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Category Archives: John MacArthur

Widely known for his thorough, candid approach to teaching God’s Word, John MacArthur is a popular author and conference speaker and has served as pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since 1969. John and his wife, Patricia, have four grown children and fourteen grandchildren.
John’s pulpit ministry has been extended around the globe through his media ministry, Grace to You, and its satellite offices in seven countries. In addition to producing daily radio programs for nearly 2,000 English and Spanish radio outlets worldwide, Grace to You distributes books, software, audiotapes, and CDs by John MacArthur.
John is president of The Master’s College and Seminary and has written hundreds of books and study guides, each one biblical and practical. Best-selling titles include The Gospel According to Jesus, Truth War, The Murder of Jesus, Twelve Ordinary Men, Twelve Extraordinary Women, and The MacArthur Study Bible, a 1998 ECPA Gold Medallion recipient.

John MacArthur on Biblical Eldership

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A GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH DISTINCTIVE BIBLICALLY, the focal point of all church leadership is the elder. An elder is one of a plurality of biblically qualified men who jointly shepherd and oversee a local body of believers. The word translated “elder” is used nearly twenty times in Acts and the epistles in reference to this unique group of leaders who have responsibility for overseeing the people of God.

 

The Office of Elder

As numerous passages in the New Testament indicate, the words “elder” (presbuteros), “overseer” (episkopos), and “pastor” (poim¯en) all refer to the same office. In other words, overseers and pastors are not distinct from elders; the terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people. The qualifications for an overseer (episkopos) in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and those for an elder (presbuteros) in Titus 1:6-9 are unmistakably parallel. In fact, in Titus 1, Paul uses both terms to refer to the same man (presbuteros in v. 5 and episkopos in v. 7). All three terms are used interchangeably in Acts 20. In verse 17, Paul assembles all the elders (presbuteros) of the church of Ephesus to give them his farewell message. In verse 28 he says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos], to shepherd [poimaino¯] the church of God.” First Peter 5:1-2 brings all three terms together as well. Peter writes, “Therefore, I exhort the elders [presbuteros] among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd [poimaino¯] the flock of God among you, exercising oversight [episkope¯o] not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.” The different terms, then, indicate various features of ministry, not varying levels of authority or separate offices, as some churches espouse.

A Plurality of Elders

The consistent pattern throughout the New Testament is that each local body of believers is shepherded by a plurality of God-ordained elders. Simply stated, this is the only pattern for church leadership given in the New Testament. Nowhere in Scripture does one find a local assembly ruled by majority opinion or by a single pastor.

The Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete and instructed him to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). James instructed his readers to “call for the elders of the church” to pray for those who are sick (James 5:14). When Paul and Barnabas were in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, they “appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, the apostle referred to “the elders who rule well” at the church at Ephesus (1 Tim. 5:17; see also Acts 20:17, where Paul addresses “the elders of the church” at Ephesus). The book of Acts indicates that there were “elders” at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:3015:2421:18).

Again and again, reference is made to a plurality of elders in each of the various churches. In fact, every place in the New Testament where the term presbuteros (“elder”) is used it is plural, except where the apostle John uses it of himself in 2 and 3 John and where Peter uses it of himself in 1 Peter 5:1. Nowhere in the New Testament is there a reference to a one-pastor congregation. It may be that each elder in the city had an individual group in which he had specific oversight. But the church was seen as one church, and decisions were made by a collective process and in reference to the whole, not the individual parts.

…the biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders, and only by following this biblical pattern will the church maximize its fruitfulness to the glory of God.

In other passages, reference is made to a plurality of elders even though the word presbuteros itself is not used. In the opening greeting of his epistle to the Philippians, Paul refers to the “overseers [plural of episkopos] and deacons” at the church of Philippi (Phil. 1:2). In Acts 20:28, Paul warned the elders of the church of Ephesus, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which God has made you overseers [plural of episkopos]” (Acts 20:28). The writer of Hebrews called his readers to obey and submit to the “leaders” who kept watch over their souls (Heb. 13:17). Paul exhorted his Thessalonian readers to “appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and

The Distinctives series articulates key bibilical and theological convictions of Grace Community Church. have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (1 Thess. 5:12)—a clear reference to the overseers in the Thessalonian assembly.

Much can be said for the benefits of leadership made up of a plurality of godly men. Their combined counsel and wisdom helps assure that decisions are not self-willed or self-serving to a single individual (cf. Prov. 11:14). If there is division among the elders in making decisions, all the elders should study, pray, and seek the will of God together until consensus is achieved. In this way, the unity and harmony that the Lord desires for the church will begin with those individuals he has appointed to shepherd His flock.

The Qualifications of Elders

The character and effectiveness of any church is directly related to the quality of its leadership. That’s why Scripture stresses the importance of qualified church leadership and delineates specific standards for evaluating those who would serve in that sacred position.

The qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8. According to these passages, an elder must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money, not fond of sordid gain, a good manager of his household, one who has his children under control with dignity, not a new convert, one who has a good reputation outside the church, self-controlled, sensible, able to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict, above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, loving what is good, just, and devout. (For an explanation of these qualifications, see pages 215-33 of The Master’s Plan for the Church by John MacArthur.)

The single, overarching qualification of which the rest are supportive is that he is to be “above reproach.” That is, he must be a leader who cannot be accused of anything sinful because he has a sustained reputation for blamelessness. An elder is to be above reproach in his marital life, his social life, his business life, and his spiritual life. In this way, he is to be a model of godliness so he can legitimately call the congregation to follow his example (Phil. 3:17). All the other qualifications, except perhaps teaching and management skills, only amplify that idea.

In addition, the office of elder is limited to men. First Timothy 2:11-12 says, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” In the church, women are to be under the authority of the elders, excluded from teaching men or holding positions of authority over them.

The Functions of Elders

As the apostolic era came to a close, the office of elder emerged as the highest level of local church leadership. Thus, it carried a great amount of responsibility. There was no higher court of appeal and no greater resource to know the mind and heart of God with regard to issues in the church.

The primary responsibility of an elder is to serve as a manager and caretaker of the church (1 Tim. 3:5). That involves a number of specific duties. As spiritual overseers of the flock, elders are to determine church policy (Acts 15:22); oversee the church (Acts 20:28); ordain others (1 Tim. 4:14); rule, teach, and preach (1 Tim. 5:17; cf. 1 Thess. 5:121 Tim. 3:2); exhort and refute (Titus 1:9); and act as shepherds, setting an example for all (1 Pet. 5:1-3). Those responsibilities put elders at the core of the New Testament church’s work.

Because of its heritage of democratic values and its long history of congregational church government, modern American evangelicalism often views the concept of elder rule with suspicion. The clear teaching of Scripture, however, demonstrates that the biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders, and only by following this biblical pattern will the church maximize its fruitfulness to the glory of God.

SOURCE: Adapted from John MacArthur, The Master’s Plan for the Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991). For a fuller treatment of biblical eldership, consult this resource.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: John MacArthur’s “The Truth About the Lordship of Christ”

Jesus is Lord of All, Or He’s Not Lord At All

The Lordship of Christ MacArthur

Book Review By David P. Craig

One of the most troubling aspects of Christianity at the end of the twentieth century on into the twenty-first century has been the bifurcation of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. There has been a tendency among modern Christians to view God as some sort of “Cosmic Genie” who grants us all our wishes – if we have enough faith. However, the Bible presents a different picture of God. He is a God who cannot be manipulated or controlled by Satan – let alone puny little human beings. God’s soverein nature and character needs to be heeded if we are to take the Scriptures and the Christian life seriously.

In this short book (five chapters) John MacArthur makes a clear case for God’s sovereignty and clearly articulates what that means for our salvation and sanctification. In this book you will get a clear picture of the holiness of God and how His greatness. There is no juxtaposition between His holiness and justice. Because God demands and requires righteousness from His subjects he shows the necessity of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection on our behalf as the sole reason for our salvation.

Personal salvation demands repentance and faith in a sovereign and Holy God who requires nothing less than our submission to His Lordship in all of life. MacArthur clearly articulates who God is, who we are, and how salvation and sanctification manifest themselves biblically in our lives. I recommend this book especially for new Christians who haven’t read a lot of theology or have the time to commit to lengthier treatments on God’s sovereignty, His salvation, or how we can live the Christian life (sanctification).

*This book was given to me free of charge by the Booksneeze Program and I was not required to write a positive review.

 

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What Is Dispensationalism and What Does It Have to Do with Lordship Salvation?

The Gospel According to the Apostles MacArthur

By John MacArthur

One of the most confusing elements of the entire lordship controversy involves dispensationalism. Some have supposed that my attack on no-lordship theology is an all-out assault against dispensationalism. That is not the case. It may surprise some readers to know that the issue of dispensationalism is one area where Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges, and I share some common ground. We are all dispensationalists.

Many people are understandably confused by the term dispensationalism. I’ve met seminary graduates and many in Christian leadership who haven’t the slightest idea how to define dispensationalism. How does it differ from covenant theology? What does it have to do with lordship salvation? Perhaps we can answer those questions simply and without a lot of theological jargon.

Dispensationalism is a system of biblical interpretation that sees a distinction between God’s program for Israel and His dealings with the church. It’s really as simple as that.

A dispensation is the plan of God by which He administers His rule within a given era in His eternal program. Dispensations are not periods of time, but different administrations in the eternal outworking of God’s purpose. It is especially crucial to note that the way of salvation—by grace through faith—is the same in every dispensation. God’s redemptive plan remains unchanged, but the way He administers it will vary from one dispensation to another. Dispensationalists note that Israel was the focus of God’s redemptive plan in one dispensation. The church, consisting of redeemed people including Jews and Gentiles, is the focus in another. All dispensationalists believe at least one dispensation is still future—during the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, known as the millennium, in which Israel will once again play a pivotal role.

Dispensationalism teaches that all God’s remaining covenant promises to Israel will be literally fulfilled—including the promises of earthly blessings and an earthly messianic kingdom. God promised Israel, for example, that they would possess the promised land forever ( Gen. 13:14–17 ; Exod. 32:13 ). Scripture declares that Messiah will rule over the kingdoms of the earth from Jerusalem ( Zech. 14:9–11 ). Old Testament prophecy says that all Israel will one day be restored to the promised land ( Amos 9:14–15); the temple will be rebuilt ( Ezek. 37:26–28 ); and the people of Israel will be redeemed ( Jer. 23:6 ; Rom. 11:26–27). Dispensationalists believe all those promised blessings will come to pass as literally as did the promised curses.

Covenant theology, on the other hand, usually views such prophecies as already fulfilled allegorically or symbolically. Covenant theologians believe that the church, not literal Israel, is the recipient of the covenant promises. They believe the church has superseded Israel in God’s eternal program. God’s promises to Israel are therefore fulfilled in spiritual blessings realized by Christians. Since their system does not allow for literal fulfillment of promised blessings to the Jewish nation, covenant theologians allegorize or spiritualize those prophetic passages of God’s Word.

I am a dispensationalist because dispensationalism generally understands and applies Scripture—particularly prophetic Scripture—in a way that is more consistent with the normal, literal approach I believe is God’s design for interpreting Scripture. For example, dispensationalists can take at face value Zechariah 12–14 , Romans 11:25–29 , and Revelation 20:1–6. The covenant theologian, on the other hand, cannot.

So I am convinced that the dispensationalist distinction between the church and Israel is an accurate understanding of God’s eternal plan as revealed in Scripture. I have not abandoned dispensationalism, nor do I intend to.

Note, by the way, that Dr. Ryrie’s description of dispensationalism and his reasons for embracing the system are very similar to what I have written here. Some years ago he wrote, “The essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the church. This grows out of the dispensationalist’s consistent employment of normal or plain interpretation” (Charles Ryrie. Dispensationalism Today. Chicago: Moody Press, 1965, 47). On these matters, it seems, Dr. Ryrie and I are in fundamental agreement. It is in the practical outworking of our dispensationalism that we differ. Dr. Ryrie’s system turns out to be somewhat more complex than his own definition might suggest.

The lordship debate has had a devastating effect on dispensationalism. Because no-lordship theology is so closely associated with dispensationalism, many have imagined a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. In The Gospel According to Jesus, I made the point that some early dispensationalists had laid the foundation for no-lordship teaching. I disagreed with dispensational extremists who relegate whole sections of Scripture—including the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer—to a yet-future kingdom era. I was critical of the way some dispensationalists have handled the preaching and teaching of Jesus in a way that erases the evangelistic intent from some of His most important invitations. I decried the methodology of dispensationalists who want to isolate salvation from repentance, justification from sanctification, faith from works, and Christ’s lordship from His role as Savior, in a way that breaks asunder what God has joined together.

Several outspoken anti-dispensationalists hailed the book as a major blow to dispensationalism. They wanted to declare the system dead and hold a celebratory funeral.

Frankly, some mongrel species of dispensationalism ought to die, and I will be happy to join the cortege. But it is wrong to write off dispensationalism as altogether invalid. My purpose is not to attack the roots of dispensationalism, but rather to plead for a purer, more biblical application of the literal, historical, grammatical principle of interpretation. The hermeneutic method that underlies dispensationalism is fundamentally sound and must not be abandoned. That is not the point of the lordship debate.

Who are dispensationalists? Virtually all dispensationalists are theologically conservative evangelicals. Our view of Scripture is typically very high; our method of interpretation is consistently literal; and our zeal for spiritual things is inflamed by our conviction that we are living in the last days.

How does dispensationalism influence our overall theological perspective? Obviously, the central issue in any dispensationalist system is eschatology, or the study of prophecy. All dispensationalists are premillennialists. That is, they believe in a future earthly thousand-year reign of Christ. That’s what a literal approach to prophecy mandates (cf. Rev. 20:1–10 ). Dispensationalists may disagree on the timing of the rapture, the number of dispensations, or other details, but their position on the earthly millennial kingdom is settled by their mode of biblical interpretation.

Dispensationalism also carries implications for ecclesiology, or the doctrine of the church, because of the differentiation between the church and Israel. Many dispensationalists, myself included, agree that there is some continuity between the Old and New Testament people of God in that we share a common salvation purchased by Jesus Christ and appropriated by grace through faith. But dispensationalists do not accept covenant theology’s teaching that the church is spiritual Israel. Covenant theology sees continuity between Jewish ritual and the New Testament sacraments, for example. In their system, baptism and circumcision have similar significance. In fact, many covenant theologians use the analogy of circumcision to argue for infant baptism. Dispensationalists, on the other hand, tend to view baptism as a sacrament for believers only, distinct from the Jewish rite.

So dispensationalism shapes one’s eschatology and ecclesiology. That is the extent of it. Pure dispensationalism has no ramifications for the doctrines of God, man, sin, or sanctification. More significantly, true dispensationalism makes no relevant contribution to soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation. In other words, nothing in a legitimate dispensational approach to Scripture mandates that we define the gospel in any unique or different way. In fact, if the same zealous concern for literal hermeneutics that yields a distinction between Israel and the church were followed consistently in the salvation issue, there would be no such thing as no-lordship soteriology.

What Is the Connection Between Dispensationalism and No-lordship Doctrine?

Yet the fact remains that virtually all the champions of no-lordship doctrine are dispensationalists. No covenant theologian defends the no-lordship gospel. Why?

Understand, first of all, that dispensationalism has not always been well represented by its most enthusiastic advocates. As I have noted, the uniqueness of dispensationalism is that we see a distinction in Scripture between Israel and the church. That singular perspective, common to all dispensationalists, sets us apart from nondispensationalists. It is, by the way, the only element of traditional dispensationalist teaching that is yielded as a result of literal interpretation of biblical texts. It also is the only tenet virtually all dispensationalists hold in common. That is why I have singled it out as the characteristic that defines dispensationalism. When I speak of “pure” dispensationalism, I’m referring to this one common denominator—the Israel-church distinction.

Admittedly, however, most dispensationalists carry far more baggage in their systems than that one feature. Early dispensationalists often packaged their doctrine in complex and esoteric systems illustrated by intricate diagrams. They loaded their repertoire with extraneous ideas and novel teachings, some of which endure today in various strains of dispensationalism. Dispensationalism’s earliest influential spokesmen included J. N. Darby, founder of the Plymouth Brethren and considered by many the father of modern dispensationalism; Cyrus I. Scofield, author of the Scofield Reference Bible; Clarence Larkin, whose book of dispensational charts has been in print and selling briskly since 1918; and Ethelbert W. Bullinger, an Anglican clergyman who took dispensationalism to an unprecedented extreme usually called ultradispensationalism. Many of these men were self-taught in theology and were professionals in secular occupations. Darby and Scofield, for example, were attorneys, and Larkin was a mechanical draftsman. They were laymen whose teachings gained enormous popularity largely through grass-roots enthusiasm.

