September 19, 2010
Previously, I have looked at John MacArthur’s redefinition of the doctrine of Faith. Today I want to look at his standard for judging saved and lost.
The necessity of judging saved and lost is discussed in section V.C.1-3 of the Christian Confession of Faith:
1. God requires of His people that they love and fellowship with each other. Love of the brothers in Jesus Christ is an inevitable fruit of salvation. [Psa 101:6; Psa 133:1; Joh 13:34-35; Joh 17:20-21; Gal 6:10; Phi 1:27; Phi 2:2-4; Phi 3:16; 1Jo 1:7; 1Jo 2:9-11; 1Jo 3:11,14-16,23; 1Jo 4:7,11,20-21; 1Jo 5:1]
2. One of the main proofs that believers love their brothers in Jesus Christ is that they do not speak peace to their brothers’ enemies. They obey God’s command to separate themselves from the world and false Christians. [Exo 34:15-16; Deu 13:1-3; Psa 1:1; Psa 26:4-5; Psa 101:3-8; Pro 4:14-15; Pro 9:6; Joh 15:19; Rom 16:17-18; 1Co 5:11; 1Co 10:21; 2Co 6:14-18; Eph 5:7-12; 1Ti 6:3-5; 2Ti 3:5; 1Jo 2:15-16; 2Jo 10-11; Rev 18:4]
3. For these reasons, as well as to witness the gospel to the lost, it is necessary for believers to make judgments concerning who is unregenerate (including who are false Christians) and who is regenerate. The standard by which believers are to make these judgments is whether or not the person being considered believes the gospel. [Isa 8:20; Isa 45:20; Mat 7:15-20; Mar 16:16; Luk 6:43-45; Joh 7:24; Rom 10:1-3; 1Co 5:11-12; Ga1 1:8-9; 1Jo 4:1,6; 2Jo 1:9]
Note that making judgements regarding who is a true Christian, and who is a false Christian, is a necessary fruit of regeneration. Those who refuse to do it are disobeying God, and showing hatred towards Christians. Also note that Christians are not free to choose any standard they want for making these judgements; the standard is belief of the Gospel.
In The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 2190 (reproduced on his website), John MacArthur gives us a very different standard for judging whether a person is truly a Christian:
The Fruit/Proofs of Authentic/True Christianity:
- Love for God: Psalm 42:1ff; 73:25; Luke 10:27; Romans 8:7
- Repentance from Sin: Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 7:14ff; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:8-10
- Genuine Humility: Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:1-12; James 4:6, 9ff.
- Devotion to God’s Glory: Psalm 105:3; 115:1; Isaiah 43:7, 48:10ff.; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 10:31
- Continual Prayer: Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18ff.; Philippians 4:6ff.; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; James 5:16-18
- Selfless Love: 1 John 2:9ff, 3:14; 4:7ff.
- Separation from the World: 1 Corinthians 2:12; James 4:4ff.; 1 John 2:15-17, 5:5
- Spiritual Growth: Luke 8:15; John 15:1-6; Ephesians 4:12-16
- Obedient Living: Matthew 7:21; John 15:14ff.; Romans 16:26; 1 Peter 1:2, 22; 1 John 2:3-5
The standards that MacArthur has listed here definitely qualify as fruit of genuine faith. But they cannot be adequate proof of genuine faith for two reasons. First, some of these “Fruit/Proofs”, such as “Genuine Humility”, are impossible to verify objectively, making true judgements of saved and lost impossible. But more importantly, note that there is absolutely nothing here about belief of the Gospel, the person of Christ, the work of Christ, or indeed any doctrine at all. In fact, there are multitudes of people who appear to meet every standard on this list, all while believing blatantly heretical doctrines.
In Romans 10:3, the apostle Paul said of the Jews:
For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God.
Sure they were zealous, devoted to God’s glory, and continually in prayer. And obedient to a fault. But they were missing something specific: knowledge. And the specific kind of knowledge they were missing was the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel (Romans 3:21).
Contrary to MacArthur’s pseudo-spiritual judgement based on various forms of works, Paul was willing to judge these Jews, his kinsman, to be lost, based on the fact that they didn’t believe the Gospel. For a Christian, there is no other standard.
For more on the necessity and standard of judging, please see:
June 12, 2010
Last time, I wrote about John MacArthur’s promotion of Common Grace, where he put forth the view that God blesses people apart from the righteousness of Christ. Today, I want to look at MacArthur’s definition of saving Faith. John MacArthur is perhaps best known for his position on Lordship Salvation, which is his way of combating Antinomianism. Regrettably, however, he does it by redefining the nature of Faith:
The Bible says that if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved. However, the Bible does not present faith as simply “mental assent to the facts of the gospel.” (What is the nature of true saving faith?, 5/30/10)
This is completely untrue. We know this because we just happen to have a definition of faith in the Bible:
But without faith it is impossible to please God. For it is right that the one drawing near to God should believe that He is, and that He becomes a rewarder to the ones seeking Him out. (Hebrews 11:6, LITV)
Here the apostle says that the person with faith must (A) know some facts about God (such as his existence and goodness) and (B) assent to these facts, and believe that they are true. This is what faith is, whether it be faith in the Gospel, or faith in anything else: mere mental assent. Adding new things to the definition of faith is destructive of faith, even if those things, like obedience and good works, are commanded in the Bible.
MacArthur goes on to say this about the nature of faith;
True saving faith involves repentance from one’s sin and a complete trust in the work of Christ to save from sin and make one righteous. The Reformers spoke of three aspects of faith: recognition of the truth claims of the gospel, acknowledgment of their truthfulness and exact correspondence to man’s spiritual need, and a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ who, by virtue of His death, provides the only sufficient sacrifice for one’s personal sin. Any one of these three aspects of faith, taken by themselves, is insufficient to meet the biblical definition of saving faith. However, the presence of all three components together results in saving faith. In other words, saving faith consists of mental, emotional, and volitional elements. (What is the nature of true saving faith?, 5/30/10)
So in addition to knowledge and assent, here MacArthur would like to add “repentance” and “a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ” to the definition of faith. I’m sure this sounds like a great idea, one that is necessary to combat the easy-believism so common in the professing church, but it sets up an impossible standard. An infinitely holy God could never accept anything less than total and perfect commitment. Thus it would be impossible for any mere human being to meet that standard, and all would be eternally lost.
Praise God that Jesus Christ has already met that standard on behalf of his people, establishing a perfect righteousness on their behalf. And praise God that he has also revealed that when he imputes that righteousness to one of his own, he always gives them a desire to repent of their sins and obey his commands and laws. Thus, if someone claims to believe the Gospel, yet has no desire to repent of his sins or obey God’s commandments, we know that that person has not been given faith. Contrary to MacArthur, faith always results in commitment to Christ, not the other way around.