Q&A: Lawson, MacArthur, Mohler, and Sproul

A questions and answers session with Drs. Steven Lawson, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler and R.C. Sproul.

Questions:

1. Dr. MacArthur, can you tell us about the Shepherds Conference? (1:09)
2. How do you explain the term “Reformed” to a someone unfamiliar to Reformed teaching? (2:34)
3. Is our still heart deceitfully wicked after we are born again? (4:47)
4. How should I share the gospel when it could cost me my job? (7:08)
5. Is it biblical to say God “loves you” to believers and nonbelievers alike? (9:32)
6. What does it mean when we confess that Jesus has a reasonable soul? (13:05)
7. Dr. MacArthur, you spoke at 2016 Shepherds Conference about clergy malpractice. What did you mean by that? (17:08)
8. How can I best prepare students to live their faith out in public schools? (19:17)
9. How do I counsel a Reformed mother who is married to a Roman Catholic? (22:25)
10. With the rise of seeker-sensitive churches, how do we understand biblically ‘seeking’ God? (25:02)
11. How do you define a false teacher? How much error is needed before they are considered false? (32:23)
12. How is the current cultural climate forcing the “mushy middle” out of the church? (35:55)
13. Giving the failure of ecumenical movements, how do you promote unity in doctrine? (37:59)

John MacArthur: Discerning Judgement

Last time we discussed the necessity of discerning leadership in the church. But exercising discernment is not only the duty of pastors and elders. The same careful discernment Paul demanded of church leadership is also required of every Christian. The exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “examine everything carefully” is written to the entire church.

The Greek text is by no means complex. The word “carefully” has been added by the translators to make the sense clear. If we translate the phrase literally, we find it simply says, “Examine everything.” But the idea conveyed by our word carefully is included in the Greek word translated “examine,” dokimazō. This is a familiar word in the New Testament. Elsewhere it is translated “analyze,” “test,” or “prove.” It refers to the process of testing something to reveal its genuineness, such as in the testing of precious metals. Paul is urging believers to scrutinize everything they hear to determine if it is genuine, to distinguish between the true and the false, to separate the good from the evil. In other words, he wants them to examine everything critically. “Test everything,” he is saying. “Judge everything.”

But wait just a minute. What about Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged”? Typically someone will quote that verse and suggest that it rules out any kind of critical or analytical appraisal of what others believe. Was Jesus forbidding Christians from judging what is taught in His name?

Obviously not. The spiritual discernment Paul calls for is different from the judgmental attitude Jesus forbade. In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus went on to say:

In the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:2–5).

Obviously, what Jesus condemned was the hypocritical judgment of those who held others to a higher standard than they themselves were willing to live by. He was certainly not suggesting that all judgment is forbidden. In fact, Jesus indicated that taking a speck out of your brother’s eye is the right thing to do—as long as you first get the log out of your own eye.

Elsewhere in Scripture we are forbidden to judge others’ motives or attitudes. We are not “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). That is a divine prerogative. Only God can judge the heart, because only God can see it (1 Samuel 16:7). He alone knows the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21). He alone can weigh the motives (Proverbs 16:2). And He alone “will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16). That is not our role. “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

What Scripture forbids is hypocritical judging and judging others’ thoughts and motives. But other forms of judgment are explicitly commanded. Throughout Scripture the people of God are urged to judge between truth and error, right and wrong, good and evil. Jesus said, “Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say” (1 Corinthians 10:15). Clearly, God requires us to be discriminating when it comes to matters of sound doctrine.

As we shall see next time, our discerning judgment is also an essential part of addressing sin within the church.

This Article: Discerning Judgement, originally appeared at Grace to You, Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

John MacArthur: Jesus, the Divine Light

 

John 1:6-13
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John MacArthur: What Faith Does

At the heart of the no-lordship error is a disastrous misunderstanding of the nature of faith. No–lordship teaching depicts faith as inherently inert—even antithetical to works, obedience, and surrender to the will of God.

Scripture paints a different picture. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the “Faith Hall of Fame” presented in Hebrews 11. Over and over throughout the chapter we’re reminded that faith is not a static object to merely obtain. Instead, we’re given vivid, poignant descriptions of what faith does.

Faith Obeys and Endures

Faith obeys. That, in two words, is the key lesson of Hebrews 11. Here we see people of faith worshiping God (Hebrews 11:4), walking with God (v. 5), working for God (v. 7), obeying God (vv. 8–10), overcoming barrenness (v. 11), and overpowering death (v. 12).

Faith enabled these people to trust God with their dearest possessions (vv. 17–19); believe God for the future (vv. 20–23); turn away from earthly treasure for heavenly reward (vv. 24–26); see Him who is unseen (v. 27); receive miracles from the hand of God (vv. 28–30); have courage in the face of great danger (vv. 31–33); and conquer kingdoms, perform acts of righteousness, obtain promises, shut the mouths of lions, quench the power of fire, escape the edge of the sword, from weakness be made strong, become mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight (vv. 33–34). This faith has overcome death, withstood temptation, undergone martyrdom, and survived all manner of hardship (vv. 35–38).