Unfortunately some of these early framers of dispensationalism were not as precise or discriminating as they might have been had they had the benefit of a more complete theological education. C. I. Scofield, for example, included a note in his reference Bible that contrasted “legal obedience as the condition of [Old Testament] salvation” with “acceptance … of Christ” as the condition of salvation in the current dispensation (The Scofield Reference Bible. New York, : Oxford, 1917, 11115). Nondispensationalist critics have often attacked dispensationalism for teaching that the conditions for salvation differ from dispensation to dispensation. Here, at least, Scofield left himself open to that criticism, though he seemed to acknowledge in other contexts that the law was never a means of salvation for Old Testament saints (In a note at Exodus 19:3, where Moses was being given the law, Scofield wrote, “The law is not proposed as a means of life, but as a means by which Israel might become ‘a peculiar treasure’ and a ‘kingdom of priests” (Ibid, 93).

The maturing of dispensationalism, then, has mainly been a process of refining, distilling, clarifying, paring down, and cutting away what is extraneous or erroneous. Later dispensationalists, including Donald Grey Barnhouse, Wilbur Smith, and H. A. Ironside, were increasingly wary of the fallacies that peppered much early dispensationalist teaching. Ironside’s written works show his determination to confront error within the movement. He attacked Bullinger’s ultradispensationalism (Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth. New York: Loizeaux, n.d.). He criticized teaching that relegated repentance to some other era (Except Ye Repent. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1937). He condemned the “carnal Christian” theology that helped pave the way for today’s radical no-lordship teaching (Eternal Security of Believers. New York: Loizeaux, 1934). Ironside’s writings are replete with warnings against antinomianism (See, for example, Full Assurance. Chicago: Moody, 1937, 64, 77-87; also Holiness: The False and the True. Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1912, 121-26).

Nondispensationalists have tended to caricature dispensationalism by emphasizing its excesses, and frankly the movement has produced more than its share of abominable teaching. Dispensationalists have often been forced to acknowledge that some of their critics’ points have been valid (Ryrie, for example, conceded in Dispensationalism Today that Scofield had made “unguarded statements” about dispensationalist soteriology and that dispensationalists often give a wrong impression about the role of grace during the Old Testament era (112,117). The biblical distinction between Israel and the church remains unassailed, however, as the essence of pure dispensationalism.

In recent years, dispensationalism has been hit with a blistering onslaught of criticism, mostly focusing on dispensationalism’s love affair with the no-lordship gospel. Evidence of this may be seen in John Gerstner’s Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism (Brentwood, Tenn.: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991. Cf. Richard L. Mayhue, “Who Is Wrong? A Review of John Gerstner’s Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth,” Master’s Seminary Journal 3:1, Spring 1992: 73-94).

Gerstner rightly attacks elements of antinomianism and no-lordship soteriology in some dispensationalists’ teaching. He wrongly assumes, however, that those things are inherent in all dispensationalism. He dismisses the movement altogether because of the shoddy theology he finds in the teaching of several prominent dispensationalists.

It is a gross misunderstanding to assume that antinomianism is at the heart of dispensationalist doctrine. Moreover, it is unfair to portray all dispensationalists as unsophisticated or careless theologians. Many skilled and discerning students of Scripture have embraced dispensationalism and managed to avoid antinomianism, extremism, and other errors. The men who taught me in seminary were all dispensationalists. Yet none of them would have defended no-lordship teaching (Moreover, everyone on The Master’s Seminary faculty is a dispensationalist. None of us holds any of the antinomian views Dr. Gerstner claims are common to all dispensationalists).

Nevertheless, no one can deny that dispensationalism and antinomianism have often been advocated by the same people. All the recent arguments that have been put forth in defense of no-lordship theology are rooted in ideas made popular by dispensationalists. The leading proponents of contemporary no-lordship theology are all dispensationalists. The lordship controversy is merely a bubbling to the surface of tensions that have always existed in and around the dispensationalist community. That point is essential to a clear understanding of the whole controversy.

Thus to appreciate some of the key tenets of the no-lordship gospel, we must comprehend their relationship to the dispensationalist tradition.

Tritely Dividing the Word?

For some dispensationalists, the Israel-church distinction is only a starting point. Their theology is laden with similar contrasts: church and kingdom, believers and disciples, old and new natures, faith and repentance. Obviously, there are many important and legitimate distinctions found in Scripture and sound theology: Old and New Covenants, law and grace, faith and works, justification and sanctification. But dispensationalists often tend to take even the legitimate contrasts too far. Most dispensationalists who have bought into no-lordship doctrine imagine, for example, that law and grace are mutually exclusive opposites, or that faith and works are somehow incompatible.

Some dispensationalists apply 2 Timothy 2:15 (“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth ”— kjv , emphasis added) as if the key word were dividing rather than rightly. The dispensationalist tendency to divide and contrast has led to some rather inventive exegesis. Some dispensationalists teach, for example, that “the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God” speak of different domains (Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible, 1003). The terms are clearly synonymous in Scripture, however, as a comparison of Matthew and Luke shows ( Matt. 5:3 // Luke 6:20 ; Matt. 10:7 // Luke 10:9 ; Matt. 11:11 // Luke 7:28 ; Matt. 11:12 // Luke 16:16 ; Matt. 13:11 // Luke 8:10 ; Matt. 13:31–33 // Luke 13:18–21 ; Matt. 18:4 // Luke 18:17 ; Matt. 19:23 // Luke 18:24 ). Matthew is the only book in the entire Bible that ever uses the expression “kingdom of heaven.” Matthew, writing to a mostly Jewish audience, understood their sensitivity to the use of God’s name. He simply employed the common euphemism heaven. Thus the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of God.

This tendency to set parallel truths against each other is at the heart of no-lordship theology. Jesus’ lordship and His role as Savior are isolated from one another, making it possible to claim Him as Savior while refusing Him as Lord. Justification is severed from sanctification, legitimizing the notion of salvation without transformation. Mere believers are segregated from disciples, making two classes of Christians, carnal and spiritual. Faith is pitted against obedience, nullifying the moral aspect of believing. Grace becomes the antithesis of law, providing the basis for a system that is inherently antinomian.

The grace-law dichotomy is worth a closer look. Many early dispensationalist systems were unclear on the role of grace in the Mosaic economy and the place of law in the current dispensation. As I noted, Scofield left the unfortunate impression that Old Testament saints were saved by keeping the law. Scofield’s best-known student was Lewis Sperry Chafer, co-founder of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chafer, a prolific author, wrote dispensationalism’s first unabridged systematic theology. Chafer’s system became the standard for several generations of dispensationalists trained at Dallas. Yet Chafer repeated Scofield’s error. In his summary on justification, he wrote,

According to the Old Testament men were just because they were true and faithful in keeping the Mosaic Law. Micah defines such a life after this manner: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” ( 6:8 ). Men were therefore just because of their own works for God, whereas New Testament justification is God’s work for man in answer to faith ( Rom. 5:1 – See Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols., Dallas: Seminary Press, 1948, 7:219 [emphasis added] ).

Though Chafer elsewhere denied that he taught multiple ways of salvation, it is clear that he fixed a great gulf between grace and law. He believed the Old Testament law imposed “an obligation to gain merit” with God (Ibid, 7:179). On the other hand, Chafer believed grace delivers the child of God “from every aspect of the law—as a rule of life, as an obligation to make himself acceptable to God, and as a dependence on impotent flesh” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Grace, Wheaton, Ill.: Van Kampen, 1922, 344). “Grace teachings are not laws; they are suggestions. They are not demands; they are beseechings, ” he wrote (Ibid).

In Chafer’s system, God seems to fluctuate between dispensations of law and dispensations of grace. Grace was the rule of life from Adam to Moses. “Pure law” took over when a new dispensation began at Sinai. In the current dispensation, “pure grace” is the rule. The millennial kingdom will be another dispensation of “pure law.” Chafer evidently believed grace and law could not coexist side by side, and so he seemed to eliminate one or the other from every dispensation. He wrote,

Both the age before the cross and the age following the return of Christ represent the exercise of pure law; while the period between the two ages represents the exercise of pure grace. It is imperative, therefore, that there shall be no careless co-mingling of these great age-characterizing elements, else the preservation of the most important distinctions in the various relationships between God and man are lost, and the recognition of the true force of the death of Christ and His coming again is obscured (Ibid, 124, emphasis added).

No one denies that Scripture clearly contrasts law and grace. John 1:17 says, “The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” Romans 6:4 says, “You are not under law, but under grace.” So the distinction between law and grace is obvious in Scripture.

But grace and law operate in every dispensation. Grace is and always has been the only means of eternal salvation. The whole point of Romans 4 is that Abraham, David, and all other Old Testament saints were justified by grace through faith, not because they kept the law (Galatians 3 also makes clear that it was never God’s intent that rightoeusness should come through the law or that slavation could be earned through obedience [see especially vv. 7, 11]. The law acted as a tutor, to bring people to Christ (v. 24). Thus even in the Old Testament, people were saved because of faith, not because of obedience to the law [cf. Romans 3:19-20). Did the apostle Paul believe we can nullify the law in this age of pure grace? Paul’s reply to that question was unequivocal: “May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law” ( Rom. 3:31 ).

In fairness, it is important to note that when pressed on the issue, Chafer acknowledged that God’s grace and Christ’s blood were the only ground on which sinners in any age could be saved (Lewis Sperry Chafer, "Dispensational Distinctions Denounced," Bibliotheca Sacra, July 1944: 259). It must be stressed, however, that Chafer, Scofield, and others who have followed their lead have made too much of the differences between Old and New Testament dispensations. Wanting to avoid what he thought was “careless co-mingling” of law and grace, Chafer ended up with an “age of law” that is legalistic and an “age of grace” that smacks of antinomianism.

Chafer himself was a godly man, committed to holiness and high standards of Christian living. In practice, he would never have condoned carnality. But his dispensationalist system—with the hard dichotomies it introduced; its “grace teachings” that were “suggestions,” not demands; and its concept of “pure” grace that stood in opposition to law of any kind—paved the way for a brand of Christianity that has legitimized careless and carnal behavior.

Chafer could rightly be called the father of twentieth-century no-lordship theology. He listed repentance and surrender as two of “the more common features of human responsibility which are too often erroneously added to the one requirement of faith or belief” (Chafer, Systematic Theology, 3:372). He wrote, “to impose a need to surrender the life to God as an added condition of salvation is most unreasonable. God’s call to the unsaved is never said to be unto the Lordship of Christ; it is unto His saving grace” (Ibid, 3:385). “Next to sound doctrine itself, no more important obligation rests on the preacher than that of preaching the Lordship of Christ to Christians exclusively, and the Saviorhood of Christ to those who are unsaved” (Ibid, 3:387).

It is important to note that when Chafer wrote those things, he was arguing against the Oxford Movement, a popular but dangerous heresy that was steering Protestants back into the legalism and works-righteousness of Roman Catholicism. Chafer wrote,

The error of imposing Christ’s Lordship upon the unsaved is disastrous.… A destructive heresy is abroad under the name The Oxford Movement, which specializes in this blasting error, except that the promoters of the Movement omit altogether the idea of believing on Christ for salvation and promote exclusively the obligation to surrender to God. They substitute consecration for conversion, faithfulness for faith, and beauty of daily life for believing unto eternal life. As is easily seen, the plan of this movement is to ignore the need of Christ’s death as the ground of regeneration and forgiveness, and to promote the wretched heresy that it matters nothing what one believes respecting the Saviorhood of Christ if only the daily life is dedicated to God’s service.… The tragedy is that out of such a delusion those who embrace it are likely never to be delivered by a true faith in Christ as Savior. No more complete example could be found today of “the blind leading the blind” than what this Movement presents (Ibid, 3:385-386).

But Chafer prescribed the wrong remedy for the false teachings of the Oxford Movement. To answer a movement that “omit[s] altogether the idea of believing on Christ for salvation and promote[s] exclusively the obligation to surrender to God,” he devised a notion of faith that strips believing of any suggestion of surrender. Although the movement he opposed was indeed an insidious error, Chafer unfortunately laid the foundation for the opposite error, with equally devastating results.

The notion of faith with no repentance and no surrender fit well with Chafer’s concept of an age of “pure grace,” so it was absorbed and expanded by those who developed their theology after his model. It endures today as the basis of all no-lordship teaching.

One other particularly unfortunate outgrowth of Chafer’s rigid partitioning of “the age of law” and “the age of grace” is its effect on Chafer’s view of Scripture. Chafer believed that “The teachings of the law, the teachings of grace, and the teachings of the kingdom are separate and complete systems of divine rule” (Ibid, 4:225). Accordingly, he consigned the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer to the yet-future kingdom age, and concluded that the only Scriptures directly applicable to this age of grace are “portions of the Gospels, portions of the Book of Acts, and the Epistles of the New Testament” (Ibid, 4:206) —the “grace teachings.” How does one know which portions of the Gospels and Acts are “grace teachings” meant for this age? Chafer was vague:

The grace teachings are not, for convenience, isolated in the Sacred Text. The three economies appear in the four Gospels. The grace teachings are rather to be identified by their intrinsic character wherever they are found. Large portions of the New Testament are wholly revelatory of the doctrine of grace. The student, like Timothy, is enjoined to study to be one approved of God in the matter of rightly dividing the Scriptures (Ibid, 4:185).

In other words, there is a lot of law and kingdom teaching mixed into the New Testament. It is not explicitly identified for us, but we can fall into error if we wrongly try to apply it to the present age. Scripture is therefore like a puzzle. We must discern and categorize which portions apply to this age and categorize them accordingly. We can do this only by “their intrinsic character.”

Chafer was certain about one thing: much if not most of Christ’s earthly teaching is not applicable to the Christian in this age:

There is a dangerous and entirely baseless sentiment abroad which assumes that every teaching of Christ must be binding during this age simply because Christ said it. The fact is forgotten that Christ, while living under, keeping, and applying the Law of Moses, also taught the principles of His future kingdom, and, at the end of His ministry and in relation to His cross, He also anticipated the teachings of grace. If this threefold division of the teachings of Christ is not recognized, there can be nothing but confusion of mind and consequent contradiction of truth (Ibid, 4:224).

Dispensationalists who follow Chafer at this point wrongly divide the Word of truth, assigning whole sections of the New Testament to some other dispensation, nullifying the force of major segments of the Gospels and our Lord’s teaching for today (Ultradispensationalists take Chafer’s methodology even a step further. Noting that the apostle Paul called the church a mystery “which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” [Eph. 3:5], they concluded that the church age did not begin until this point in Paul’s ministry. Thus they abrogate all the New Testament except for Paul’s prison epistles).

Which Gospel Should We Preach Today?

Not long ago I received a paper that has been circulated widely by a well-known dispensationalist. He wrote, “Dr. MacArthur was quite correct in titling his book The Gospel According to Jesus. The Gospel that Jesus taught in His pre-Cross humiliation, as Israel’s Messiah and to covenant people under the law was, for all intents and purposes, Lordship salvation.” But, he added, “Lordship salvation is based upon the Gospel according to Jesus, John the Baptist, and the early disciples. This Gospel is directed to the covenant nation of Israel.… The Lord Jesus’ Kingdom Gospel had nothing whatsoever to do with Christians, or the Church.”

The paper quotes heavily from Dr. Chafer’s writings, attempting to demonstrate that Jesus’ gospel “was on the level of the law and the earthly kingdom” and has nothing to do with grace or the current dispensation. The paper’s author notes that I wrote, “On a disturbing number of fronts, the message being proclaimed today is not the gospel according to Jesus.” To that he replies, “How blessedly true! Today we are to minister Paul’s ‘by grace are ye saved through faith’ Gospel … not the Lord Jesus’ Gospel relating to the law-oriented theocratic kingdom.”

He continues, “The convert via the Gospel according to Jesus became a child of the kingdom [not a Christian]. And divine authority will ever be the driving force in his heart—the indwelling Spirit writing the law upon his heart to enable him to surrender to the theocratic kingdom law, under his King.… [But the Christian] is not under authority, he is not seeking to obey—unless he is under law as described in Romans Seven. For him to live is Christ, and that life is not under authority.… Paul was offering an altogether different salvation.”

There, as clearly as can be stated, are all the follies that have ever defiled dispensationalism, synthesized into a single system. Blatant antinomianism: “the Christian … is not under authority, he is not seeking to obey”; multiple ways of salvation: “Paul was offering an altogether different salvation”; a fragmented approach to Scripture: “the Lord Jesus’ Kingdom Gospel had nothing whatsoever to do with Christians, or the Church”; and the tendency to divide and disconnect related ideas: “Today we are to minister Paul’s [Gospel] … not the Lord Jesus’ Gospel.”

