As so often happens, what I intended to be a short reply turned into a rather lengthy ramble and there really wasn’t much I could do to stop it. I read the following review on Amazon by a reviewer who posted a review of John MacArthur’s “Faith Works” (or “The Gospel According to the Apostles”), a companion volume to his excellent “The Gospel According to Jesus”.
This is the review that sparked my lengthy diatribe:
Faith AND Works
Welcome back to the times of Jesus and the rulership of the Pharisees! MacArthur continues his marriage of faith and works that he began in “The Gospel According to Jesus.” Legalism is in, Grace is out. This book flies in the face of Romans 11:6, and totally obliterates the Pauline dichotomy between faith and works. How many “Faith Works” must be shown to Pharisee MacArthur before he will judge one’s conversion as true? If you are looking for that answer, it is not found here.
And this is my lengthy diatribe
The one-star reviewer below could not be more mistaken. John MacArthur does not add legalism to grace as a requirement for salvation. He does, however, combat the popular notion that one simply has to say a “sinner’s prayer” to be saved. If all you do is say a sinner’s prayer and attend a church that has a “practical” message every week, you may well think that you are saved simply because one time you said, “Lord, Lord” but you can say “Lord, Lord” all the way to Hell and that IS in the Bible. (Read Matthew 7).
The sad and simple truth is that in our selfish society with our microwave mentality (I want it fresh, I want it hot, I want it now, and I don’t want to wait or work for it), easy-believism is the great apostasy of the modern church. Oh, sure, there are plenty of other heresies and apostasies running rampant, but the wide gate that is ushering the most people into the pit in our day and age is the one whose sign reads “cheap grace”. An unrepentant and unregenerate soul may “claim the Name”, but the truth of the matter is that if the old man does not die, there is no “new creation”. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The Apostle Paul never said that mere obedience to the law could ever say anyone. He argued irrefutably that any who sought their salvation in the law were damned. (See Romans 1-16. And the rest of his epistles). However, I can not find in any epistle the Apostle Paul ever wrote that gives any indication that someone who continues in sin after being called by Christ is destined for salvation. Nor in Peter’s, nor in John’s or James’, and certainly not in Jesus own words. And the evidence of grace in those great mens’ lives were the works that were accomplished through “bondservice” to THE LORD.
If you really read the four gospels and compare what Jesus actually said and taught about Himself, you would see that John MacArthur does not twist or distort anything. In fact, I don’t think that someone coming to the gospels for the first time and actually reading them for themselves–without any preconceptions or preconditioned ideas–would find anything there that seems to suggest that all one has to do is call on the Name of Jesus to be saved. True believers experience a changed life.
Jesus said that by their fruit you would know them, and that a bad tree does not produce good fruit; nor a good tree, bad fruit. James, the Lord’s brother said that faith without works was dead, just the same as works without faith is dead. The problem is that some modern teachers want to separate works and faith (and grace) as if they could be approached independent of one another. However, I dare say that those three things are no more separable than the three persons of The Trinity! While it would seem absolutely ludicrous for most Christians to invalidate any one or combination of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, there are yet many who seem to think that faith, works, and grace can be separated and dealt with distinctly as concerns salvation. THIS IS ERROR. In the same way, trying to make two distinct offices out of our High Priest (that is, that He can be your Savior without being Lord of your life) is just as preposterous. THAT is unbiblical, and it is good that there are expositors who love the Word of God enough to teach the truth. Though many of today’s shepherds may blindly lead the blind down the wide road to destruction, John MacArthur is not one of them.
Think of the parable of the seed, and of the wheat and tares from Matthew 13. Or even the prodigal son. In that story, the son repents and turns away from the old self. Would the father in that story have held his prodigal son in such high regard had he only come back home for more money to carry on drinking, gambling, and pursuing a sinful, selfish life? Some will probably argue yes, but that is not the parable that Jesus told. The son in the story Jesus spoke of was truly repentant, and that was the key to the forgiveness of the father.
However, the best suggestion that I have is not to just read this book by John MacArthur to see whether or not you want to believe the things it says, but rather read THE BOOK, that is the Word of God. Read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and see what Jesus Himself says. Read the epistles to the early churches, and contemplate the exhortations therein. Was anyone told to stop doing good because it threatened their salvation? Ridiculous! But time and time again, we see the exhortation to stop doing evil, to put sin and the power of the devil behind, to worship God, and to die to oneself daily. And those who taught incorrect doctrine, or who lived sinful lives, they were PUT OUT of the church because they were harmful to her. Oh, that more congregations were willing to purge the cancerous members of the body in this day and age, but for far too many “shepherds” what matter is not the health of their stock, but the size of the flock.
In any event, if you care to truly follow Christ and you call Him Lord and desire Him to be the one in control of your sinful, meaningless life, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book as well as The Gospel According to Jesus (and anything by James Boice) to start building the walls of your faith on a solid foundation.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, lest you be thrown into the fire. Romans 10:16-17 says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. ”
Peace & Blessings