The Gospel According to Paul or MacArthur?

John MacArthur has written a book titled The Gospel According to Paul. A friend of mine was good enough to send me a copy and so I have examined it and found 12 telling quotes from the book. The premise appears to be an attempt to find out what gospel Paul shared and to some degree MacArthur does discuss the content of the message of 1 Cor 15 however in many ways he undoes the truth revealed through adding in his own theological reformed leaning bent. Doing so muddies and even changes the gospel.

12 telling quotes:

p xxii “Two of my best-known books on the gospel are in-depth critiques of the preposterous notion that repentance, self-denial, the cost of discipleship, and the lordship of Christ are all truths unnecessary for salvation and thus best left out of our gospel proclamation.”

(Here MacArthur admits that he thinks that salvation is not received by what I would call faith alone. No place does the Bible state that things such as self-denial, commitments to discipleship, or submission to Christ’s lordship are required for reception of eternal life.)

p xxvii “Some influential voices in the evangelical movement today still teach that obedience to Christ is an optional and unnecessary adjunct to “accepting Him” as Savior. Some still would deny that the gospel calls sinners to repentance or instructs them to follow Christ.”

(The gospel instructs them to follow Christ? No the gospel is the good news that Christ died for us, was buried, and rose again. We must obey the gospel. How? By believing it as true. That is what it means to trust Christ as Savior. It is placing our faith in Him to save. Remember for MacArthur repentance does not mean to change one’s mind but to turn from sin.)

P 14 “So how could God ever justify the ungodly without compromising His own righteousness? The answer is that Christ willingly died in place of those whom He saves. He is their Substitutue…”

(This is couched in verbiage of one who holds to a limited view of the atonement. Many Calvinists believe that Christ only died for the elect and not the whole world.)

p 22 “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures… He was buried … He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and … He was seen.” That is the whole gospel. The rest is explanation.”

(Right, but how should one explain it? As in yeah, that is the good news but oh by the way Christ only died for the few chosen ones? Is that really good news to anyone? It is not really even good news to any supposed pre-chosen ones because even in the end of the day you cannot, like MacArthur, even know 100 percent that you are one of the chosen ones because in this system one must persevere to the end. There is always in that system the chance of failure. Plus this says nothing about counting the cost of discipleship or turning from sins. So where does that enter the explanation?)

p 23 “So many people spurn the good news because they can’t get past the starting point, which requires us to confess our sin.”

(No, that is a false gospel. The reason so many reject the gospel, just as the Pharisees did, is that they can’t in their humans minds and pride accept something by grace that is undeserved and unearned. I am convinced that the easiest lie for the devil to sell is that one needs to do something to help earn salvation.)

p 24 “… all false religions are systems of human achievement.”

(How ironic because reformed theology and Calvinism fit this statement. They are works oriented systems masquerading as grace. In the end once the varnish is stripped off, it is just as much works oriented as any other religious system. It is as much works for salvation as even the Catholicism from which it came.)

p 54 “This righteousness is imputed (credited to the account of) to every sinner who renounces sin and trusts Christ as Savior.”

(Once again MacArthur fails to understand the means of the prescribed method of receiving the gift of eternal life by faith. And in doing so he begins to directly contradict his own context.)

p 92-93 double-talk, Spurgeon “That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other….”

(MacArthur apparently felt that he needed to quote some of Spurgeon’s philosophy and double speak concerning election. To be clear here God does not in any way pre-select who will believe. He predestines that those that do believe will be adopted as sons and receive the inheritance. Eph 1:5, 13)

p 104 “God’s grace is the originating cause of regeneration; the sinner’s faith is the immediate effect.”

(The obvious problem is that the scripture itself does not say this. Regeneration can in no way precede the first time a person believes the gospel. Regeneration follows reception of the free gift through faith. Paul made this quite clear. So it is misleading for MacArthur to suggest otherwise.)

p 104-105 “If the sinner’s own free-will choice rather than God’s electing grace were the determining factor in salvation, no one would ever be saved.”

