Dr. John MacArthur Teaches Works Salvation!
Dr. John F. MacArthur is the Pastor of the Grace Community Church in Panorama City, California. According to a statement made on the cover of one of his books, “his Bible teaching and tape ministries reach millions across the globe.” He is the author of many books (most of which are published by Moody Press) including several full length commentaries on certain New Testament books. His local church is large, but his influence goes far beyond his local church because of his published writings and public tapes which are distributed widely. According to the flyleaf of his book, The Gospel According to Jesus, “He is heard daily on the national radio program “Grace to You,” and more than 7,000,000 of his audio cassette tapes have been distributed worldwide.” He is also the President of The Master’s College and Seminary. He is a member of the IFCA (Independent Fundamental Churches of America). Dr. MacArthur is nationally known for his position in support of Lordship Salvation. Our desire is only to "prove all things", by testing all things by the Word of God, to see if they are true (1st Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11). Dr. MacArthur's teachings have a worldwide impact, and his doctrines should not be embraced without subjecting them to the searchlight of the Scriptures.
Dr. MacArthur’s position on Lordship Salvation has been made very clear in his published book, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS. He has also made statements in some of his other published writings and tapes that relate to this subject, some of which are quoted below:
"The Greek word translated 'belief' is not referring merely to intellectual attainment or mental acquiescence but a wholehearted acceptance of everything that is implied in the claims of Christ. You need to believe that Jesus is God and that He died for your sins, committing your whole life to Him in sacrifice and serving Him as Lord." (Assurance of Victory--1 John 5, Moody Press, p.12).
"Submission to the will of God, to Christ’s lordship, and to the guiding of the Spirit is an essential, not an optional, part of saving faith" (EPHESIANS, p. 249).
"Saving faith is a placing of oneself totally in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1-8, p. 205)
Dr. MacArthur confuses repentance with the fruits of repentance, and confuses faith with that which faith ought to produce. He confuses saving faith (which takes place in a moment of time--Rom. 13:11; Eph. 1:13) with discipleship (which is a lifelong process). As Miles Stanford has said, "Lordship salvation is not the childlike faith of John 3:16. It rightly insists upon repentance but wrongly includes a change of behavior IN ORDER TO BE SAVED. No one questions that there must be a sincere change of mind, a turning from oneself to the Saviour, but Lordship advocates attempt to make behavior and fruit essential ingredients of, rather than evidence of, saving faith" (Miles Stanford, in his review of The Gospel According to Jesus).
MacArthur defines REPENTANCE as turning from your sins (Faith Works, p. 74). He also teaches that true repentance "inevitably results in a change of behavior" (Faith Works, p. 75). But is not TURNING FROM SINS a CHANGE OF BEHAVIOR? Is MacArthur confusing the RESULTS of repentance with REPENTANCE itself? Is not he confusing the FRUITS with the ROOT? MacArthur is more accurate when he says, "true repentance involves a change of heart and purpose" (Faith Works, p. 75). The inner change will produce an outward change.
WHAT MUST A SINNER DO TO BE SAVED?
What is the Gospel message according to MacArthur? According to him, what must a person do to be saved? Does his answer match Acts 16:31 or does he teach something else? Here is what he says:
"Let me just say simply, that when you present the gospel, all of this Lordship discussion aside, a presentation of the gospel is simply this: you are calling on someone to TURN FROM THEIR SIN and FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST. That’s it! Turn from your sin and follow Jesus Christ!....That is all we are asking: TURN FROM YOUR SIN AND FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST....What you talk to an adult about is the same thing you tell a child: you need to turn from your sin and follow Jesus Christ" (this is transcribed from a taped question and answer session given on 9/25/90 at the Calvary Baptist Church in Brewer, Maine, Rev. Larry Pawson, Pastor).
