Social Injustice and the Gospel by John MacArthur

This is the first of several articles Dr. MacArthur plans addressing an important issue concerning the evangelical church.

Social Injustice and the Gospel

by John MacArthur

Monday, August 13, 2018

Scripture says earthly governments are ordained by God to administer justice, and believers are to be subject to their authority. The civil magistrate is “a minister of God to you for good . . . an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:1–4). But it is also true that no government in the history of the world has managed to be consistently just. In fact, when Paul wrote that command, the Roman Emperor was Nero, one of the most grossly unjust, unprincipled, cruel-hearted men ever to wield power on the world stage.

As believers, “we know . . . that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), so worldly power structures are—and always have been—systemically unjust to one degree or another.

Even the United States, though founded on the precept that all members of the human race “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” incongruously maintained a system of forced slavery that withheld the full benefits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness from multitudes. Many generations of people from African ethnicities were thus legally (but immorally) relegated to subhuman status. According to the 1860 census, there were about four million in the generation of slaves who were being held in servitude when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Civil War and the abolishment of slavery did not automatically end the injustice. A hundred years passed before the federal government banned segregation in public places and began in earnest to pass legislation safeguarding the civil rights of all people equally. Until then, freed slaves and their descendants in Southern states were literally relegated by law to the back of the bus and frequently treated with scorn or incivility because of the color of their skin.

I got a small taste of what it felt like to be bullied and discriminated against in the American South in the 1960s. I spent a lot of time traveling through rural Mississippi with my good friend John Perkins, a well-known black evangelical leader, preaching the gospel in segregated black high schools. During one of those trips, as we drove down a dirt road, a local sheriff—an openly bigoted character straight out of In the Heat of the Night—took me into custody, held me in his jail, and accused me of disturbing the peace. He also confiscated (and kept) all my money. He ultimately released me without filing charges. I suppose he considered the money he took from me an adequate fine for doing something he disapproved of.

In those days any appeal to higher authorities would have been fruitless and possibly counterproductive. All I could do was try not to antagonize him further.

I was again ministering in Mississippi with John Perkins and a group of black church leaders in April 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. One of the men leading our group was Charles Evers, head of the Mississippi NAACP. (His brother Medgar had been killed in 1963 by the KKK.) When news of Dr. King’s murder broke, we drove to Memphis—and literally within hours after Dr. King was assassinated, we were at the Lorraine Motel, standing on the balcony where he was shot. We were also shown the place where James Earl Ray stood on a toilet to fire the fatal shot.

I deplore racism and all the cruelty and strife it breeds. I am convinced the only long-term solution to every brand of ethnic animus is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Christ alone are the barriers and dividing walls between people groups broken down, the enmity abolished, and differing cultures and ethnic groups bound together in one new people (Ephesians 2:14–15). The black leaders with whom I ministered during the civil rights movement shared that conviction.

The evangelicals who are saying the most and talking the loudest these days about what’s referred to as “social justice” seem to have a very different perspective. Their rhetoric certainly points a different direction, demanding repentance and reparations from one ethnic group for the sins of its ancestors against another. It’s the language of law, not gospel—and worse, it mirrors the jargon of worldly politics, not the message of Christ. It is a startling irony that believers from different ethnic groups, now one in Christ, have chosen to divide over ethnicity. They have a true spiritual unity in Christ, which they seem to disdain in favor of fleshly factions.

Evangelicalism’s newfound obsession with the notion of “social justice” is a significant shift—and I’m convinced it’s a shift that is moving many people (including some key evangelical leaders) off message, and onto a trajectory that many other movements and denominations have taken before, always with spiritually disastrous results.

Over the years, I’ve fought a number of polemical battles against ideas that threaten the gospel. This recent (and surprisingly sudden) detour in quest of “social justice” is, I believe, the most subtle and dangerous threat so far. In a series of blog posts over the next couple of weeks, I want to explain why. I’ll review some of the battles we have fought to keep the gospel clear, precise, and at the center of our focus. We’ll see why biblical justice has little in common with the secular, liberal idea of “social justice.” And we’ll analyze why the current campaign to move social issues like ethnic conflicts and economic inequality to the top of the evangelical agenda poses such a significant threat to the real message of gospel reconciliation.

I hope you’ll see that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25)—and that’s never more true than when we are talking about the strategy God has chosen for the spread of the gospel and the growth of Christ’s kingdom.

 Source

Who really shared the gospel?

Here is an interesting tweet from a week ago by Jacob Denhollander, about whom I know next to nothing:

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I remember the accolades from fellow Christians when Mr. Pratt was lauded for mentioning God in a public forum, and the MTV awards at that. I also remember wondering if he said more about the gospel than “God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.”, which is what I heard in the short clip I watched. I also wondered if I was just making an observation or being intentionally overly critical. After all, when anyone mentions God in a public forum it’s a good thing.

