All wisdom, all the benefits of wisdom, divine wisdom, all righteousness, all of that is found in Christ...everything is found in Christ. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. On today's broadcast, John is breaking from his normal verse-by-verse approach to answer questions from his local congregation in Los Angeles. Questions about crucial doctrines like Christ's birth and his sinless life, the permanence of salvation, the qualifications of an elder, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in heaven. More than matters of curiosity, these questions will help you apply Scripture's truth to some issues that I think most of us have wondered about.
So let's get to this Q&A. You'll first hear a member from John's congregation, and then John will respond. My name is Roxanne Bartush, and the question I have is Matthew 5-42, give to him who asks of you and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. Does that mean we give to everybody that asks of us? I think it's a general principle, yes.
Give to him who asks of you. The assumption is that he's not trying to take advantage of you. The assumption is that the need is real, that the need is genuine. What you're really asking is, if I see a beggar, do I give money to a beggar? That's not the point. There's a general principle, and that is the principle that when someone has need, legitimate genuine need, and they come to you and ask for that need to be met, and you have the resource to do that, then you should do that.
Let me just say this. One of the principles that I operate on as I travel around the world is never to give any money to a beggar, none, because when you do that, you make begging successful, and when begging is successful, it becomes a career. When we're in India, for example, little children come up and literally hang on your clothes, hang on your arm with these great big dark eyes, and they plead with you for money, and of course you realize that around the corner is the guy who owns all these little kids, who has them doing this and collects 75% of everything that they collect, and it's an absolutely massive enterprise.
You find that in most third-world countries of our time, so you have to be very judicious and very careful that you don't grow a beggar, that you don't feed that kind of thing, but where there is a situation, you know to be a genuine need, and you have the opportunity to meet that need, you're to do that. Right here. Okay. We know that sin entered the world through man. I assume the word man is used in a generic way, since all enter the world in sin. So if Mary, by her own admission, needed a savior, making her a sinner, and since Jesus was part of her flesh as well as that of the Holy Spirit, I accept by faith that Jesus was sinless, but don't understand how Jesus would not be tainted by sin since he was born from her body. Well, that's a good question, and you don't understand it, and neither do I, neither does anybody else.
So you're in good company. But it's the fact, it's an absolute fact, and now you people are getting in deep here. You understand now, you're asking me to unscrew the unscrewable, because basically the question you're asking is how is the sin nature passed? How is it passed? Is it passed through the blood stream? Is it passed through DNA? Is it passed through, you know, the genetic code? Is it passed through the chromosomes?
I mean, that's a very difficult question to ask. Basically the capability of the human body to grow old is passed through the chromosomes and the DNA genetics, and Jesus' body grew old. The ability of a body to be injured and wounded, even die, Jesus experienced all of that.
So there was some of the essence, and understand this, there was some of the essence of what it means to live in a truly human form. To say there was some of the components of real humanity, which has the capacity to feel pain and suffer and hunger and thirst and die, Jesus had that, and that came through the very real flesh of His own mother. But somehow God filtered out in that process any influence of sin whatsoever.
How He did that, He knows, I don't know, I don't know. But your question is a good one because it does assume that one sinful parent should be enough to make a sinner out of you. And in any other circumstance we would say that is true. I mean, one sinful mother we could certainly understand could beget a sinful child if one could beget singularly and one can't but hypothetically. But in the case of Mary, though she was a sinner, God somehow filtered out the sin that normally would be passed to the child. He did that miraculously. It shouldn't surprise us that He did that miraculously since it's even miraculous that He conceived within her that child by planting the seed, not by having a man. So the whole thing is miraculous.
How He did it, I don't know. But Jesus came out fully human, bearing all that is full humanness and yet without sin. God just filtered that part out, screened that out somehow supernaturally, okay?
