A Little Booklet on Lordship Salvation Part 5
Dr. Earnest Pickering sums up of MacArthur's points (large green italic #5) and offers comment: _______________________________________________________
5. The saving gospel was a principal part of Christ's message while on earth.
"It is a mistake of the worst sort to set the teachings of Paul and the apostles over against the words of our Lord and imagine that they contradict one another or speak to different dispensations. . .While Jesus' gospel was not yet fully completed until his death and resurrection, the elements of it were all clear in His preaching" (p. 214).
This is a very strange statement indeed for one who claims to be a dispensationalist. As MacArthur himself has admitted in this very section there was no gospel to proclaim until it was produced through the vicarious death of the Savior and His resurrection from the tomb. How would the Jews in the land of Palestine who heard Christ's preaching be capable of believing "good news" which, at that period in time, was nonexistent except in prophetic utterances? Gospel preachers were to go to the ends of the earth with the saving message following Christ's death, resurrection, and His provision of the Holy Spirit to empower the witnesses (Luke 24:45-49). We believe it is our brother who wrote the above who has made the "mistake" and not those who have been, and do, make a distinction between the dispensation of law, under which Christ conducted His earthly ministry, and the dispensation of grace, under which we labor today.
MacArthur finds the saving gospel of Christ in very strange places. For instance, Christ exhorted men thusly, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8:34). MacArthur states, "The explicit subject is eternal life and salvation" (p. 135). Here is a failure to see the distinction between salvation and discipleship. Salvation is free; discipleship is costly. Salvation comes by receiving the work of the cross; discipleship is evidenced by bearing the cross (daily submission to the will of God). Christ here is not giving instructions about how to go to heaven, but how those who know they are going to heaven should follow Him.
Of the parable of the landowner who hires men at various hours of the day and then pays them the same wages (Matt. 20:1-16) MacArthur declares, "The issue here is the equality of eternal life" (p. 146). One looks in vain, however, in this parable for any delineation of the gospel nor any reference to the bestowment of eternal life. The parable deals with the sovereign distribution of rewards for service, not the apportionment of salvation. MacArthur sees no distinction between Christ's presentation of the kingdom and the message of the gospel. "When Jesus proclaimed His kingdom, He was preaching salvation" (p. 89). He says further that "the essence of Jesus' message was always the gospel of salvation" (p. 90).
While there are shades of difference among dispensationalists as to the interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, none, to this writer's knowledge, supports the concepts that MacArthur advances. He says the sermon on the Mount contains "pure gospel" (p. 179) and, with His appeal in Matthew 7:13-14 about entering in at the narrow gate Christ "brings the Sermon on the Mount to its evangelistic climax" (p. 179). How this could be is puzzling indeed. Where is the "evangel" in the Sermon on the Mount? There is no gospel there at all. It was not intended to be a gospel presentation, but was addressed to His own disciples who already were believers.
In his discussion of the wide and narrow gates, the writer sees the teaching as combating "the modern notion that salvation is easy" (p. 182). This same thought is repeated in various places in the book. Christ's words in Matthew 7, it is said, contradict the popular teaching "that becoming a Christian is only a matter of believing some facts, signing on a dotted line, walking an aisle, raising a hand, or praying the right prayer" (p. 182). While some careless and superficial zealots perhaps could be accused of such notions, it is but a caricature of the multitudes of serious-minded and concerned evangelists and evangelistic pastors who call upon sinners to obey the New Testament command, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved" (Acts 16:31). By such an exhortation they do not mean to merely "believe some facts." They mean that the godless sinner should receive, believe upon, a wonderful Person who has provided salvation by grace for him. They mean that there should be a definite act of faith which rests solely upon the work of the Savior.
What is the Biblical definition of the gospel? "Christ died for our sins. . .was buried, and. . .rose again" (I Cor. 15:3-4). This message is not the same as the Sermon on the Mount or a call for crossbearing. The message of the gospel is a message of free grace flowing from the cross of Calvary and appropriated by the simple faith of the sinner.Is it an "easy" gospel? It depends upon what you mean by that statement. It was certainly not "easy" in its procurement. The price - the suffering and death of the infinite Son of God was great. If one means by the word "easy" that it is "simple," that is, uncomplicated and free to the sinner, our answer would be, "Yes, it is easy." If one means by use of the word "easy" that proponents of salvation by faith alone condone a life of sinful abandon after one's salvation, our answer would be that of the apostle Paul, "God forbid!"
While MacArthur excoriates dispensationalists whom he claims have a loose view of the demands of salvation, we do not believe that is a fair and balanced view of what leading dispensationalists have taught. In the footnote commenting on I John 3:4, 6, 9 the New Scofield Bible says, "Here and in similar places in this Epistle the Greek verb has the force of a continuous present tense. . .and thus denotes a person's habitual attitude toward sin as expressed in his practice or non-practice of it. . .he is stressing the fact that a Christian cannot keep on practicing sin, because he is born of God" (Footnote on I Jn. 3:4, p. 1307).
While the view of Zane Hodges (The Gospel Under Siege) and perhaps some other dispensationalists may differ from the view just quoted, the Scofield footnote, represents a solid and widely-held view among dispensationalists. J. Ronald Blue, the commentator on the Book of James in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, a commentary with a dispensational approach, in discussing the relationship between faith and works says simply, "Spiritual works are the evidence, not the energizer, of sincere faith" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, II. 826). Those who are preaching the gospel of saving grace do not for one moment condone a life of sinful abandon on the part of a believer.
What do you think?
more on the way ...