Friday, November 14, 2008

The Gospel Delusion - Part 3

The Gospel Delusion

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

Part 3: That Old-Time Modern Gospel

Please begin reading the series with part 1:The Obligatory Introduction

On the 10th page of his work Dr. MacArthur states “Long before The Gospel According To Jesus (TGATJ) was first published, it was popular in certain circles to exclude any mention of Jesus' lordship from the gospel message.” (1) Oddly enough, (considering the incredible amount of red ink I have used on his book) I can find nothing to argue with Dr. MacArthur on this point. In fact, let's look at how the Gospel “message” was presented some 2,000 years before TGATJ was first published.

1 Cor 15:1-11

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

The observant reader will find that the Apostle Paul is declaring the Gospel which he had preached to these Christians who had been saved through having received that same message. Another important observation will be made by the same reader, that this is the same message that was preached by all the Apostles. In light of Dr. MacArthur's comments most shocking observation... or lack there of, however is this: There is absolutely no mention of Jesus' lordship in this presentation of the Gospel “message”, and since it is the same message that all the Apostles preached, none of them presented His lordship. I guess it really was “popular” long before TGATJ was ever published.

Dr. MacArthur's explanation of why Jesus' lordship is excluded is that lordship implicitly demands obedience and that is seen to mean preaching a works based salvation.(2) I really couldn't say it better myself. But I suppose the Apostle Paul could.

Gal 1:6-7

6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. NKJV

Gal 3:1-3

1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? NKJV

Check out Paul's question. Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth? Obedience. There's that word again. What kind of obedience does the Gospel demand for salvation to occur? I submit the following.

The Gospel it's self actually is something one must “obey2 Thes 1:8, 1 Peter 1:17, Rom 10:16. This is the “truth” that Paul wonders about the Galatians not obeying.

Rom 10:16

But they have not all obeyed the Gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” NKJV

Obeying the Gospel is “believing” it, as per Rom 10:16. Obeying the Gospel is not following it's instructions and commands, for the Gospel has neither instruction nor command. The Gospel is the “Good News” of things accomplished by God on our behalf. This news is “received1 Cor 15:1 in so “obeyed” or “rejected” John 12:48, Acts 13:46 and therefore disobeyed.

I submit that it is Jesus Christ's lordship that allows Him to justify the ungodly on the basis of faith apart from works. Anyone can declare a man who does good is good. But it takes the LORD God to justify one who is ungodly. Rom 4:5-8 This is why our submission to His lordship, as right as that submission would be, is not a requirement for salvation. His lordship is proclaimed to all the universe as He does justify the ungodly on the basis of faith in Him as per the Gospel. Sinners can be saved by Grace through Faith apart from works only because Jesus is Lord. He does so justly and righteously because He does it on the basis that we are baptized into that payment He made through faith so thereby that payment is accounted to us. Rom 6:3

Peter gives a Gospel presentation in Acts 10:34-43, and those who received his words were immediately saved Vs 44. The beginning of this presentation shows off Jesus' lordship but in the same context as I have shared above showing that Jesus is qualified by being Lord of all, not requiring submission to His lordship. In fact at the end of his presentation the Apostle says in Vs 43.

...all the prophets bear witness that every one that believes on him will receive through his name remission of sins.” NKJV

In much the same way, Peter's Gospel presentation in Acts 2:14-40 also shows Christ's ability to save by His lordship, not a requirement for a sinner to respond to His lordship. Acts 2:41 shows that those who received his message were saved that moment.

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. NKJV

I don't want to give the impression that Christians are not to work. We are created in Christ for good works. And its by our good works that people will glorify the Father. Eph 2:10, Mat 5:16 But our salvation is not dependent on obedience to anything except the Gospel. Though, as I'm sure every believer reading this is aware, if we are not obedient the Holy Spirit will work on us to make sure we become so. Heb 12:1ff, 1st John, Peter's epistles come to mind immediately.

In Acts 17:22-31 The Apostle Paul preaches the Gospel to intellectuals. Once again the call is to believe, and proof of Christ is offered. The Gospel presentation is always aimed at bringing about belief, it proves God. It does not force the sinner to prove himself.