We have a lady right in the middle. Dr. MacArthur, we have read quite a few commentaries about this and I had a dear pastor tell me that the Bible casts a lot of light on the commentaries, but I still have a question I need to ask you. Who or what is Babylon the Great as listed in the 17th chapter of Revelation? I think Babylon the Great represents a worldwide religious system in chapter 17, a restoration of the original anti-God paganism that was associated with the Tower of Babel in Genesis and thus it bears the same name. But I think it's a worldwide religious system and it appears to me, if you read carefully through chapter 17, it centers itself in a city with seven hills, which isn't too hard to figure out. Rome, it seems to me too that it's bigger than Rome because it's drunk with the blood of all the martyrs, which means it takes all false religion that has massacred the true church throughout all the centuries and masses all of that in one final great massive religious false system. The anti-Christ along with the false prophet allow this system to exist for a while and then consume that false religious system when the anti-Christ establishes himself as the only one to be worshiped and that sets up the final Babylon, which is more of a secular world economic situation that you see in chapter 18. But I see it as a conglomerate system of false religion worldwide that is centered in the city of Rome and has as its titular head very likely the pope whom some believe would even be the kind of person that could serve as anti-Christ or the false prophet.
So I see it as a world religious system sort of centered in Rome. Thank you. Thank you. And we have another lady over here to ask a question. I was just wondering, the Bible teaches that as a Christian when we die, we receive different degrees of rewards in heaven and I'd like to know if you could expound on those degrees but also if there are different degrees of suffering in hell. I think yes to both of those questions. There will be varying degrees of reward in heaven.
That shouldn't surprise us. There are varying degrees of giftedness even here on earth. To get a good glimpse of what heaven might be like, look at the church. From the moment of your redemption, the Lord put His Holy Spirit within you and according to 1 Corinthians 12, He gave you certain spiritual gifts, right? He gave gifts to all of His church. They differ.
They have their... what are gifts? They are varying capacities for ministry, varying capacities for service to God in His church. But the same thing will be true eternally. I think in eternity we will all be given according to our abilities and according to our faithfulness varying capacities for glorifying, serving and worshiping God. So I think that it's going to be based upon two things. One would be the sovereignty of God who would choose to give as He wills as in 1 Corinthians 12 as He gives spiritual gifts in this life to the church in whatever way He chooses to do that.
That's a sovereign thing. And secondly, I think there is another component and that is to do... has to do with faithfulness here. I believe our eternal reward will be in some way determined by the level of faithfulness we have had here. Now, the reason we... there are a number of reasons why we assume this. One of them was this conversation that Jesus had with the mother of James and John who said my boys want to sit on your right and left hand when you come into the kingdom. And He said it's not for me to give that, it's for my Father to give that. And there He said that there are going to be some people elevated.
Somebody's going to be on my right, somebody's going to be on my left and some others are going to be going down the line here. It's not for me to decide that, it's the Father. But then He went on to say the criteria by which that is going to be decided is faithfulness unto death. So I think the greatest reward in the future is rewarded for the most faithful people and that probably plays itself out in those who are faithful unto death, the martyrs, those who gave their life. You could give your life in living as well as give your life in dying, couldn't you?
You know what I mean by that? You could make the self-sacrifice to the maximum extent even while you're alive where you sacrifice everything else and be what Paul called a living sacrifice. So I think there is definitely going to be in heaven varying levels of service just as there are with the angels.
There are archangels and there are cherubim and seraphim and principalities and powers and rulers and all of those varying levels of angelic hierarchy. I think in eternity we're all going to be sorted out within that eternal worshiping community and given varying capacities and varying responsibilities which are determined by the sovereignty of God and our faithfulness here. That's why John says, look to yourselves that you lose not the things you have wrought but that you receive a full reward. It is possible that you could be faithful and the Lord be ready and prepared to give you a full reward but by some sin in your life toward the end of your life you could begin to forfeit and those things would be taken back off the list added to the wood, hay and stubble kind of thing and your reward would be less.
What is it? Is it going to be some people with bigger crowns? No. We're not going to be going around saying, ha, I got a big one, you got a little one. It's not going to be that. Whatever we get, I believe in the picture of the 24 elders, we take our crowns and cast them at the feet of the Lord.
But I don't believe there's going to be anything that's visible. I think it's going to be a capacity for serving God fully and completely. And I don't think you'll have any sense of loss or any sense of missing anything because each individual's capacity will be reached to its maximum.
But I think what we want to do is have the greatest capacity for worshiping God as His sovereignty would give us and as our faithfulness would warrant. Now in terms of the other, there will be degrees of suffering. Hebrews 10 says, how much greater suffering will come to the one who has trodden underfoot the blood of the covenant and counted it an unholy thing, done despite to the Spirit of grace. To put it simply, it means this, the more people know about the gospel and reject the greater degree of suffering they will experience when they trample underfoot the blood of the covenant. That is to say the pagan who never heard anything about the gospel of Jesus Christ will not suffer to the degree that the apostate would who heard it all, understood it all, and blatantly rejected it all.
Okay? Hi, my name's Phil Bach. We were members here until about five years ago when we moved to Utah. In an adult Sunday school class in our church back there, we were going through the book of Galatians in chapter 5, which I was teaching a couple of weeks ago. We came to Galatians 5, 2 and 5, 4, which talk about the consequences of accepting circumcision or coming under the Jewish law or doing anything legalistic. Paul writes in verse 2 that Christ is of no benefit to you that were severed from Christ. Verse 4, fallen from grace. Got into quite a discussion with a fellow in the class about whether this meant you could lose your salvation, which was the position he took. In fact, he got so upset that he got up and left. I just wanted to ask how you responded to that. He hoped he wasn't angry enough to have lost his salvation. I tend to think he doesn't have it to begin with. Anyway, how would you have dealt with that situation?
What would you suggest to me? First of all, again, you're back to context. And I think what he's saying here, Galatians 5, he's writing to believers and yet he knows that in the wings are the Judaizers, those people who went around saying, we're Christians, but we believe before you can enter into Christ you have to keep the Mosaic law and go through the physical right of circumcision. And so this is adding law to grace. And Paul's viewpoint is that always if you add law to grace, you nullify grace.
I mean that's clear in Romans 3 and Romans 4. If as soon as you add any law to grace, you've nullified grace. As soon as you say, yes, salvation is by grace if you do this and if you do that. And there's some kind of temporal action that you can do like keep Mosaic ceremonies and get yourself circumcised and that's part of salvation, you have now nullified grace. And so what he is saying is if you are receiving circumcision believing that this is contributing to your salvation, then Christ is of no benefit to you. In other words, you have now forfeited a salvation purely and only by grace and you've clouded the issue by your works. You are now saying, yes, it is grace plus my works and that negates the only means of salvation which is grace. In verse 4, you are really severed from Christ. If you're seeking to be justified by law, you have now fallen from the grace principle. It doesn't mean you are saved and now you've been lost.
You have fallen away from the only means of salvation which is the principle of grace. Circumcision was a very important symbol, but it was not a means of salvation. But those Judaizers were trying to make it a means of salvation.
Does that cover it? I was wondering if you thought those verses had any relevance to believers once they're saved and if so, what that was? Well, if you say that, then you're going to say that a believer has, that Christ is of no benefit to a believer. And in verse 4, that he has been severed from Christ. If I'm going to say this is going to be applied to a believer, now I'm going to have to say the believer somehow lost his salvation. But I don't want to presuppose that you can't lose your salvation and read it into the text. What I want to say is Paul has been preaching through this entire book, salvation by grace. I mean, he's back in chapter 3, he says, look, you began in the Spirit, you can't be perfected by your flesh. I mean, being justified by the Spirit through grace, you're not going to be perfected by the law through works. And the principle of comparing grace to law goes through this whole book. And I think all he's saying here is, look, Christ set us free to be free. Keep standing firm. Don't let somebody come along and tell you your works are going to save you because if you get into that, you're going to fall away from the grace principle which is the only thing that can truly save and you're going to be cut off from Christ. I think to go beyond that is to read anything into the text. Obviously, it has some implications, you could say, well, for a Christian, if I try to live in the flesh, I'll get cut off from the power of Christ, but I don't think that's what this is saying.