Note carefully: This man acknowledges that Jesus’ gospel demanded surrender to His lordship. His point is that Jesus’ message has no relevance to this present age. He believes Christians today ought to proclaim a different gospel than the one Jesus preached. He imagines that Jesus’ invitation to sinners was of a different nature than the message the church is called to proclaim. He believes we should be preaching a different gospel.

None of those ideas is new or unusual within the dispensationalist community. All of them can be traced to one or more of dispensationalism’s early spokesmen. But it is about time all of them were abandoned.

In fairness, we should note that the paper I have quoted expresses some rather extreme views. Most of the principal defenders of no-lordship evangelism would probably not agree with that man’s brand of dispensationalism. But the no-lordship doctrine they defend is the product of precisely that kind of teaching. It is not enough to abandon the rigid forms of extreme dispensationalism; we must abandon the antinomian tendencies as well.

The careful discipline that has marked so much of our post-Reformation theological tradition must be carefully guarded. Defenders of no-lordship salvation lean too heavily on the assumptions of a predetermined theological system. They often draw their support from presupposed dispensationalist distinctions (salvation/discipleship, carnal/spiritual believers, gospel of the kingdom/gospel of grace, faith/repentance). They become entangled in “what-ifs” and illustrations. They tend to fall back on rational, rather than biblical, analysis. When they deal with Scripture, they are too willing to allow their theological system to dictate their understanding of the text. As a result, they regularly adopt novel interpretations of Scripture in order to make it conform to their theology.

A reminder is in order: Our theology must be biblical before it can be systematic. We must start with a proper interpretation of Scripture and build our theology from there, not read into God’s Word unwarranted presuppositions. Scripture is the only appropriate gauge by which we may ultimately measure the correctness of our doctrine.

Dispensationalism is at a crossroads. The lordship controversy represents a signpost where the road forks. One arrow marks the road of biblical orthodoxy. The other arrow, labeled “no-lordship,” points the way to a sub-Christian antinomianism. Dispensationalists who are considering that path would do well to pause and check the map again.

The only reliable map is Scripture, not someone’s dispensational diagrams. Dispensationalism as a movement must arrive at a consensus based solely on God’s Word. We cannot go on preaching different gospels to an already-confused world.

SOURCE: John MacArthur. “Appenidix 2″ in The Gospel According to the Apostles. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005.

 

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STRANGE FIRE = STRANGE CHRISTIANITY

A PLEA FOR EVANGELICALS TO MAJOR ON THE MAJOR’S

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By David P. Craig

The recent John MacArthur “Strange Fire” Conference compelled me to write this article. I don’t want to address Cessationism vs. Non-Cessationism so much, as to wrestle with why major on issues of disagreement in the Body of Christ when we have larger fish to fry? What would happen if evangelicals were known more for our love, cooperation, and unity than for our disagreements? What would happen if we worked more on understanding one another than attacking each other? What would be the results of a Church that is known by our love rather than our animosity towards those who believe differently than we do? What if we were characterized by civility and humility rather than pride and arrogance?

It’s been awhile since I’ve read C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity – but its basic thesis is something I long for in the Evangelical Community around the globe today. Lewis was trying to get at the core or essence of Christianity. To this day perhaps few thinkers or writers have built as many bridges as Lewis in pointing people to Christ for both believers and non-believers.

In my own journey I have been a follower and lover of Jesus Christ since I was six years old. I have three degrees in theology and have been involved in church ministry since I was seventeen: in Brethren Churches, Baptist Churches, Evangelical Free Churches, Reformed Churches, Charismatic Churches, and various non-denominational churches. I have wrestled mightily, agonizingly, emotionally, subjectively, and objectively with issues of theology and methodology. Here are some of the positions I’ve wrestled with over the years:

Theology Proper – Process Theology? Open Theism? Augustinian-Calvinist? Modified Calvinist? Simple-Foreknowledge? Classical Free Will? Middle-Knowledge? Molinism?

Creation – 7 Literal Days? Young Earth? Old Earth? Day-Age View? Theistic Evolution? Framework Hypothesis? Gap Theory? Restoration View?

Bibliology – Infallibilist? Inerrantist?

Anthropology – Monism? Dichotomy? Trichotomy?

Soteriolgy – Pelagianism? Semi-Pelagianism? Augustinianism? Arminianism? Calvinism?

Predestination and Free Will - God Limits His Power? God Limits His Knowledge? God Ordains All Things? God Knows All Things?

Atonement – Christus Victor? Moral Government? Penal Substitution? Healing? Kaleidoscopic?

Justification – Deification? Traditional Reformed? Progressive Reformed? New Perspective?

Eternal Security – Classical Calvinist? Moderate Calvinist? Reformed Arminian? Wesleyan Arminian?

Sanctification – Wesleyan? Reformed? Pentecostal? Keswick? Augustinian-Dispensational?

Christology – Classical View? Kenotic View?

Eschatology – Amillennialism? Postmillennialism? Dispensational Premilillennialsm? Historic Premillennialism?

Hell – Annihilationism? Purgatory? Metaphorical? Conditional? Literal?

Pneumatology – Reformed? Dimensional Charismatic? Wesleyan? Catholic? Pentecostal?

Baptism – Symbol of Christ’s Saving Work? Sacrament of the Covenant? God’s Baptismal Act as Regenerative? Believer’s Baptism as the Biblical Occasion of Salvation?

Lord’s Supper – Christ’s True, Real, and Substantial Presence? Spiritual Presence of Christ? Christ’s Presence as Memorial?

Apologetics – Classical? Evidential? Cumulative Case? Presuppositional? Reformed Epistemology?

Law and Gospel – Non-Theonomic? Theonomic Reformed? God’s Gracious Guidance? Dispensational? Modified Lutheran?

Biblical Theology – Principalizing? Redemptive-Historical? Drama of Redemption? Redemptive-Movement?

Systematic Theology – Charismatic? Pentecostal? Dispensational? Progressive Dispensationalism? Covenant? Epangelical?

Destiny of the Unevangelized - Pluralism? Inclusivism? Particularism?

Women in Ministry – Egalitarian? Complementarian? Plural Ministry? Male Leadership?

Church Government – Episcopalianism? Presbyterianism? Single-Elder Congregationalism? Plural-Elder Congregationalism?

Counseling – Levels of Explanation? Integration? Christian Psychology? Transformational Psychology? Biblical?

Charismatic Gifts – Cessationism? Open but Cautious? Charismatic? Pentecostal? Third Wave?

I actually have 75 books in my library that have 2-5 views held by professing Christians on these and many more issues. What troubles me about the Strange Fire Conference and forthcoming book by John MacArthur is the time and effort into issues that divide rather than unite the body of Christ. This is a time for bridge building among Christians, not blowing them up! With the onslaught of immorality, relativism, and persecution on Christians around the world it’s more important than perhaps any other time in history that Christians unite and major on the majors and learn to minor on the minors.

The reality is no two theologians will agree on everything. I have a Jewish friend that jokingly says, “If you get three Rabbi’s in a room to debate an issue there will be four opinions.” I think the same can be said among any three random Protestant Pastors. The reality is that when we all get to Heaven we will find out we erred in many of our views. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek the truth and give up on finding the truth, but it does mean that we should humbly pursue truth and be patient with those who disagree with us. It’s a good thing the thief on the cross didn’t have to pass a theological exam to get into Heaven. He simply acknowledged that he was a sinner, deserved to be punished for his sin, and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ to save him – and we’ll see that guy in Heaven one day!

We need to rally around “Mere Christianity” and work towards being united with those who love Christ, His Word, and pursue His truth in humble and prayerful discussion together. Let’s not shoot our own wounded, but take care of one another’s wounds. Let’s patiently and lovingly pursue the truth together and agree to disagree on minor issues. Let’s unite on the greatness of God, and the glorious gospel, and the return of His Son. Let’s be more concerned about our own sins than the sins of others. Let’s become grace bound, grace oriented, and err on the side of grace. Let’s exalt Jesus and make Him our King, Lord, Savior, and find our satisfaction, joy, and delight in Him.

There’s only one man who had it all down perfectly and that was Jesus. He is and ever will be the lone perfect theologian who has perfect theology. Until He returns or takes us home we need to learn to submit to Him, point others to Him, seek Him, pursue His truth, and learn to get along by majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors. Let’s pursue the big ideas and big doctrines in the Bible and unite around those. There’s too much against us in the world for us to turn on one another.

As a Dodger fan, when I go to the baseball games I don’t focus on the guys political shirt next to me – I don’t argue with him over our differences. There’s simply one goal – cheer for our team to win. When Puig hits a home run – I high-five the guy next to me and we are full of joy because we are focused on what we agree on. Let’s stop arguing about what we’re wearing, how we’re worshipping, what style of music we’re listening to, and work together to win! We have one great commission; one great Book; one great Savior; one great King; one powerful Spirit; one powerful message; and one calling to bring glory to God; and as Paul said, “This one thing I do!” Let’s get out there and do it…together!

The strangest thing about the Strange Fire conference is that it represents a strange Christianity. Christians according to Jesus Himself are to be known by their love, not by burning each other down, but by building each other up. I am grateful for the fellowship, friendships, and learning that I have received from continuationists and non-continuationists. I know that we can’t all be right about everything, but I do know that we can do more together for the sake of Christ and His glory than we can apart. I also know that the fruit of the Spirit never burns but soothes – He is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. As believers, let’s build each other up, not burn each other, let’s be controlled by the Spirit not grieve the Spirit, and let’s proclaim the glory of Christ by the power of the Spirit for our own good and God’s glory. Ironically the closer we get to the Son – the less likely we are to get burned, or burn others.

 
 

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Are The Sabbath Laws Binding for Christians Today? By John MacArthur

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We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances are ceremonial, not moral, aspects of the law. As such, they are no longer in force, but have passed away along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ. Here are the reasons we hold this view.

1. In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to the Sabbath as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is quite clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is in view. The phrase “a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” refers to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11). If Paul were referring to special ceremonial dates of rest in that passage, why would he have used the word “Sabbath?” He had already mentioned the ceremonial dates when he spoke of festivals and new moons.

2. The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.

3. The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.

4. In our only glimpse of an early church worship service in the New Testament, the church met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).

5. Nowhere in the Old Testament are the Gentile nations commanded to observe the Sabbath or condemned for failing to do so. That is certainly strange if Sabbath observance were meant to be an eternal moral principle.

6. There is no evidence in the Bible of anyone keeping the Sabbath before the time of Moses, nor are there any commands in the Bible to keep the Sabbath before the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai.

7. When the Apostles met at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), they did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers.

8. The apostle Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but breaking the Sabbath was never one of them.

9. In Galatians 4:10-11, Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days (including the Sabbath).

10. In Romans 14:5, Paul forbids those who observe the Sabbath (these were no doubt Jewish believers) to condemn those who do not (Gentile believers).

11. The early church fathers, from Ignatius to Augustine, taught that the Old Testament Sabbath had been abolished and that the first day of the week (Sunday) was the day when Christians should meet for worship (contrary to the claim of many seventh-day sabbatarians who claim that Sunday worship was not instituted until the fourth century).

12. Sunday has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. Rather the Lord’s Day is a time when believers gather to commemorate His resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 4:9-11).

So while we still follow the pattern of designating one day of the week a day for the Lord’s people to gather in worship, we do not refer to this as “the Sabbath.”

About John MacArthur:

John macarthur

John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry.

In 1969, after graduating from Talbot Theological Seminary, John came to Grace Community Church. The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage. Under John’s leadership, Grace Community Church’s two morning worship services fill the 3,500-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members participate every week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, most led by lay leaders and each dedicated to equipping members for ministry on local, national, and international levels.

In 1985, John became president of The Master’s College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College), an accredited, four-year liberal arts Christian college in Santa Clarita, California. In 1986, John founded The Master’s Seminary, a graduate school dedicated to training men for full-time pastoral roles and missionary work.

John is also president and featured teacher with Grace to You. Founded in 1969, Grace to You is the nonprofit organization responsible for developing, producing, and distributing John’s books, audio resources, and the “Grace to You” radio and television programs. “Grace to You” radio airs more than 1,000 times daily throughout the English-speaking world, reaching major population centers on every continent of the world. It also airs nearly 1,000 times daily in Spanish, reaching 23 countries from Europe to Latin America. “Grace to You” television airs weekly on DirecTV in the United States, and is available for free on the Internet worldwide. All of John’s 3,000 sermons, spanning more than four decades of ministry, are available for free on this website.

Since completing his first best-selling book The Gospel According to Jesus in 1988, John has written nearly 400 books and study guides, including Our Sufficiency in ChristAshamed of the GospelThe Murder of JesusA Tale of Two SonsTwelve Ordinary MenThe Truth WarThe Jesus You Can’t IgnoreSlaveOne Perfect Lifeand The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series. John’s titles have been translated into more than two dozen languages. The MacArthur Study Bible, the cornerstone resource of his ministry, is available in English (NKJNAS, and ESV), SpanishRussianGermanFrench,PortugueseItalian, and Arabic with a Chinese translation underway.

John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four adult children: Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda. They also enjoy the enthusiastic company of their fifteen grandchildren.

 
 

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John MacArthur on Being Above Reproach

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A small item I read in the news twenty years ago has stuck in my mind ever since. The Rockdale County High School Bulldogs basketball team of Conyers, Georgia, won their first-ever state championship in March of 1987, rolling over all their opponents. After eighteen years of coaching the team without a championship, coach Cleveland Stroud was ecstatic.

But a few weeks after the championship game, Coach Stroud was doing a routine review of his players’ grades when he discovered that one of his third‑string players had failed some courses, rendering the player academically ineligible for the basketball team.

The struggling student was by no means a factor in the team’s victory. He was an underclassman who suited up for games but hadn’t actually seen any playing time all season. During one of the semifinal matches, however, with the team leading by more than 20 points, Coach Stroud wanted to give every player an opportunity to participate. He had put that player in the game for less than 45 seconds. The ineligible man had scored no points. His participation had in no way affected the outcome of the game. But it was, technically, a violation of state eligibility standards.

Coach Stroud was in a distressing predicament. If he revealed the infraction, his team would be disqualified and stripped of their championship. If he kept quiet, it was highly unlikely anyone outside the school would ever discover the offense.

Yet the coach realized that at the very least, the player involved was aware of the breach of rules. It was also possible that other students on the team knew and thought their coach had purposely ignored the eligibility guidelines. But more important still, Coach Stroud himself knew, and if he deliberately tried to keep the facts from coming to light, his greatest coaching victory would be forever tainted with an ugly secret.

Coach Stroud said from the moment he discovered the violation, he knew what he had to do. He never even pondered any alternatives. His priorities had been set long before this. He realized that his team’s championship was not as important as their character. “People forget the scores of basketball games,” he said. “They don’t ever forget what you’re made of.”

He reported the infraction and forfeited the only state championship his team had ever won.

But both coach and team won a far more important kind of honor than they forfeited. They kept their integrity intact and gained an immeasurable amount of trust and respect. The coach was recognized with numerous teacher-of-the-year, coach-of-the-year, and citizen-of-the-year awards, as well as a formal commendation from the Georgia State Legislature. A few years later he was elected to Conyers City council, where he still serves. He was right. People who would have long ago forgotten about the Bulldogs’ victory in the state championship have never forgotten about this coach’s integrity.

Ethical integrity is one of the indispensable attributes of Christlike character. As vital as it is to be sound in doctrine and faithful in teaching the truth of Scripture, it is by no means less crucial for Christians to be upright in heart and consistent in our obedience to the moral and ethical principles of God’s law.

That is no simple duty, by the way. The moral standard God’s people are supposed to live by far surpasses even the highest principles of normal human ethics.

This was one of the main points of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). The whole sermon was an exposition of the Law’s moral meaning. The heart of Jesus’ message was an extended discourse against the notion that the Law’s moral principles apply only to behavior that others can see.

Jesus taught, for example, that the sixth commandment forbids not only acts of killing, but a murderous heart as well (vv. 21–22). The seventh commandment, which forbids adultery, also implicitly condemns even adulterous desires (vv. 27–28). And the command to love our neighbors applies even to those who are our enemies (vv. 43–44).

How high is the moral and ethical standard set by God’s law? Unimaginably high. Jesus equates it with God’s own perfection: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v. 48).

That sets an unattainable standard, of course. But it is our duty to pursue integrity relentlessly nonetheless. Perfect ethical consistency is a vital aspect of that consummate goal — absolute Christlikeness — toward which every Christian should continually be striving (Phil. 3:12–14). No believer, therefore, should ever knowingly sacrifice his or her ethical integrity.