If anything is true about Hebrews 11 faith, it is that it cannot be killed. It perseveres to death (Hebrews 11:13–16); it endures torture, and outlasts chains and imprisonment. It endures no matter what—holding to God with love and assurance no matter the assaults the world or the forces of evil might bring against it.

A Different Kind of Faith

No-lordship theology posits an altogether different kind of faith. No-lordship faith is a fragile, sometimes temporary, often nonworking faith. No-lordship faith is simply being convinced of something or giving credence to historical facts. [1] No-lordship faith is confidence, trust, holding something as true—but without any commitment to the object of faith. [2] No-lordship faith is theinward conviction that what God says to us in the gospel is true—that and that alone. [3] No-lordship faith is “a single, one-time appropriation of God’s gift.” It won’t necessarily continue believing. [4] In fact, no-lordship faith might even turn into hostile unbelief. [5]

Is faith merely the illumination of human reason, or does it transform the whole being? Some advocates of the no-lordship view resent the accusation that they see faith as merely a mental activity. But they consistently fail to define believing as anything more than a cognitive function. Many use the word trust, but when they define it, they actually describe assent.

Continue reading

John MacArthur: Why do we call Him Lord?

Jesus is Lord.

That is the single, central, foundational, and distinguishing article of Christianity. It is also the first essential confession of faith every true Christian must make: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

The belief that someone could be a true Christian while that person’s whole lifestyle, value system, speech, and attitude are marked by a stubborn refusal to surrender to Christ as Lord is a notion that shouldn’t even need to be refuted. It is an idea you will never find in any credible volume of Christian doctrine or devotion from the time of the earliest church fathers through the era of the Protestant Reformation and for at least three and a half centuries beyond that. The now-pervasive influence of the no-lordship doctrine among evangelicals reflects the shallowness and spiritual poverty of the contemporary evangelical movement. It is also doubtless one of the main causes for evangelicalism’s impoverishment. You cannot remove the lordship of Christ from the gospel message without undermining faith at its core. That is precisely what is happening in the church today.

Jesus’ teaching and ministry always kept the issue of His lordship at the center. He never once shied away from declaring His authority as sovereign Master. He proclaimed it to disciples, to enemies, and to casual inquirers alike—refusing to tone down the implications of His demand for unconditional surrender. So the true gospel according to Jesus is a message that cannot be divorced from the reality of His lordship. When Jesus called people to follow Him, He was not seeking companions to be His sidekicks or admirers whom He could entertain with miracles. He was calling people to yield completely and unreservedly to His lordship.

A Word About Words

The expression most often translated “Lord” in the English New Testament is the Greek wordkurios. It speaks of someone who has power, ownership, and an unquestionable right to command. A nearly synonymous Greek term also sometimes translated “Lord” in the New Testament is despotes. That word (the root of our English word despot) describes a ruler with absolute power over his subjects. Professor Murray J. Harris distinguishes the two terms this way:

Clearly despotes and kyrios largely overlap in meaning; both may be rendered “lord” or “master.” If we are to distinguish the two terms with regard to emphasis, kyrios signifies “sovereign Lord,” and despotes “absolute Lord.” [1]

Both words are very powerful. They were part of the vocabulary of slavery in New Testament times. They describe a master with absolute dominion over someone else—a slave owner. His subjects are duty-bound to obey their lord’s directives, not merely because they choose to do so but because they have no rightful liberty to do otherwise. Therefore, wherever there was a lord (kurios) or a master (despotes), there was always a slave (doulos). One idea necessarily and axiomatically implies the other. That explains Jesus’ incredulity at the practice of those who paid homage to Him with their lips but not with their lives: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

You may recognize the Greek word doulos because it is quite a common term in the New Testament. The word and its derivatives appear more than 130 times in the New Testament—frequently as a description of what it means to be a true Christian: “He who was called while free, is Christ’s slave [doulos]. You were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 7:22-23).

Doulos is not an ambiguous term. It suggests a very specific concept, which—while repugnant to our culture and our natural minds—should not be toned down or backed away from. It is the main Greek word that was used to describe the lowest abject bond slave—a person who was literally owned by a master who could legally force him to work without wages. In other words, a douloswas a person without standing or rights.

Unfortunately, readers of the English Bible have long been shielded from the full force of the worddoulos because of an ages-old tendency among Bible translators to tone down the literal sense of the word—translating it as “servant,” or “bond servant” rather than “slave.” No doubt that reflects our society’s longstanding discomfort with the practice of slavery and the severe abuses that have always occurred in institutionalized versions of human slavery.

Still, service and slavery are not really the same thing, and it is extremely unfortunate that the full impact of the expression doulos has been obscured in our English translations for so long.

Doulos speaks of slavery, pure and simple. It is not at all a hazy or uncertain term. It describes someone lacking personal freedom and personal rights, whose very existence is defined by his service to another. It is the sort of slavery in which “human autonomy is set aside and an alien will takes precedence of one’s own.” [2] This is total, unqualified submission to the control and the directives of a higher authority—slavery, not merely service at one’s own discretion.