Okay? Yes, Vince. Yeah, John, I have some questions with regard to some scriptural references to the presence of the Holy Spirit and the eternal state. Well, the Holy Spirit is God. You mean you're wondering if He's going to be there?
Well, I just want to know some references that I could look up. I have been worrying about this. Isolating Him out from the rest. I don't know if I can think of that offhand, isolating the Holy Spirit out from the rest of the Trinity to note that He is eternal. I mean, obviously, He is as eternal as any other member of the Trinity because He is God, the third person, so His eternality is tied to His identity, His person.
Let's see. Try Hebrews 9.14. Try Hebrews 9.14. That comes to mind and I think, see, yes, verse 13, if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ do through the eternal Spirit? Now there's a reference to the eternality of the Holy Spirit. And if you start there in Hebrews 9.13, you might want to check some other resources. You might find some other references to the eternality of the Holy Spirit. I don't know if offhand I can't just grab any out of the air.
But anyway, you might be able to find some other ones. I think about 1 Corinthians 15, 28, because it's just such an important one. It says that, ultimately, when everything is resolved, all things are subjected to God. The Son Himself will be subjected to the one who is subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all, all in all. And so there you have the eternal God, everything ultimately resolved in His eternality in the end.
And what is His function? What is His ministry, if you will, in the eternal life? Well, He will uphold everything, just like He does now. I mean, when we get to eternity, God's not going to stop doing what He does now. If it's going to be righteousness in eternity, He's going to have to sustain the righteousness. The Holy Spirit will continue to do whatever the Holy Spirit has always done.
The only difference is going to be with reference to us. But you know, we're not all there is. There's a whole angelic creation. There's an entire endless universe. There's a whole heaven of heavens. There's a new Jerusalem. There's the abode of God and all the enterprise that God is involved in in sustaining all that is. And whatever role the Holy Spirit has always played in that, He will always continue to play in that. Is there a difference, and what is the difference between the ability to teach and the spiritual gift of teaching, and then flowing from that, is it possible to be in an elder position or a pastor position like yours without having the gift of teaching?
Okay, let's start at the end. No, it's not possible to be in a pastor or teacher role without having the gift of teaching or preaching. And all preaching has to have the teaching content. So even a preacher is teaching while he's preaching.
He's proclaiming content. It is possible, I suppose, to say a man has the gift of preaching, the emphasis in preaching, and is not strong in the classroom, he's not a strong teacher as such. But no one could be an elder with neither of those capabilities, okay? Then the question before that was, what is the difference between the ability to teach and the gift of teaching?
There is no difference in my mind. I'm always referring to the spiritual gift. Now a person can have the gift of teaching and not be an elder. There are many women in the church who have the gift of teaching. There may be many other men in the church who have the gift of teaching. Some of them are not elders because, one, they're not desiring that office.
The Spirit of God has not called them to that, not prompted them to that. Secondly, they're not elders because maybe they're not one-woman men, maybe they haven't demonstrated that leadership in the family that sets them apart, maybe their character has not been above reproach and all those other qualifications aren't there. But it may just be that God hasn't elevated them to that particular office and they're very content to teach in the church. This church, for example, has many men and many women who have the gift of teaching but are not elders. So you can have the gift of teaching which is a spiritual ability to teach and not necessarily be an elder. You can't be an elder without either the gift of teaching or preaching. And the difference between the ability and the gift in the church, there isn't any difference. Inside the church there are people who have the ability to teach but it's not the spiritual gift. I believe inside the church when we're talking about teaching the Bible, teaching spiritual things, we're talking about a gift.
Now let me take it a step further. It is conceivable and it is probably very common that you have people in the church who have the ability to teach, school teachers, university professors, but they don't exercise the gift of teaching in the church. That's another completely different thing that is a spiritual enterprise.
Does that help sort it out a little? Yes, but when you talked this morning about the ability to teach being a skill, then how would that be developed if or is it just a gift from God? Well, even if it's a gift, yeah, I wasn't trying to talk about it as a developmental thing, but I do believe it is developed.