Here are three powerful reasons why:

First, for the sake of our reputation. Of course, Christians should not be concerned with issues like status, class, caste, or economic prestige. In that sense, we need to be like Christ, who made Himself of no reputation and took on the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7).

There is a true sense, however, in which we do need to be concerned about maintaining a good reputation — and that is especially true in the matter of ethical integrity. One of the basic requirements for an elder is this: “He must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim. 3:7 nasb).

Nothing will ruin a good reputation faster or more permanently than a deliberate breach of ethical integrity. People will forgive practically any other kind of error, negligence, or failure — but ethical bankruptcy carries a stigma that is almost impossible to rise above.

Several years ago, a parishioner told me something no pastor ever wants to hear. He had invited a business acquaintance to our church. The man replied, “You go to that church? I wouldn’t go to that church. The most corrupt lawyer in town goes to that church.”

I didn’t — and still don’t — have any idea whom he was talking about. There are dozens of attorneys in our church. My hope is that it was a case of mistaken identity and that the person he had in mind was not a member of our church. But the following Sunday I recounted the incident from the pulpit and said, “If the lawyer that man described is here this morning, please take a lesson from Zaccheus: repent and do whatever you can to restore your reputation in the community. In the meantime, stop representing yourself as a Christian. You’re destroying the whole church’s reputation.”

According to Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” You don’t have a good name at all unless your ethical integrity is intact and above reproach.

Second, for the sake of our character. More important still is the issue of personal character. There’s a good reason why Jesus’ exposition of the moral law in Matthew 5 focused so much on uprightness of heart as opposed to external behavior. That’s because the real barometer of who we are is reflected in what we do when no one else is looking, how we think in the privacy of our own thoughts, and how we respond to the promptings of our own consciences. Those things are the true measure of your moral and ethical fiber.

As important as it is to keep a good reputation in the community, it is a thousand times more important to safeguard our own personal character. That is why Jesus dealt with the issues of morality and ethics beginning with the innermost thoughts of our hearts. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19).

It’s probably not overstating the case at all to say that the single most important battlefield in the struggle for integrity is your own mind. That’s where everything will actually be won or lost. And if you lose there, you have already ruined your character. A corrupt character inevitably spoils the reputation, too, because a bad tree can’t bring forth good fruit (Matt. 7:18).

That brings to mind a third reason why it is so vital to guard our moral and ethical integrity: for the sake of our testimony. Your reputation reflects what people say about you. Your testimony is what your character, your behavior, and your words say about God.

Consider what is being communicated when a Christian lacks ethical integrity. That person is saying he doesn’t truly believe what Scripture plainly says is true of God: That “to do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Prov. 21:3). That “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him” (15:8). And that God “delight[s] in truth in the inward being” 
(Ps. 51:6).

In other words, the person who neglects ethical integrity is telling a lie about God with his life and his attitude. If he calls himself a Christian and professes to be a child of God, he is in fact taking God’s name in vain at the most fundamental level. That puts the issue of ethical integrity in perspective, doesn’t it?

That’s what we need to call to mind whenever we are tempted to adapt our ethical principles for convenience’ sake. It isn’t worth the high cost to our reputation, our character, or our testimony.

About the Author:

Dr. John MacArthur is pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and president of The Master’s College and Seminary. He is also the featured teacher for the Grace to You media ministry.

 

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An Excellent Defense of The Rapture by Dr. John MacArthur

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.(1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, NASB)

The study of the end times is the consuming passion of many in the church today. Sensational best-selling authors argue that current events fulfill their often dubious interpretations of biblical prophecy. Some claim to have figured out the secret that even Jesus in His Incarnation did not know—the time of the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:36). Tragically, some people get so caught up in the study of eschatology that they neglect the basic principles of spiritual growth and evangelism that the Second Coming is designed to motivate.

Of all the end-time events, the Rapture of the church seems to generate the most interest and discussion. The young church at Thessalonica also had questions about that event, so Paul addressed their concerns in this passage. But unlike most modern-day treatises on the subject, Paul’s concern was not just doctrinal, but pastoral. His intent was not to give a detailed description of the Rapture, but to comfort the Thessalonians. The intent of the other two passages in the New Testament that discuss the Rapture (John 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 15:51–58) is also to provide comfort and encouragement for believers, not to fuel their prophetic speculations.

When Paul penned this epistle, the Thessalonians had been in Christ only for a few months. The apostle had taught them about end-time events, such as Christ’s return to gather believers to Himself (e.g., 1:9–10; 2:19; 3:13). They also knew about the Day of the Lord (5:1–3), a time of coming judgment on the ungodly. But some issues about the details of their gathering to Christ troubled them. First, they seem to have been afraid that they had missed the Rapture, since the persecution they were suffering (3:3–4) caused some to fear they were in the Day of the Lord, which they obviously had not expected to experience (2 Thess. 2:1–2). Furthering that misconception were some false teachers, about whom Paul warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, “[Do] not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” But the persecution they were experiencing was not that associated with the Tribulation or the Day of the Lord. It was merely the persecution that all believers can expect (2 Tim. 3:12) and that Paul had warned the Thessalonians about (3:3–4).

The Thessalonians’ fears that they were in the Day of the Lord and thus had missed the Rapture imply that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation. If the Thessalonians knew that the Rapture came at the end of the Tribulation, persecution would not have caused them to fear they had missed it. Instead, that persecution would have been a cause for joy, not concern. If the Day of the Lord had arrived, and the Rapture was after the Tribulation, then that blessed event would have been drawing near.

But of gravest concern to the Thessalonians were those of their number who had died. Would they receive their resurrection bodies at the Rapture, or would they have to wait until after the Tribulation? Would they miss the Rapture altogether? Would they therefore be second-class citizens in heaven? Were their deaths chastisement for their sins (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30)? They loved each other so deeply (cf. 4:9–10) that those thoughts greatly disturbed them. Their concern for those who had died shows that the Thessalonians believed the return of Christ was imminent and could happen in their lifetime. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for their concern. The Thessalonians’ fear that their fellow believers who had died might miss the Rapture also implies that they believed in a pretribulational Rapture. If the Rapture precedes the Tribulation, they might have wondered when believers who died would receive their resurrection bodies. But there would have been no such confusion if the Rapture follows the Tribulation; all believers would then receive their resurrection bodies at the same time. Further, if they had been taught that they would go through the Tribulation, they would not have grieved for those who died, but rather would have been glad to see them spared from that horrible time.

Paul wrote this section of his epistle to alleviate the Thessalonians’ grief and confusion. He was concerned that they not … be uninformed … about those who are asleep and thus grieve as do the rest who have no hope. Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.

The phrase we do not want you to be uninformed or its equivalent frequently introduces a new topic in Paul’s epistles (cf. Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 10:1; 11:3; 12:1; 2 Cor. 1:8; Phil. 1:12; Col. 2:1). The conjunction but and the affectionate term brethren (cf. (vv. 1, 10; 1:4; 2:1, 9, 14, 17; 3:7; 5:1, 4, 12, 14, 25) emphasize the change in subject and call attention to the new topic’s importance. In this case, Paul introduced not only a new subject but also new revelation he had received “by the word of the Lord” (v. 15).

Since it was their primary concern, Paul first addressed the question of those who are asleep. While koimaō (asleep) can be used of normal sleep (Matt. 28:13; Luke 22:45; Acts 12:6), it more often refers to believers who have died (vv. 13–15; Matt. 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 2 Peter 3:4). In verse 14 those who are asleep are identified as “the dead in Christ.” The present tense participle koimōmenōn (v. 13) refers to those who are continually falling asleep as a regular course of life in the church. They had grown increasingly concerned as their fellow believers continued to die.

It is important to remember that in the New Testament “sleep” applies only to the body, never to the soul. “Soul sleep,” the false teaching that the souls of the dead are in a state of unconscious existence in the afterlife, is foreign to Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul wrote that he “prefer[red] rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord,” while in Philippians 1:23 he expressed his “desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” Those statements teach that believers go consciously into the Lord’s presence at death, for how could unconsciousness be “very much better” than conscious communion with Jesus Christ in this life? Jesus promised the repentant thief on the cross, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise [heaven; cf. 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7]” (Luke 23:43). Moses’ and Elijah’s souls were not asleep, since they appeared with Jesus at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:3), nor are those of the Tribulation martyrs in Revelation 6:9–11, who will be awake and able to speak to God. After death the redeemed go consciously into the presence of the Lord, while the unsaved go into conscious punishment (Luke 16:19–31).

Paul related this information to the Thessalonians so that they would not grieve. There is a normal sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, caused by the pain of separation and loneliness. Jesus grieved over the death of Lazarus (John 11:33, 35), and Paul exhorted the Romans to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). However, the apostle did not have that kind of grief in mind here, but grief like the rest who have no hope. In Ephesians 2:12 Paul described unbelievers as “having no hope and without God in the world.” There is an awful, terrifying, hopeless finality for unbelievers when a loved one dies, a sorrow unmitigated by any hope of reunion. Commenting on the hopeless despair of unbelievers in the ancient world, William Barclay writes,

In the face of death the pagan world stood in despair. They met it with grim resignation and bleak hopelessness. Aeschylus wrote, “Once a man dies there is no resurrection.” Theocritus wrote, “There is hope for those who are alive, but those who have died are without hope.” Catullus wrote, “When once our brief light sets, there is one perpetual night through which we must sleep.” On their tombstones grim epitaphs were carved. “I was not; I became; I am not; I care not.” (The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, rev. ed. [Louisville: Westminster, 1975], 203)

Even those pagans who believed in life after death did not have that hope confirmed by the Holy Spirit; they merely clung to it without affirmation from God. But Christians do not experience the hopeless grief of nonbelievers, for whom death marks the permanent severing of relationships. Unlike them, Christians never say a final farewell to each other; there will be a “gathering together [of all believers] to Him” (2 Thess. 2:1). Partings in this life are only temporary.

The Thessalonians’ ignorance about the Rapture caused them to grieve. It was to give them hope and to comfort them that Paul discussed that momentous event, giving a fourfold description of it: its pillars, participants, plan, and profit.

The Pillars of the Rapture

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,(4:14–15a)

The blessed hope of the Rapture is not based on the shifting sands of philosophical speculation. Nor is it religious mythology, a fable concocted by well-meaning people to comfort those who grieve. The marvelous truth that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to gather believers to Himself is based on three unshakeable pillars: the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the revelation of Christ.

The Death of Christ

For if we believe that Jesus died(4:14a)

Ifdoes not suggest uncertainty or doubt, but rather logical sequence. Paul says “since,” or “based on the fact that” we believe that Jesus died certain things logically follow. The apostle’s simple statement summarizes all the richness of Christ’s atoning work, which provides the necessary foundation for the gathering of the church. His death satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness, holiness, and justice by paying in full the penalty for believers’ sins. By virtue of Christ’s substitutionary death, when God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21), Christians have been made acceptable to God and thus fit to be gathered into His presence.

Significantly, Paul did not use the metaphor of sleep to refer to Jesus, but says that He died. Jesus experienced the full fury of death in all its dimensions as He “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). His death transformed death into sleep for believers. T. E. Wilson notes, “Death has been changed to sleep by the work of Christ. It is an apt metaphor in which the whole concept of death is transformed. ‘Christ made it the name for death in the dialect of the church (Acts 7:60) (Findlay)’ ” (What the Bible Teaches: 1 and 2 Thessalonians [Kilmarnock, Scotland: John Ritchie Ltd., 1983], 45). When believers die, their spirit goes immediately into conscious fellowship with the Lord, while their bodies temporarily sleep in the grave, awaiting the Rapture.

The Resurrection of Christ

and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.(4:14b)

The resurrection of Christ indicates that the Father accepted His sacrifice, enabling Him to “be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Paul taught that truth to the Romans when he wrote that “[Christ] was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Christ’s resurrection proves that He conquered sin and death, and became the source of resurrection life for every Christian. I. Howard Marshall writes, “The death of believers does not take place apart from Jesus, and hence Paul can conclude that God will raise them up and bring them into the presence of Jesus at the parousia. God will treat those who died trusting in Jesus in the same way He treated Jesus Himself, namely by resurrecting them” (1 and 2 Thessalonians, The New Century Bible Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 124).

The phrase even solinks believers’ resurrections inextricably to the resurrection of Christ. In John 14:19 Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.” In the most detailed passage on the resurrection in Scripture, Paul wrote that “Christ [is] the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23). Earlier in that same epistle, he stated plainly, “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power” (1 Cor. 6:14). In his second inspired letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:14).

To further assuage their fears, Paul reassured believers that God will bring with Him [Jesus] those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Their fellow believers who died will not miss out on the Rapture but will return with Christ in glory. Some interpret the phrase God will bring to mean that the spirits of dead believers will come from heaven with Christ to meet their resurrected bodies. Others see in it the truth that at the Rapture, God will bring all believers, living and dead, back to heaven with Christ. While the first view is certainly true, the second one seems to be the emphasis of this passage.

What the passage does not teach is that the spirits of dead believers immediately return to earth with Christ for the establishing of the millennial kingdom. That view places the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation and essentially equates it with the Second Coming. It trivializes the Rapture into a meaningless sideshow that serves no purpose. Commenting on the pointlessness of a posttribulational Rapture, Thomas R. Edgar asks,

What can be the purpose for keeping a remnant alive through the tribulation so that some of the church survive and then take them out of their situation and make them the same as those who did not survive? Why keep them for this? [The] explanation that they provide an escort for Jesus does not hold up. Raptured living saints will be exactly the same as resurrected dead saints. Why cannot the dead believers fulfill this purpose? Why keep a remnant alive [through the Tribulation], then Rapture them and accomplish no more than by letting them die? There is no purpose or accomplishment in [such] a Rapture ….

With all the saints of all the ages past and the armies [of angels] in heaven available as escorts and the fact that [raptured] saints provide no different escort than if they had been killed, why permit the church to suffer immensely, most believers [to] be killed, and spare a few for a Rapture which has no apparent purpose, immediately before the [Tribulation] period ends?… Is this the promise? You will suffer, be killed, but I will keep a few alive, and take them out just before the good times come. Such reasoning, of course, calls for some explanation of the apparent lack of purpose for a posttribulational Rapture of any sort.

We can Note the Following:

(1) An unusual, portentous, one-time event such as the Rapture must have a specific purpose. God has purposes for his actions. This purpose must be one that can be accomplished only by such an unusual event as a Rapture of living saints.

(2) This purpose must agree with God’s general principles of operation.

(3) There is little or no apparent reason to Rapture believers when the Lord returns and just prior to setting up the long-awaited kingdom with all of its joyful prospects.

(4) There is good reason to deliver all who are already believers from the tribulation, where they would be special targets of persecution.

(5) To deliver from a period of universal trial and physical destruction such as the tribulation requires a removal from the earth by death or Rapture. Death is not appropriate as a promise in Rev. 3:10.

(6) Deliverance from the tribulation before it starts agrees with God’s previous dealings with Noah and Lot and is directly stated as a principle of God’s action toward believers in 2 Pet. 2:9. (“Robert H. Gundry and Revelation 3:10, ” Grace Theological Journal 3 [Spring 1982], 43–44)

The view that the raptured saints return to earth with Christ also contradicts John 14:1–3:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

The phrases “My Father’s house” and “where I am” clearly refer to heaven (cf. John 7:34). Jesus promised to take believers back to heaven with Him when He returns to gather His people. There has to be a time interval, then, between Christ’s return to gather His people (the Rapture) and His return to earth to establish the millennial kingdom (the Second Coming). During that interval between the Rapture and the Second Coming, the believers’ judgment takes place (1 Cor. 3:11–15; 2 Cor. 5:10); a posttribulational Rapture would leave no time for that event.

The phrase in Jesus is best understood as describing the circumstances in which the departed saints fell asleep. They died in the condition of being related to Jesus Christ. Paul used essentially the same phrase in 1 Corinthians 15:18 when he wrote of those “who have fallen asleep in Christ.”

By demonstrating God’s acceptance of His atoning sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ buttresses the first pillar on which the Rapture is based, the death of Christ.

