to believe and that we do not have to persevere to prove that we are saved. Perseverance of the saints is not eternally security. God does not have to make us do good works in order for us to stay saved. Our salvation is based on Christ and His rightousness as mentioned earlier. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit and covered by the blood of Christ.)
“No aspect of salvation is merited by human works, but it is all the work of God (Titus 3:5 – 7).” (If only JMac and others actually understood this.)
“Thus salvation cannot be defective in any dimension.” (Salvation cannot be defective because Christ purchased it and God the Father accepted His payment. Not because God makes us “sovereignly” go through the process as elected ones. )
“ As a part of His saving work, God will produce repentance, faith, sanctification, yieldedness, obedience, and ultimately glorification. Since He is not dependent on human effort in producing those elements, an experience that lacks any of them cannot be the saving work of God.”
(This whole thing is totally false! There is no scriptural support for this. Now can people see the difference between JMac’s Calvinistic view and discipleship gospel and the free grace view and free grace gospel?)
JMac teaches another gospel because Calvinism leads to another gospel. Augustine and Calvin testify to this because they have articulated these same type of ideas years and years ago. The erroneous ideas behind Lordship salvation and Calvinism are not new at all. (See my post “Salvation in their Own Words Pt 3”)
Please as always feel free to comment and let me know what you think whether you agree or disagree.
God Bless and don’t forget to stand for the faith no matter what people like Jmac or his followers might say.