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Bold Proclaimers of Gospel Truth

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
October 4, 2022 4:00 am

Bold Proclaimers of Gospel Truth

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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October 4, 2022 4:00 am

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John MacArthur

Now our calling and our duty as the children of light, as Paul calls us, is to make sure that we shine the light of the gospel into the darkness.

That's our responsibility. We don't make alliances common cause with the darkness, but we shine the light of the gospel into the darkness. The apostle Paul suffered repeated beatings, deprivation, even a stoning. And yet, no matter how evil the world became or how often he was persecuted, Paul endured. But what gave this man of God the strength to stay faithful? What truths did Paul cling to when his trials no doubt seemed too tough to bear, and yet they kept coming?

John MacArthur considers those questions today in a brand new series airing for the first time on Grace To You. It's a biblical look at how to understand the current chaos in our society, why you can have confidence that God is still in control, and how to effectively serve the Lord and serve others in these difficult days. John calls this series the world versus the kingdom of God, and now here is John.

I want to take you to a passage that has been a treasure to me for many, many years. It's one of those defining portions of Scripture as I look at my life and my ministry and your life and your ministry in the kingdom of light. And that passage is 2 Corinthians chapter 4, 2 Corinthians chapter 4. Now, we've been looking at the idea of the fact that there is revealed in Scripture that the world is made up of two kingdoms. There's the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. And we looked at 2 Corinthians chapter 6 which says light and darkness are incompatible, as incompatible as lawlessness and righteousness, as Satan and Christ, as unbelievers and believers. And so we said that the Word of God calls on us to be separate, touch not the unclean thing, have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.

The kingdom of light is not ever helped or advanced by an alliance in a common cause with the kingdom of darkness. Christ does not need Satan to accomplish His purposes. And that, breaching that reality is what causes all the compromise that infects and has always infected the church. So there are two kingdoms. Now our calling and our duty as the children of light, as Paul calls us, is to make sure that we shine the light of the gospel into the darkness.

That's our responsibility. We don't make alliances, common cause with the darkness, but we shine the light of the gospel into the darkness. Paul gives us some help on that when he gives his testimony in the 26th chapter of Acts, and if you look down at verse 12, that's a good place to start. Paul is giving his testimony to a pagan king, and he's rehearsing what happened to him on the Damascus Road. So he says, "'While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven brighter than the sun shining all around me, and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?

It is hard for you to kick against the goads. And I said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and stand on your feet. For this purpose I have appeared to you to appoint you a minister and a witness, not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you, rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles to whom I am sending you.'" And here's his calling, "'To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, and that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.'" That is crystal clear, isn't it?

Let me read it again. "'Your purpose is to open the eyes of Jews and Gentiles so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.'" We are lights in the world. We have the same calling the apostle Paul had, to shine the gospel light into the darkness. Paul accepted this calling, and in Romans chapter 1 he says this, chapter 1, verse 14, "'I am under obligation to the Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and to the foolish.'"

This is an obligation. "'So for my part, I am also eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome, for I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it is written, but the righteous man shall live by faith. I am not ashamed of the gospel.

It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.'" Paul was not ashamed to boldly shine the light of the gospel into the darkness. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 9 16 he says, "'Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.'" In 1 Corinthians 1 23 he says, "'We preach Christ crucified.'" In chapter 2 of that same book and verse 2, "'We preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified.'"

And I want to say immediately, the boldness of Paul and the fact that he was not ashamed of the gospel, put him in a precarious position from the very beginning of his ministry. His conversion story is back in the 9th chapter of Acts, and I won't go through that, but I do want to mention one thing. His conversion is in the beginning of the 9th chapter of Acts on the Damascus Road. We read his rehearsal of that in chapter 26 of Acts, but no sooner had he been converted and called by God midway through that same chapter that gives the story of his conversion, we read this, "'And immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying He is the Son of God.'"

That would be the most hostile place you could possibly go to. A synagogue, he's been converted, and he goes immediately into a synagogue to declare that Jesus, this crucified Jew, is in fact the Son of God. The boldness of Paul validates the fact that he was not ashamed. In the rest of his life, he faced the inevitable hostility that comes to one who's bold. Now, you may not suffer the same things that Paul suffered, but there is rejection on that level of boldness that he exhibited.

So it's hard, given that, to stay with it, hard to stay with it. But Paul stayed with it. Let's go back now to 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 1. He says in verse 1, notice just that phrase at the end of the verse, we do not lose heart. We do not lose heart. He says it again over in verse 16, therefore we do not lose heart. This is the remarkable thing about this man. His life was just a constant act of dodging death, because there was so much fierce hostility against the good news of the gospel.

There would be many people today who would suggest to Paul that he could maybe alter the message a little bit and it wouldn't always be a jail ministry. Maybe you don't have to be so bold. What is it that you're saying? This is supposed to be good news.

What is it that you're saying that is causing this level of hostility everywhere you go? So extreme that he was even stoned to death and raised again. He says we do not lose heart. He was faithful to the very end, to the time that he laid his head on a block and an axe had severed it from his body, and he died in martyrdom.

