Last evening, I began a four-part teaching series entitled, “What is the Gospel?”. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the center of the church; absent the gospel, the church…isn’t. The gospel must be treated with utmost seriousness, proclaimed with utmost urgency, and guarded with utmost security. If you are my friend, and you mess with the gospel, I will call you out. If I mess with the gospel, I implore you to call me out.
And if an esteemed Bible teacher messes with the gospel, I will call him out.
Dr. John MacArthur is the closest thing imaginable to an “evangelical pope”. His Bible teaching has impacted multiplied millions around the globe for a number of decades, and I count myself among that number. For me, it’s his excellent, thoughtful, faithful-to-the-Scriptures Bible commentaries that have had the most impact. If I have a MacArthur commentary on a passage of Scripture I am called to exegete, you can be pretty certain that I will consult it. In other words, there’s a little bit of John MacArthur in a lot of sermons I have preached through the years.
This isn’t to say that I agree with everything Dr. MacArthur teaches or says, but so what? I sometimes don’t agree with myself, for goodness’ sake, and so I can’t name a person on earth with whom I agree 100% of the time. Big deal. And while I’ve grown a bit concerned in recent years over some of the things Dr. MacArthur has said and done, I still count him a faithful Bible teacher.
But he has messed with the gospel. And nobody—NOBODY—is above the gospel.
Yesterday, it was revealed by Dr. MacArthur in an interview, that he had had a recent phone conversation with President Trump. During that conversation, Dr. MacArthur confesses that he told the president, “any real true believer is going to be on your side in November.” These are his words.
And they are wrong. Period, end of story.
This strikes home personally, because as many of my readers know, I am not “on (the) side” of Donald Trump; I will not vote for him in November (nor for Joe Biden). Now, you can disagree with my decision, and I understand that. You can tell me I am “wasting my vote”, and while I will disagree, that’s an acceptable viewpoint. You can roll your eyes at some of my political leanings, and that’s perfectly fine, too; sometimes I roll my eyes at myself (and at you, too). You can talk to me all day about how bad you think the Democratic platform and is, how problematic for our nation’s future you think electing Joe Biden would be. At least to a significant point, chances are that I will agree with you.
But I am not weighing in, here, on the wisdom of voting for Donald Trump. Nor, for that matter, do I concern myself here with the platform of the Democratic Party, or Joe Biden, or frankly, with politics in general, but only as it is germane to the subject of messing with the gospel, as Dr. MacArthur has now done.
Dr. MacArthur is tying salvation, purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, to voting for one particular individual. He is judging the hearts and conditions of the eternal souls of professing believers on the basis of (certainly among other things) whether or not an individual will, or will not, vote for Donald Trump. This is disappointing, yes, but it’s truly infuriating, and frankly, it would be so even if the person in question were not Donald Trump.
Are we to understand an addition to Paul’s list of the “fruits of the Spirit”? Love, joy, peace, long-suffering…and a vote for Donald Trump? Or should we amend sola fide to include a vote for the president (guess it wouldn’t be sola any longer)? Perhaps a vote for Trump is like an indulgence, like the ones sold by the Catholic Church back in the days of Luther.
OK, I’m being facetious, but the words of Dr. MacArthur, so egregiously and theologically incorrect, richly deserve scorn. They do so, not only because they are wrong, but precisely because of the worldwide scope of his influence. Already, I have seen one Christian Facebook friend quote his words approvingly, and I have no doubt there are plenty of others, following Dr. MacArthur’s lead down the path to a conclusion that simply does not square with, but instead does injury to, the precious gospel. Further, his words give even more ammunition to the charge by some that evangelicals—and I still call myself that, though I’m reconsidering terminology—have thoroughly mixed Republican politics with their faith, such that the evangelical church is little more than an adjunct of the GOP. Further yet—and perhaps most importantly—his words which confuse the gospel tarnish the witness of Jesus Christ to a world and to individuals that desperately need the good news of the gospel.
I finish by saying that I don’t relish writing this. I don’t lightly take to task a man who has been so greatly used of God for decades. My influence, such as it is, is utterly insignificant in comparison with his. I thank God sincerely for John MacArthur’s role in my life. Some may be upset with me that I would dare to criticize a man that many of us—myself included—would call a “giant of the faith”.
But the gospel is so very, very much more important. It’s so much more important than you or me…and it’s also infinitely more important than Bible teachers like John MacArthur.