(This is also false. MacArthur is assuming no one would choose to believe but remember for MacArthur the idea of faith includes any number of things such as turning from sins, making Christ the Lord of your life, commitments to discipleship etc. And apparently he has forgotten that the gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation. The gospel is the light that the Holy Spirit uses to illuminate the blinded. 2 Cor 4 mentions that the god of this world has blinded the minds of the lost. This is something the devil has done, not God. Men may choose to continue to believe any lie or may repent (change their mind) and receive salvation based on the specific revelation of the truth. They already have God’s general revelation to know they are without excuse. Rom 1. The fact is that if our gospel is hid, even such as in MacArthur’s loaded lordship version, it is hid to those who are lost and already blinded by the devil. What a shame. So many like MacArthur appear to desire that people live Christian lives but the way to get there is not to front or back load the gospel with works or extra qualifications that are meant for ongoing obedience in the Christian walk in sanctification.)

p 105 “Again, every aspect of salvation – beginning with regeneration, including the sinner’s faith and good works – all of it – is purely by grace. It is done for us freely.

(No it is not done for us. Christ paid the penalty of sin for us. we must receive it by faith. Otherwise the gift goes unappropriated. It is there for any who will receive it and all may receive it.)

P 107 “Faith adds nothing meritorious to salvation; it is simply the channel through which the blessing is received. But some measure of practical righteousness is the inevitable fruit of saving faith.”

(Here is an illustration how some like MacArthur begin to have the right idea on paper yet mess it up by adding in that last line about “inevitable” fruit. Practical righteousness is not inevitable otherwise, as I have said before, the New Testament could have been much shorter without having to have so much instruction about how to live the Christian life.  You could take out all of the rebukes to the Galatians, Romans, Corinthians, Hebrews, the believers that James wrote to  and on and on.

Remember the Reformed concept of “faith” is that it is a gift from God and that it must behave and perform as a certain special kind that is only available to a few pre-selected chosen few. Good works then become vital to even begin to know if one is truly saved. However the Bible states that we can know our standing based on whom we have believed. Our salvation is a sure a Christ is God and the gospel is true. Works have nothing to do with it because our salvation was not by works of the law but was offered by grace because Christ did the work. Reformed theology goes far beyond this making puppets out of men and making an ogre out of God. God in that system is change from the one Paul describes to a God that pre-chooses most people to have no chance but to damned eternally.  Please do not let people like MacArthur fool people into thinking Paul taught any such thing.)

In summary we can see that MacArthur has not really explained what Paul said very well but instead has taken the opportunity to try to inject Calvinism and Reformed style theology back into various texts. In doing so he actually created some paradoxes and made what should be straight forward, confusing. Let’s not confuse people as to what the gospel is or how people can receive it.

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15 Responses to The Gospel According to Paul or MacArthur?

  1. hollysgarcia says:

    I agree John, if people would look at the Word always through the clear lens of the Promise of the gospel, complicated passages would be a lot easier for them to understand.

  2. JohnWI says:

    Jim, that was one of the best explanations I have seen on those verses and that makes total sense, especially in light of the clear gospel. As Yankee always says, ” The Gospel is the key to open the rest of the bible”. Sorry I didn’t get back to your email you sent me, but I accidentally deleted it and I didn’t get a chance to save your address.

  3. jimfloyd12 says:


    Romans 10:9 is one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. Salvation is received by faith… that is…. eternal life is received by faith. Secondly they could not cry out to Him for any deliverance from practical issues because they had not yet believed on Him. So verse 10 on is key.

    Rom 10:10  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 
    (There is two different things here)

    Rom 10:11  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 
    Rom 10:12  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 
    Rom 10:13  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

    Rom 10:14  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 

    (In other words, how can someone call upon the Lord as Savior for help in a situation if they have not yet believed.)

    Rom 10:15  And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 
    Rom 10:16  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 
    Rom 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 
    Rom 10:18  But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. 

    (When the Word reaches people, people then have the opportunity to accept or reject it.)

