News Articles

Gospel message must include truth about sin, John MacArthur says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Preaching must confront sin if it is to include a complete gospel message, John MacArthur said on a radio program Oct. 23.

The well-known author and preacher was a guest on “Truth on the Line,” a weekly radio program hosted by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. MacArthur was in Louisville to present the annual E.Y. Mullins Lectures, which are geared toward strengthening preaching skills.

“There has to be in the preaching of the gospel a strong component of confrontation of sin,” said MacArthur, who has written more than 70 books and hosts the syndicated radio program “Grace to You.”

“Until the spirit of God is enabled by the proclaiming of the Word of God to work the conviction into the heart of the person, there isn’t going to be any redemption and any salvation. It’s not going to come by … subtle means.”

MacArthur recounted a conversation he had with a leader of a large “seeker-friendly church.” MacArthur raised the question: How long should a church wait before confronting a practicing homosexual about his sin? The church leader said it would likely be more than a year and a half — or at least until the homosexual felt comfortable at the church.

But MacArthur disagreed.

“As soon as I knew the sin existed I would feel responsible to confront that sin immediately, knowing that the person isn’t going to be saved until that sin is confronted, until that sin is dealt with,” he said.

A biblical understanding of humanity’s complete sinfulness — also known as “total depravity” — was an underlying theme of the Protestant Reformation, Mohler and MacArthur said. The Reformers argued that salvation comes by faith alone, through grace alone and in Christ alone.

“Why do children obey their parents?” Mohler asked. “Is it because they want to glorify God, or is it because the cost of disobedience is greater than the cost of obedience? Why is it that we do anything that the world recognizes as good? Is it because there is inherent goodness in our hearts, or is it because God — to his glory — restrains sinfulness and enables us to do that which is right — even if our hearts are not pure in so doing?

“It certainly affirms the fact that there is no good thing in us that would contribute to our salvation. It is all of grace or it is not grace at all.”

MacArthur agreed, saying that even when people do what they consider to be “good” deeds, their motive is wrong because it is “not to the glory of God.”

“You cannot understand the gospel until you understand law,” MacArthur said. “There is far too little of preaching concerning the law of God. … For the sinner to come to a true understanding of how desperate his condition is and in need of the gospel, he has to understand that not only his bad is bad but his good is bad.”

Such a message, the men said, must come through the expositional preaching of the Bible.

“A good bit of what goes on in many pulpits is more focused on entertainment than the conveyance of biblical information,” Mohler said. “… There are theological evasions taking place. [Pastors] are avoiding some of those texts that would require them to preach some of those doctrines that might cause offense in the contemporary world.”

Too often, MacArthur said, pastors let the culture dictate their message.

“[I]t’s all about a man-centered approach,” he said. “We’re trying to find out what people want. We’re trying to survey people, have focus groups, listening to marketing strategies. We’re trying to take our cues from the culture.”

Such preaching “gives the allusions that it’s biblical,” MacArthur said. “In the end, it prostitutes the intent of Scripture, and that’s unfair to the Word of God.”

MacArthur said he never wants to “put words in God’s mouth. I don’t want to ascribe ideas to God that aren’t his. I’m only safe if I then exegete what he has said.”

The Bible is where “all true Christian preaching finds its source — in the Word of God,” he said. “Anything other than that is some sort of convoluted approach … Once you’ve drawn your message outside the pages of Scripture, I think you’ve stepped away from the source that God has given us.”

MacArthur said an example of biblical preaching can be found in Nehemiah 8, where Ezra not only read the law but also explained it.

“The approach I’ve taken to preaching is that I have one mandate, and that is to explain the meaning of the text,” he said. “I can go all the way to Ezra, who read the text in Nehemiah 8 and gave the sense of it. He translated it not only in the linguistic sense but in the sense of giving the meaning of it. …

“For me, it is simply a matter that my task is to explain the meaning of Scripture — not in some vacuous way or some isolated way … but in the sense that God intended it to transform how people think and how they live.”
The complete program can be heard on the Internet at: http://www.truthontheline.com/truth.html. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MACARTHUR AT SOUTHERN.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust