Once your mind gets hooked or locked onto a central idea or theme in your view of life and the world, everything you say or do will orbit or circle that idea or theme, in much the same way satellites orbit the earth. Hence the title of this article “Orbital Hermeneutics.”
For instance, let’s assume you are a Calvinist and the earth in the picture on the left represents election/predestination/God’s sovereignty, the most common thing you would do then, is to make all your sermons or Gospel presentations circle your mindset of election, predestination and God’s sovereignty.
No matter what you preach to people, your mind will always predictably gravitate towards election, predestination and God’s sovereignty, albeit a warped idea of election, predestination and God’s sovereignty.
As may have been expected, this is precisely what John MacArthur does in his Amazing sermon on Election from Luke 4.
John MacArthur’s Orbital Hermeneutics
To illustrate the strange phenomenon of Orbital Hermeneutics, John MacArthur’s “Amazing Sermon on Election” may give us a pretty good idea what it’s all about.
That which was intended to be a lesson in God’s salvific impartiality (Romans 2:11) when Jesus stood up in the synagogue of his home-town, Nazareth, to read from Isaiah 61, turned out to be a horrid lesson in exclusionary Orbital Hermeneutics in John MacArthur’s “Amazing Sermon.”
To set the stage, let’s examine the lesson Jesus really wanted to communicate to the Jews in his hometown.
The Jews (God’s Chosen Elect) seethed with Rage
In order to evaluate John MacArthur’s sermon on election and predestination in the context of what Jesus read from Isaiah 61 and Him being the fulfilment of this prophecy, it is of the utmost importance to bear in mind that He addressed these words to His elect, the Jewish nation.
And, in case you may have adopted the idea that the Gentile church has replaced Israel, allow me to remind you what God says about his elect, the Jews.
As concerning the gospel, they [the Jews] are enemies for your [the Gentiles’] sakes: but as touching the ELECTION, they [the Jews] are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Romans 11:28-29)
If God cannot lie, as John MacArthur admits, and God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable, then MacArthur must agree that what Paul wrote here is the truth and nothing but the truth.
The reason why it’s so important to emphasize Israel’s uniqueness as God’s elect, is to demonstrate that Luke, a Gentile and the author of this book, never had the slightest intention to prove that God sent his Son to seek and to save only a few elite elect and to damn the majority of mankind because it pleases Him and gives Him more glory, aka Calvinism and, of course, John MacArthur..
Adversely, and as usual, John MacArthur promulgates the exact opposite in his sermon when he spoke on behalf of the Jesus he preaches:
God hasn’t determined for me to heal everybody. God will decide what widow gets healed and God will decide what leper gets healed.
It’s not up to you; it’s up to Him. You may expect me to do in your town what was done in Capernaum. God doesn’t work that way.
God picks and chooses what He wants to do. And then verse 28 says, and here is the first New Testament reaction to the doctrine of election.
And all [the people] in the synagogue were filled with what? – rage! I suppose, so far so good down through to verse 19, the real question was, would they tolerate sovereign grace?
Would they tolerate God’s selectivity? Respectable worshippers in the synagogue even hated this truth.
That, I repeat, THAT was not the reason why the respectable worshippers of the synagogue were filled with rage. Why would the elect of God seethe with rage against God’s sovereign grace and selectivity when they believed and knew that He sovereignly chose them to be his peculiarly elected people? Consider the following:
For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 7:6).
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. (Exodus 19:4-6).
For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure. (Psalm 135:4).
But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. (Isaiah 41:8-9).
Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. (Isaiah 43:10).
Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. (Isaiah 44:1-2).
For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. (Isaiah 45:4).
Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. (Jeremiah 31:35-36; Romans 11:1-18).
The real reason why the Jews seethed with rage was because He, who claimed to be their Messiah and the One to inaugurate the kingdom God promised to his elect, the Jews, (Acts 1:6), dared to perform miracles in Capernaum among the non-elect (Gentiles) rather than in his hometown.
He rubbed more salt into their seething wound of rage when he mentioned the Gentiles having God’s blessing rather than the Jews.
Their rage reached Luciferian depths of evil, to the extent that they wanted to kill Him when He told them God ministered miraculous deeds of grace to Gentiles (the non-elect) while Israel was in unbelief — Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-16) and Elisha and Naaman the Syrian leper (2 Kings 5:1-19).
The reason why Jesus referred to these Gentiles was to demonstrate to the Jews that God’s grace was not selective and exclusively for the Jews but that his grace is universal — as Titus succinctly tells us.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (Titus 2:11).
A Book written primarily to Gentiles (the Non-Elect)
John MacArthur, whom many regard as one of the most distinguished and learned Bible expositors of our time, should know that Luke, a Gentile, wrote the book bearing his name to present Jesus as the Son of Man, who had been rejected by Israel, his elect.
He should also have known that it is because of this rejection that Jesus was also preached to the Gentiles so that they too could gain a salvific understanding of the kingdom program of God and how to attain salvation (Romans 11:11).
Several pointedly Gentile features characterize the book. Walfoord and Zuck, in their Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 199 wrote:
- Luke frequently explained Jewish localities (4:32; 8:26; 21:37; 23:51; 24:13). This would be unnecessary if he were writing to Jews.
- He traced Jesus’ genealogy (3:23-38) all the way back to Adam (rather than to Abraham, as in Matthew’s Gospel). The implication is that Jesus was representing all mankind rather thanjust the Jewish nation.
- Luke referred to Roman emperors in designating the dates of Jesus’ birth (2:1) and of John the Baptist’s preaching (3:1)
- Luke used a number of words which would be more familiar to Gentile readers than the comparable Jewish terms found in Matthew’s Gospel. An example is Luke’s use of the Greek didaskalos rather than rabbi for “teacher.”
- Luke used the Septuagint when quoting from the Old Testament. He has relatively few direct quotations, though the book is filled with allusions. The quotations and references are in2:23-24; 3:4-6; 4:4, 8, 10-12, 18-19; 7:27; 10:27; 18:20; 19:46; 20:17, 28, 37, 42-43; 22:37. All these, except 7:27 are based on the Septuagint. The quotation in 7:27 appears to be taken neither from the Greek Septuagint nor the Masoretic text but from other text.
- Little is said about Jesus’ fulfilling prophecies because that theme was not merely so important to Gentile readers as it was to Jewish readers. Luke has only five direct references to fulfillment of prophecy and all but one (3:4) are found in the teaching of Jesus to Israel.
What does this prove? It proves that John MacArthur’s statement “. And then verse 28 says, and here is the first New Testament reaction to the doctrine of election. And all [the people] in the synagogue were filled with, what? – rage!” would probably be correct if Jesus had addressed Gentiles (the non-elect in Jewish eyes) instead of Jews (the elect) in Luke 4.
Again, it needs to be emphasized that Jesus would never have spoken about election in the hearing of his elect, the Jews, especially when they knew and reveled in the knowledge that they were the elect.
Hence the Jews would never have responded in rage to his magnanimous statement if He had referred to the doctrine of election.
Their angry response was triggered by Jesus’ sovereign grace toward the Gentiles whom the Jews regarded as the non-elect.
John MacArthur’s Testimonial Hermeneutics
Besides the already mentioned Orbital Hermeneutics, there is another kind which we may refer to as Testimonial or Credential Hermeneutics.
This more polished kind of Bible interpretation plays itself out when the followers of popular preachers blindly accept everything their pet, ear tickling preachers say without checking it out with the Bible.
Instead of being good Bereans who study the Bible for themselves to make sure everything they hear harmonizes with Scripture, they willy-dilly believe everything they hear.
When David Hunt informed some of his Calvinist friends that he was writing a book, What Love is This? Calvinism’s misrepresentation of God, he was advised to keep silent on the basis that only those who have special qualifications were competent to check Calvinism against the Bible . . .
The Bereans in Acts 17:11 weren’t qualified professors, doctors or highly educated scholars. They weren’t even saved. Yet, unlike Calvinists who boast about their credentials and qualifications, they realized that God’s Word was the only reliable source to check out Paul’s preaching and to make certain whether he did not mislead them.
Tony Griffen who says he knows John MacArthur personally and loves him very much, came up with this type of hermeneutics in a comment he made recently on this site, claiming that God’s Gospel of salvation is a paradox.
Calvinists and even ex-Calvinists have an eerie talent to throw the “paradox” argument at you whenever they fail to answer your probing questions.
The dual-and-opposite-but-both-are-true gospel (a paradox) which, in this case, is the notion that God sovereignly chooses whom He wants to save and whom He wants to damn without overriding man’s free-will, caused quite a flutter among the dovecotes.
In his attempt to prove that God’s sovereignty to save whom He wishes and man’s free-will to choose whether he wants to be saved or not, are two diametrically opposite truths but nevertheless two equally valid truths, he wrote the following:
It sounds like you don’t understand what a true paradox is. God is sovereign totally over everything salvation and everything and man is still responsible and has free will.
They’re both the same. How is it that God can be in control of everything and even plan things before the foundation of the world like he says he did, and yet we still have free will and the (sic) are opposed to one another wouldn’t you agree? That is what paradox is.
I think Dr. MacArthur honestly has the credentials to back up what he says but also that does not mean that he’s right about everything.
I will say this I spent over 30 years researching these kind of subjects like this and whether you want to agree that paradoxes exist, they do. There are just some things that we cant (sic) understand about. And frankly I think that is quite egotistical and I’m not saying that you are, to believe that you can understand everything of the mind of God.
Have you noticed the paradox in the above statement? In case you haven’t, this is it: “MacArthur has the credentials to communicate the truth to his followers but does not always tell the truth because he’s not always right about things.”
So, how do you determine when MacArthur, in keeping with his credentials, tells the truth and when he tells a lie? You don’t and you don’t need to, because both his truth-telling and his lie-telling are merely two opposites of the same coin, a coin we may safely call a true paradox.
You may toss it in the air any way you like, it will always come down and fall the way you want it to fall.
John MacArthur’s Selective Hermeneutics
Calvinists are sorely selective in their choice of Scripture to substantiate their reformed theology ensconced in TULIP.
Along with their selective choice of certain passages in Scripture, they often aggressively present a persuasive ultimatum, forcing their listeners to accept their interpretation of the doctrine of divine election lest they perish in hell.
Dave Hunt exposes this kind of low-down tactic on pages 18 and 19 of his book, What love is? This: Calvinism’s misrepresentation of God.”.
The significance of our concern is given further weight by the fact that its proponents even claim that “Calvinism is pure biblical Christianity in its clearest and purest expression.” D. James Kennedy has said, “I am a Presbyterian because I believe Presbyterianism is the purest form of Calvinism.” John Piper writes, “The doctrines of grace (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints) are the warp and woof of the biblical gospel cherished by so many saints for centuries.”
Wouldn’t this mean, then, that those who do not preach Calvinism do not preach the gospel? And how could evangelicals possibly be saved who reject the five points of Calvinism that Piper claims are “the warp and woof of the biblical gospel”? C. H. Spurgeon, who at times contradicted Calvinism, declared: . . . those great truths, which are called Calvinism . . . are, I believe, the essential doctrines of the Gospel that is in Jesus Christ.
Now I do not ask whether you believe all this [Calvinism]. It is possible you may not. But I believe you will before you enter heaven. I am persuaded that as God may have washed your hearts, He will wash your brains before you enter heaven.
To reinforce their view of election unto salvation Calvinists often mention it in the same breath as the doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation of Jesus Christ to drive their listeners into a kind of spiritual crush pen where they have no alternative or choice but to accept their doctrine of election.
No unsuspecting listener would reject the doctrine of election unto salvation when it is inexorably linked to the doctrines of the Trinity and the miraculous birth of our Savior, would he?
This is exactly what John MacArthur had in mind, – to force his listeners into believing that they have no choice, other than believing in the doctrine of election. He said:
And frankly, the only reason to believe in election is because it is found explicitly in God’s Word.
No man and no committee of men originated this doctrine. It’s like the doctrine of eternal punishment. it conflicts with the dictates of the carnal mind.
It’s repugnant to the sentiments of the unregenerate heart. Like the doctrine of the holy Trinity and the miraculous birth of our Savior, the truth of election — because it has been revealed by God — must be embraced with simple and unquestioning faith.
If you have a Bible and you believe it, you have no choice.
[Tom says: The Bereans were not saved and yet they decided to use their God-given free-will to choose between truth and error by searching the Scriptures daily to see whether everything Paul preached, was so. It’s absolutely ludicrous to say “You have no choice” . . . . because it (election and predestination) has been revealed by God (and) must be embraced with simple and unquestioning faith).
This is what’s called “fear tactics.” You’d better believe what I tell you the Bible tells you to believe or you’re a gonner, bound for hell.
Or, you’d better believe what I tell you the Bible tells you to believe because the rejection of the doctrine of divine election unto salvation is an outright denunciation of the Trinity and the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ.
In other words, you are eternally lost. They cleverly shift the emphasis from faith in God and Jesus Christ to faith in election unto salvation.
In fact, “election” is their door to eternal life and not Jesus Christ (John 10:1). It is your faith in your election and predestination unto salvation that saves you and not faith in Jesus Christ.
Zero faith in election unto salvation equals zero faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in your election leads you to a saving faith in Jesus Christ because faith in Jesus is a gift granted only to those who believe in the doctrine of election after their monergistic regeneration.
In other words, faith in the doctrine of divine election is the precondition for regenerative salvation because it opens the door to a monergistic regenerative redemption.
John MacArthur just about commands his listeners to believe in the doctrine of divine election because they have no choice and in the same breath tells them they are completely unable to believe in Jesus Christ of their own accord because they have no free-will (no choice).
However, this they say, is a divine paradox only God can solve. Don’t they know that the path to hell is paved with the most beautiful stepping stones called paradoxes?
This is not the Gospel of God; it is idolatry because it is a faith you place in something (a doctrine) and not a Person (Jesus Christ).
John MacArthur’s Paradoxical Hermeneutics
MacArthur firmly believes in the doctrine of total inability on account of his notion that man is completely dead in his sins and transgressions (like unto a corpse and hence his reference to Lazarus’ resurrection as an analogy of regeneration), the result being that man is totally unable to hear, to understand and to respond to the Gospel call.
Here’s what MacArthur said in a sermon on 24th October 2004.
. . . And then verse 43, most interesting. “And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’”
Now what interests me here is that Jesus gave a command to a dead man. I’ve done a lot of funerals. I’ve seen a lot of dead people.
I’ve never asked any of them to do anything, nor has anybody else. Especially would I never say to a dead man, “Bill, come forth.”
I mean, you wouldn’t waste words. You’d look foolish. Dead men can’t hear; dead men can’t think; Dead men can’t respond cause they’re dead and dead means the absolute inability to do anything in response to any stimulus. There’s no will.
There’s no power to think or act. But, look at verse 44. “He who had died came forth.” Lazarus did exactly what Jesus asked him to do.
Amazing! He must have sort of stumbled out of there because “he was bound hand and foot with wrappings.
And his face was wrapped around with a cloth and Jesus said to then, ‘Unbind him and let him go.’” Dead men can’t respond. Dead men can’t obey commands. He couldn’t, but he did. He did what was impossible.
How? How is it possible for a dead man to do what Jesus told him to do? We all know the answer.
Because Christ gave him the ability to do it. If Christ hadn’t given him the life, he couldn’t have obeyed.
And that’s what’s bound up in the earlier words of Jesus in verses 25 and 26, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
And the amazing miracle of commanding a man who can’t respond, and then giving him the power to respond is analogous to salvation. The gospel commands dead men to rise, dead men to believe, dead men to understand, dead men to repent. The gospel commands dead people to do what, frankly, they can’t do.
Now, compare this with the above audio of MacArthur’s eisegesis of Titus 1:1-3.
And then he says this: My ministry basically is divided into three categories. First, my ministry unfolds, no. 1 for the faith of the elect of God.
He is talking here about the evangelistic emphasis of his ministry. He is talking about the matter of justification being the objective, the initial objective; he is to bring the message of the Gospel in order that men might be justified before God and he simply says this: I preach the Gospel so that the elect can hear it and believe.
That’s exactly what he’s saying. I preach the Gospel so the elect can hear it and believe. There is that emphasis in my ministry that is directed at justification.
Secondly, he says there is that emphasis on sanctification. He says then, secondly, I bring the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.
There is the ministry of evangelism and there is the ministry of edification. I bring the Gospel to the elect so they can hear and believe; I bring the truth of God to those who believe so that they can move toward godliness.
How do you reconcile “Dead men can’t hear; dead men can’t think; dead men can’t respond cause they’re dead and dead means the absolute inability to do anything in response to any stimulus [Tom says: including the preaching of the Gospel]. There’s no will” . . .
“I preach the Gospel so that the elect can hear it and believe. That’s exactly what he’s saying. I preach the Gospel so the elect can hear it and believe.”
Well, you shouldn’t even try to reconcile these two opposing statements because you are going to find yourself in a cul de sac time and time again. The only way to find some kind of sanity in these two opposing statements is to call it a paradox, or to sing the old Calvinistic refrain “You just don’t understand Calvinism.”
As far as I can recall, the Bible says God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). Paradoxes are just another name for “confusion.”
We may sum up MacArthur’s interpretation of Paul’s letter to Titus at Crete as follows.
Hi there, Titus. There are many elect in the Cretan churches (Titus 1:5) who need to hear the Gospel so that they may believe and be justified.
My ministry as a servant of God and an apostle of Christ Jesus is to present the Gospel in behalf of the faith of the elect among you, i.e. those who had been sovereignly chosen unto salvation before the foundation of the world and not the reprobate for whom Jesus did not die because He does not love them.
Please don’t ask me to explain the inner workings of paradoxes.
I don’t know how God reconciles the paradox that He ordained and predestined some to eternal damnation before the foundation of the world and yet holds them responsible because they used their God-given free-will to defiantly choose against Him.
However, I am happy to concede that God can solve extremely difficult paradoxes you and I can’t even imagine to solve.
There are also many elect in the Cretan churches who have already been sovereignly and monergistically regenerated but need to be encouraged to press on to godliness.
The irony is that Paul never wrote his letter to present the Gospel to the Cretan churches. That was not his purpose.
Why would he preach the Gospel of justification through faith to churches whose members were already saved?
There is no mention of the centrality of the cross in salvation and no mention of the blood of the Lamb, and no reference to sin or the forgiveness of sin.
The only reference to salvation is in Titus chapter 2 and verse 11: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, . . .” which, I may add, destroys Calvinism and the elitist belief that Jesus only died for the so-called elect, unless, of course, you believe that “all men” refers to the elect only.
If the purpose was not to preach the Gospel to the Cretan churches, what was it and how should we interpret the first three verses of Titus?
What is it to be — “for the faith of the elect” or “according to the faith of the elect” as some Bible translations render it?
MacArthur’s rendition “for the faith of the elect” seems highly unlikely, especially when “the matter,” as MacArthur puts it, “is justification.”
To what end and to what degree could Paul contribute to the faith of the elect in the matter of justification when faith is a gift of God and not something the elect are able to engender themselves in order to be saved?
Surely, if God is the One who gifts only the elect the faith that justifies them, then that faith must be perfect because God who is perfectly good and just will never gift the elect with an imperfect faith.
It must be a perfect faith that perseveres to the very end, ensuring the elect a perfect salvation they can never lose. Surely, if Paul was a champion of Calvinism, as Calvinists believe, he would have known that he was totally unable to contribute anything to or for the faith of the elect in the matter of justification.
The more viable translation is the one the King James Bible presents: “According to (in agreement with; concurring with, fitting; matching; corresponding with; in harmony with; not clashing with) the faith of the elect.”
Is there any proof why Paul needed to add the phrase “according to the faith of the elect” to validate his credentials as a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ?
Indeed, there is and we find that proof in Titus 1 verses 10-16. We need to emphasize the fact that Paul often had to defend his apostleship against the continuous onslaught of false teachers and apostles who wanted to discredit him as an apostle of God and to brand him an apostate.
False teachers and apostles, especially within the ranks of the Judaizers, relentlessly targeted newly born-again Jewish and Gentile Christians, telling them that they needed to uphold the Law — dietary, purification and circumcision rites, the Sabbath, and the likes — to emulate the faith of the elect (the fathers), Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, and to bring their faith to perfection.
Consider, for instance, the incident in Galatia where Paul proves that Abraham was a Gentile when he was saved, which effectively excludes the necessity to keep the Law for the perfection of one’s faith.
To emphasize that faith and faith alone and not the keeping of ordinances is the only basis for a sinner’s salvation. Paul reminded them that Abraham was justified by faith 430 years before the Law was given — “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:14).
It was this faith — the faith of the elect (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) — that preceded the giving of the Law with 430 years that Paul preached to Jews and Gentiles and effectively validated his credentials as a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Hence his words “according to the faith of God’s elect (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob).
The Elect, God’s Gift to His Son
The title given to the sermon we’re discussing in this article, i.e. “John MacArthur: Amazing Sermon on Election” is significantly an appropriate one. In fact, some of the statements he made is so amazing, it blows the mind.
One of the most amazing things he said, is the following:
. . . and here are the three dimensions of salvation — justification, sanctification, glorification. This is the salvific character of his ministry and as an apostle of Jesus Christ, he brought the whole council; God’s justifying work, his sanctifying work and his glorifying work.
He said to those who heard him the Gospel of Christ was a clarity for the elect who hear and believe and those who hear and believe He taught the truth so that they can become godly and then he showed them what was to come in the hope of eternal life which gave them great encouragement in the midst of difficulties.
He emphasized those three familiar things, justification which saved them from the penalty of sin, sanctification: you’re being saved from the power of sin and glorification: you will one day be saved from the presence of sin. This is the fullness of salvation which was the heart and soul of his ministry.
But I want you to notice the key is at the end of verse 2. This whole unfolding miracle of salvation comes from God who cannot lie and it says at the end of verse 2, He promised it, and this is the Greek ‘before time began.’ He promised it before time began.
Now, when I read that the first time, I sat back in my little chair and I thought to myself – to whom? Before time began — to whom did He make that promise? Not to me or any other human being because we weren’t created [yet].
Second Timothy chapter one introduces us to a dimension of it, I think, that helps answer the question. The end of verse 8 God is referred to and it says: God who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace — follow this — which was granted us in Christ Jesus, and here’s that exact same phrase — ‘before time began.’
To whom did He make this promise? [It] certainly [is] not a Trinitarian promise. I believe uniquely it involved a promise from the Father to the Son – from the Father to the Son. I’m treading on sacred ground as best as I can understand it feebly, and I’ll try to support that in a moment from the Gospel of John.
Let me just give you the picture. In the feeble understandings of the anthropomorphic ideas there was a moment in eternity when the father determined to express his infinite and perfect love to the Son, and we can understand that there is an inner Trinitarian love the likes of which is incomprehensible and inscrutable to us, but this we know about love – it gives and in some eternal moment the Father desired to express his perfect love for his Son and the way He determined to express that was to give to the Son a redeemed humanity as a love gift, a redeemed humanity whose purpose would be forever and ever throughout all the eons of eternity to praise and glorify the Son and serve him perfectly. That was the Father’s love gift to express his love He wanted to give a redeemed humanity. . . .
Just to further understand this, turn to the Gospel of John to what has to be a most remarkable insight with few parallels into this very theme.
In John chapter 6, Jesus says this, verse 37: ‘All that the Father’ – what? – gives who? Just mark that in your mind – ‘All that the Father’ – what? – ‘gives me.’ Now, that’s exactly what I’ve been saying. Every redeemed individual is a part of an elect redeemed humanity that is a gift from the Father to the Son.
“All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me. Why? I’ll tell you why. Verse 44: ‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him.’ So all that the Father gives, are drawn, all who are drawn, come, all who come, I will receive and I’ll never turn one of them down.
Why would the Son turn down a love gift from the Father? It’s not because you’re so inherently desirable. It’s because you are a gift from the Father to the Son.
It is the infinite love of the Son for the Father; it is the perfect gratitude for the expression of that love by the Father that opens the arms of the Son to embrace the gift. ‘All that the Father gives, shall come and all that come I receive.’
And there’s more: verse 39. this is the will of him who sent me that all he’s given me I lose none, but raise him up on the last day. So here’s how it works. The father chooses, writes the names down in the Lamb’s Book of Life, of who that redeem humanity will be to be given to the Son as an expression of love.
Then in time the father draws, when the father draws the sinners come, when the sinners come, the Son receives them, when the Son receives them he keeps them and raises them the last day to bring the planned to fruition.
The eternal Son of God never knew, understood, or experienced the perfect love of his Father until “in some eternal moment the Father desired to express his perfect love for his Son?” Really?
The first reaction to John MacArthur’s sermon, gleaned from its title, is that it’s amazing, awesome, beautiful, comforting, awe-inspiring, phenomenal, fantastic. Is it?
Closer scrutiny shows that John MacArthur should rather have taken his little chair on which all these profoundly amazing thoughts came to him and throw it in the Valley of Hinnom or at least on a dumping ground near his home or church.
The very first thing we need to establish is whether God the Father unilaterally gave a love gift to his Son before the foundation of the world, particularly as an expression of the Father’s perfect love for his Son.
Couldn’t it also have been decided, decreed, ordained before the foundation of the world that the Holy Spirit would be given as a love gift to the world with an intent to bring all those who believe on the Son to the Son for their salvation, thus making Him (the Holy Spirit) an indispensable Giver to the Son of those who by faith are redeemed?
If this is true, we cannot accept MacArthur’s interpretation that the Father unilaterally gave an elect few before the foundation of the world as a love gift to the Son and as an expression of his perfect love for the Son.
In short, the Father couldn’t just give a love gift to the Son without the work of the Holy Spirit. And, please bear in mind, the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.
John MacArthur fittingly says that love gives. However, he did not say that perfect love gives all. For love to be perfect it must give all.
The only gift God gave which includes his all, was the gift of his Son to the world. No other gift of whatever magnitude imaginable can equal God’s perfect gift – encompassing his all to the whole world in Jesus Christ.
Having said this, it seems as though John MacArthur very subtly wants to give his interpretation of God’s gift to his Son more prominence than the gift in John 3:16. This is understandable, chiefly in the light of the Calvinists’ relentless effort to prove that God only loves the elect and died only for them and therefore the word “world” in John 3:16 must be seen as a reference to the elect only and not to the world at large.
If God’s love-gift to his Son is an expression of his perfect love for his Son, then God the Father should have given all of mankind as a love-gift to his Son. That and that alone would have been a perfect love-gift when all and not only some had been given, as Calvinists believe.
You cannot have God loving only an elect few and hating a reprobate majority and then brazenly call it an expression of God’s perfect love. That’s impossible. If God is the very essence of love – meaning that He cannot do otherwise but love, then his perfect love must be extended to all of mankind and not only to the so-called elect.
What would you make of an amazing statement like this: “Before time began God (the Father) who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent made a promise to God (the Son) who is equally omnipotent omniscient and omnipresent.”
This is exactly what John MacArthur advocated when he clarified the promise God made, with regard to the unfolding of the miracle of salvation before time began, to his Son and not to a fallen human race.
Was God, who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent unable to make a promise to humankind before time began because they were then not yet created, and hence decided to make the promise to the Son who is equally omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent? To answer the question, it is needful to examine why God makes promises and to whom he makes his promises.
- The primary purpose of God’s promises is to strengthen the faith of those to whom He gives his promises (Numbers 23:19).
- The next important purpose of God’s promises, which supports the above purpose, is to annul any form or vestige of doubt from the mind of those to whom God gives his promises.
- To encourage those to whom He makes his promises to press on in their godly walk with and service to God despite the many hardships and fierce animosity they may encounter.
None of the above purposes of God’s promises can be applied to the Son, Jesus Christ — before time began. Surely, He who was/is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent as his Father before time began, is/was incapable of doubting his and his Father’s eternal purposes — before time began; He was undoubtedly not a candidate for God’s promises — before time began.
In short, God only makes promises to fallen human beings who need their faith to be strengthened so that they may not fall into a despondent ditch of doubt and fear. This is precisely why Paul wrote those words to his son in the faith, recorded in second Timothy, chapter 1 – to strengthen and encourage him in the face of adversity.
Here’s the full picture in its proper context:
- Paul was in jail as Christ’s prisoner, as he called himself — that is, a prisoner for Christ’s sake and purpose — according to the apostleship he received from God. The apostleship Paul received from God was primarily one of suffering for Christ and his cause (Acts 9:15-16). As such, he was the perfect model for Timothy whose timidity often caused him to recoil in fear whenever he faced fierce resistance in his ministry. Hence Paul’s words in verse 7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Paul was saying to him “Don’t let my imprisonment and the mockery you have to endure as my son in the faith unsettle your mind. Gird your mind with God’s Spirit of power and of love because his perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).
- Timothy was in Ephesus, a much safer haven than the one Paul was in at the time. Yet, Paul was doing all the encouraging and exhortations. He encouraged his son in the faith to suffer courageously with him in behalf of Christ Jesus and his Gospel (2 Timothy 2:3) and to fight the good fight with unfailing resilience and fortitude. Paul’s encouragement was not based on his own inferences of how a soldier of Christ ought to remain strong in times of persecution. He based it on God’s purpose and promise before time began when they, Paul and Timothy, hadn’t even been in existence yet. Hence his magnanimous declaration in the very next verse, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (2 Timothy 1:9).
What was given and to whom was it given? John MacArthur believes it was not given to anyone else but Jesus Christ. Here again is what he said:
Now, when I read that the first time, I sat back in my little chair and I thought to myself – to whom? Before time began — to whom did He make that promise? Not to me or any other human being because we weren’t created [yet]. Second Timothy chapter one introduces us to a dimension of it, I think, that helps answer the question.
The end of verse 8 God is referred to and it says: God who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace — follow this — which was granted us in Christ Jesus, and here’s that exact same phrase — ‘before time began.’ To whom did He make this promise? Certainly not a Trinitarian promise. I believe uniquely it involved a promise from the Father to the Son – from the Father to the Son.
It is here, at this particular juncture, where John MacArthur rips Paul’s resolve to encourage and exhort Timothy in the light of his incarceration in Rome, completely out of context and deliberately links it to John 6:37-40 to make it gravitate towards the Calvinistic doctrine of election and predestination.
To him the words “given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” mirrors Jesus’ words “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37) and “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44).
The drawing to which Jesus referred, does not relate to God’s sovereign choice in salvation (“I choose to draw you and not you to my Son,” kind of thing). He referred to the way and the means God in his wisdom devised to draw sinners to his Son.
No one can come to the Son except through the cross which God in his infinite wisdom decided before time began would be the only means by which sinners are drawn to his Son.
No one can come to the Son unless he is drawn and no one can be drawn in any other way than through the cross. And that’s precisely why Jesus said in John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32).
No man can circumvent or bypass the cross in an attempt to get to heaven because the Father draws all men to his Son through his cross. This is all it was meant to mean — nothing more, nothing less.
As usual, the Calvinists’ immaculate adroitness to twist Scripture has led them to interpret “all men” not in terms of every single individual but as nations and ethnic groups apart from the Jews who believed that the Messiah came to earth to save them alone. John Calvin mentions John 12:32 only once in his Institutes of the Christian Religion but not in the context God intended it to be understood.
A staunch Calvinist with the pseudonym fivepointbaptist made the following video to prove that “all men” in John 12:32 does not refer to individuals.
Near the end of his video, he says the following:
It is an unwarranted assertion to assume that “all men” is speaking of individuals; the context simply does not allow for it.
All men is in reference to nations or ethnic groups; not individuals (Jews and Greeks). [Tom says: This is probably the most horrendous circular reasoning imaginable. “All men” is not speaking of individual persons” he says. What then, may we ask, do nations and ethnic groups consist of if not of individuals? Are only certain individuals within a nation or ethnic group not spoken of as “all men” when “all men” in those nations or ethnic groups consist of individuals?)
To corroborate his statement, he quotes John 12:37-40 from the American Standard Bible.
But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?” For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.”
In response fivepointbaptist says:
Now, I find it rather odd that Christ would draw all men individually while at the same time He is hardening individuals in order that they would not and could not believe. Christ is drawing all men, that is, all nations and people groups while at the same time He is hardening individuals. HARDENING IS THE OPPOSITE OF DRAWING.
There are several discrepancies in his interpretation of John 12:32. If John 6:37-44 solidifies the Calvinistic notion that God irresistibly draws only the elect and if “all men” in John 12:32 is a reference to nations or diverse ethnic groups and not men individually, according to fivepointbaptist, it follows that God has chosen whole nations and ethnic groups as his elect before the foundation of the world, and irresistibly draws them and them alone to Christ Jesus.
John MacArthur explains the Calvinistic phenomenon of being irresistibly drawn to Christ in his New Testament Commentary as follows:
. . . the Bible indicates that fallen man is unable, of his own volition, to come to Jesus Christ. Unregenerate people are dead in sin (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13), slaves to unrighteousness (John 8:34; Rom. 6:6,17, 20), alienated from God (Col. 1:21), and hostile to Him (Rom. 5:10; 8:7). They are spiritually blind (2 Cor. 4:4) captives (2 Tim. 2:26) trapped in Satan’s kingdom (Col. 1:13), powerless to change their sinful natures (Jar. 13:23; Rom. 5:6), unable to please God (Rom. 8:8), and incapable of understanding spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. John 14:17). Although the human will is involved in coming to Christ (since no one is saved apart from believing the gospel—Mark 1:15; Acts 15:7; Rom. 1:16; 10:9-15; Eph. 1:13), sinners cannot come to Him of their own free will. (Moreover, a comparison of verse 44 with verse 37 shows that God’s drawing cannot apply to all unregenerate people, as proponents of prevenient grace argue, because verse 37 limits it to the redeemed whom God has given to Christ.) God irresistibly, efficaciously draws to Christ only those whom He chose for salvation in eternity past (Eph. 1:4-5,11).
Once again, Jesus repeated the wonderful promise that all whom the Father chooses will be drawn, will come, will be received, and He will raise them on the last day (w. 39-40,54). Everyone who comes to Christ will be kept by Him; there is no possibility that even one elect person given to Him by the Father will be lost. (Emphasis added).
A simple superimposition of MacArthur’s rendition of the Calvinistic phenomenon of being irresistibly drawn to Christ onto fivepointbaptist’s explanation of John 12:32 — and by the way many other Calvinists interpret it in the very same way — no other conclusion can be drawn from their interpretation than that God irresistibly draws entire nations and ethnic groups to Christ, and that, according to John MacArrtur, “there is no possibility that even one elect person given to Him by the Father will be lost.” Consequently, not even one nation or ethnic group drawn to Christ Jesus (John 12:32) will be lost.
This in nothing else than another form of Universalism. One of their own revered fellow Calvinists, Charles Spurgeon said:
What then? Shall we try to put another meaning into the text than that which it fairly bears? I trow not . . .
You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text.
“All men” say they “that is, some men”: as if the Holy Ghost could not have said “some men” if He meant some men.
“All men,” say they: “that is, some of all sorts of men”: as if the Lord could not have said, “All sorts of men” if He had meant that.
The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written, “All men,” and unquestionably he means all men . . .. My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture.
Fivepointbaptist implies that God sovereignly and pleasurably hardens the heart of individuals He chooses to cast into hell whilst He draws whole nations or ethnic groups, the result being that He refuses to draw individuals and only whole nations and/or ethnic groups, who consist of a multitude of individuals, to Christ in order to be saved — simply because the hardening of individuals’ hearts is the opposite of drawing.
Ironically, the author who accuses non-Calvinists of context pummeling, is himself guilty of defacing context.
First of all, Isaiah does not refer to individuals from either the nation of Israel or any other nation. He refers to the entire nation of Israel whose eyes and hearts have been blinded and hardened collectively because the entire nation of Israel rebelled against God.
It is of course true that there were certain individuals among the Israelite, like the prophets, who were not involved in the nation’s rebellion and remained faithful to God. They were, however in the minority.
This alone destroys fivepointbaptist’s argument that God draws nations or ethnic groups but blinds and hardens the eyes and the hearts of individuals. If “all men” in John 12:32 really refers to nations and other ethnic groups, why did God blind and harden the entire nation of Israel’s eyes and hearts so that they were unable to believe and not those of individual Israelite like the prophets? Did He ever draw Israel whom He disabled to believe by hardening their hearts? Fivepointbaptist says: “HARDENING IS THE OPPOSITE OF DRAWING.” Is that true?
Hosea 11:1-4: Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
When Israel was a child, then I loved him and called My son out of Egypt.
The more [the prophets] called to them, the more they went from them; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to the graven images.
Yet I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms or taking them up in My arms, but they did not know that I healed them.
I drew them with cords of a man [Jesus Christ], with bands of love, and I was to them as one who lifts up and eases the yoke over their cheeks, and I bent down to them and gently laid food before them. (Emphasis added).
No one can deny that God continuously and ceaselessly did everything in his power to draw Israel to Him.
I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, that walk in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts; (Isaiah 65:2).
But as to Israel he saith, All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. (Romans 10:21).
Consequently the hardening of individuals’ hearts is the opposite of drawing but the hardening of the hearts of the entire nation of Israel is not the opposite of drawing.
It proves that God’s drawing is not irresistible, as Calvinists love to tell us? That’s just plain nonsense. As you can see, God drew Israel to Him every single day and yet they resisted Him, up to the point when He said: “Enough is enough.”Now I am going to blind your eyes and harden your hearts ‘For this people’s heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest, haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, And I should heal them.'” (Acts 28:27).
Calvinism’s Back-Turning Hermeneutics
In order to uphold their doctrines of election and predestination, Calvinists deliberately turn their backs on certain passages in Scripture.
Another amazing conundrum in Calvinism, and perhaps not so amazing after all, is that John 16:8 — a verse that’s absolutely crucial for a correct understanding of the doctrine of salvation — is not quoted even once in one of the most revered Christian treatises ever written. I’m referring to John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Yet John MacArthur sees Calvin as his alter ego. In an interview MacArthur described John Calvin’s influence on his ministry as follows.
Q: Outside of the Bible, who is your favorite theologian, your favorite person who you, kind of use as a model?
MacArthur: Well, I don’t know how to say this, but most of them are dead. That’s the way it is, you know. When I look for somebody who’s almost an alter ego, when I look for somebody who views ministry the way I do, who sees Scripturally things the way I see them, I find myself going back, way back . . . you know — John Calvin.
Contrary to John MacArthur’s belief that man is completely unable to hear, understand and respond to the Gospel call, he says in a sermon he delivered on 31 October 1971 that no man can come to Christ for salvation without the conviction of the Holy Spirit and that His conviction comes to sinners by means of the testimony of the saints in whom the Spirit of God dwells.
But in our last study in 15, we not only saw the hatred of the world but we saw that how the hatred of the world is opposed by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. How that Christ will send the Holy Spirit who will testify of Me, verse 26 of chapter 15.
The Spirit will then confront the world face to face. And He will do it in the believer. John has told us the words of Jesus that the Spirit is with you but shall be . . . where? . . . in you. And that the Holy Spirit will come to dwell in the disciples and in all believers, Jesus predicts this, promises it, and it came to pass just as He said in Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost.
The Spirit would dwell within them and within them the Spirit would witness through them to the testimony of Jesus. And we said then that all Spirit‑controlled testimony is about Jesus Christ. It majors on Christ.
All right, then, in chapter 15 in the last part of the chapter the world will hate the disciples but the Spirit will confront the world with the testimony of Jesus through the disciples.