For example, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus said, “No one can be a slave to two masters” (literal translation). That translation is much stronger (and actually makes better sense) than what you will find in most versions: “No one can serve two masters.” An employee with two jobs could indeedserve two masters. But slavery—not merely service—is what the word doulos and all its derivatives speak of.

As Harris points out, “there is an important difference. A servant gives service to someone, but a slave belongs to someone.” [3] It is not merely a nuance. Scripture repeatedly and emphatically places Christians in the latter category: “Do you not know that . . . you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We have a Master who purchased us (2 Peter 2:1). To be specific, we were purchased for God with the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9). This is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian:

For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7-9)

The Problem with a Feel-Good Gospel

The idea of the Christian as a slave and Christ as Master is almost totally missing from the vocabulary of contemporary evangelical Christianity. Not only is slave a bad word loaded with political incorrectness, but our generation also loves the concepts of freedom and personal fulfillment. Modern and postmodern people crave autonomy, and as the church has become increasingly worldly, the biblical truth of our duty to Him as our absolute Lord and Master has all but disappeared from the evangelical consciousness. The church in our generation has reduced all of saving faith and Christian discipleship to a thoughtless (but more politically correct) cliché: “a personal relationship with Jesus.” The ambiguity of the phrase reflects the destructive vagueness with which evangelicals have been handling (and mishandling) the gospel for the past several decades. As if Christ could be someone’s intimate friend without being that person’s Lord.

That is, after all, the whole gist of the no-lordship message: You can have Jesus as Savior and Friend here and now and decide later whether you really want to submit to His authority or not. It is hard to imagine a more disastrous twisting of what it means to be a Christian. Remember that among the original twelve disciples, only one wanted to be seen as Jesus’ “friend” without ever really bowing to His authority as Lord and Master—and that was Judas. A lot of people (and Satan as well) had some kind of “personal relationship” with Jesus during His earthly ministry without submitting to Him as Lord.

We need to let Scripture speak for itself, and it is time to face squarely the reality of this difficult truth. Slavery to Christ is not a minor or secondary feature of true discipleship. This is not merely symbolic or illustrative language devoid of any literal sense. It is exactly how Jesus himself defined the “personal relationship” He must have with every true follower (John 12:26; 15:20).

As a matter of fact, the fundamental aspects of slavery are the very features of our redemption that Scripture puts the most stress on. We are chosen (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9); bought(1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23); owned by our Master (Romans 14:7-9; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Titus 2:14);subject to the Master’s will and control over us (Acts 5:29; Romans 6:16-19; Philippians 2:5-8); and totally dependent on the Master for everything in our lives (2 Corinthians 9:8-11; Philippians 4:19). We will ultimately be called to account (Romans 14:12); evaluated (2 Corinthians 5:10); andeither chastened or rewarded by Him (Hebrews 12:5-11; 1 Corinthians 3:14). Those are all essential components of slavery.

What Would Jesus Say?

Jesus himself introduced the slave metaphor in the New Testament. He frequently drew a direct connection between slavery and discipleship. In Matthew 10:24-25, for example, he said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master.” In the parables he told, He often used slavery as the symbol of discipleship. The words of Matthew 25:21 are what every true disciple should hope to hear at the end of life: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

Jesus always described true discipleship in such terms, and he did so with no effort to adjust the message to make it sound more appealing to worldly minded sinners. Both his preaching and his private discourses were notable for their unvarnished directness. Nothing he said about the cost of discipleship was ever toned down, dumbed down, lightened up, glossed over, mitigated, understated, or pillowed in soft words.

He was not the least bit encouraging toward people who wanted to follow Him around just for the food and the miracles. In fact, He did everything possible to discourage people like that (John 6). He called only broken people who were sick of their sin, who understood their hopeless condition, and who were therefore willing to forsake everything else to be His disciples (Luke 5:32; 14:33). He never muted His description of what it would cost to follow Him. And (contrary to what some church leaders advocate today) He didn’t reserve the hard words for people who were already believers. He said the same things whether He was speaking to unconverted crowds (Luke 14:25-35) or to individual would-be followers who claimed they were ready to follow Him anywhere (Luke 9:57-58). Sometimes He sounded almost as if He were trying to turn away as many inquirers as possible—and indeed, He did turn away multitudes of merely curious and halfhearted admirers (John 6:66-67).

He demanded that people deny themselves completely. He required their implicit obedience. He instructed them to be ready to die for Him. He called for them to relinquish all their normal priorities—including family, friends, personal plans, ambitions, and everything else in this world. Their whole lives were explicitly and irrevocably placed under His authority. His lordship was total and nonnegotiable. Those were His terms, and would-be disciples who tried to dictate different terms were always turned away (Luke 9:59-62).

This Article: Why do we call Him Lord? , originally appeared at Grace to You, Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.  Used by permission.