Next we have Mike Pence at the recent Southern Baptist Convention in which he gave a commendable speech in praise of Southern Baptists and their efforts to advance the gospel through the years. He also shared a bit of personal testimony about something that happened to him 40 years ago, when he heard a particular message:

“God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever might believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” And I walked the sawdust trail that night in 1978 and gave my life to Jesus Christ, and it’s made all the difference.

So back to  the question at hand. Who shared a more clear gospel message, Chris Pratt or Mike Pence? I’ll leave that to you – I am eager to hear your responses.

I do however have a couple of other questions to ask that are also worthy of comment and discussion.

1. Is Mr. Denhollander’s sentiment that Chris Pratt presented a clearer gospel message than Mike Pence a widely held belief among today’s evangelicals, and if so, WHY?

2. Do YOU believe Mr. Denhllander’s comment to be true, and if so, WHY?

3. Do we evangelicals sometimes make TOO much of a celebrity mention God in public than we ought, and if that’s true, is there a bit of idolatry in play here?

Just rambling questions of an old soldier. . . . let’s talk about it anyway.

🙂

The ‘Breakthrough’ Gospel?

Is there a new ‘gospel’ on the street? Listening to much of evangelical Protestantism one might think so. ‘Breakthrough’ teaching/preaching is all the rage these days, and has been for a couple of years now. But is it new? This blogger would give you an emphatic “NO!” answer. It’s been around for decades, first in a relatively small charismatic/Pentecostal sector of Christianity but now all over the evangelical landscape.

This post mentions a specific ministry only because this ministry promotes the ‘breakthrough’ gospel. There are many more ministries teaching the same thing as this one does. I won’t give you a list of the others – it’s too long and would distract from the purpose of this post – to inform the reader and promote further individual Berean style research.

Read on. . . .

While on Facebook the other day I received a “Suggested Post” from Nina Keegan Ministries that said this:

“IT’S TIME FOR A MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH! GOD IS AT WORK.. WATCH NOW AND LEARN MORE… GOD BLESS YOU!”

As I am prone to do, especially with the veritable plethora of ‘Christian’ posts promoting what can rightly be called the “Breakthrough Gospel”, I went all ‘Columbo’ (think short cigar smoking detective in a rumpled trench coat), and asked a question even before listening to the podcast:

Me:

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Nina Keegan Ministries reply:

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I found the above response to my question very interesting because neither passage teaches receiving personal ‘breakthroughs’, however I suppose you can superimpose that thought over the text (this is called eisegesis), and itching ears will perk up and applauding comments abound.

In our 1 John passage, John is stating the purpose of his writing ‘that we may know we have eternal life (the believer’s assurance). He then counsels his readers that if they pray ‘according to God’s will’ God will respond.

Proverbs 16 is a collection of moral, ethical and spiritual precepts, one of which tells us simply that when we are committed to the Lord and doing his will, our thoughts and plans will find success.

There is nothing in either passage that promises personal breakthroughs in every area of our lives. We are promised a measure of God given success in our endeavors when we are committed to his will and ask according to his will, not our desires.

Then I listened to the podcast and it was even more interesting. The above passages were not even mentioned in the podcast! Here’s the gist of the podcast’s teaching:

That ‘Jesus IS the ‘breakthrough’ was made clear from the beginning of the podcast, in those exact words. I have no issue with that statement, but we need to know what ‘breakthrough’ means. The ladies are quick to tell us:

 According to the Nina and Michelle, it can mean addictions, finances, jobs, relationships – whatever you can think of. Your experiences are ‘proof’? They provided lots of experiences.

If we need a breakthrough, we need only pray the promise then declare and decree it into existence. According to the ladies, that’s what God wants us to do. On our way to receiving the breakthrough concerning the aforementioned addictions, finances, jobs, relationships, etc., we also need to break free from any bad thoughts, or a ‘slave mentality’ like the Israelites had as a result of their bondage in Egypt. It’s only when you are free from a slave mentality that you can declare and decree in faith.

Passages taken out of context:

Php 4:13  I can do all things through him who strengthens me (achieve a desired breakthrough).

That was Paul speaking to the Christians at Philippi, reminding them he had learned to be content in any situation, during hard times and good times. It’s NOT about obtaining personal breakthroughs, as implied by these ladies.

The ladies also trotted out Proverbs 29:18 “Without a vision, the people perish.” quoting the first half a KJV passage that actually says : “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

The ESV, and other translations render it more understandable to our non-KJV minds:

Pro 29:18  Where there is no ‘prophetic’ vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

In other words, where God’s prophets aren’t among God’s people to remind them of the law, they tend to sin more. This passage has absolutely NOTHING to do with needing to have a vision of the ‘breakthroughs’ we desire in order to see them realized!