The Revelation of Christ

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, (4:15a)

Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was not his own speculation but direct revelation from God. The phrase this we say to you by the word of the Lord has the authoritative tone of an inspired writer revealing what God has disclosed to him. Some argue that the word of the Lord was something Jesus said while He was here on earth. But there are no close parallels to the present passage in any of the Gospels. Nor is there any specific teaching in the Gospels to which Paul could be alluding. Although the Lord talked in the Gospels about a trumpet and the gathering of the elect, the differences between those passages and the present one outweigh the similarities, as Robert L. Thomas notes:

Similarities between this passage in 1 Thessalonians and the gospel accounts include a trumpet (Matt. 24:31), a resurrection (John 11:25, 26), and a gathering of the elect (Matt. 24:31) …. Yet dissimilarities between it and the canonical sayings of Christ far outweigh the resemblances …. Some of the differences between Matthew 24:30, 31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 are as follows: (1) In Matthew the Son of Man is coming on the clouds, … in 1 Thessalonians ascending believers are in them. (2) In the former the angels gather, in the latter the Son does so personally. (3) In the former nothing is said about resurrection, while in the latter this is the main theme. (4) Matthew records nothing about the order of ascent, which is the principal lesson in Thessalonians. (“1 & 2 Thessalonians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,vol. 11 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979], 276–77)

Nor is it likely that Paul is referring to a saying of Jesus not recorded in the Gospels (cf. Acts 20:35); he does not state or imply that he is directly quoting Christ’s words. Further, in 1 Corinthians 15:51 Paul referred to the Rapture as a mystery; that is, a truth formerly hidden but now revealed. That indicates that Jesus did not disclose the details of the Rapture during His earthly ministry. (He referred to the Rapture in John 14:1–3 in a general, nonspecific sense.) Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was new revelation, possibly given by God through a prophet (such as Agabus; Acts 21:11) but more likely directly to Paul himself. The Thessalonians had apparently been informed about the Day of the Lord judgment (5:1–2), but not about the preceding event—the Rapture of the church—until the Holy Spirit through Paul revealed it to them. This was new revelation, unveiled mystery.

The Rapture, then, does not rest on the shaky foundation of whimsical theological speculation, but on the sure foundation of the death, resurrection, and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Participants of the Rapture

we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.(4:15b)

Two groups of people will participate in the Rapture: those who are alive at the coming of the Lord and those who have fallen asleep. That Paul used the plural pronoun we indicates that he believed the Rapture could happen in his lifetime. He had a proper anticipation of and expectation for the Lord’s return, though unlike many throughout church history, the apostle did not predict a specific time for it. He accepted Christ’s words in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone,” and Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” At the same time, Paul understood the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, which illustrates the foolishness of not being constantly prepared for the Lord’s return (Matt. 25:1–13). The Lord expressed the point of that parable when He declared, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matt. 25:13; cf. 24:45–51). Paul thus avoided both common errors regarding Christ’s return; he neither got involved in date setting, nor did he push the return of Christ into the distant, nebulous future.

Several other passages express Paul’s fervent hope and expectation that he himself might be among those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. In Romans 13:11 he wrote, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” The salvation of which he wrote was the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) that takes place when Christ returns. In verse 12 Paul added, “The night [of man’s sin and Satan’s rule] is almost gone, and the day [of Christ’s return] is near.” He wrote to the Corinthians, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). Paul knew he was in the messianic age, the period between Christ’s first and second comings, the last days of human history. He likely had no idea that they would last as long as they have. Later in that epistle, Paul, as he does here in 1 Thessalonians, includes himself among those who might still be alive at the Rapture: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51–52). As he concluded that letter Paul wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22). Maranatha comes from two Aramaic words that mean “Oh Lord, come!” and expresses Paul’s strong hope that the Lord would return soon. Earlier in this epistle, he commended the Thessalonians for waiting “for His Son from heaven” (1:10). He expressed his desire for them that God “may establish [their] hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (3:13). Pronouncing a final benediction as he concluded this letter, Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23). The apostle wrote to Titus that he was “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).

On the other hand, Paul fully realized that he might die before the Rapture. In 1 Corinthians 6:14 he acknowledged that he might be among those resurrected at the Rapture: “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” He affirmed to the Philippians his desire that “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20). At the end of his life, sensing his imminent death, he wrote to Timothy, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:6–7). While acknowledging both possibilities, Paul used we because when he wrote, it was still possible for the Lord to return in his lifetime. By so doing, he conveyed to the Thessalonians his own longing for Christ’s imminent return.

Paul lived in constant expectation of Christ’s return. But the apostle nevertheless reassured the Thessalonians that those of their number who had died would not miss the Rapture, which will also include those who have fallen asleep. Moreover, the living will not precede the dead. They will not take precedence over them or gain an advantage over them. Those who die before the Rapture will in no sense be inferior to those who are alive. All Christians will participate in the Rapture.

The Plan of the Rapture

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.(4:16–17)

Having reassured the Thessalonians that their departed loved ones will not miss out on the Rapture, Paul gave a step-by-step description of that event.

First, the Lord Himself will return for His church. He will not send angels for it, in contrast to the gathering of the elect that takes place at the Second Coming (Mark 13:26–27).

Second, Jesus will descend from heaven, where He has been since His ascension (Acts 1:9–11). Earlier in this epistle, Paul commended the Thessalonians because they were waiting “for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus” (1:10). At his trial before the Sanhedrin, Stephen cried out, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). The writer of Hebrews said of Christ, “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

Third, when Jesus comes down from heaven, He will do so with a shout. Keleusma(command) has a military ring to it, as if the Commander is calling His troops to fall in. The dead saints in their resurrected bodies will join the raptured living believers in the ranks. The Lord’s shout of command will be similar to His raising of Lazarus, when “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’” (John 11:43). This is the hour “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). The righteous dead of the church age will be the first to rise—a truth that must have greatly comforted the anxious Thessalonians.

Fourth, the voice of the archangel will sound. There is no definite article in the Greek text, which literally reads, “an archangel.” In Jude 9, the only other passage in Scripture that mentions an archangel, the archangel is Michael. Scripture does not say whether or not he is the only archangel (there were seven archangels according to Jewish tradition). Thus, it is impossible to say who the archangel whose voice will be heard at that Rapture is. Whoever he is, he adds his voice to the Lord’s shout of command.

Fifth, to the Lord’s command and the archangel’s voice will be added the sounding of the trumpet of God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52). Trumpets were used in Scripture for many reasons. They sounded at Israel’s feasts (Num. 10:10), celebrations (2 Sam. 6:15), and convocations (Lev. 23:24), to sound an alarm in time of war (Num. 10:9) or for any other reason it was necessary to gather a crowd (Num. 10:2; Judg. 6:34) or make an announcement (1 Sam. 13:3; 2 Sam. 15:10; 20:1; 1 Kings 1:34, 39, 41). The trumpet at the Rapture has no connection to the trumpets of judgment in Revelation 8–11. It seems to have a twofold purpose: to assemble God’s people (cf. Ex. 19:16–19) and to signal His deliverance of them (cf. Zech. 1:16; 9:14–16).

Sixth, the dead in Christ will rise first. As noted above, the dead saints will in no way be inferior to those alive at the Rapture. In fact, they will rise first, their glorified bodies joining with their glorified spirits to make them into the image of Christ, as the apostle John wrote: “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Those who were in Christ in life will be so in death; death cannot separate believers from God (Rom. 8:38): “therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

Finally, those believers who are alive and remain will be caught up together with the dead saints in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Harpazō (caught up) refers to a strong, irresistible, even violent act. In Matthew 11:12 it describes the taking of the kingdom of heaven by force. In John 10:12 it describes a wolf snatching sheep; in John 10:28–29 it speaks of the impossibility of anyone’s snatching believers out of the hands of Jesus Christ and God the Father; in Acts 8:39 it speaks of Philip’s being snatched away from the Ethiopian eunuch; and in 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 it describes Paul’s being caught up into the third heaven. It is when living believers are caught up that they are transformed and receive their glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” believers “will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52), rescued from the grasp of Satan, the fallen flesh, the evil world system, and the coming wrath of God.

The time of the Rapture cannot be discerned from this passage alone. But when it is read with other Rapture texts (John 14:3; Rev. 3:10; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51–52; Phil. 3:2–21), and compared to judgment texts (Matt. 13:34–50; 24:29–44; Rev. 19:11–21), it is clear that there is no mention of judgment at all in the Rapture passages, whereas the others major on judgment. It is therefore necessary to conclude that the Rapture occurs at a time other than the judgment.

It is best, then, to separate the two events. That initiates the case for the Rapture to occur imminently, before the elements of judgment described in Scripture as leading up to the Second Coming in judgment.

Again, no solitary text of Scripture makes the entire case for the pretribulation Rapture. However, when one considers all the New Testament evidence, a very compelling case for the pretribulational position emerges, which answers more questions and solves more problems than any other Rapture position. The following arguments present a strong case in favor of the pretribulation Rapture.

First, the earthly kingdom of Christ promised in Revelation 6–18 does not mention the church as being on earth. Because Revelation 1–3 uses the Greek word for church nineteen times, one would reasonably assume that if the church were on earth rather than in heaven in chapters 6–18, they would use “church” with similar frequency, but such is not the case. Therefore, one can assume that the church is not present on the earth during the period of tribulation described in Revelation 6–18 and that therefore the Lord has removed it from the earth and relocated it to heaven by means of the Rapture.

Second, Revelation 19 does not mention a Rapture even though that is where a posttribulational Rapture (if true) would logically occur. Thus, one can conclude that the Rapture will have already occurred.

Third, a posttribulational Rapture renders the Rapture concept itself inconsequential. If God preserves the church during the Tribulation, as posttribulationists assert, then why have a Rapture at all? It makes no sense to Rapture believers from earth to heaven for no apparent purpose other than to return them immediately with Christ to earth. Further, a posttribulational Rapture makes the unique separation of the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers) at the return of Christ in judgment redundant because a posttribulational Rapture would have already accomplished that.

Fourth, if God raptures and glorifies all believers just prior to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom (as a posttribulational Rapture demands), no one would be left to populate and propagate the earthly kingdom of Christ promised to Israel. It is not within the Lord’s plan and purpose to use glorified individuals to propagate the earth during the Millennium. Therefore, the Rapture needs to occur earlier so that after God has raptured all believers, He can save more souls—including Israel’s remnant—during the seven-year Tribulation. Those people can then enter the millennial kingdom in earthly form. The most reasonable possibility for this scenario is the pretribulational Rapture.

Fifth, the New Testament does not warn of an impending tribulation, such as is experienced during Daniel’s seventieth week, for church-age believers. It does warn of error and false prophets (Acts 20:29–30; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1–3), against ungodly living (Eph. 4:25–5:7; 1 Thess. 4:3–8; Heb. 12:1), and of present tribulation (1 Thess. 2:14–16; 2 Thess. 1:4; all of 2 Peter). Thus it is incongruous that the New Testament would be silent concerning such a traumatic change as Daniel’s seventieth week if posttribulationism were true.

Sixth, Paul’s instructions here to the Thessalonians demand a pretribulational Rapture because, if Paul were teaching them posttribulationism, one would expect them to rejoice that loved ones were home with the Lord and spared the horrors of the Tribulation. But, in actuality, the Thessalonians grieved. In addition, with a posttribulational teaching one would expect them to sorrow over their own impending trial and inquire about their future doom; however, they expressed no such dread or questioning. Further, one might expect Paul to instruct and exhort them concerning such a supreme test as the Tribulation, but Paul wrote only about the hope of the Rapture.

Seventh, the sequence of events at Christ’s coming following the Tribulation demands a pretribulational Rapture. A comparing and contrasting of Rapture passages with Second Coming passages yields strong indicators that the Rapture could not be posttribulational.

For example:

(a) at the Rapture, Christ gathers His own (vv. 16–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, angels gather the elect (Matt. 24:31);

(b) at the Rapture, resurrection is prominent (vv. 15–16 of the present passage), but regarding the Second Coming, Scripture does not mention the resurrection;

(c) at the Rapture, Christ comes to reward believers (v. 17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, Christ comes to judge the earth (Matt. 25:31–46);

(d) at the Rapture, the Lord snatches away true believers from the earth (vv. 15–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, He takes away unbelievers (Matt. 24:37–41);

(e) at the Rapture, unbelievers remain on the earth, whereas at the Second Coming, believers remain on the earth;

(f) concerning the Rapture, Scripture does not mention the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, but at His second coming, Christ sets up His kingdom; and

(g) at the Rapture, believers will receive glorified bodies, whereas at the Second Coming, no one will receive glorified bodies.

Eighth, certain of Jesus’ teachings demand a pretribulational Rapture. For instance, the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24–30) portrays the reapers (angels) removing the tares (unbelievers) from among the wheat (believers) in order to judge the tares, which demonstrates that at the Second Coming, the Lord has unbelievers removed from among believers. However, at the Rapture, He takes believers from among unbelievers. This is also true in the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47–50) and in the discussion of the days of Noah and the description of the nations’ judgment, both in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25).

Ninth, Revelation 3:10 teaches that the Lord will remove the church prior to the Tribulation. In the Greek, the phrase “I also will keep you from” can mean nothing other than “I will prevent you from entering into.” Jesus Christ will honor the church by preventing it from entering the hour of testing, namely Daniel’s seventieth week, which is about to come upon the entire world. Only a pretribulational Rapture can explain how this will happen.

Thus, the Rapture (being caught up) must be pretribulational, before the wrath of God described in the Tribulation (Rev. 6–19). At the Rapture, living believers will be caught up together with the believers raised from the dead as the church triumphant joins the church militant to become the church glorified. Clouds are often associated in Scripture with divine appearances. When God appeared at Mount Sinai, “The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days” (Ex. 24:16). Clouds marked God’s presence in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), the temple (1 Kings 8:10), and at Christ’s transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). At His ascension Christ “was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

Some argue that the word meet suggests meeting a dignitary, king, or famous person and escorting him back to his city. They then argue that after the meeting described in this passage, believers will return to earth with Christ. But such an analogy is arbitrary and assumes a technical meaning for meetnot required by either the word or the context. As noted earlier in this chapter, that explanation also renders the Rapture pointless; why have believers meet Christ in the air and immediately return to earth? Why should they not just meet Him when He gets here? Gleason L. Archer comments, “The most that can be said of such a ‘Rapture’ is that it is a rather secondary sideshow of minimal importance” (Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard Reiter, The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-Tribulational? [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984], 215). As was also noted earlier in this chapter, a posttribulational Rapture contradicts the teaching of Christ in John 14:1–3 that He will return to take believers to heaven, not immediately back to earth.

The final step in the plan of the Rapture is the blessed, comforting truth that after Christ returns to gather us (believers) to Himself, we shall always be with the Lord.

The Profit of the Rapture

Therefore comfort one another with these words.(4:18)

The benefit of understanding the Rapture is not to fill the gaps in one’s eschatological scheme. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, Paul’s goal in teaching the Thessalonians about the Rapture was to comfort them. The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) grants to all believers the encouraging comfort of knowing that Christ will one day return for them. At that monumental event, the dead in Christ will be raised, join with the living saints in experiencing a complete transformation of body and soul, and be with God forever. Therefore, there was no need for the Thessalonians to grieve or sorrow over their fellow believers who had died. No wonder Paul calls the return of Christ “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

Article above adapted from the commentary by John MacArthur. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Chicago: Moody Press, 2002, 123-138.

About the Author: Dr.John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Grace Church has grown from 450 members in 1969, when MacArthur accepted the pastorate, to over 12,000 today. He is also the president of The Master’s College and Seminary in Newhall, California, a prolific author of more than two dozen books, and the speaker on the worldwide radio broadcast, Grace to You, heard over 700 times daily–every half hour, day and night, somewhere around the world. 

The primary emphasis of MacArthur’s ministry has always been the expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word through a verse-by-verse exposition of the Scripture. His studies pay particular attention to the historical and grammatical aspects of each biblical passage. MacArthur’s recently published book, How to Get the Most from God’s Word, released in conjunction with The MacArthur Study Bible, is designed to fill what he sees as “an increased hunger for the meat of the Word.” He assures the reader that the Bible is trustworthy and that an understanding of Scripture is available to everyone. He then provides guidance on how to study the Bible and how to discern the meaning of Scripture for oneself. Dr. MacArthur explains that the book and the Study Bible have been “in the works for 30 years…the product of 32 hours a week, 52 weeks a year…dedicated to the study of God’s Word.” He asserts that “God’s Word is the only thing that satisfies my appetite, but it also arouses an even deeper hunger for more.”