Notice that MacArthur’s emphasis is upon WHAT MAN DOES (turning from sin, following Christ) rather than upon WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE. His emphasis is upon MAN’S COMMITMENT, rather than upon the Person and work of Christ and the response of faith to that Person and to His work. His emphasis is upon DO, but a true gospel message should emphasize DONE (John 19:30). It is not our COMMITMENT that saves us; it is CHRIST who saves us. Following Christ is a result of salvation, not a condition of salvation. Before we FOLLOW CHRIST in discipleship we must COME TO CHRIST for salvation. Before we COME AFTER CHRIST (Luke 9:23) we must COME UNTO CHRIST (Matthew 11:28). The term "BELIEVE" does not mean "turn from sin and follow Christ." It means "trust fully, rely upon, resting one’s whole weight upon the WORTH, WORD and WORK of Jesus Christ." We must not re-define saving faith to make it some kind of a "work-requirement" for salvation. Justification is for the person who "worketh not, but believeth" (Rom. 4:5).
DOES PASTOR JOHN MACARTHUR BELIEVE SINNERS ARE SAVED BY GRACE ALONE?
Effectively, no! Pastor John MacArthur of the Grace Community Church has authored a heretical book titled, “HARD TO BELIEVE” in which he errantly teaches...
"Salvation isn't the result of an intellectual exercise. It comes from a life lived in obedience and service to Christ as revealed in the Scripture; it's the fruit of actions, not intentions. There's no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile...The life we live, not the words we speak, determines our eternal destiny" (Hard to Believe, p. 93). [emphasis added]
Ladies and gentlemen, what you have just read is works salvation. Now in fairness to Dr. MacArthur, who is a gifted teacher (but bad Bible student), he has attributed the previous quote to a publishing error and has updated the quote. Here is the new updated quote...
Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy to become a Christian. Salvation for sinners cost God His own Son; it cost God’s Son His life, and it’ll cost you the same thing. Salvation isn’t gained by reciting mere words. Saving faith transforms the heart, and that in turn transforms behavior. Faith’s fruit is seen in actions, not intentions. There’s no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile. Remember that what John saw in his vision of judgment was a Book of Life, not a book of Words or Book of Intellectual Musings. The life we live, not the words we speak, reveals whether our faith is authentic. [emphasis added]
SOURCE: Dr. John MacArthur, Grace To You, an updated quote from his book 'Hard To Believe', page 93
At a glance, the preceding quote sounds impressive. It certainly seems proper to authenticate one's profession of faith with a life of good works. It appeals to our sinful human nature to attempt to please God by our own self-righteousness. The true nature of MacArthur's deadly teaching becomes more apparent when you only consider the first two lines of his quote...
“Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy to become a Christian. Salvation for sinners cost God His own Son; it cost God’s Son His life, and it’ll cost you the same thing...”
Is that Biblical? No, it is not. MacArthur foolishly teaches that it is hard to become a Christian, because he says it will cost you your life of worldliness, sinful bad habits and selfish ambitions to make your faith valid. Clearly he does not believe that faith alone in Christ is enough to be saved. MacArthur deceitful says that mere words won't save, which is true if they are insincere words; however, the thief on the cross was saved immediately when he spoke the words, “Remember me” to Jesus (Luke 23:42). We are saved solely by faith in Christ, which may or may not be expressed by words. Words are not required to be saved. We are saved the moment we believe in our heart that Jesus is the Christ Who died FOR OUR SINS on the cross and rose (1st Corinthians 15:1-4).
The Devil is so subtle. False prophets know that adding works to salvation is blatant heresy, a lie. So what they do is instead say that you're saved by grace through faith, but your faith is not valid unless there are works to make that faith credible (or to authenticate it). This is a backdoor approach to a works-based salvation.
The following excellent information refuting Lordship Salvation is by Dr. Ray Stanford (1916-2012), from his classic book, “Handbook of Personal Evangelism”...
Just as you receive the Saviour by faith and He becomes YOUR Saviour, when you allow Christ to control your life, He becomes YOUR LORD. There is an increasing number of "evangelicals" today who are preaching that in order for a man to be saved he must not only receive Christ as his Saviour, but also must make Him absolute Lord and Master of his life.
This doctrine has been termed "Lordship salvation" and has absolutely no support from the Word of God. It is, in fact, another subtle way Satan has invented to get Bible-believing men to add works to salvation without, perhaps, their realizing it, and to do it in such a way that it sounds spiritual and good.