Now as we come to chapter 16 verses 1 to 11, we find almost a parallel passage. For Jesus again details the hatred of the world and again presents the work of the Holy Spirit in confronting the world.
Only this time He gets more specific about how it is that the Spirit confronts the world. He does not only testify about Jesus, but He convicts men of sin. So it is not only a testimony ministry, it is a conviction ministry.
And by the double conviction and testimony ministry, the Spirit of God seeks to turn the hostile heart of man away from rebellion against God to believing in Jesus Christ and receiving Him as Savior and Lord. That’s the message the Holy Spirit preaches and teaches and does it through the life of the Christian who is faithful. [Tom says: Why would the Holy Spirit seek to turn the hostile heart of man away from rebellion against God to believing in Jesus Christ and receiving Him as Savior and Lord when mankind in totality is completely unable to receive Christ Jesus, due to its utter deadness in sin and transgressions? The word “receive” implies volition and volition on its part implies free-will. Receiving Christ Jesus is a good thing, is it not? Yet John MacArthur says that mankind’s free-will is in bondage and therefore only capable of choosing from a cesspool of evil, wickedness and things that are completely at variance with God’s perfect will. Moreover, why would the Holy Spirit seek to turn the hostile heart of man away from rebellion against God to believing in Jesus Christ and receiving Him as Savior and Lord, when God sovereignly and monergistically regenerates the elect without them having to trust Christ in order to be saved?).
So, the world then can be confronted, even though it’s hostile, even though it hates Christ, hates those who name Him.
And if you’re a Christian who really lives for Christ, you live godly in this world, Paul says you will suffer persecution, you’ll feel the hostility of the world. Even though the world is hostile, the Spirit of God has the power and energy to confront the hostile world, break its hostility, smash down its wall of resistance and bring to the heart of a man conviction of sin, the testimony of Jesus Christ so that that man gives his life to Christ and is redeemed.
Now in chapter 16:1 to 11, we see this pattern. And we see how the Holy Spirit breaks down this resistance by the tremendous work of conviction. And it’s an obvious thing that before anybody can ever be saved, that before anybody can ever come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, he has to have a sense of his own sin, doesn’t he?
He has to be made aware that he has a need for a Savior. He has to come to grips with the problem of judgment and righteousness and sin in his life. And that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit does. He brings to light those three areas of sin, righteousness and judgment, convicts, then gives the testimony of Jesus which is the answer to those problems and by that a man can trust Christ and be redeemed. (Emphasis added)
There are several very, very important things John MacArthur says in this sermon.
- That the ministry of the Holy Spirit is of the utmost importance.
- That the Spirit testifies about Jesus to a hostile world.
- That, besides the testimony ministry, the Spirit convicts the world of sin and seeks to turn the hostile heart of man away from rebellion against God to believing in Jesus Christ and receiving Him as Savior and Lord.
- That the Holy Spirit does all of his testimony and conviction through the believer in whom He dwells.
Although John MacArthur boasts that his Calvinism is the doppelgänger of John Calvin’s Calvinism, his statement above is one of the most atypical Calvinistic testimonials ever to come from the mouth of a Calvinist.
What he said about the Holy Spirit is true but it does not sit well with the Calvinists’ view that man is dead in sins and transgressions and therefore completely unable to hear, think through, understand and respond to the Gospel message.
If so, how does the Holy Spirit convict fallen man of sin, righteousness and judgement when his total inability (John MacArthur’s own description of man’s fallen nature) disqualifies him from hearing and understanding the Gospel truth?
Hearing and understanding is an essential requirement to respond to the Gospel and this response usually follows the conviction of the Holy Spirit of sin, righteousness and judgment. (Romans 10:17).
Only those who realize and admit they are terminally ill in the spiritual sense of the word and in need of a physician, will respond to the Gospel call (Luke 5:31).
Nevertheless, John MacArthur teaches that God the Father unilaterally gave a love gift (another name for the elect) to the Son before the foundation of the world. Consequently, John MacArthtur annuls the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation although he says the Holy Spirit “brings to light those three areas of sin, righteousness and judgment, convicts and then gives the testimony of Jesus which is the answer to those problems and by that a man can trust Christ and be redeemed.”
How do you reconcile his above statement with the Calvinistic belief that God first regenerates the elect (makes them alive) and only then, subsequent to their monergistic regeneration gifts them the faith they need to believe. When does the Holy Spirit convictg the elect of sin, righteousness and judgment – before or after their monergistic regeneration? If the Spirit convicts them after their monergistic regeneration in the same way He gifts them faith after their salvation, what’s the point in convicting them of judgement? Surely, someone who is already saved, does not need to be convicted of judgement.
In fact, he even went so far as to say that the giving of the Father’s love-gift to his Son is not a Trinitarian matter but uniquely that of the Father. The question, however, is: Is salvation a unilateral act of the Father to the Son? Can or would God the Father act independently of the Holy Spirit in the redemption of lost sinners?
Jesus did not use the word “convict” (elegchō) just for the fun of it. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “convict” as follows:
1: the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law
2a : the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth
2b : the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth
3a : a strong persuasion or belief
3b : the state of being convinced
Note points 2a and 2b with its distinct reference to “compelling the admission of truth” and “compelled to admit the truth.” God’s Truth compels sinners to admit that whatever God says in his Word about fallen man’s sinful condition is indeed the truth and that no-one is able to refute or disprove it.
Every single knee shall bow and confess that Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten Son who came to the world to seek and to save lost sinners. The only difference between the diverse confessors is that some confess it now while there is still time to be saved (2 Peter 3:9) whilst others are going to confess it at the last judgment when it will be too late for the Truth to set them free from God’s righteous judgments.
Webster and other well-known dictionaries bear witness to the fact that the act of “conviction” goes hand in hand with man’s God-given conscience — the faculty that enables him to choose between good and evil or, as most dictionaries put it, “one’s moral sense of right and wrong, viewed as acting as a guide to one’s behavior.”
The conviction of the Holy Spirit is first and foremost to stir the conscience and to convince the sinner of his/her sinfulness and consequent lostness before God in the light of His revealed Truth.
Nonetheless, man is quite capable of resisting the truth and to kick against the goads (Acts 9:5) which is another way of saying that man has the capacity to make choices between obeying the will of God (to cease from kicking against the goads) or resisting the will of God (to continue kicking against the goads).
How do man’s conscience and free-will, if any, relate to one another? Does the fact that man has a conscience prove that he also has a free-will?
The more docile view of man’s freedom of choice among Calvinists is that mankind does have a free-will, but because the Spirit of God does not indwell the unregenerate, they always choose to do the things that are completely contrary to the will of God.
Ironically, John MacArthur’s and many Calvinists’ counsel to be like the Bereans — mostly to give the impression that they themselves are true Bereans — proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the unregenerate can indeed choose to do things that are not contrary to God’s will and are actually 100% in accordance with God’s will and divine counsel.
In a sermon by Cameron Buettel (August 12th 2015) “Meet the Bereans” he qoutes John MacArthur who says the following about the Bereans.
The Bereans received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether the things preached by Paul were so. They were open to the truth and searched their scrolls for themselves. No wonder Luke describes them as more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica.
Examining is from anakrinō, a word sometimes used of a judicial investigation. The noble Bereans carefully sifted the evidence and concluded that the gospel Paul proclaimed was the truth that fulfilled Old Testament promise.
A judicial investigation has one single objective in mind and that is to unearth the truth so that righteousness and justice may prevail. Even John MacArthur whose alter ego is John Calvin must admit this is a good thing. He may protest and reiterate quite vehemently that man cannot choose Christ unaided and on his own, and yet the Bereans, whom MacArthur confers a blessing, did exactly that – they chose to be saved AFTER they studied and searched the Scriptures.
Of course he cannot do it unaided and that’s precisely why the Bereans consulted the Scriptures, God’s aid to lead sinners to a saving knowledge (Romans 10:17) which in turn obligated them to use their divinely given free-will. All these facts effectively and ultimately annihilate the Calvinistic belief that man, by virtue of his deadness in sins and transgressions cannot hear, think through or respond to the Gospel call, and the notion that he is void of a free-will to choose divinely ordained good things but only evil.
