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Aim of preaching is conformity to image of Christ, MacArthur says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The primary task of the pastor is biblical preaching with the aim of conforming church members to Christ’s image, John MacArthur said at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The author and pastor, well-known for his verse-by-verse teaching of Scripture, said the clear exposition of the Bible generates authentic worship. He served as the featured speaker Oct. 22-24 for Southern Seminary’s annual E.Y. Mullins Lectures — a series of lectures geared toward strengthening preaching skills.

“I have learned through the years that the deeper you go into the things of God, the higher the people go in worship,” MacArthur said. “Shallow preaching produces shallow worship. I can basically walk into a church and listen to the music for 15 minutes and tell you how profound the people’s understanding of the things of God is because it will be reflected in that.

“If people are really going to know what it is to worship God with the mind, they’re going to have to understand the deep things of God, and that doesn’t mean you are oblique, it doesn’t mean you are obscure.”

MacArthur is author of more than six dozen books, including “Charismatic Chaos” and “The Gospel According to Jesus.” He has served as pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., since 1969, and his radio program “Grace to You” airs more than 800 times daily around the world.

“What is my responsibility as a shepherd?” MacArthur asked. “Is it to entertain people? To ignore people? To ignore my people while I talk to the non-people of God? What is the goal of my shepherding and my preaching?

“It is to conform my people to the image of Christ as much as possible as God uses me as an instrument of the teaching of his Word which does the conforming. The church is precious to me because it is so identified with Jesus Christ.”

MacArthur said theology has always served as the underpinning of his preaching. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty — particularly as it relates to salvation — has served as the main foundation, alongside the doctrines of inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture, substitutionary atonement and sanctification, he said.

He said his theology arises from one source: Scripture. As for the results in preaching, MacArthur says the outcome is ultimately in the hands of God and his sovereign purposes.

“I preach only the Word of God, only one book,” he said, “because it is by the Word of God that sinners are saved and the saved are sanctified. … I leave the effect of that truth to the purposes of God and the mighty work of the Holy Spirit.”

MacArthur views his pulpit ministry as shepherding a flock that has been redeemed by the Great Shepherd. A pastor is not to neglect the growth and nurture of the congregation while seeking other ends, he said, but is to teach God’s Word faithfully so that they may become conformed to the image of Christ.

Beneath this is MacArthur’s view of justification by faith: that sinners are made right by God through the substitutionary atoning death of Christ and are identified with Christ’s body, the church. The church, he said, is God’s blood-bought possession, and pastors should preach and teach with that in mind.

“The doctrine of substitution is the great heart and soul of the [Protestant] Reformation,” MacArthur said. “This is a critically important understanding. I view the church not as a group of unconverted people. I do not look at the church as unchurched Sally and unchurched Harry as they are called in modern vernacular.

“The church is the people of God, and with all our foibles and all our failures and all our weaknesses, I understand that they are in union with Jesus Christ to such a profound degree that they are in a sense, inseparable from Christ.”

The Mullins Lectures are named for Southern Seminary’s fourth president, E.Y. Mullins, who served from 1899-1928.
The Mullins Lectures can be heard on the seminary’s website at http://www.sbts.edu/resources/audio/Mullins.php.

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  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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