I hope I'm a better teacher and preacher now than I was when I started. I had the gift then, but it's a matter of developing and refining and exercising and using and enhancing that gift. And that's all how the Spirit of God works. I mean, even Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.
We're all in a progressive kind of growth and our ministry certainly should reflect that development. So we, I believe when you're saved, the gifts are there, the Spirit of God probably gives them then as 1 Corinthians would indicate, He divides several to every man as He will at the same time we receive the Spirit of God. And at that point the gift is there, it begins to be enriched and strengthened as we exercise that gift. But it is a skill in the sense that it's something we do in a function that sets us apart from other people. In other words, being honest, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, being hospitable, the other things that are there, being devout, being self-controlled, those aren't skills, those are character qualities. Now when you're talking about teaching and preaching, you're talking about a skill. That skill in the church is a spiritual gift, okay?
Good question. That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, fielding questions from members of his local congregation in Sun Valley, California in the Los Angeles area. This is part of a special time of Bible questions and answers on this edition of Grace To You. You know, John, one of the benefits of a Q&A session like today's is it helps us see just how comprehensive and sufficient Scripture is.
People come to you with questions like this, and they may not realize it, but you have not seen these questions beforehand. So you're answering extemporaneously, and it's just a reflection of how well you understand the Bible, but even more, what strikes me is how thorough the Bible is in dealing with all the necessary components of our lives. Scripture has all the answers to all of our important questions, so the challenge for believers is to know how to navigate the Scriptures.
Yeah, and you're absolutely right. What I do and what you do in a similar situation of a Q&A, when the question comes to me, I just pull together the salient Scriptures, and they just pop into my mind, and I can craft a kind of theology that answers that question. So it's my familiarity with the Scripture and the meaning of the Scripture that allows me to answer. And honestly, Phil, most of the questions that I get in those environments are available if you navigate the footnotes in a MacArthur Study Bible. So I just remind our listeners, everybody has questions, that's fine. The reason that I wrote the MacArthur Study Bible notes, 25,000 footnotes that explain basically all the passages of the Bible, was to answer the questions that people constantly ask.
Yeah, I'll tell you a little secret. We get a lot of questions through the mail at Grace To You, and I answer those. The first thing I do when I get a question is see what it says in the MacArthur Study Bible, and usually the answer is there. Yeah, because that's the point of explaining the Scripture. Sometimes they don't know what Scripture to go to, but if they did, they would find the answer in the notes there.
So I would just say, passage by passage, verse by verse, through the Bible, I've written detailed notes with all kinds of tools and aids and helps, so that you can navigate the verses and the issues and the doctrines that are taught in the Bible. This is a library of Bible understanding right in your Bible. The MacArthur Study Bible is available in New American Standard, New King James, ESV. Shipping is free, and if you don't have a MacArthur Study Bible, join the millions who do and order one today.
That's right. And friend, everything in this resource, the cross references, the maps, the charts, and especially the 25,000 study notes, they're all there to help you better understand God's Word and grow in obedience to our Lord's commands. It's a great gift for any student of Scripture. To order the MacArthur Study Bible, contact us today. Call us toll-free at 855-GRACE or visit our website, gty.org. As John said, the Study Bible is available in the English Standard, New King James, and New American Standard versions, as well as several non-English translations.
With reasonable prices and free shipping, we are sure to have an option that meets your needs. Again, to order the MacArthur Study Bible, call 800-55-GRACE or shop online at gty.org. And thanks too for remembering that the support of listeners like you helps keep John's verse-by-verse teaching on the air in your neighborhood and in communities around the world. To help take the hard-to-believe truth of the gospel to people in your area and around the world, mail your tax-deductible donation to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. You can also donate online at gty.org or when you call us at 800-55-GRACE. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson encouraging you to be here next week when John begins a series on some of Christ's most powerful and fascinating teaching, the parables. Join us as we dive deep into Christ's parables with another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Monday's Grace To You.
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