Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Gospel Delusion - Part 2

The Gospel Delusion

A review of John MacArthur's The Gospel According To Jesus 20th Anniversary Edition

Part 2: Not Just Hard, Impossible.

Please read Part 1: The Obligatory Introduction first.

Dr. MacArthur argues for a salvation that is hard on the believer. His work talks about all the requirements, “strings” perhaps, of true Salvation. He goes on about the demands that Jesus makes on a sinner that must be met in exchange for Salvation. As though Salvation is some sort of barter system(1) In his preface he says that modern evangelicalism has aimed at making the the Gospel sound as easy and appealing as possible and then describes Jesus' way of presenting the Gospel as “making salvation sound well-nigh impossible” (2) and quotes Mark 10:17-26 as his support for this, and then continues with “because for fallen sinners who are trying to save themselves, it is impossible.(v. 27)” Which is funny because it is the truth of his continued thought that impeaches his point. Jesus doesn't make salvation sound hard, He tells people that it is impossible for a man to be saved by or through his own effort. This does not contrast what Dr. MacArthur says about modern Gospel presentations making salvation sound easy... it actually agrees with it. In the Scripture cited the Lord shows “The Rich Young Ruler” that no one is “good” except God, that even though the man thinks he's kept the Law from his youth he can not actually do good enough to be acceptable to God. No matter how he prepares and presents himself, he'll never be “good enough.” His astonished listeners ask “then who can be saved?” Answering, the Lord says what is impossible for man is possible with God. The Lord isn't suggesting that Salvation is hard for a man. The Lord isn't attaching “strings” (see Part 1) to the deal. In fact when some, who thought Salvation was to be earned, asked the Lord what they must do He told them to believe. John 6:28-29

A portion of Scripture that will play prominently in the minds of those who evaluate Dr. MacArthur's work using Scripture is Romans 4:5-8. Why? Because in this short section the Apostle Paul makes it absolutely clear that faith/belief is not a work, and that salvation is totally and completely separate from works.

5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “ Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.” NKJV

It is absolutely clear that we are Justified without works. Not that works don't just enter into the earning of Justification, or the process of Justification but that Justification happens totally and completely without works. This means that if one believes unto salvation and never does a good work but dies that he in fact was saved. His faith may have been “useless” or unprofitable as in James 2:1ff, and he will will be judged under the Law of Liberty and suffer loss of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ but he will have been Justified and accounted just as Righteous as any other Saint who ever has or ever will live. Rom 8:1, 2 Cor 5:10, 1 Cor 3:11-14

Salvation isn't just hard for a sinner, it's impossible. Jesus doesn't make it “sound well-nigh impossible” as Dr. MacArthur would have us believe. Jesus states that actually is impossible for us. Would it be the Lord's council to try or earnestly strive for something that He, the God of the Universe, clearly states is impossible? I think not.

But the Lord doesn't stop at telling us that it is impossible for us to be saved by how we prepare and present our selves to Him. Thankfully, He went on to say that what is impossible for us is easy for Him because He is all powerful. Mark 10:27

But why is Salvation impossible for us? Is it because we are hopelessly fallen, “totally depraved” beings? When the Lord presented the Gospel that saves, He began to show His followers that He must suffer, die, and be raised from the grave to life again. Mat 16:21 For this is what is required of the sinner if they are to live again. For every one who doesn't continue to do all that is written in the Book of The Law is cursed. Everyone who is not perfectly righteous is cursed, and bound for Eternity in the Lake of Fire. Deut 27:26, Gal 3:10. In fact since sinners are under a curse, if we wanted to attain Eternal Life apart from Christ's full provision we would have to die and raise to life again ourselves. And all would agree that this is impossible for a mere mortal man to accomplish. The mortal part kinda makes the concept absolutely clear doesn't it? And we read the very same thing in Rom 6:23 with the added clarity that salvation is a “gift” not something that is worked for.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. NKJV