    Matthew 7:21 is speaking in reference to false prophets if you look back to verse 15. They are known by their fruit (specifically what they teach)

    Mat 7:21  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 
    Mat 7:22  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 
    Mat 7:23  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 

    These verses confirm that concept that a person cannot be saved by trying to do good things. These false teachers even prophesied in Jesus’ name and put on a show, but it won’t help them. They needed to believe. Either we receive the righteouness of Christ imputed to our account by faith or we do not. Any who have never believed are condemned already. So verse 7:23 is not talking about any people that have trusted Christ as Savior. All believers are seen as righteous in God’s eyes as Christ is righteous. Remember it is all or nothing. Either one receives the righteousness Christ purchased or they have to stand before God with their own “righteousness” under the law. All that is left under the law is iniquity. None of their works could solve their problem. Think of the pharisees. They had all of the externals and learning but did not believe.

    Jim Floyd

  4. jimfloyd12 says:

    Thanks John, those are fair questions. I will try to explain later today.


  5. John says:

    You mentioned, “No place does the Bible state that things such as self-denial, commitments to discipleship, or submission to Christ’s lordship are required for reception of eternal life.)”
    Romans 10:9 states, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
    My question for you is how can somebody honestly declare “Jesus is Lord” without actually submitting to His lordship?
    Also, how do you explain Matthew 7:21 when Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

  6. JohnWI says:

    Yes Jim, it was so nice to meet you and Bryan at the Grace Conference. It is so nice to have that instant fellowship with each other when we know what each other’s stance is on the clear Gospel. I am looking forward to seeing you again next year. I’m getting to meet Curtis, next week, for the first time also.

  7. jimfloyd12 says:


    Yes Bryan is correct. This was the Grace conference last week at Quentin Road. It was encouraging to talk with Ron Shea and others. I also got to talk to JohnWI.

  8. Bryan Roach says:

    Jason, it was the Grace Conference at Quinton Road Bible Baptist Church near Chicago.

  9. jasonc65 says:

    Was this the same grace conference that Curtis and I were at two months ago?

  10. Brian JH says:

    Enjoyed meeting you and Bryan at the Grace Conference too. Keep standing for the faith!

  11. jimfloyd12 says:

    Thanks BrianJH, good talking with you and others at the recent Grace conference. You are right. It is no better than Catholics who do not understand that what Christ did was enough. Any person advocating faith plus needs to reconsider that Christ paid it all. MacArthur would also have to step back and realize how his discipleship gospel actually is faith plus for salvation.

  12. Brian JH says:

    p 54 “This righteousness is imputed (credited to the account of) to every sinner who renounces sin and trusts Christ as Savior.”
    How different than Paul who did not write that a person must “renounce sin” or do anything about their sin (e.g. turn from sin, be willing to turn from sins, confess sins, forsake sin, etc.) to be saved, but only believe in what Christ did about our sins.
    “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” Romans 3:22
    MacArthur does not think that what Christ did about our sins was enough.

  13. Thank you for this. I was wondering what Johnny Mac would be doing with Paul’s gospel. I guess it is what we would expect. The gospel according to Augustine and Calvinism rather than the gospel according to Paul.

  14. jimfloyd12 says:


    Good questions.

    Arminianism in my estimation does not give quite the right idea of faith either.

    Please understand though that the Bible does not say that people cannot do anything to receive salvation. It rather tells people to repent/believe. All people must accept the gospel by faith or they will not be eternally saved from the penalty of sin. There are also more views than just reformed and arminian.

    TO your second question, no it is not wrong to think that a person can show fruit. But you have to remember why they show fruit. A person will show true fruit if they walk in the Spirit as a believer choosing to obey God. Fruit then is a result of growth (action), not just being. Remember that the believers rebuke in the book of James were saved, but they werren’t demonstrating it by their works. For example, the with holding of help for the needy ch2, the wrong use of the tongue ch 3, and and the fighting ch 4.

    Jim F

  15. Ryan says:

    Just a question about Arminianism, don’t they also have to “do” something to be saved? The reformed church says you need to be elect, while Arminianism says you have to chose God. Am I missing something? One last question, is it wrong to think that a converted person could show fruit, or look different than prior to conversion? Not saying it is a requirement just asking the question of is it wrong to think they could.

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