In an interview Phil Johnson had with John MacArthur on 17 July 2006 in which the answered key questions about the doctrine of election their discussion about free-will went like this:
PHIL: Well we hear a lot about the idea of free will. You mentioned it earlier. Is that a biblical concept at all?
JOHN: Yes, I think it is, but I think there’s a way to understand free will that is very important. Man’s will is free to choose the form of sin that most appeals to him, but that’s the limit of his freedom.
PHIL: Because we’re in bondage to sin.
JOHN: Well yeah, I mean, we’re going to…we’re sinful. We’re depraved. We are…our nature is fallen, it is dead, we are blind, we are alienated from God. We do not possess the life of God.
We are…we are dead in trespasses and sins, to borrow the language of Ephesians chapter 2. But within the framework of our sinfulness we could pick our poison. When you talk about free will, we’re talking about the freedom that the sinner has to choose his iniquity. That’s what his freedom is, that’s the sum and substance of his freedom. The one thing he’s not free to do is to choose salvation, or to choose righteousness, or to choose holiness, or to choose God, or to choose Christ unaided and on his own.
[Tom says: Well, how then did the Berean’s choose to be saved when they were only able to choose their own poison and iniquity?).
The natural man understandeth not the things of God, they are foolishness to him, the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing.
The Jews are looking at it and it’s a stumbling block and it’s folly and foolishness to the Gentiles. All that the Bible says about the fallen man is that this man has no capacity to make the righteous choice. [Tom says: The Bereans seem to have made the righteous choice and they were unbelievers at the time when they decided to search the Scriptures to see whether Paul was presenting them with the truth or not].
So free will as I see it and I think this is what Jonathan Edwards is talking about in The Bondage of the Will, the will is bound by sin so that mingling around in the reality of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, you can pick your sin. But the one thing you can’t do is extricate yourself from that condition of sin and death.
PHIL: Yeah, actually I rarely get to correct you but Jonathan Edwards book was titled The Freedom of the Will, Luther wrote The Bondage of the Will…
JOHN: Yeah, it was Luther who wrote The Bondage of the Will.
On the one hand they say “When you talk about free will, we’re talking about the freedom that the sinner has to choose his iniquity. That’s what his freedom is, that’s the sum and substance of his freedom. The one thing he’s not free to do is to choose salvation, or to choose righteousness, or to choose holiness, or to choose God, or to choose Christ unaided and on his own” and on the other they say “The Bereans received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether the things preached by Paul were so.
They were open to the truth and searched their scrolls for themselves.” FOR THEMSELVES? Really? The unregenerate searched the Scriptures FOR THEMSELVES while John MacArthur and Phil Johnson categorically state that the unregenerate cannot choose anything but iniquity, folly and poison?
The Bereans were unbelievers and like all unregenerate sinners were heading straight for hell, and yet they did the noble thing, the best thing possible, the thing 100% in accordance with God’s will — they searched the Scriptures daily with a view to be saved. Once again, this obliterates the belief that man can only choose from a pit filled with all kinds of iniquitous deeds and never anything good from God.
If, according to John MacArthur and his allies, fallen man has no capacity to make righteous choices, then somebody should at least inform God about man’s complete inability to choose between good and evil.
It seems as though God is entirely oblivious to the fact that the sinner has no other choice but to choose his pet iniquity. MacArthur and his cohorts seem to know much more about man’s heart than God who created him in his image.
Had God known what John MacArthur and his cohorts know today, He would never have declared: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, [an excellent thing to choose] that both thou and thy seed may live: (Deuteronomy 30:19). Would God have made such a profound ultimatum if He knew Israel was completely incapable of choosing life?
Another good example that buries the preposterous Calvinistic belief that the unregenerate can only will and do evil things, is Cornelius the Centurion in Acts 10. He too was an unbeliever to whom God sent Peter so that he may HEAR the Gospel and be saved. Cornelius was a devout man who feared God (Acts 10:2); he was a just man who feared God (10:22). Are these things poison, evil and wicked?
God’s gift to the Son are all those who believe on Him. God cannot give those who refuse to believe on his Son as a gift to Him. Faith in Christ determines the gift and not God’s so-called sovereign choice.
Verse 40 of John 6 affirms this: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” This alludes to Numbers 21 when God commanded Moses to make a brass serpent and hang it on a pole so that everyone who was bitten by a serpent may live the moment he or she looked upon the brass serpent. They had to look at it in faith of their own accord. They were not sovereignly forced or first made able to look at it so that they could look at it.
They simply looked at it because they willed to look at it for their healing. God did not choose all those whom He wanted to give to his Son as a gift before the foundation of the world. He did not sit down and choose to separate those whom He wanted to regenerate monergistically, more or less like a woman podding peas, sorting and choosing those she wants to use, while saying, “you are mine” while the rest she shoves to one side saying ”I don’t want you.”
John MacArtur’s explanation of the purpose of salvation is so absolutely anti-God, anti-Christ and anti-Scripture that we need to quote him again to believe what he actually said.
But I want you to notice the key is at the end of verse 2. This whole unfolding miracle of salvation comes from God who cannot lie and it says at the end of verse 2, He promised it — and this is the Greek ‘before time began.’ He promised it before time began. Now, when I read that the first time, I sat back in my little chair and I thought to myself – to whom? Before time began — to whom did He make that promise? Not to me or any other human being because we weren’t created [yet].
Second Timothy chapter one introduces us to a dimension of it, I think, that helps answer the question. The end of verse 8 God is referred to and it says: God who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace — follow this — which was granted us in Christ Jesus, and here’s that exact same phrase — ‘before time began.’ To whom did He make this promise? [It] certainly [is] not a Trinitarian promise. I believe uniquely it involved a promise from the Father to the Son – from the Father to the Son.
I’m treading on sacred ground as best as I can understand it feebly, and I’ll try to support that in a moment from the Gospel of John Let me just give you the picture. In the feeble understandings of the anthropomorphic ideas there was a moment in eternity when the father determined to express his infinite and perfect love to the Son and we can understand that there is an inner Trinitarian love the likes of which is incomprehensible and inscrutable to us, but this we know about love – it gives and in some eternal moment the Father desired to express his perfect love for his Son and the way He determined to express that was to give to the Son a redeemed humanity as a love gift, a redeemed humanity whose purpose would be forever and ever throughout all the eons of eternity to praise and glorify the Son and serve him perfectly. That was the Father’s love gift to express his love He wanted to give a redeemed humanity. . . .
In summary we may say John MacArthur believes that the elect who had been chosen unto salvation before the foundation of the world was given by the Father to the Son as a love-gift before time began — and here’s the punch-line — to express his perfect love for the Son.
And then he goes on to say that the giving of this love gift was not in behalf of John MacArthur or anyone else in the human family. He sounds so much like Rick Warren who wrote an entire book “The Purpose Driven Life” to prove that “It’s not about you.” It suggests that:-
- Jesus’ incarnation was not about you.
- Jesus’s death on the cross was not about you.
- Jesus’ burial and resurrection was not about you.
- Jesus’ ascension into heaven was not about you.
- Jesus who is now seated at the right hand of his Father, is not about you.
- Jesus’ promise to prepare a place for his own in heaven is not about you.
- Jesus’ promise to return to earth is not about you.
- In short, Jesus never did anything for you.
What does the Bible say?
And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: . . . (Daniel 9:26).
Yet, John MacArthur and Rick Warren say it was not for you. If this does not make you angry, you are probably not saved.
The Bible very clearly teaches that Jesus came to the earth for one purpose and one purpose only and that was “to seek and to save lost sinners.” (Luke 19:10). It does not say that He came to the earth to receive a monergistically regenerated elect elite as a love gift from the Father so that the Father could express his perfect love for his Son.
Of course, many would argue that your salvation itself is for you but your subsequent good works are not for yourself but for others. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). Nonetheless, these good works involve witnessing to others so that they too may be saved, telling them Jesus did not die for Himself but for “YOU.”