What could SOUND more spiritual or honoring to the Lord than statements like: "Either Christ is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all. And if He is not Lord then He is not your Saviour. You are lost. You must turn over all the strings of your life to Him-then He will save you. Give your life to Him if you want to be truly saved." This is what is taught.
The truth of the matter is that salvation is not a "give" proposition at all; it is a "take" proposition. We don't give our hearts, lives, wills, or anything else to God in order to get Him to save us. This would be a form of bribery, a way of meriting or deserving to be saved-but God says salvation is "NOT OF OURSELVES"-and especially, it is not offering anything to God.
Salvation is receiving! We simply receive His Son. John 1:12 says, "But as many as RECEIVED Him, to them gave He power (the right) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name." God does the giving. We do the receiving.
SOURCE: “Handbook of Personal Evangelism,” by Dr. Ray Stanford, p. 45
Amen and amen!
Kindly, MacArthur is spiritually dangerous, because he hides heresies between doctrinal truths, which are the hardest to expose. My friend, it is very easy to be saved, so easy in fact that 3,000 people got saved in one day in Acts 2:41. You don't have to give your life (as Christ gave His life) to be saved! If it were true, then salvation would be the result of partial faith in Christ plus human effort. To lay such a heavy burden upon a sinner's shoulder, requiring them to validate their faith by the way in which they live, is to make salvation HARD, VERY, HARD; but Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30). If you always keep in mind that eternal life is a free gift, paid for by Jesus' precious blood (1st Peter 1:18-19), then you won't be misled.
To say that salvation comes from a life lived in obedience and service to Christ seemingly indicates that salvation comes from something that man does. The Bible says that salvation is "not of yourselves...not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Pastor William Newell (1868-1956) summarizes the essence of God's gracious salvation as follows:
Christ's work, though on behalf of man, was wholly His: glorious and perfect, yet to be received by man in its blessed results of eternal pardon, peace and blessing. To be received, we say, by simple Faith, unmixed with human effort. A humbling process, indeed! For man must go out of the righteousness-producing business, and rest wholly and forever on the work of Another, even Christ. (Hebrews, pp. 238-239)
Have you believed a lie? Please read the excellent doctrinally sound sermon by Pastor Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) titled, “WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?”
CHILD SALVATION—A RELATED SUBJECT
John MacArthur’s views on child salvation are of interest because they seem to relate to his understanding of Lordship salvation. On September 25, 1990 at the Calvary Baptist Church in Brewer, Maine (Rev. Larry Pawson, pastor), Dr. MacArthur was involved in a question and answer session which was publicly taped. During that session he said the following about child salvation:
"Now let me say this and I don’t want you to panic when I say it. Saving faith is an ADULT ISSUE. Saving faith is an ADULT EXPERIENCE. Salvation is an ADULT EXPERIENCE. Am I saying that a child cannot be saved? I’m saying that salvation is a conscious turning from sin to follow Jesus Christ with an understanding of something of the sinfulness of sin, its consequences and something of who Jesus Christ is, what He has provided and that I’m committing my life to Him. At what point can a child understand that?...I tell parents that salvation is an adult decision....There is no illustration in Scripture of childhood salvation. There is none. People want to throw the Philippian jailer and his household; well that’s talking about his servants so there is no reference there about his children. So there is no such thing as a childhood conversion."
In fairness, MacArthur is not saying that a child cannot be saved. But he does seem to be saying that if a child is to be saved he must understand as an adult, make an adult decision and have an adult experience. [The Lord Jesus taught that to be saved adults must become as little children (Matt. 18:3); MacArthur teaches that to be saved children must become as adults] How does this relate to His teaching on Lordship? If salvation is by simple child-like faith in the Saviour, then child salvation is no problem. On the other hand, if salvation involves obedience to Christ’s commands, surrendering to Christ’s Lordship, fulfilling the demands of discipleship, commitment of one’s life to the Saviour, etc., then salvation has become a very involved and complicated thing that would not at all be simple for a child to do. If we complicate the gospel with all kinds of Lordship requirements, then we have indeed made if very, very difficult for children (and for adults)! If we proclaim the gospel message that salvation is simply BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH (based upon the Person and work of Christ, not based upon sinful man’s fragile commitment), then this is a message that can be gladly received by people of all ages.
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