He never lost heart. What does that mean? What does that verb mean, ekkeo in Greek? It basically means to act cowardly, to defect sinfully, to give in to evil, to burn out. Paul has to remind Timothy not to do that in 2 Timothy. Don't do that, Timothy. Don't abandon the gift that was given to you, affirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders. Timothy preached the Word.

You have God watching you. How did this apostle maintain such endurance when so many people bail out at some point? Complaints about burnout, about the ministry's too difficult. There are fewer people who leave the ministry that way than there are who stay in the ministry and just avoid anything that's offensive.

They never say anything that could make anybody mad. How did he endure? Well, at the end of verse 3, I should say at the end of chapter 3, it says that the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. We all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the Spirit. The answer is the Holy Spirit was consistently sanctifying him and making him more like Christ, and there was no lack of boldness in the preaching of Christ, was there?

As the Holy Spirit sanctified him, he became more like his Savior, and he demonstrated the attributes of the Lord Jesus Himself, and one of them was certainly preaching the truth boldly. But as you come into chapter 4, he defines for us some convictions. People will debate about whether theology is important. I think a lot of people assume that your Christian life is lived in some sentimental way, that it's sort of some emotional connection to God. But the fact of the matter is you can only live the Christian life with any strength, and you can only avoid being a coward who defects when you have a very firm structure of certainties, absolutes, convictions that keep you strong, because living the Christian life, shining the light into the darkness is difficult, can be painful.

You'll be persecuted, starting with your own family and the people around you to whatever other level you go. So how do you endure? You have to have some inviolable commitments, unchangeable beliefs.

You can't be adjusted from them, and Paul had those. He was able to face the hostile darkness, take whatever they threw back at him for the following reasons. Number one, he was certain of the superiority and exclusivity of the new covenant. In other words, he was certain of his message.

He was certain of the urgency of his message, that it was the truth, that it was superior to the old covenant, and that it was the only hope for sinners. Let's look at verse 1. Therefore, since we have this ministry...I have to stop you there. What ministry? What this ministry?

What are you talking about? Go back to chapter 3, verse 7. If the ministry of death in letters engraved on stones...all right, what's that?

The Law of Moses. It's a ministry of death. But it came with a certain glory because, after all, it was divine revelation carved into the stone by the finger of God, as it were. If the ministry of death in letters engraved on stones came with glory so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?

So you had the old covenant ministry with a certain amount of glory. God revealed Himself partially to Moses on the mountain in Exodus 33. The glory God on Moses' face, He came down. That is to say, the law of God is represented as having glory because it comes from the glorious one. But on Moses' face, it was a fading glory. Yes, it was glory, but it was a fading glory because the law is the ministry of death.

The law only condemns you, it only kills you and sends you to hell because you violate it. Far more glorious is the ministry of the Spirit. Paul makes the contrast another way in verse 9. If the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed, what had glory in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. That is to say, the glory of the new covenant salvation in Christ far surpasses the fading and condemning deadly glory of the law. Verse 11, for if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. Therefore, having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech.

So why is he so bold? Because he understands the glory of the new covenant gospel. He is certain of its superiority to the old covenant, which only condemned and damned. All of the world is under sentence of eternal death because they have violated the law of God, everyone has. The law then is a ministry of death. It is a ministry of condemnation. The only way that any soul can escape that condemnation is through the new covenant, which is a ministry of the Holy Spirit and a ministry that provides righteousness. It really is the something better of Hebrews chapter 11. The New Testament gospel gives spiritual and eternal life. The New Testament gospel gives righteousness. The New Testament gospel has glory that is eternal. The New Testament gospel provides hope, hope.

Verse 12 calls it such a hope, such a hope, a hope for eternal glory that will never fade away. He understood that. He understood that clearly enough when he wrote in Philippians chapter 3 these very, very familiar words. He says, as far as the law was concerned, chapter 3, I could put confidence in my flesh.

You know, I dotted every I and crossed every T. He says, I was, verse 5, circumcised the eighth day. I was of the nation of Israel. I was of the tribe of Benjamin.

I was a Hebrew of Hebrews. I was, as to the law, the most zealous possible. I was a Pharisee. As to zeal, I was a persecutor of the church because I thought they violated the law of God. As to righteousness found in the law, I was blameless as far as anybody knew.

I kept the law perfectly. But whatever things were gained to me, those I have counted as loss, as dung for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be dung in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish." That's where he uses that word, that I may gain Christ. And may be found in Him not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God through faith.

He understood that the only hope of salvation was in the new covenant. So what drives us in ministry to be faithful and not defect, not give up, not become ashamed because we can't take the hostility and the rejection? What drives us is the certainty that this is the sinner's only hope. This is the sinner's only escape. They're all around us going to hell.

Do you care enough to shine the light into their darkness? Do you understand they have no hope without it? Paul understood that, and it kept him bold until he was martyred. There's a second characteristic, second certainty, a second strong conviction that's also in verse 1. It says, therefore, since we have received this, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy.

And again, I have to stop. He understood that ministry is a mercy. This is the second certainty. Ministry is a mercy. In other words, he never lost the wonder over the fact that he was doing something he didn't deserve to do. He was not worthy to carry this message, not at all. It was always a stunning shock to him.

He never got over it. Even late in his ministry as he writes his first letter to Timothy in chapter 1, he says this, "'I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me because He considered me faithful, putting me into ministry. