In his 30 year ministry, John MacArthur has achieved world-wide influence through his "Grace to You" radio broadcasts, more than two dozen books, 12,000,000 cassette tapes, Grace Community Church and other endeavors. Undoubtedly, his religious influence and Biblical interpretations have permeated into the lives of countless professing believers throughout the world.
Back in the late 1980's and early 1990's MacArthur was in a doctrinal war regarding saving faith with especially Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges. It was then that John MacArthur wrote one of his best known books, The Gospel According To Jesus. He has even produced his own so-called "study" Bible called, The MacArthur Study Bible.
Before that doctrinal war, MacArthur made the secular newspapers across the USA in the 1980's because his church was sued over the suicide of Kenneth Nally, who received "counsel" from those who worked at Grace Community Church and afterwards went through with it. [See The Believer's Conditional Security, pages 460-462 for more details. This book is available at evangelical books]
In his books and audio teachings, unlike many others who embrace eternal security, John MacArthur often presents an appearance of teaching holiness, but this is nothing more than an occasional teaching and smokescreen on his part, which has deceived many into unduly exalting his ministry and accepting his teaching phraseologies and concepts about saving faith. Even some non-Calvinists have been misled by his deceitful presentations!
It is the purpose of this article to reveal some of the inconsistent and unscriptural declarations of MacArthur's holiness teachings, as well as his amazingly loose tolerance for sin in the lives of Christians. It must be understood that MacArthur is a Calvinist and, therefore, an eternal security teacher. Hence, his beloved doctrine of eternal security cannot really allow him to teach true holiness the way the Bible declares it. It is impossible. Moreover, he cannot truly understand what saving faith is, because he only knows how to interpret the Scriptures to be consistent with the false teaching of eternal security, just like other such teachers. Therefore, there will always be gaping holes and major problems because his theology is fatally flawed in these vital areas.
Unlike eternal security teacher Charles Stanley, who incredibly teaches that a Christian can stop believing all together and still remain saved, John MacArthur would say that such a person was never really saved to begin with. This would also be MacArthur's response regarding a person who has had a convincing Christian testimony of many years to later turn astray from the Lord and never return! Hence, this leaves a present tense follower of Jesus unsure if he is really a true follower or just the kind that will later walk away to never return! It is during these explanations of his version of saving faith that he oftentimes conceals how far a real Christian can go into sin, yet all along calling that saving faith and holy living. When one knows what he really believes about how far a Christian can go into sin with his saving faith, MacArthur's holiness message is illuminated and reduced down to being on a par with Charles Stanley, Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges, even though he believes one must repent to be saved. If you are like many you probably don't know this.
The following five quotes are a small selection of statements that could be cited showing how John MacArthur sometimes discusses sin in the life of a Christian and with these types of statements has deceived many about his views about sin:
MacArthur Sometimes Seems to Teach
Against Sin and Stress HolinessJohn contrasts the children of God with the children of Satan in terms of their actions. While those who are truly born again reflect the habit of righteousness, Satan's children practice sin ... A third reason why Christians cannot practice sin ... (The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1969, comment on 1 John 3:8)MacArthur seems to be stressing holy behavior, forsaking sin and a lifetime habit of extricating personal sin immediately, but this is part of the grand deception associated with his ministry.
And if we don't understand how heinous our sin is, we won't understand the consequences of it. (John MacArthur, God: Coming Face to Face with His Majesty, pp. 47,48)
Since God Himself is holy, He wants His people to be holy. Living a holy life distinguishes us from the world. (ibid., p. 48)
Living a holy life will give you boldness before God. That involves regularly confessing and forsaking sin. (ibid., p. 48)
And when we do become aware of personal sin, we must make it a lifetime habit to extricate it immediately. The threat of sin also compels us to be spiritually alert. (ibid., p. 119)
Brace yourself for the other side of MacArthur's sin teaching in the life of a Christian, which is also connected with eternal security and the false version of saving faith and grace it has produced:
MacArthur's Belief About Sin
and Temptation Unmasked
... sin does not result in spiritual death for the believer ... (The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1927, comment on James 1:15)IMPORTANT: Reader, did you know that John MacArthur, who gives the illusion of teaching holy living at times, proclaims a Christian's sin works for his good? Wouldn't you like to hear him tell us how sin worked personal good in the lives of Adam and Eve, Ananias and Sapphira, King David, Saul, Solomon, Hymenaeus, Philetus, the people of Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-29, Judas, etc.? Moreover, if temptation really works for our good, then why did Jesus tell us to pray not to be led into temptation (Mt. 6:13)? To believe this Calvinistic/eternal security lie that sin and temptation work good is surely to teach a license for immorality, just as Jude said (Jude 3,4), even though flatly denied by John MacArthur!
Temptation also works for our good. The main reason is that it makes us depend on God .... Temptation also works for our good because it makes us desire heaven. (Coming Face to Face with His Majesty, p. 118).
God promises that all things will ultimately work out for our good, and that includes the worst thing of all: sin. His promise doesn't lessen the ugliness of sin or the beauty of holiness. Sin is intrinsically wicked and deserving of eternal hell. But in His infinite wisdom God overrules it for our good. (ibid., p. 119, italics his)
Although God sovereignly causes our sin to work for good, we should never view that wonderful promise as a license to sin. (ibid., p. 119)
In his so-called "study" Bible John MacArthur also exposes his deadly teachings about sin in the life of a Christian:
The MacArthur Study BibleNo sin a believer can commit - past, present, or future - can be held against him, since the penalty was paid by Christ and righteousness was imputed to the believer. And no sin will ever reverse this divine legal decision .... (p. 1706, his comment on Rom. 8:1)[Comment: Calvinistic MacArthur makes God the author of temptation and sin. See James 1:13 for the real truth.]
In His providence, God orchestrates every event in life - even suffering, temptation and sin - to accomplish both our temporal and eternal benefit ... (p. 1708, comment on Rom. 8:28)
... the believer can never be found guilty .... (p. 1709, comment on Rom. 8:34)[Comment: Did you know that John MacArthur actually teaches that Christians have to go all the way back to live as they used to as unbelievers before their sinful behavior would indicate they were never really saved? If they stop short, ever so slightly, then they were saved and possessed saving faith, even though they were and perhaps still are again in almost all of those old heinous sins that were sending them to Hell before initial salvation.]
Some who used to have those patterns of sinful life were falling into those old sins again, and needed reminding that if they went all the way back to live as they used to, they were not going to inherit eternal salvation, because it would indicate that they never were saved .... (p. 1736, comment on 1 Cor. 6:11)
Practice and unbroken life pattern are two of MacArthur's key terms used when describing his version of saving faith. Regarding these he teaches:
Practice and Unbroken Life Pattern... Christians cannot practice sin ... (The MacArthur's Study Bible, p. 1969, comment on 1 John 3:8)Usually MacArthur doesn't go on to say how far you can go and not practice sin or have it be an unbroken life pattern. However, he does tell us what whole lifestyle is not in the life of King David (and Lot)! In his book Faith Works on pages 128 he declares:
While believers can and do commit these sins [the list of sins cited in 1 Cor. 6:9,10], they do not characterize them as an unbroken life pattern. (p. 1736, comment on 1 Cor. 6:9)
God never tolerates sin, which has no place at all in His kingdom, nor will any person whose life pattern is one of habitual immorality, impurity, and greed (see v. 3) be in His kingdom, because no such person is saved .... (p. 1811, comment on Eph. 5:5)Didn't David commit murder and adultery and allow his sin to go unconfessed for at least a year? Wasn't Lot characterized by worldly compromise in the midst of heinous sin? Yes, those examples prove that genuine believers are capable of the worst imaginable sins. But David and Lot cannot be made to serve as examples of "carnal" believers, whose whole lifestyle and appetites are no different from unregenerated people.NOTICE: According to his usage of (whole) lifestyle, David was both an adulterer and murderer for at least a year, but according to John MacArthur, during this time, David was a believer possessing saving faith! (John MacArthur is just like all the rest of the eternal security teachers, that is, ever trying to make the Scriptures allow for wicked behavior in the life of a believer.) So if you know a person claiming to be a "Christian" living just as "holy" as David did during that time, then (according to MacArthur) he must have saving faith and possess salvation too, which he can never lose regardless how heinous his sins may become, as long as he doesn't go all the way back to live as he used to and that would only show he was never really saved. In contrast, the Bible declares a totally different version of saving faith and condemns MacArthur as a false teacher. See Jude 3,4. Clearly, no adulterer or murderer is saved, while in these sins (Rev. 21:8; 1 John 3:15; 1 Cor. 6:9,10; etc.).
[By the way, eternal security teachers like to read into Scripture to allow for their sin gospel of eternal security by saying things like the above about Lot. Lot cannot be proven from the Scriptures to be characterized by worldly compromise in the midst of heinous sin. Also, it wasn't until after he was led out of Sodom that he did the types of sin that would condemn him. See Ezek. 18:26; 33:13; Psa. 125:5. While living in Sodom Lot was righteous (2 Pet. 2:8).]
To recap, MacArthur's saving faith and holiness teaching declare the following:
MacArthur's Saving Faith and
Holiness Message Summarized
- a true Christian possessing saving faith can commit occasional acts of adultery. (Hence, there are some Christian adulterers.)
- a true Christian possessing saving faith can commit occasional acts of drunkenness. (Hence, there are some Christian drunks.)
- a true Christian possessing saving faith can murder himself (be a suicide) and afterwards go to heaven, even though he died as an unrepentant murderer.
- a true Christian can commit the list of sins cited in 1 Cor. 6:9,10 just short of going all the way back to live like he used to and still have a saving faith. Here is that list, in case the reader is unacquainted with it:Or 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 Cor. 6:9,10)
- no sin regardless how heinous, including child molestation, rape, murder, homosexuality, etc., will ever prevent a person previously saved from entering heaven.
- sin works for our good!
- a person who is lacking saving faith is one whose basic character is summed up in the uninterrupted and unrepentant practice of them [sins] .... (The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1798, comment on Gal. 5:21). Hence, anything better than an uninterrupted and unrepentant practice of sin could describe a person with saving faith bound for heaven because of eternal security, even though he might be living in many of the sins cited in 1 Cor. 6:9,10.
What is the true saving faith, which is needed to finally enter the kingdom of God? In a sentence, it is a trusting-submitting-enduring faith in Jesus Christ, which includes repentance [turning from sin]. To elaborate further, it is the faith in Jesus Christ, which obeys Him to the point of putting into practice his word and living holy. This same faith, which brings instant salvation, can afterwards be destroyed by false teachings (2 Tim. 2:18), become shipwrecked (1 Tim. 1:19,20) and cease to exist (Luke 8:13), even though it previously brought forth eternal life and forgiveness of sins. Hence, a true Christian must remain very guarded in his personal battle for eternity. He can still go to Hell, like many in the past who once knew salvation. [See The Believer's Conditional Security, chapter 13, for 18 Biblical examples of this.]
True Saving Faith
Sin after salvation is poisonous to a Christian and can clearly bring forth spiritual death, according to true grace teaching (Rom. 8:13 cf. Lk. 15:24,32; James. 1:14,15; Gal. 5:19-21; 6:8,9). It never brings forth good. It is possible to have a heart purified by faith in Jesus (Acts 15:9 cf. 1 Tim. 1:5,6), afterwards become defiled again by sin and go back to the old life of sin (2 Pet. 2:20-22). [See our book The Believer's Conditional Security, p. 632 for a long list of possible spiritual tragedies after salvation and much other information on the subject of eternal security.] To share in Christ and enter the kingdom of God, a Christian must endure to the very end of his life (Heb.3:14; Matt. 10:22; Rev. 2:10,11). There is no seniority with God regarding salvation. Don't be deceived by MacArthur or any other teacher or author, who says something different about this or even an occasional act of adultery or drunkenness in the life of a Christian not negating his salvation. Your eternal soul, as well as your family's and friends', are at stake over this issue.
The following is a Bible-based definition of all eternal security teachers, John MacArthur being no exception:
Eternal Security Teachers DefinedEternal security teachers - popular teachers in our day who avoid certain Scriptures and distort others to allow for wicked behavior in the life of a Christian while assuring him that his sins, regardless how severe, will not exclude him from God's paradise kingdom because he was previously saved. Such "ravening wolves in sheep's clothing" are misleading multitudes to Hell, while they get financially prosperous by promising their listeners nothing but a false salvation in their sins such as those cited in 1 Cor. 6:9,10, under their twisted version of grace and the infinite work of Christ. These grace distorters (Jude 3,4) are clearly described in the book of Jude and must be opposed by Christians for the sake of souls.
Skull and Crossbones Awards of False Prophets and False Teachers
John MacArthur Gets the Skull and Crossbones Award
Eternal Security - Doctrine of Demons
Plan Of Salvation
Eternal Security Is Another Gospel
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