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John MacArthur on Bible Teaching
In our own day there are many faithful Reformed Bible teachers carrying on in the legacy of Charles Spurgeon. Among the best known is John MacArthur, a fifth-generation pastor. Like Spurgeon, he has committed his life to Bible preaching and teaching. This commitment extends, as Spurgeon’s did, to leading a school to train people for gospel ministry (The Master's College and The Master’s Seminary, which we have benefited from directly since one of our Mars Hill elders is a graduate), publishing many Bible commentaries, and launching publications. He has also published a long list of books. Among those I found most helpful to me as a newer Christian is The Gospel According to Jesus, which was a seminal book in what has been called the “Lordship Salvation Controversy.” When planting Mars Hill Church, I also gleaned a lot from his books Shepherdology and The Master’s Plan for the Church
Also admirable are his bold stands for the gospel, including appearances on major networks such as CNN, and actually being sued as a church for practicing church discipline because the Bible commands it. MacArthur has always been a strong proponent of expositional Bible teaching through books of the Bible. That idea has definitely caught on among New Calvinists, and it is now the predominant form of preaching in that tribe. If memory serves me correctly, I was first introduced to MacArthur’s teaching ministry when I heard him on the radio as a new Christian. I went on to listen to literally hundreds of his sermons on cassette (yes, I am old enough to remember cassettes). His radio program recently includes what I believe is a new twist—answering questions from the people in his church. In my opinion, this is some of his richest teaching because he blends his knowledge of the Bible with affection for his people and the occasional insight from his own life and childhood, all of which is quite compelling.
A Bible Preacher and a Calvinist
For many years, MacArthur was not noted as a Calvinist, but rather better known for being a Bible preacher and teacher. In a conversation I had with our mutual friend, John Piper, he said that about fifteen years ago MacArthur started putting Puritan sermons in the back of his books. This prompted Piper to invite MacArthur to the Desiring God Pastors Conference and ask him publicly if he is a five-point Calvinist, to which MacArthur replied, “Yes.” Since that time we have also seen MacArthur mellow out a bit on the cessationist position that some spiritual gifts in the Bible are not for today, which he argued for in Charismatic Chaos. He has gone so far as to welcome C. J. Mahaney—who is both a devoted Calvinist and charismatic—to preach at Grace Community Church and other events. For these and many more reasons, I want to honor MacArthur in our tributes this week.