The Apostle Paul tells us that we are baptized into Christ's death and resurrection. This is how Salvation is accomplished for the sinner. Christ became sin for us, He was cursed, and He died for us. So the sinner positionally dies and raises to life again when we are baptized into Christ's death and resurrection. The Law is then established, as the just requirements of it are fulfilled in the sinner's death. Rom 6:1ff, Rom 3:31, Rom 8:1-4, Rom 2:25-27

As Dr. MacArthur's argument progresses he surmises that the sinner needs to become worthy of salvation to actually be saved. But sin doesn't require a change in the way we behave. Sin requires us to die. The sinner who comes to God with the slightest thought of saying “I'm trying to be worthy Lord” does not yet understand the Gospel. We present ourselves as wholly needing the Sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the Cross to atone for our sin. When we come to God with that as our only reason for confidence to stand before Him, so that we can come confidently before the Throne of Grace expecting mercy, then we will be saved. Heb 4:14-16 Just like “The Rich Young Ruler” we can not ever be good enough to approach God. We come baptized into Christ's death and resurrection by Grace through our having received the Gospel or when we come before Him we will receive only destruction.

Part 3: That Old-Time Modern Gospel


All references (unless otherwise stated) are from The Gospel According To Jesus: What is authentic faith? Revised & Expanded Anniversary Edition By John MacArthur Copyright 2008


  2. Pg 10


Kevl said...

The introduction is important but it doesn't start to get into the meat. So I decided to post Part 2 today as well.

I've got some polishing to do on Parts 3 & 4 yet and that will wait for a while.

Looking forward to comments.


Stanley Wong said...

Hi Kev,

I am not a theologian, just an ordinary layman Christian.

However, when I read of learned ministers like Dr MacArthur saying things like "modern evangelicalism has aimed at making the Gospel sound as easy and appealing as possible" as if it is a sin or heresy, I get irritated.

Doesn't the Gospel mean Good News? If Good News is not appealing, then is it really Good News?

The Gospel is easy because God/Jesus made it easy. Consider the case of one of the criminals crucified together with Jesus (Luke 23:39-43). He just spoke his faith, and he was saved; no works required!

Luke 23:39-43 (NLT)
39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


Kevl said...

Hey Stanley, you'll no doubt be amused (and possibly a bit offended) to know that Dr. MacArthur actually cites the thief on the Cross as an example of someone coming into submission to the lordship of Christ in order to be saved.

He doesn't really support that claim but he makes it in the preface to the book.


Lou Martuneac said...


LS categorizes any message that does not include their calls on a lost man for a promise to perform the "good works" (Eph. 2:10) expected of a Christian to BECOME a Christian: Easy Believism.


Stanley Wong said...

Hi Lou,

This LS thing sounds like the Old Covenant where the Israelites promise to obey the Law in exchange for God's acceptance and blessings.

This had proven to be impossible for the Israelites, and God has given us a new and living way through Jesus (Heb 8:7-10).

It is human pride at work again when we try to pour the new wine of Jesus into old wineskin.

Heb 8: 7-10 (NKJV)
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.


Gary said...

I have the opposite problem to what MacArthur says. I can't FIND a church that teaches the gospel! Every one of them teach LS, no exceptions! The closest FG church is well over an hour away, and there is only one at that!


Lou Martuneac said...


Good question and there is a way to locate a non-LS church.

There are resources to help you find a solid church and steer you clear of any "REDEFINED" FG church that propagates the heretical Crossless gospel of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the Grace Evangelical Society.

If you e-mail me at I can pass it along to men who will have some suggestions for you.

BTW, where are you located?


PS: Are you new to these blogs? Have you ever posted on the discussions at any blogs that address the GES Crossless gospel?

Kevl said...

Hi Gary, welcome to OMW!

I know a fine chap who lives on the panhandle of Florida. Are you around there because he attends a grace minded church.