Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Little Booklet on Lordship Salvation
Part 5

Here is the fifth of 7 major points from Dr. MacArthur's book and Dr. Pickering's review and comments on these points. (See my October 12 post for background on what I am posting here.)

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 ...


  • I agree, apart from his endorsement of the view taken by J.R. Blue in the Bible Knowledge Commentary.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/18/2006 11:56 AM  

  • Matthew, what I noticed in this written critique, Pickering doesn't necessarily heartily endorse any of these other writers. I find it hard to read endorsement into the last paragraph ... of Hodges, Blue or Scofield. I think he is just pointing out that MacArthur is generalizing too much in painting all dispensationalists with the same brush, while pressing for this extremist alternative of LS. Don't you?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/18/2006 12:34 PM  

  • Hey Rose!

    John 14:6 seems vaguely evangelical doesn't it?

    Just a Bill

    By Anonymous Just a Bill, at 10/18/2006 12:36 PM  

  • Hi Bill!

    John 14:6
    6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.


    What are you getting at, Bill?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/18/2006 12:43 PM  

  • Hey again Rose!

    Thinking further as I wander the halls here at work--Evangelical and Gospel aren't necessarily the same thing though are they?

    I like this part of Pickerings argument: 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?

    Christ himself made one of those prophetic uteerances didn't he? Luke 18:31-34 31Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33On the third day he will rise again."

    But then follows verse 34: 34The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. Hidden because the Holy Spirit had yet to be given them????

    I'm not sure I am "getting at" anything--just thinking out loud-

    My favorite thing about your blog is it makes me think.

    By Anonymous Just a Bill, at 10/18/2006 1:16 PM  

  • Bill,
    Excellent thoughts!
    I am so glad that you shared them with me. Now you are making me think too. I also agree with Dr. Pickering here. It sorta makes you wonder why anyone would come up with such a title for a book "The Gospel According to Jesus" and then include all of Christ's commands that I believe he was using to demonstrate how impossible it would be to actually be righteous enough to earn salvation.

    I am just thinking aloud too.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/18/2006 1:29 PM  

  • Hello Rose,

    This is a very interesting series you are posting. Thank you for sharing them.


    By Blogger Gojira, at 10/18/2006 6:28 PM  

  • The stunning Irony is that Caiaphas seemed to understand what was going to happen and even preached it a year before.

    "You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. John 11:50-52.

    In this particular area perhaps MacArthur has a point. Ironically the disciples didn't understand but Caiaphas the theologian did and preached dangerously close to dispensational truth. Mysterious passage wouldn't you say?

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/18/2006 6:47 PM  

  • Hi Rose, My blog name is "Ticket To Heaven," I was searching for similair blogs and found yours. Hope you will be edified by my blog. It's a gospel message for Christmas Ecards. My blog URL is:http://tickettoheaven2006.blogspot.com/

    Thanks, Mark Miller

    By Blogger Ticket To Heaven, at 10/19/2006 3:18 AM  

  • Hi Gojira,
    Thanks for visiting! I saw your comments on Pyro and HK Flynn's blog.

    That is incredible how the high priest said that which he had no idea he was saying.

    Ticket to Heaven,
    I really enjoyed reading the entry on your blog. Thanks for visiting!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/19/2006 11:27 AM  

  • Rose,

    It said he said it not of his own authority. He was enlightened with the knowledge yes...but clearly he understood as he told the other Pharisees they didn't understand...but rather than to accept this for himself he rejected it as he loved his office and position and hated the grace of God.

    Everyone receives some light Rose...but not everyone responds. Even creation enlightens us. Herein sleeps the mystery...God sovereign election and yet Jesus weeping that Caiaphas and his nation would not be willing to come to Him. But understand...Caiaphas knew alot as he was a teacher of Israel.

    Remember Jesus asked Nicodemus, "Are you a teacher of Israel?"

    So understanding the spiritual can only come through the New Birth...yet you can still know a lot. This is all clearly a mystery that we truly cannot unlock because if we did then we could unlock the nomenclature of the New Birth...but in order to truly do that we need to first figure out how out of thousands of sperm cells...only one finds its place with the egg in the natural conception and birth of natural man.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/19/2006 4:01 PM  

  • The gospel of John is an evangelistic treatise that deals with Christ preaching the offer of eternal life prior to His death and resurrection.

    The whole of the treaty argues that we can be saved the same way that those were saved pre-cross.

    Zane Hodges has this helpful thing to say:
    The simple fact is that the whole Fourth Gospel is designed to show that its readers can get saved in the same way as the people who got saved in John’s narrative. To say anything other than this is to accept a fallacy. It is to mistakenly suppose that the Fourth Gospel presents the terms of salvation incompletely and inadequately. I sincerely hope no grace person would want to be stuck with a position like that.

    "How to Lead People to Christ: Part 1"

    By Blogger Antonio, at 10/19/2006 6:57 PM  

  • Brian,
    Didn't the high priest say that meaning one thing ... without understanding what it really meant ... another thing altogether? That is how I always took it.