Among MacArthur’s other books are The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series, The Gospel According to Jesus, The Master’s Plan for the Church, Saved Without a Doubt, The Glory of Heaven, Lord Teach Me to Pray, Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life, Safe in the Arms of God, The Second Coming, Why One Way?, and Truth for Today, and Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. His books have been translated into Chinese, Czechoslovakian, French, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, and several Indian languages. Though occasionally viewed by some groups as a controversial figure for strong critiques of freudian psychology, trends in the modern charismatic movement as well as the self-esteem movement, John MacArthur is seen by many as a champion of correcting many of the ills of evangelical Christianity. He is also a champion of helping believers grow stronger in their relationship with God through the committed study of the Word and personal commitment to the local church.
MacArthur spent his first two years of college at Bob Jones University, completed his undergraduate work at Los Angeles Pacific College, and studied for the ministry at Talbot Theological Seminary. John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California. They have four grown children — Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda–and eight grandchildren.

 

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John MacArthur’s Recommended First 750 Books For an Expositor of God’s Word

The First 750 Books for an Expositor’s Library

After the previous discussion of the importance of a solid library for an expository preacher, it seems appropriate to include a suggested list of materials and thereby identify a model library for one who has this goal. The works listed here are only suggestions. Each person will need to adapt the list to fit his own needs. “Books are like clothes: what fits one person’s needs and style may not fit another person’s at all.” Also, this list is limited to a basic collection in the fields of biblical studies and theology, and does not identify other items that an expositor may wish to acquire. The expositor should acquire a number of important items on current biblical and theological issues to assist him in his study and keep himself current. The purpose of this list is to assist a new generation of aspiring expository preachers in gathering a collection of tools for this worthy task. It includes books which have or will stand the test of time and tries to avoid items based on current theological speculation.

The list has a wider purpose, however. It is for a wide spectrum of readers who are seeking to assemble a well-rounded library. Serious expositors should consider the entire list as a model library. A reasonable goal is to acquire the 750 volumes in ten years. The first items to purchase have been marked with an asterisk (*). These same ones can serve as a basic list for a serious layman or devoted pastor who wishes to accumulate fewer than the proposed 750 for assistance in Bible study. The following are clarifications regarding the list:

1.   Some of the volumes listed under individual commentaries are parts of sets that are also included in the list. They have not been counted twice.

2.   When entire sets are recommended, it is understood that individual volumes within each set are of uneven quality because of a variety of authors. The expositor should sometimes buy selectively from sets with this in mind. In other cases, he should own entire sets so that he has resources on the whole Bible.

3.   The expositor may choose to wait to purchase commentaries on individual books of the Bible until he needs them. He should remember, however, that books are in and out of print and that he may not always have the time or be in the right place to secure good materials. The key to building a good library is a good “want list” carefully pursued over a period of time. Books tend to show up when least expected and often cannot be found when needed! They are often cheaper when the need for them is not so urgent.

4.   The list can also be used as a study guide for those with access to a theological library. It can also be modified and made suitable as a basis for a church library in biblical studies.

I. Bibliographic Tools

Badke, William B. The Survivor’s Guide to Library Research. Zondervan, 1990.

*Barber, Cyril J. The Minister’s Library. Moody, 1985–. 2 vols. plus supplements.

*Barker, Kenneth L., Bruce K. Waltke, Roy B. Zuck. Bibliography for Old Testament Exegesis and Exposition. Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979.

Bollier, John A. The Literature of Theology: A Guide for Students and Pastors. Westminster, 1979.

*Carson, D. A. New Testament Commentary Survey. Baker, 1986.

Childs, Brevard S. Old Testament Books for Pastor and Teacher. Westminster, 1977.

Kiehl, Erich H. Building Your Biblical Studies Library. Concordia, 1988.

Martin, Ralph P. New Testament Books for Pastor and Teacher. Westminster, 1984.

*Rosscup, James E. Commentaries for Biblical Expositors. Author, 1983.

Spurgeon, Charles H. Commenting and Commentaries. Banner of Truth, 1969.

*Wiersbe, Warren W. A Basic Library for Bible Students. Baker, 1981.

II. Bibles

American Standard Version. Nelson, 1901.

The Amplified Bible. Zondervan, 1965.

*King James Version (or Authorized Version). Various publishers.

The Living Bible, Paraphrased. Tyndale, 1971.

*New American Standard Bible. Lockman, 1977.

New English Bible. Oxford/Cambridge, 1970.

*New International Version. Zondervan, 1978.

New King James Version. Nelson, 1982.

New Century Version. Word, 1991.

The New Scofield Reference Bible. Oxford, 1967.

The New Testament in Modern English. Macmillan, 1973.

The NIV Study Bible. Zondervan, 1985.

*Ryrie Study Bible. Moody, 1978.

The Scofield Reference Bible. Oxford, 1917.

III. Biblical Texts

*Aland, Kurt. The Greek New Testament. 3d ed. UBS, 1983.

———. The Text of the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1987.

*Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Ed. by Karl Elliger and Wilhelm Rudolph; Deutsche Biblestiftung, 1984.

*Bruce, F. F. The Books and the Parchments. Revell, 1984.

*———. The Canon of the Scripture. InterVarsity, 1988.

———. History of the English Bible in English. 3d ed. Revell, 1978.

Greenlee, J. Harold. Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism. Eerdmans, 1964.

*Harris, R. Laird. Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible. Zondervan, 1969.

Lewis, Jack P. The English Bible From KJV to NIV, A History of Evaluation. Baker, 1982.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament. Oxford, 1987.

———. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. Oxford, 1968.

*———. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. UBS, 1971.

*Nestle-Aland. Novum Testamentum Graece. 26th ed. Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1979.

*Rahlfs, Alfred. Septuaginta. Wuerttembergische, 1962.

Roberts, B. J. The Old Testament Text and Versions. Wales, 1951.

Swete, Henry B. An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek. KTAV, 1968.

Wurthwein, Ernst. The Text of the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1979.

IV. Old Testament Tools

*Armstrong, Terry A., Douglas L. Busby, and Cyril F. Carr. A Reader’s Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Zondervan, 1989.

Botterweck, G. Johannes, and Helmer Ringgren, eds. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Vols. 1–. Eerdmans, 1974–.

*Brown, Francis, Samuel R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Oxford, 1907.

Einspahr, Bruce. Index to Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew Lexicon. Moody, 1977.

*The Englishmen’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament. Zondervan, 1970.

*Even-Shoshan, Abraham. A New Concordance of the Old Testament. Baker, 1989.

Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Synonyms of The Old Testament. Eerdmans.

*Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Moody, 1980.

Hatch, Edwin, and Henry A. Redpath. A Concordance to the Septuagint and the Other Greek Versions of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Akademische, 1955.

*Holladay, William. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1971.

Koehler, Ludwig, and Walter Baumgartner. Lexicon in Verteris Testament Libros. 2 vols. Brill, 1958.

Liddell, Henry G., and Robert Scott. A Greek English Lexicon. 9th ed., rev. by. H. S. Jones and R. McKenzie. Oxford, 1968.

*Owens, John Joseph. Analytical Key to the Old Testament. 4 vols. Baker, 1989–.

Seow, C. L. A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew. Abingdon, 1987.

Unger, Merrill F., and William White. Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament. Nelson, 1980.

Waltke, Bruce K. An Intermediate Hebrew Grammar. Eisenbrauns, 1984.

Waltke, Bruce K., and M. O’Connor. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Eisenbrauns, 1990.

*Weingreen, Jacob. Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew. Oxford, 1959.

Wilson, William. Old Testament Word Studies. Kregel, 1978.

V. New Testament Tools

*Abbot-Smith, George. A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. T. & T. Clark, 1936.

Alsop, John R., ed. An Index to the Revised Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek Lexicon. 2d ed. by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. Zondervan, 1981.

Balz, Horst, and Gerhard Schneider, eds. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1978.

Barclay, William. New Testament Words. Westminster, 1974.

*Bauer, Walter, W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 2d ed. University of Chicago, 1979.

Blass, F. W., A. Debrunner, and Robert W. Funk. A Grammar of New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. University of Chicago, 1961.

Bromiley, Geoffrey. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Ed. by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich. Trans. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Abridged in 1 vol. Eerdmans, 1985.

*Brown, Colin, ed. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 4 vols. Zondervan, 1975–86.

Burton, Ernest DeWitt. Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek. T. & T. Clark, 1898.

Cremer, Hermann. Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek. 4th ed. T. & T. Clark, 1962.

Dana, H. E., and Julius R. Mantey. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Macmillan, 1955.

Gingrich, F. W. A Shorter Lexicon of the Greek Testament. 2d ed. Rev. by Frederick W. Danker. University of Chicago, 1983.

Hanna, Robert. A Grammatical Aid to the Greek New Testament. Baker, 1983.

Kittel, Gerhard, and Gerhard Friedrich. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Trans. by Geoffrey Bromiley. 10 vols. Eerdmans, 1964–76.

Liddell, H. G., and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. 8th ed. Clarendon, 1897.

*Machen, J. Gresham. New Testament Greek for Beginners. Macmillan, 1923.

Moule, C. F. D. An Idiom Book of the New Testament Greek. Cambridge, 1963.

Moulton, James Hope. A Grammar of New Testament Greek. 4 vols. T. & T. Clark, 1908–.

——— and George Milligan. The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources. Hodder and Stoughton, 1952.

Moulton, William, and A. S. Geden. A Concordance to the Greek Testament. 5th ed. Rev. by H. K. Moulton. T. & T. Clark, 1978.

Richards, Lawrence O. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. Zondervan, 1985.

*Rienecker, Fritz. A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. Zondervan, 1980.

Robertson, A. T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Broadman, 1923.

Smith, J. B. Greek-English Concordance to the New Testament. Herald, 1955.

*Thayer, Joseph H. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Zondervan, 1962.

Trench, Richard Chenevix. Synonyms of the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1953.

Turner, Nigel. Christian Words. Nelson, 1981.

———. Grammatical Insights into the New Testament. T. & T. Clark, 1977.

*Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White. An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. Nelson, 1984.

*Wingram, George V. The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament. 9th ed. Zondervan, 1970.

Zerwick, Max, and Mary Grosvenor. A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. Biblical Institute, 1981.

VI. Hermeneutics and Exegesis

Ferguson, Duncan S. Biblical Hermeneutics, an Introduction. John Knox, 1986.

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. Toward an Exegetical Theology. Baker, 1981.

Mickelsen, A. Berkeley. Interpreting the Bible. Eerdmans, 1963.

*Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Baker, 1970.

Sproul, R. C. Knowing Scripture. InterVarsity, 1977.

*Tan, Paul Lee. The Interpretation of Prophecy. BMH, 1974.

*Terry, Milton S. Biblical Hermeneutics. Zondervan, 1974.

*Thomas, Robert L. Introduction to Exegesis. Author, 1987.

Traina, Robert A. Methodical Bible Study. Author, 1952.

Virkler, Henry A. Hermeneutics, Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation. Baker, 1981

VII. General Reference Works

*Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Eerdmans, 1979–88.

Buttrick, George A., and K. Crim, eds. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. 5 vols. Abingdon, 1962–76.

Douglas, J. D., ed. The New Bible Dictionary. 2nd ed. Tyndale, 1982.

——— and E. E. Cairns, eds. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Zondervan, 1978.

———, ed. New 20th-Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Baker, 1990.

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Encyclopedia of the Bible. 2 vols. Baker, 1988.

*———, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Baker, 1984.

Ferguson, Sinclair B., David F. Wright, and J. I. Packer. New Dictionary of Theology. InterVarsity, 1988.

Harrison, R. K. Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics. Nelson, 1987.

Hastings, James, ed. Dictionary of the Apostolic Church. 2 vols. T. & T. Clark, 1915.

———. Dictionary of the Bible. 5 vols. T. & T. Clark, 1898.

———. Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels. T. & T. Clark, 1906.

McClintock, John, and James Strong, eds. Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. 12 vols. Baker, 1981.

*Orr, James, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 5 vols. Eerdmans, 1939.

Reid, Daniel G. Dictionary of Christianity in America. InterVarsity, 1990.

*Tenney, Merrill C., ed. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. 5 vols. 1975.

*Unger, Merrill F. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Rev. and updated edition. Ed. by R. K. Harrison. Moody, 1988.

VIII. Concordances

Anderson, Ken. The Contemporary Concordance of Bible Topics. Victor, 1984.

Elder, F., ed. Concordance to the New English Bible: New Testament. Zondervan, 1964.

Goodrick, Edward, and John Kohlenberger III. The NIV Complete Concordance. Zondervan, 1981.

———. The NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Zondervan, 1990.

Hill, Andrew E., comp. Baker’s Handbook of Bible Lists. Baker, 1981.

*Monser, Harold E. Topical Index and Digest of the Bible. Baker, 1983.

*Nave, Orville J., ed. Nave’s Topical Bible. Nelson, 1979.

The Phrase Concordance of the Bible. Nelson, 1986.

*Strong, James. Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Abingdon, 1980.

*Thomas, Robert L., ed. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Holman, 1981.

*Torrey, R. A. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Bagster, n.d.

*———. The New Topical Textbook. Revell, n.d.

*Young, Robert., ed. Analytial Concordance to the Bible. Rev. ed. Nelson, 1980.

IX. Works on Archaeology, Geography, and History

Aharoni, Yohanan. The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography of the Bible. Westminster, 1979.

*———. The Macmillan Bible Atlas. Macmillan, 1977.

Baly, Denis. The Geography of the Bible. New and rev. ed. Harper, 1974.

Barrett, C. K. The New Testament Background: Selected Documents. S.P.C.K., 1958.

Beitzel, Barry J. The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands. Moody, 1985.

Blaiklock, E. M., and R. K. Harrison, eds. The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. Zondervan, 1983.

Bouquet, A. C. Everyday Life in New Testament Times. Scribner, 1953.

Bruce, F. F. Israel and the Nations. Eerdmans, 1963.

*———. New Testament History. Doubleday, 1971.

*Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1954.

*———. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1954.

*Gower, Ralph. The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times. Moody, 1987.

Harrison, Roland K., ed. Major Cities of the Biblical World. Nelson, 1985.

*———. Old Testament Times. Eerdmans, 1990.

Heaton, E. W. Everyday Life in Old Testament Times. Scribner’s, 1956.

Jeremias, Joachim. Jerusalem in the Times of Jesus. Fortress, 1969.

Josephus, Flavius. Complete Works. Kregel, 1960.

Lohse, Eduard. The New Testament Environment. Abingdon, 1976.

Merrill, Eugene H. Kingdom of Priests. Baker, 1987.

Metzger, Bruce Manning. The New Testament, Its Background, Growth, and Content. Abingdon, 1965.

Miller, Madeleine S., and J. Lane. Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life. Rev. by Boyce M. Bennett and David Scott. Harper, 1978.

*Pfeiffer, Charles F. The Biblical World. Baker, 1966.

*———. Old Testament History. Baker, 1973.

*——— and Howard F. Vos. The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands. Moody, 1967.

Reicke, Bo. The New Testament Era. Fortress, 1968.

Schultz, Samuel J. The Old Testament Speaks. 3d ed. Harper, 1980.

*Tenney, Merrill C. New Testament Times. Eerdmans, 1965.

Thompson, J. A. The Bible and Archaeology. Eerdmans, 1972.

*———. Handbook of Life in Bible Times. InterVarsity, 1986.

Vos, Howard F. Archaeology in Biblical Lands. Moody, 1987.

Wood, Leon. Israel’s United Monarchy. Baker, 1979.

———. The Prophets of Israel. Baker, 1979.

*———. A Survey of Israel’s History. Rev. by David O’Brien. Zondervan, 1986.

Yamauchi, Edwin M. Pre-Christian Gnosticism. 2d ed. Baker, 1983.

X. Survey and Introduction

*Alexander, David, and Pat Alexander. Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible. Eerdmans, 1973.

Andrews, Samuel J. The Life of Our Lord Upon the Earth. Zondervan, 1954.

*Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Rev. ed. Moody, 1974.

*Bruce, A. B. The Training of the Twelve. Zondervan, 1963.

Bruce, F. F. The Letters of Paul and Expanded Paraphrase. Eerdmans, 1965.

———. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Eerdmans, 1977.

Bullock, C. Hassell. An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books. Moody, 1988.

Conybeare, W. J., and J. S. Howsen. The Life and Epistles of Saint Paul. Eerdmans, 1954.

Craigie, Peter C. The Old Testament, Its Background, Growth, and Content. Abingdon, 1986.

*Culver, Robert D. The Life of Christ. Baker, 1976.

Farrar, Frederic W. The Life of Christ. 2 vols. Cassell, 1874.

———. The Life and Work of St. Paul. 2 vols. Cassell, 1879.

Foakes Jackson, F. J., and Kirsopp Lake. The Beginnings of Christianity. 5 vols. Macmillan, 1920.

*Freeman, Hobart E. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets. Moody, 1968.

*Gromacki, Robert. New Testament Survey. Baker, 1974.

*Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. Zondervan, 1981.

Guthrie, Donald. The Apostles. Zondervan, 1975.