And of course, according to the ladies, God will supply everything you need for your breakthrough. But you need to also ask yourself “What has God said you are going to do and you haven’t done it?” This seemed to be about small steps God is telling you to climb on the way to your big breakthrough.

That brings us to their real reason we should all be experiencing breakthroughs in our lives………..wait for it………. Are you ready?

Jesus went to the Cross, and gave up his life for OUR breakthroughs! That’s right! It’s right there in Isaiah 53, and here’s the ‘irrefutable’ logic:

1. Jesus received 39 stripes/lashes.

2. There are 39 major diseases/disease categories.

3. Physical healing is therefore available for every believer as part of the atonement.

4. Since we need all sorts of healing (from addictions, poor finances, bad jobs, bad relationships, etc.), our breakthroughs were ALSO part of the atonement!

First of all, the 39 stripes = 39 diseases theory has no basis in scripture, although it’s been trotted out for years to prove we could have perpetual divine health in this life. In fact, we are not told in scripture how many lashes Jesus received. We can surmise that it was either 39 or 40 because 40 was the maximum allowed by Roman law. Sometimes the counting stopped at 39 to make sure the law was not broken due to miscounting.

Furthermore, that there are 39 major diseases/disease categories has no basis in science other than a single mention in an AMA journal by one doctor. I was able (with the help of Goggle) to find estimates of 10, 17, and 22 disease categories, with 22 being preeminent in medical journals.

So let’s take a look at the passage in Isaiah that tells us “by his stripes we are healed”:

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5 (NKJV)

The obvious referent for the ‘stripes’ mentioned at the end of the passage is ‘our transgressions’, or sins. Physical healing and personal breakthroughs are NOT reasons Christ died.

As the Apostle Paul stated:

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…” (emphasis mine).

Physical healing from all diseases in this life was never part of the atonement, and neither are personal ‘breakthroughs’. The teaching that they are is pure poppycock, balderdash, rubbish (take your pick).

The ladies concluded their podcast by declaring and decreeing breakthroughs for everyone watching, no matter what the need. The comments section was full of ‘Amens’ from those whose itching ears were satisfactorily scratched. If they decreed it for you and it doesn’t happen it’s your fault h for not having a vision, not taking the little steps God is telling you to take, or for not declaring decreeing it yourself, with sufficient faith of course. This is classic Word of Faith heresy.

So what? What’s wrong with people feeling good about the possibility of ‘breaking through’ – of having hope for the future? Nothing at all, unless of course it’s false hope.

I wonder how many have believed for their breakthroughs, decreeing and declaring until they were blue in the face, never saw them realized and gave up on their faith. How many have thought their personal desires were also God’s specific desire their lives? No doubt, some are, and some are legitimate needs. Some are nothing more than wants.

Are we to ignore the examples in scripture that seem to tell us we don’t always get what we want? Paul and his thorn in the flesh comes to mind. He prayed three times to have it removed but God taught him that His grace is sufficient.

At the end of the day, Christ’s death was all about our sin. If we experience blessing in our lives as a result of believing in Christ for forgiveness of our sin, it’s an outcome. The ‘breakthrough’ gospel is NO gospel at all. The same Apostle that clearly defined the gospel also had something rather harsh concerning those who would preach a different gospel:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8 (Paul)

Perhaps someone you know has been enticed by this breakthrough gospel that has flooded evangelicalism. Perhaps you have at one time, maybe under another name. I know I did. Let this post be an encouragement to you and if it is, pass it on.

I rest my case. . . .

Food for Thought About the Gospel

“Sinners must hear the gospel, they must believe the gospel, and they must embrace the gospel.” – John Macarthur

“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” – Phil 1:15 – 18, The Apostle Paul

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What is the relationship between apologetics and evangelism?

Easy, you say. Evangelism is sharing a specific message that Christ died for the sins of men, while Christian apologetics is defending the Christian faith against all comers. 9Marks offers an excellent summary of this relationship.

  • Difference 1: Evangelism is telling others the gospel. Apologetics is defending the truth of the Christian faith.
  • Difference 2: Apologetics addresses everything from the existence of God to the reliability of the Old and New Testaments. In contrast, evangelism is telling one specific message: the good news about what Jesus Christ has done in order to save sinners.
  • Difference 3: Another difference between apologetics and evangelism is that apologetics usually requires some level of intellectual sophistication. Apologetics can involve logical arguments, historical debates, philosophical discussions, interpretive disputes, and more. On the other hand, evangelism is simply telling others the message about Jesus Christ. That’s something every Christian—even a brand new Christian—should be able to do.
  • The link: However, the two can be closely linked. Apologetic conversations can lead to good opportunities to share the gospel. And evangelistic conversations will often lead to apologetics when non-Christians respond with questions or criticisms that require a reasoned response.
  • Bottom line: So, while Christians shouldn’t let apologetics distract us from sharing the gospel, we should also work to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).