    I always thought Caiaphas meant "one man dies for the people" in the sense that one man will die to appease Rome or give some kind of political releif. He has no idea that his own words really had a different meaning - that the lamb of God will die for the {sins of} all the people ... to redeem.

    That is how I always took that. Is that what you think? Maybe I don't grasp your comment.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/20/2006 10:11 AM  

  • Rose,

    There were parables also that Jesus told where the Priest knew he was speaking of them. Parables also where the son was taken and killed. I believe Caiaphas knew what he was doing just like Cain knew what he was doing when his brothers sacrifice was accepted and he was told that if he made the same animal sacrifice he would be accepted. Cain murdered Abel in the first degree. Caiaphas did as well fully knowing what he was doing fueled by hatred...a hatred for Gods Son and the grace found in him. yes it was expedient for him to die and no I don't think he fully understood everything, but having prophesied the truth...he knew enough to be threatened and was just acting out of hatred thinking God was trying to take something from him and not understanding that God was trying to give him something. Of that he didn't understand.

    He is essentially shaking his fist and gnashing his teeth at the mouth of hell...having not died yet. That is what I gather from the text anyway.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/20/2006 4:23 PM  

  • Brian,
    I will have to read through the passage again. Thanks for showing me that there is another way of looking at that.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/21/2006 12:30 PM  

  • If youll notice Rose, I wasn't saying your way of looking at it was wrong. I was essentially confirming how you felt about him, but I am just making the case that he knew a whole lot more than I think many of us give him credit for.

    All Cain had to do was go get one of Abels unblemished Sheep. That wouldn't have been hard...but oooooh how hard it would have been on his pride.

    Martin Luther translated Eves statement about the birth of Cain as "I have gotten a man YHVH(The Lord)"

    Cain lived his life being well received and hoped in by his mom I am sure. Eve named her second son Abel and his name meant breath or vanity.

    Abel was well received of God as he accepted the blood sacrifice as his only hope that his parents were clothed with by God in the beginning. Cain must have bought into the fig leaves rationale that Adam and Eve first had. Human understanding and reasoning. Abel really had nothing to lose in looking to Christ alone, but Cain would have to give up all his fig leave pie and eat Abels humble pie and sacrifice to God what Abel hoped in. Cain killed the hope of Christ when he murdered Abel and shook his fist at God in so doing. God was trying to give Cain something wonderful but Cain thought he was taking something away from him and favoring Abel instead. Simple offer a blood sacrifice as Abel and you will be received, but the blood of Christ was not good enough for Cain so he shed the blood of Abel instead and shook his fist at heaven rejecting God. His salvation was too easy...but oooh was it to hard for his pride to accept. And that is why we must personally receive and Accept Christs blood death and resurrection on our behalf and his grace or we will perish forever in hell. There is no other way. I pray no one kills off their only hope.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/21/2006 1:40 PM  

  • There is a teaching in Reformed Theology that says you may not know if you are regenerated or when but you must endeavor to find out if you have been regenerated. It is a powerfully persuasive teaching but it is a lie. Each person must personally accept the Grace of God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. If you are struggling to find out if God is believing for you then you have fallen into a false trap where in reality you are trusting in works salvation.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/21/2006 5:48 PM  

  • I don't like that teaching in reformed theology.

    Brain, the "not knowing if you are one of the chosen few" makes that teaching so scary. It effects all the propositions laid on top of it. If we just leave those secret things to God and take Him at His Word when He says "whosoever will may come" and "the whole world" etc... it leaves out this idea of "am I really one of the chosen few?"

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/23/2006 9:01 AM  

  • I agree...but I am no Einstein Rose. Thanks anyway for the compliment...or were you being sarcastic:-)

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/23/2006 5:28 PM  

  • Brian,
    I am not against sarcasm all the time, but in the last few comments, I had none in mind for you. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/23/2006 9:37 PM  

  • You missed it Rose...keep looking. It was in your last comment and it was one word:-)

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/23/2006 10:15 PM  

  • I know it was a typo...happens all the time. Thats the only comback that helps folks remember.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/23/2006 10:16 PM  

  • Hi Brian,
    I think I know now - I didn't capitalize RT? You give me way too much credit if you think I did that on purpose! I was just scurrying is all. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/25/2006 11:10 AM  

  • Hint:

    you said>Brain, the "not knowing if you are one of the chosen few" makes that teaching so scary<

    I just simply said I was no Einstein. Brian will do:-)

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/28/2006 4:04 PM  

  • One of these days you will see how I operate in getting folks to see a point.


    Some folks know though I think.

    Peace to you all.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/28/2006 4:08 PM  

  • Discovery always lasts in the mind and becomes real in the heart. Like a pearl in hidden in the ground.

    By Blogger Bhedr, at 10/28/2006 4:10 PM  

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