The word “repentance” gets tossed around a lot in the culture of the Church today. Dr. MacArthur's definition of the word is not fitting with Scripture or the Greek language. It is in fact a “change of mind” an “after-thought.” It is not a turning from sin or a becoming more godly. It is going from disbelief to belief. This is done by the convincing and convicting by the Holy Spirit through revelation. John 16:8-11

You will notice that in the Gospel presentations quoted above, the Apostles attempt to get the listeners to repent by offering proof and information to believe in. They did not call for submission. These preachers knew well that the Holy Spirit would work those this in anyone who did believe unto Salvation.

The preacher of Lordship Salvation may well ask about Paul's defense of himself in Acts 26:19-23.

19 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. 21 For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me . 22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” NKJV

We must first understand that Paul is not declaring or even presenting a “Gospel message” here. He's giving a defense of himself for the actions he'd taken. He was not explaining how to be saved. He was recounting what he did in obedience to a “heavenly vision.” It is SO very important when we handle the Word of God that we do so with the greatest of care. As this series I've entitled “The Gospel Delusion” continues I will show again and again how the Word is not handled with care at all by some men.

What is this “heavenly vision” Paul is talking about? It's found in the preceding verses, the entire account of Paul's encounter with the Risen Lord, Christ Jesus on the Damascus Road is found in Acts 26:12-18, but my purposes require quoting only Vs 17-18. The Lord says to Paul;

17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ NKJV

Again even the Lord shows that we are sanctified by faith in Him. But the Lord tells Paul to do more than just preach salvation, but to also make disciples who will have an inheritance, earned reward in Heaven. And so Paul preached to the Gentiles to repent, turn to God and do good works. The whole package. Of course the Jews were upset that Paul was doing this among the Gentiles because they had not believed the Lord's words in Isaiah 55:1ff In that chapter the Lord details a free salvation, freely given to everyone both Gentile and Jew.

So yes, Dr. MacArthur is correct to say that long before his work was ever published it was popular in certain circles to leave out submission to Jesus' lordship from the Gospel. I guess in this installment of The Gospel Delusion I am forced to agree with at least this much of what he says.

Part 4: Tall Orders


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

  1. Pg 10

  2. Pg 10


Stanley Wong said...

Hi Kev,

Thanks for your wonderfully written article - simple language, clear thoughts, scripture in context.

This is really a breath of fresh air compared to all the heavy stuff I read on the net by "theologians" eagerly throwing their theology textbooks at you; their philosophy seem to be: if you can't convince, confuse.

Looking forward to part 4 :-)

Kevl said...

Hi Stanley, thanks for your encouragement!

Part 4 still needs some work, and I've yet to start typing part 5. :)


Jonathan Perreault said...

Hi Kev,

Thanks for this article. You have done a good job highlighting some of the inconsistencies of Lordship Salvation, the chief inconsistency being with the Scriptures.

I enjoyed your discussion about obeying the gospel. We would agree that the lost must obey the gospel, but they obey the gospel by believing it (Acts 16:31; cf. Acts 5:32; Heb. 5:9)!

I talked to Norm Geisler about this, and although he is not "Free Grace", he made it clear that to obey the gospel means to believe the gospel.


Kevl said...

Hey JP,

How do you know Norm Geisler? I'd never heard of him before your post here. You are talking about the Apologetics guy right?

I was actually going to get into greater detail about the relationship of the words Believe and Obey but it just wasn't needed for this post. The fact that there are no instructions or commands in the Gospel makes the point much more firmly than a word study would. I think so anyway..


Lou Martuneac said...

Hi Kev:

Another excellent contribution to the LS debate.

BTW, in my book, which you have, see Appendix 'B' Faith & Obedience by Dr. Fred Moritz. It goes nicely with your remarks here.


Kevl said...

Hey Lou,

I've been wondering WHERE I read a discussion on this relationship. Thanks for reminding me. I didn't check your appendixes but I should have. Doh!

Thanks for the support.