John MacArthur’s Fusionic Hermeneutics.
Of all the disastrous hermeneutics John MacArthur advocates, this is perhaps the most dangerous. How he does it, only he will know. With one single swoop he manages to merge the most popular verses, allegedly verifying the reformed doctrine of election and predestination, in a single drawn-out sentence while hardly taking a breath of air. Here’s what he said:
In Revelation 19:6 we’re told the Lord God omnipotent reigneth; in heaven and earth He is the controller and disposer of all creatures; as the Most High He rules in the army of the heavens; and none can stay his hand or say to Him what doeth thou; He is the Almighty who works all things after the council of his will; He is the heavenly Father who takes all of humanity and in his hands makes a lump of clay into something that becomes a vessel unto honor and another as a vessel to dishonor. In short, He is the decider and the determiner of every man’s destiny, the controller of every detail of every individual’s life which is another way of saying: He is God. And frankly, the only reason to believe in election is because it is found explicitly in God’s Word.
Now let’s look at what Revelation 19:6 really says.
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. (Revelation 19:6).
As you can see, John MacArthur’s rendering of the verse is much longer and more cumbersome, and contains more of his own eisegetical analyses than what the Bible allows for. Why is that? The only way Calvinists can reconcile God’s sovereignty with all the things that have happened, are presently happening and will happen in the future, is to believe that God is “the decider and the determiner of every man’s destiny, the controller of every detail of every individual’s life”— even the errors a secretary makes when typing a letter. That, as John MacArthur, puts it, is the proof that He is God. Really?
If YHWH’s sovereign decrees prove that He is God, then Islam has also proven that Allah is God because they too believe that Allah has decreed everything that comes to pass. They have an entire book called “The Book of Decrees” to substantiate their view that Allah is God. On a site called “Islam Question and Answer” a very important question was answered as follows:
Q: If things are decreed, then how can a person be called to account for them?
Was doing any sin previously written and predetermined by Allah? If the answer is yes, then why does Allah destine for some to commit sins, and for others to do good deeds, while we all are humans?
A: Praise be to Allaah.
One must believe in two things:
1 – That Allaah, may He be exalted, is the Creator of all things, and nothing happens in the universe except by His will. He knows what is to come and He decreed all of that and wrote it in a Book fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth, as is stated in a saheeh report from our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). He is Just and does not wrong anyone in the slightest, because He is independent of His creation and has no need of them. He is Kind and Gracious to them constantly, so how could He wrong them?
This principle is indicated by a great deal of evidence in the Qur’aan and Sunnah, such as the verses in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Verily, We have created all things with Qadar (Divine Preordainments of all things before their creation as written in the Book of Decrees ___ Al‑Lawh Al‑Mahfooz)”
“No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but it is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al‑Lawh Al‑Mahfooz) before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allaah”
And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah decided the decrees of creation fifty thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth. He said: And His Throne is above the water.” Narrated by Muslim (2653).
2 – Man has free will and choice by means of which he does some things and refrains from others, and he believes or disbelieves, and he obeys or disobeys, for which he will be brought to account and rewarded or punished, although Allaah knows what he will do, what he will choose and what his ultimate destiny will be. But Allaah does not compel him to do evil, or to choose kufr, rather He clearly shows him the path and He has sent Messengers and revealed Books, and shown him the right way. Whoever goes astray does so to his own loss, . . .
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And say: ‘The truth is from your Lord.’ Then whosoever wills, let him believe; and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve”
“Verily, We showed him the way, whether he be grateful or ungrateful”
“So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant) shall see it.
- And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant) shall see it”
“And it will be cried out to them: ‘This is the Paradise which you have inherited for what you used to do’”
“so taste you the abiding torment for what you used to do”
Allaah tells us that man believes and does righteous deeds by his own choice and free will, then he enters Paradise, or he disbelieves and does evil deeds by his own choice and free will, then he enters Hell.
Every person knows in his own heart and by looking at those around him, that our deeds – good and evil, obedient and sinful – are done by our own choice, and we do not feel that there is any force compelling us to do them. You can curse, swear, lie and backbite, just as you can praise Allaah, glorify Him, pray for forgiveness, speak the truth and give sincere advice. You can walk to places of idle entertainment, falsehood and evil, just as you can walk to the mosques or places of goodness and obedience. A man can strike with his hand, steal, speak falsehood and betray, or he can help the needy, do good and do favours with his hands. Everyone does some of these deeds and he does not feel that he is compelled or forced, rather he does them by his own free will and then he will be called to account for them; if they were good, then the consequences will be good, and if they were bad then the consequences will be bad.
What Allaah has decreed is something that man cannot know and he cannot base his deeds on it or use it as an excuse. It is also not valid for him to object to his Lord by questioning why He has caused someone to be among the doomed [chosen for hell] or the blessed [chosen for heaven]. Allaah has not wronged the one who is doomed, rather He gave him time and ability and freedom of choice, and He sent to him Messengers and revealed Books to them, and He reminded him and warned him with all kinds of reminders, such as calamities and tests, so that he would repent to Him and turn to Him. If he chose the path of misguidance, and followed the way of criminals, he only harmed himself, and he is the one who has caused his own doom, as Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Indeed he succeeds who purifies his ownself (i.e. obeys and performs all that Allaah ordered, by following the true Faith of Islamic Monotheism and by doing righteous good deeds).
- And indeed he fails who corrupts his ownself (i.e. disobeys what Allaah has ordered by rejecting the true Faith of Islamic Monotheism or by following polytheism, or by doing every kind of evil wicked deeds)”
[al-Shams 91:9, 10]
“Allaah wronged them not, but they wronged themselves”
[Aal ‘Imraan 3:117]
“Has not the story reached them of those before them? — The people of Nooh (Noah), ‘Aad, and Thamood, the people of Ibraaheem (Abraham), the dwellers of Madyan (Midian) and the cities overthrown [i.e. the people to whom Loot (Lot) preached]; to them came their Messengers with clear proofs. So it was not Allaah Who wronged them, but they used to wrong themselves”
To sum up: the belief that Allaah is the Creator Who has decreed all things and has distinguished those who are blessed [chosen for heaven] from those who are doomed [chosen for hell], does not mean that Allaah forces His slaves to obey or disobey. Rather He has given them the ability to choose and free will, which is what they act upon, and for which they will be brought to account. Your Lord does not wrong His slaves.
And Allaah knows best. (Emphasis added throughout).
Have you noticed the Calvinistic paradox in islam? For those who are interesting in a better understanding of The Book of Decrees, please read here.
The Westminster’s Confession of Faith, says something strikingly very similar:
God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
- Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions;yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.
III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.
Is this the proof that YHWH is God? If He ordained and decreed everything that comes to pass, He must have predestined Satan and his host to fall into sin; decreed Adam and Eve to sin; ordained King David’s adultery with Bathsheba; decreed that Judas betray his Son; organized every false religion in existence; decreed that ISIS chop off heads, etc., etc., etc. These things prove that YHWH is God? What utter blasphemy! I can only reiterate what King James said of Calvinism.
This doctrine is so horrible, that I am persuaded, if there were a council of unclean spirits assembled in hell, and their prince the devil were to [ask] their opinion about the most likely means of stirring up the hatred of men against God their Maker; nothing could be invented by them that would be more efficacious for this purpose, or that could put a greater affront upon God’s love for mankind than that infamous decree of the late Synod. . . .
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)
 Dave Hunt: What Love is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God, p. 25
 Leonard J. Coppes, Are Five Points Enough? The Ten Points of Calvinism (Denver, CO: self-published, 1980), xi.
 D. James Kennedy, Why I Am a Presbyterian (Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Coral Ridge Ministries, n. d.), 1.
 John Piper, TULIP: The Pursuit of God’s Glory in Salvation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethlehem Baptist Church, 2000), back cover.
 Spurgeon’s Sermons, Vols 1 and 2, “The Peculiar Sleep of the Beloved” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 48
 John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts 13–28 Chicago: Moody Press, 1994, 121.
 King James I; in Jacobus Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, trans. James and William Nichols (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 1:213.