Although I might be ‘preaching to the choir’ with this post, I thought a good reminder might be in order, based on recent experiences with a Facebook group I came across a few weeks ago. The purpose of group is stated as sharing the gospel and defending the faith (evangelism & apologetics) – both noble endeavors. Group members are encouraged to share their witnessing encounters with other faiths and encouraged to provide their favorite questions for challenging specific faiths/religions, i.e., Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.

My main contribution to the group was that I share Christ with lost sinners in pretty much the same manner, irrespective of the religious persuasion. Begin or enter an ongoing conversation about spiritual matters, steer the discussion to the issue we ALL have with sin, and offer God’s solution through Christ. And of course I need be ready to engage in apologetics to defend the Christian faith. The gospel message is paramount, with apologetics running a close 2nd. That’s how I became unpopular with this particular group, whose zeal is to be commended! It seems that (I was told by the group ‘owner’) we need to refute the lies of other faiths to be able to share Christ

This morning I listened to a 45 minute encounter between a member of this group and a couple of JWs at a college campus (it sounded like one), in which the table manned by the JWs were offering free literature, and engaged the JWs in conversation. He went straight to the task of refuting JW teachings and was met by some excellent rebuttal from the JW viewpoint. In fact, if I were asked to ‘judge’ the quasi debate as an outsider, I would have to say that the JWs won. They were more articulate quicker with their Bible verses than our evangelistic brother was.

The whole thing was difficult to listen to due to it being a noisy campus venue, but I stuck it out for one main reason. I was waiting to hear something concerning the way manner in which a person finds salvation as a JW, compared to Christianity. In case you are wondering, the JW teaching is that salvation is based on faith plus works, while Christianity teaches salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone. That is what I was waiting for, but it never surfaced. There was an amiable parting of the ways at the end of the encounter.

False religions all have an element of works for salvation, so going to the issue of how anyone is saved is a good principle to follow. My own most memorable experience with JWs was when a couple came to the door of our apartment when we were stationed in Italy. I let them tell me about ‘The Kingdom’ and how to enter it according to their church and when the time seemed right I gently interrupted and told them I wanted to see if I understood them correctly.

“According to what you are telling me, I can make it to the Kingdom if I believe the right things and do the right things?” They were thrilled! Then I asked them to read, out loud, Ephesians 2:8-9, from their Bible ( I knew those passages had not been corrupted because I had a copy of their ‘New World Translation.):

8By this undeserved kindness (grace) you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift. 9 No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds for boasting.”

That was it. They had absolutely no response. They had controlled the conversation, I asked them if I was understanding them, and then asked them to read to me from their Bible. The very passages they read out loud to me contradicted what they had been telling me. Hopefully, their silence and calm departure from my door meant that the Holy Spirit had begin to go to work.

So there you have two different encounters between Christians and Jehovah Witnesses. I hope they have been instructive. Let us hit the streets, travel the highways and by ways, share our faith with whomever God gives us the opportunity! And let us always endeavor to keep the simple the main topic of conversation!

Have a blessed day!

The Goal of Our Evangelism

We’ve all seen them – the reports of such and such evangelistic event having resulted in X number of decisions for Christ or professions of faith. In recent days, another mark of success has become the number of ‘spontaneous’ Baptisms that occurred immediately after the preaching, if not the very next Sunday or first opportunity to engage in a little dunking.

And while there is nothing wrong about those reports themselves (if they accurately report decisions, professions, and dunkings), they are most often used to measure success in terms of actual salvations that occurred at the event to which they refer, from large stadium and megachurch events to small church events and everything in between. Events are successful based on numbers of ‘decisions’ and/or ‘professions’. The same sorts of statistics appear in short introductions to Christian authors and ads for their books.

The goal of personal evangelism isn’t to obtain a decision for Christ or hear a profession of faith. The goal of personal evangelism is for God to save His people from their sins. Therefore the goal of the ‘evangelist’ should be to faithfully present the gospel message that Christ died for our sins. (NOT our self-fulfillment, as do many these days).

And while you are praying for opportunities to share the gospel, don’t just pray for an open door, or favorable circumstances to share the message. Pray that God would open hearts to receive it – the Lydia prayer. If God opens a heart to hear the gospel, no power in Hell can stop it from being heard and received with a glad heart. Whatever resistance to the gospel might be seen initially seen, the mighty hand of God will overcome it and souls WILL be saved.

Blessings to you as you continue to share Christ with those around you who know him not!