———. Jesus the Messiah. Zondervan, 1972.

*———. New Testament Introduction. Rev. ed. InterVarsity, 1990.

*Harrison, Everett F. Introduction to the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1964.

Harrison, Roland K. Introduction to the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1969.

*Hiebert, D. Edmond. An Introduction to the New Testament. 3 vols. Moody, 1975–77.

Kaiser, Walter C. Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation. Baker, 1972.

Kidner, Derek. An Introduction to Wisdom Literature, The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. InterVarsity, 1985.

Kistemaker, Simon. The Parables of Jesus. Baker, 1980.

*LaSor, William Sanford, David Hubbard, and Frederic Bush. Old Testament Survey. Eerdmans, 1982.

Morgan, G. Campell. The Crises of the Christ. Revell, n.d.

———. The Parables and Metaphors of Our Lord. Revell, n.d.

———. The Teaching of Christ. Revell, n.d.

Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. Zondervan, 1981.

Ramsay, William. The Church in the Roman Empire. Baker, 1954.

———. The Cities of Saint Paul. Baker, 1960.

———. Saint Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen. Baker, 1949.

Robertson, A. T. A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ. Harper, 1950.

Schultz, Samuel J. The Old Testament Speaks. Harper, 1970.

Scroggie, William Graham. A Guide to the Gospels. Revell, 1948.

*———. Know Your Bible. Pickering, 1940.

———. The Unfolding Drama of Redemption. Zondervan, 1970.

Shepard, J. W. The Life and Letter of Saint Paul. Eerdmans, 1950.

*Tenney, Merrill C. New Testament Survey. Rev. by Walter M. Dunnett. Eerdmans, 1985.

*Thomas, Robert L., and Stanley N. Gundry. A Harmony of the Gospels with Explanations and Essays. Harper, 1978.

———. The NIV Harmony of the Gospels. Harper, 1988.

Trench, R. C. Notes on the Parables. Pickering, 1953.

Unger, Merrill F. Introductory Guide to the Old Testament. Zondervan, 1951.

*———. Unger’s Guide to the Bible. Tyndale, 1974.

Young, Edward J. An Introduction to the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1960.

XI. Theological Works

*Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology. Eerdmans, 1941.

Bruce, F. F. New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes. Eerdmans, 1968.

Buswell, James Oliver. A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Zondervan, 1962.

Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology. 8 vols. Dallas Seminary, 1947.

*Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3 vols. Baker, 1983–85.

Feinberg, Charles L. Millennialism: The Two Major Views. 3d ed. Moody, 1980.

Gill, John. Body of Divinity. Lassetter, 1965.

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Theology. InterVarsity, 1981.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. 3 vols. Clarke, 1960.

*Kaiser, Walter C. Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching. Baker, 1981.

———. Old Testament Theology. Zondervan, 1978.

*McClain, Alva J. The Greatness of the Kingdom. Moody, 1959.

Murray, John. Collected Writings of John Murray. 4 vols. Banner of Truth, 1976–82.

Oehler, Gustav Friedrich. Theology of the Old Testament. Funk and Wagnalls, 1884.

Packer, J. I., ed. The Best in Theology. Vol. 1 of multi-volume series. Christianity Today, 1987–.

Payne, J. Barton. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. Harper, 1973.

*Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology. Zondervan, 1958.

Ridderbos, Herman. Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Eerdmans, 1975.

Ryrie, Charles C. Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Moody, 1959.

Shedd, William G. T. Dogmatic Theology. 3 vols. Zondervan, (reprint) n.d..

Vos, Gerhardus. Biblical Theology. Eerdmans, 1948.

Warfield, Benjamin B. Biblical and Theological Studies. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1968.

———. Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield. 2 vols. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970.

XII. One-Volume Commentaries

Guthrie, Donald, J. A. Motyer, A. M. Stibbs, and D. J. Wiseman, eds. The New Bible Commentary: Revised. 3d ed. Eerdmans, 1970.

*Harrison, E. F., and Charles F. Pfeiffer. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Moody, 1962.

XIII. Commentary Sets

*Alford, Henry. The Greek Testament. 4 vols. Moody, 1958.

Barclay, William F. The Daily Bible Series. Rev. ed. 18 vols. Westminster, 1975.

Barker, Kenneth L. The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary. 56 vols. when complete. Moody, 1988–.

Bruce, F. F., ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. 20 vols. so far. Eerdmans.

Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries. 22 vols. Baker, 1981.

*Gaebelein, Frank E., general ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 12 vols. when complete. Zondervan, 1978–.

Harrison, R. K., ed. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. 15 vols. so far. Eerdmans.

*Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary. 12 vols. so far. Baker, 1954–.

*Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. 6 vols. Revell, n.d.

Hubbard, David, and Glenn W. Barker. Word Biblical Commentary. 52 vols. when complete. Word.

*Keil, C. F., and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. 11 vols. Eerdmans, 1968.

Lange, John Peter. Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical. 12 vols. Zondervan, 1960.

Lenski, R. C. H. Interpretation of the New Testament. 12 vols. Augsburg, 1943.

*MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Moody, 1983–.

Meyer, H. A. W. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the New Testament. 11 vols. Funk and Wagnalls, 1884.

*Morris, Leon, ed. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Various eds. 20 vols. InterVarsity.

*Nicoll, William Robertson. The Expositor’s Greek New Testament. 5 vols. Eerdmans, 1970.

Perowne, J. J. S., gen ed. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. 60 vols. Cambridge, 1880–.

*Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. 6 vols. Broadman, 1930.

Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament. 4 vols. Eerdmans, 1946.

*Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. 2 vols. Victor, 1983.

*Wiseman, D. J., ed. The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. 21 vols. so far. InterVarsity.

Wuest, Kenneth S. Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament. 3 vols. Eerdmans, 1973.

XIV. Individual Book Commentaries

Genesis

*Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison. Baker, 1976.

Leupold, H. C. Exposition of Genesis. Baker, 1963.

Stigers, Harold G. A Commentary on Genesis. Zondervan, 1976.

Exodus

Bush, George. Notes, Critical and Practical on the Book of Exodus. 2 vols. Klock and Klock, 1976.

Childs, Brevard. The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary. Westminster, 1974.

*Davis, John J. Moses and the Gods of Egypt. 2d ed. Baker, 1986.

Leviticus

Bonar, Andrew. A Commentary on the Book of Leviticus. Zondervan, 1959.

Bush, George. Notes, Critical and Practical on the Book of Leviticus. Klock and Klock, 1976.

*Wenham, Gordon J. The Book of Leviticus. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1979.

Numbers

Bush, George. Notes, Critical and Practical on the Book of Numbers. Klock and Klock, 1976.

Gray, George G. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Numbers. International Critical Commentary. T. & T. Clark, 1912.

*Harrison, R. K. The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary: Numbers. Moody, 1990.

Deuteronomy

*Craigie, Peter C. The Book of Deuteronomy. New International Critical Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1976.

Driver, S. R. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy. International Critical Commentary. T. & T. Clark, 1902.

Reider, Joseph. The Holy Scriptures: Deuteronomy. Jewish Publication Society, 1937.

Joshua

Davis, John J. Conquest and Crisis. Baker, 1969.

Pink, Arthur. Gleanings in Joshua. Moody, 1964.

*Woudstra, Marten H. The Book of Joshua. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1981.

Judges

Bush, George. Notes, Critical and Practical on the Book of Judges. Klock and Klock, 1976.

Moore, George F. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges. International Critical Commentary. T. & T. Clark, 1901.

*Wood, Leon J. Distressing Days of the Judges. Zondervan, 1975.

Ruth

Atkinson, David. The Message of Ruth. InterVarsity, 1983.

Barber, Cyril J. Ruth: An Expositional Commentary. Moody, 1983.

*Hubbard, Robert L. The Book of Ruth. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1988.

Morris, Leon. Ruth, an Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. InterVarsity, 1968.

1 & 2 Samuel

Anderson, A. A. Word Biblical Commentary: II Samuel. Word, 1989.

*Davis, John J., and John C. Whitcomb. A History of Israel: From Conquest to Exile. Baker, 1980.

Gordon, Robert P. I & II Samuel: A Commentary. Zondervan, 1986.

Keil, C. F., and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Books of Samuel. Eerdmans, 1971.

Klein, Ralph W. Word Biblical Commentary: I Samuel. Word, 1983.

1 & 2 Kings

DeVries, Simon J. Word Biblical Commentary: I Kings. Word, 1985.

Hobbs, T. R. Word Biblical Commentary: II Kings. Word, 1985.

*Keil, C. F. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: The Books of the Kings. Eerdmans, 1971.

Montgomery, James A. The Book of Kings. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1951.

Newsome, James D., ed. A Synoptic Harmony of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Baker, 1986.

1 & 2 Chronicles

Braun, Roddy. Word Biblical Commentary: I Chronicles. Word, 1986.

Dillard, Raymond B. Word Biblical Commentary: II Chronicles. Word, 1987.

*Keil, C. F. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of the Chronicles. Eerdmans, 1971.

Wilcock, Michael. The Message of Chronicles. InterVarsity, 1987.

Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther

Barber, Cyril J. Nehemiah and the Dynamics of Effective Leadership. Loizeaux, 1976.

Cassel, Paulus. An Explanatory Commentary on Esther. Edinburg, 1881.

Keil, C. F. The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Eerdmans, 1970.

*Kidner, Derek. Ezra and Nehemiah, An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity, 1979.

*Whitcomb, John C. Esther: Triumph of God’s Sovereignty. Moody, 1979.

Williamson, H. G. M. Word Biblical Commentary: Ezra, Nehemiah. Word, 1985.

Job

*Anderson, Francis I. Job. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity, 1976.

Delitzsch, Franz. Biblical Commentary on the Book of Job. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1970.

Dhorme, Edouard. A Commentary on the Book of Job. Nelson, 1967.

Psalms

Alexander, J. A. The Psalms Translated and Explained. Zondervan, n.d.

Leupold, H. C. Exposition on the Psalms. Baker, 1969.

Scroggie, W. Graham. The Psalms. Pickering, 1965.

*Spurgeon, C. H. The Treasury of David. 3 vols. Zondervan, 1966.

Proverbs

*Alden, Robert L. Proverbs. Baker, 1983.

Bridges, Charles. A Commentary on Proverbs. Banner of Truth, 1968.

Delitzsch, Franz. Biblical Commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1970.

McKane, William. Proverbs. Old Testament Library; Westminster, 1970.

Ecclesiastes

Eaton, Michael. Ecclesiastes: An Introduction and Commentary. InterVarsity, 1983.

*Kaiser, Walter C. Ecclesiastes: Total Life. Moody, 1979.

Leupold, H. C. Exposition of Ecclesiastes. Baker, 1952.

Song of Solomon

Burrowes, George. A Commentrary on The Song of Solomon. Banner of Truth, 1973.

*Carr, G. Lloyd. The Song of Solomon. InterVarsity, 1984.

Durham, James. The Song of Solomon. Banner of Truth, 1982.

Isaiah

Alexander, Joseph A. Isaiah, Translated and Explained. Zondervan, 1974.

Morgan, G. Campbell. The Prophecy of Isaiah. The Analyzed Bible. 2 vols. Hodder and Stoughton, 1910.

*Young, Edward J. The Book of Isaiah. 3 vols. Eerdmans, 1965–72.

Jeremiah

*Feinberg, Charles L. Jeremiah, A Commentary. Zondervan, 1982.

Laetsch, Theodore. Jeremiah. Concordia, 1952.

Morgan, G. Campbell. Studies in the Prophecy of Jeremiah. Revell, 1969.

Lamentations

*Harrison, R. K. Jeremiah and Lamentations. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity, 1973.

Jensen, Irving L. Jeremiah and Lamentations. Moody, 1974.

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. A Biblical Approach to Personal Suffering. Moody, 1982.

Ezekiel

*Feinberg, Charles L. The Prophecy of Ezekiel. Moody, 1969.

Keil, Carl Friedrich. Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Ezekiel. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1970.

Taylor, John B. Ezekiel, An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity, 1969.

Daniel

*Walvoord, John F. Daniel, The Key to Prophetic Revelation. Moody, 1971.

Wood, Leon J. Commentary on Daniel. Zondervan, 1972.

Young, Edward J. The Messianic Prophecies of Daniel. Eerdmans, 1954.

Minor Prophets

*Feinberg, Charles L. The Minor Prophets. Moody, 1976.

Keil, C. F., and Franz Delitzsch. The Twelve Minor Prophets. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1961.

Laetsch, Theodore. The Minor Prophets. Concordia, 1956.

Pusey, E. B. The Minor Prophets, a Commentary. Baker, 1956.

Matthew

Broadus, John A. Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. American Baptist, 1886.

Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Matthew. Baker, 1973.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew. 4 vols. Moody, 1985–89.

Morgan, G. Campbell. The Gospel According to Matthew. Revell, n.d.

*Toussaint, Stanley D. Behold the King, A Study of Matthew. Multnomah, 1980.

Mark

Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Mark. Baker, 1975.

*Hiebert, D. Edmond. Mark, A Portrait of the Servant. Moody, 1974.

Morgan, G. C. The Gospel According to Mark. Revell, n.d.

Swete, Henry Barclay. The Gospel According to Saint Mark. Eerdmans, 1952.

Luke

Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Luke. Baker, 1978.

Morgan, G. Campbell. The Gospel According to Luke. Revell, n.d.

*Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to St. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries; Eerdmans, 1974.

Plummer, Alfred. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1922.

John

Hendriksen, William. Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Baker, 1961.

Morgan, G. Campell. The Gospel According to John. Revell, n.d..

*Morris, Leon. Commentary on the Gospel of John. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1970.

Westcott, B. F. The Gospel According to Saint John. Eerdmans, 1950.

Acts

Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1956.

*Harrison, Everett F. Acts: The Expanding Church. Moody, 1976.

Kistemaker, Simon J. New Testament Commentary, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles. Baker, 1990.

Morgan, G. Campbell. The Acts of the Apostles. Revell, n.d.

Romans

*Cranfield, C. E. B. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. 2 vols. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1975–77.

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Romans. 6 vols. Zondervan, 1971–76.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans. Multi-volume. Moody, 1991–.

McClain, Alva J. Romans, the Gospel of God’s Grace. Moody, 1973.

Murray, John. The Epistle to the Romans. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1968.

1 Corinthians

*Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1987.

Godet, Franz. Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Zondervan, 1957.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians. Moody, 1984.

Robertson, Archibald, and A. Plummer. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1914.

2 Corinthians

*Hughes, Philip E. Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1962.

Kent, Homer A. A Heart Opened Wide: Studies in II Corinthians. Baker, 1982.

Plummer, Alfred. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1915.

Galatians

Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Galatians, A Commentary on the Greek Text. Eerdmans, 1982.

*Kent, Homer A., Jr. The Freedom of God’s Sons: Studies in Galatians. Baker, 1976.

Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians. Zondervan, 1966.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians. Moody, 1987.

Ephesians

*Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1984.

Hendriksen, William. Epistle to the Ephesians. Baker, 1966.

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Expositions on Ephesians. 8 vols. Baker, 1972–82.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians. Moody, 1986.

Salmond, S. D. F. “The Epistle to the Ephesians.” Vol 3. in Expositor’s Greek Testament. Eerdmans, 1970.

Philippians

Hendriksen, William. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians. Baker, 1962.

*Lightfoot, Joseph B. Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul Philippians. Zondervan, 1953.

Vincent, Marvin R. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1897.

Colossians

*Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1984.

Hendriksen, William. Exposition of Colossians and Philemon. Baker, 1964.

Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon. Zondervan, 1959.

Philemon

See Philippians and Colossians listings, above.

1 & 2 Thessalonians

Hendriksen, William. Exposition of I and II Thessalonians. Baker, 1955.

Hiebert, D. Edmond. The Thessalonian Epistles. Moody, 1971.

Morris, Leon. The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1959.

*Thomas, Robert L. “1, 2 Thessalonians.” Vol. 11 in Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Zondervan, 1978.

1 & 2 Timothy, Titus

Fairbairn, Patrick. Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. Zondervan, 1956.

Hendriksen, William. Exposition of The Pastoral Epistles. Baker, 1957.

*Kent, Homer A. The Pastoral Epistles. Moody, 1982.

Simpson, E. K. The Pastoral Epistles. Tyndale, 1954.

Hebrews

Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Hebrews. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1990.

Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Eerdmans, 1977.

*Kent, Homer A. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Baker, 1972.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews. Moody, 1983.

Westcott, Brooke Foss. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Eerdmans, 1970.

James

Adamson, James B. The Epistle of James. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1976.

———. James, the Man and His Message. Eerdmans, 1989.

*Hiebert, D. Edmond. The Epistle of James, Tests of a Living Faith. Moody, 1979.

Mayor, Joseph Bickersteth. The Epistle of St. James. Zondervan, 1954.

1 Peter

*Hiebert, David Edmond. First Peter. Moody, 1984.

Kistemaker, Simon J. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude. Baker, 1987.

Selwin, Edward Gordon. First Epistle of Saint Peter. Macmillan, 1961.

2 Peter, Jude

*Hiebert, David Edmond. Second Peter and Jude. Unusual Publications, 1989.

Kistemaker, Simon J. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude. Baker, 1987.

Lawlor, George Lawrence. The Epistle of Jude, a Translation and Exposition. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972.

Mayor, James B. The Epistle of St. Jude and the Second Epistle of St. Peter. Macmillan, 1907.

1, 2, 3 John

Candlish, Robert Smith. The First Epistle of John. Zondervan, n.d.

Findlay, George G. Fellowship in the Life Eternal. Eerdmans, 1955.

*Kistemaker, Simon J. Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. Baker, 1986.

Westcott, Brooke Foss. The Epistles of Saint John. Eerdmans, 1966.

Revelation

Beckwith, Isbon T. The Apocalypse of John. Macmillan, 1919.

*Swete, Henry Barclay. The Apocalypse of St. John. Eerdmans.

Thomas, Robert L. Revelation 1–7, An Exegetical Commentary. Vol. 1 of 2 vols. Moody, 1992.

Walvoord, John F. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Moody, 1966.

The Book recommendations above from John MacArthur. Rediscovering Expository Preaching. Dallas: Word, 1997, 108-208.

About the Author: Dr. John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Grace Church has grown from 450 members in 1969, when MacArthur accepted the pastorate, to over 12,000 today. He is also the president of The Master’s College and Seminary in Newhall, California, a prolific author of more than two dozen books, and the speaker on the worldwide radio broadcast, Grace to You, heard over 700 times daily–every half hour, day and night, somewhere around the world. 

The primary emphasis of MacArthur’s ministry has always been the expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word through a verse-by-verse exposition of the Scripture. His studies pay particular attention to the historical and grammatical aspects of each biblical passage. MacArthur’s recently published book, How to Get the Most from God’s Word, released in conjunction with The MacArthur Study Bible, is designed to fill what he sees as “an increased hunger for the meat of the Word.” He assures the reader that the Bible is trustworthy and that an understanding of Scripture is available to everyone. He then provides guidance on how to study the Bible and how to discern the meaning of Scripture for oneself. Dr. MacArthur explains that the book and the Study Bible have been “in the works for 30 years…the product of 32 hours a week, 52 weeks a year…dedicated to the study of God’s Word.” He asserts that “God’s Word is the only thing that satisfies my appetite, but it also arouses an even deeper hunger for more.”

Among MacArthur’s other books are The MacArthur New Testament Commentary seriesThe Gospel According to JesusThe Master’s Plan for the ChurchSaved Without a DoubtThe Glory of HeavenLord Teach Me to PrayUnleashing God’s Word in Your LifeSafe in the Arms of GodThe Second ComingWhy One Way?, and Truth for Today, and Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. His books have been translated into Chinese, Czechoslovakian, French, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, and several Indian languages. Though occasionally viewed by some groups as a controversial figure for strong critiques of freudian psychology, trends in the modern charismatic movement as well as the self-esteem movement, John MacArthur is seen by many as a champion of correcting many of the ills of evangelical Christianity. He is also a champion of helping believers grow stronger in their relationship with God through the committed study of the Word and personal commitment to the local church.
MacArthur spent his first two years of college at Bob Jones University, completed his undergraduate work at Los Angeles Pacific College, and studied for the ministry at Talbot Theological Seminary. John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California. They have four grown children — Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda–and eight grandchildren.

 

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What Are the Basics of Bible Study? By John MacArthur

There is nothing more important for the Christian than to seek Jesus, hear from Him, obey Him, and proclaim Him daily. Few people that I know of have been more faithful in doing these four things than Pastor John MacArthur in our generation. Therefore, who better to write about on how to study the Bible than someone who has been doing it with great passion and great effectiveness for over fifty years. Enjoy this article by Pastor John MacArthur. – Dr. David P. Craig

Personal Bible study, in precept, is simple. I want to share with you 5 steps to Bible study which will give you a pattern to follow:

STEP 1—Reading. Read a passage of Scripture repeatedly until you understand its theme, meaning the main truth of the passage. Isaiah said, “Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Is. 28:9,10).

Develop a plan on how you will approach reading through the Bible. Unlike most books, you will probably not read it straight through from cover to cover. There are many good Bible reading plans available, but here is one that I have found helpful.

Read through the Old Testament at least once a year. As you read, note in the margins any truths you particularly want to remember, and write down separately anything you do not immediately understand. Often as you read you will find that many questions are answered by the text itself. The questions to which you cannot find answers become the starting points for more in-depth study using commentaries or other reference tools.

Follow a different plan for reading the New Testament. Read one book at a time repetitiously for a month or more. This will help you to retain what is in the New Testament and not always have to depend on a concordance to find things.

If you want to try this, begin with a short book, such as 1 John, and read it through in one sitting every day for 30 days. At the end of that time, you will know what is in the book. Write on index cards the major theme of each chapter. By referring to the cards as you do your daily reading, you will begin to remember the content of each chapter. In fact, you will develop a visual perception of the book in your mind.

Divide longer books into short sections and read each section daily for 30 days. For example, the gospel of John contains 21 chapters. Divide it into 3 sections of 7 chapters. At the end of 90 days, you will finish John. For variety, alternate short and long books, and in less than 3 years you will have finished the entire New Testament—as you will really know it!

STEP 2—Interpreting. In Acts 8:30, Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Or put another way, “What does the Bible mean by what it says?” It is not enough to read the text and jump directly to the application; we must first determine what it means, otherwise the application may be incorrect.

As you read Scripture, always keep in mind one simple question: “What does this mean?” To answer that question requires the use of the most basic principle of interpretation, called the analogy of faith, which tells the reader to “interpret the Bible with the Bible.” Letting the Holy Spirit be your teacher (1 John 2:27), search the Scripture He has authored, using cross-references, comparative passages, concordances, indexes, and other helps. For those passages that yet remain unclear, consult your pastor or godly men who have written in that particular area.

Errors to Avoid – As you interpret Scripture, several common errors should be avoided.

Do not draw any conclusions at the price of proper interpretation. That is, do not make the Bible say what you want it to say, but rather let it say what God intended when He wrote it.

Avoid superficial interpretation. You have heard people say, “To me, this passage means,” or “I feel it is saying. . . .” The first step in interpreting the Bible is to recognize the four gaps we have to bridge: language, culture, geography, and history (see below).

Do not spiritualize the passage. Interpret and understand the passage in its normal, literal, historical, grammatical sense, just like you would understand any other piece of literature you were reading today.

Gaps to Bridge – The books of the Bible were written many centuries ago.

For us to understand today what God was communicating then, there are several gaps that need to be bridged: the language gap, the cultural gap, the geographical gap, and the historical gap. Proper interpretation, therefore, takes time and disciplined effort.

Language. The Bible was originally written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Often, understanding the meaning of a word or phrase in the original language can be the key to correctly interpreting a passage of Scripture.

Culture. The culture gap can be tricky. Some people try to use cultural differences to explain away the more difficult biblical commands. Realize that Scripture must first be viewed in the context of the culture in which it was written. Without an understanding of first-century Jewish culture, it is difficult to understand the gospel. Acts and the epistles must be read in light of the Greek and Roman cultures.

Geography. A third gap that needs to be closed is the geography gap. Biblical geography make the Bible come alive. A good Bible atlas is an invaluable reference tool that can help you comprehend the geography of the Holy Land.

History. We must also bridge the history gap. Unlike the scriptures of most other world religions, the Bible contains the records of actual historical persons and events. An understanding of Bible history will help us place the people and events in it in their proper historical perspective. A good Bible dictionary or Bible encyclopedia is useful here, as are basic historical studies.

Principles to Understand

Four principles should guide us as we interpret the Bible: literal, historical, grammatical, and synthesis.

The Literal Principle. Scripture should be understood in its literal, normal, and natural sense. While the Bible does contain figures of speech and symbols, they were intended to convey literal truth. In general, however, the Bible speaks in literal terms, and we must allow it to speak for itself.

The Historical Principle. This means that we interpret in its historical context. We must ask what the text meant to the people to whom it was first written. In this way we can develop a proper contextual understanding of the original intent of Scripture.

The Grammatical Principle. This requires that we understand the basic grammatical structure of each sentence in the original language. To whom do the pronouns refer? What is the tense of the main verb? You will find that when you ask some simple questions like those, the meaning of the text immediately becomes clearer.

The Synthesis Principle. This is what the Reformers called the analogia scriptura. It means that the Bible does not contradict itself. If we arrive at an interpretation of a passage that contradicts a truth taught elsewhere in the Scriptures, our interpretation cannot be correct. Scripture must be compared with Scripture to discover its full meaning.

STEP 3—Evaluating. You have been reading and asking the question, “What does the Bible say?” Then you have interpreted, asking the question, “What does the Bible mean?” Now it is time to consult others to insure that you have the proper interpretation. Remember, the Bible will never contradict itself.

Read Bible introductions, commentaries, and background books which will enrich your thinking through that illumination which God has given to other men and to you through their books. In your evaluation, be a true seeker. Be one who accepts the truth of God’s Word even though it may cause you to change what you always have believed, or cause you to alter your life pattern.

STEP 4—Applying. The next question is: “How does God’s truth penetrate and change my own life?” Studying Scripture without allowing it to penetrate to the depths of your soul would be like preparing a banquet without eating it. The bottom-line question to ask is, “How do the divine truths and principles contained in any passage apply to me in terms of my attitude and actions?”

Jesus made this promise to those who would carry their personal Bible study through to this point: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).

Having read and interpreted the Bible, you should have a basic understanding of what the Bible says, and what it means by what it says. But studying the Bible does not stop there. The ultimate goal should be to let it speak to you and enable you to grow spiritually. That requires personal application.

Bible study is not complete until we ask ourselves, “What does this mean for my life and how can I practically apply it?” We must take the knowledge we have gained from our reading and interpretation and draw out the practical principles that apply to our personal lives.

If there is a command to be obeyed, we obey it. If there is a promise to be embraced, we claim it. If there is a warning to be followed, we heed it. This is the ultimate step: we submit to Scripture and let it transform our lives. If you skip this step, you will never enjoy your Bible study and the Bible will never change your life.

STEP 5—Correlating. This last stage connects the doctrine you have learned in a particular passage or book with divine truths and principles taught elsewhere in the Bible to form the big picture. Always keep in mind that the Bible is one book in 66 parts, and it contains a number of truths and principles, taught over and over again in a variety of ways and circumstances. By correlating and cross-referencing, you will begin to build a sound doctrinal foundation by which to live.

What Now?

The psalmist said, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1,2).

It is not enough just to study the Bible. We must meditate upon it. In a very real sense we are giving our brain a bath; we are washing it in the purifying solution of God’s Word.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

Here is the spring where waters flow,

To quench our heat of sin:

Here is the tree where truth doth grow,

To lead our lives therein:

Here is the judge that stints the strife,

When men’s devices fail:

Here is the bread that feeds the life,

That death cannot assail.

The tidings of salvation dear,

Comes to our ears from hence:

The fortress of our faith is here,

And shield of our defense.

Then be not like the swine that hath

A pearl at his desire,

And takes more pleasure from the trough

And wallowing in the mire.

Read not this book in any case,

But with a single eye:

Read not but first desire God’s grace,

To understand thereby.

Pray still in faith with this respect,

To bear good fruit therein,

That knowledge may bring this effect,

To mortify thy sin.

Then happy you shall be in all your life,

What so to you befalls:

Yes, double happy you shall be,

When God by death you calls.

(From the first Bible printed in Scotland—1576)

Adapted from the “Introduction” to John MacArthur. ESV MacArthur Study Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010.

About the Author: Dr. John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Grace Church has grown from 450 members in 1969, when MacArthur accepted the pastorate, to over 12,000 today. He is also the president of The Master’s College and Seminary in Newhall, California, a prolific author of more than two dozen books, and the speaker on the worldwide radio broadcast, Grace to You, heard over 700 times daily–every half hour, day and night, somewhere around the world. 

The primary emphasis of MacArthur’s ministry has always been the expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word through a verse-by-verse exposition of the Scripture. His studies pay particular attention to the historical and grammatical aspects of each biblical passage. MacArthur’s recently published book, How to Get the Most from God’s Word, released in conjunction with The MacArthur Study Bible, is designed to fill what he sees as “an increased hunger for the meat of the Word.” He assures the reader that the Bible is trustworthy and that an understanding of Scripture is available to everyone. He then provides guidance on how to study the Bible and how to discern the meaning of Scripture for oneself. Dr. MacArthur explains that the book and the Study Bible have been “in the works for 30 years…the product of 32 hours a week, 52 weeks a year…dedicated to the study of God’s Word.” He asserts that “God’s Word is the only thing that satisfies my appetite, but it also arouses an even deeper hunger for more.”

Among MacArthur’s other books are The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series, The Gospel According to Jesus, The Master’s Plan for the Church, Saved Without a Doubt, The Glory of Heaven, Lord Teach Me to Pray, Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life, Safe in the Arms of God, The Second Coming, Why One Way?, and Truth for Today, and Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. His books have been translated into Chinese, Czechoslovakian, French, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, and several Indian languages. Though occasionally viewed by some groups as a controversial figure for strong critiques of freudian psychology, trends in the modern charismatic movement as well as the self-esteem movement, John MacArthur is seen by many as a champion of correcting many of the ills of evangelical Christianity. He is also a champion of helping believers grow stronger in their relationship with God through the committed study of the Word and personal commitment to the local church.
MacArthur spent his first two years of college at Bob Jones University, completed his undergraduate work at Los Angeles Pacific College, and studied for the ministry at Talbot Theological Seminary. John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California. They have four grown children — Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda–and eight grandchildren.

 

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Book Review – Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Good Biblical Foundation For Understanding the Topic of God’s Will For Your Life

I am currently reading a handful of books on decision making. I figured I would start out with the shortest of them, and work my way to the longest (from the simple to the complex). John Macarthur’s greatest strength is that you can count on him staying close to what the Bible says and not giving any speculation as to what it doesn’t say. He doesn’t delve into the emotional or philosophical realm, but sticks like glue to what the Bible clearly articulates concerning what God’s will is for humanity.

In the first chapter John clearly spells out what he wants to do in this little booklet: “Let’s begin with a simple assumption. Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it. If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way. How would that be? Through the Bible, His revelation. Therefore, I believe that what one needs to know about the will of God is clearly revealed in the pages of the Word of God. God’s will is, in fact, very explicit in Scripture.”

Therefore, MacArthur proceeds to deal only with what the Bible states explicitly about the Word of God. He gleans six principles from six (actually more – but for the purposes of this review I will only give the key texts he uses) key passages of Scripture.

1)    The first thing about God’s will is that He wants all kinds of people (economic classes, high positions, low positions and all ethnicities) to be saved based on 1 Timothy 2:3,4 – “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (Referencing verses1 & 2 where Paul says “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”).

2)    It is God’s will that we are Spirit-filled (numerous verses). The key verses used in the chapter is Ephesians 5:15-18 where the Apostle Paul says, “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” According to MacArthur the Spirit-filled life is “being saturated with the things of Christ with His Word, His Person.”

3)    It is God’s will for us to be sanctified. The key verses here are in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in passionate lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

4)    It is God’s will that we be a submissive and obedient people. Colossians 3; Ephesians 5 & 6; and 1 Peter 2:3-15 all talk about the roles of submission that every believer has with ultimate submission to the Lordship of Jesus over our lives.

5)    It is God’s will that we mature in Christ through suffering. 1 Peter 4:19 & 5:10 specify, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

6)    It is God’s will that in all things we give thanks and delight in Him. In Psalm 37:4 David reminds us to “delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In the final analysis if you are saved through the righteousness of Christ imputed to your account in exchange for your sin, and thus Spirit-filled, seeking to be sanctified, are submissive to Christ’s leadership in your life, endure suffering, and are continually giving thanks in all things – then according to MacArthur, and I agree – it doesn’t matter what you do. The foundation for all your decisions has already been established, and now you have great freedom within the parameters of God’s protective boundaries delineated in the Bible.

This book is by no means exhaustive, but is recommended because it lays a solid foundation for what the Bible does say about “finding God’s will for your life.”

 

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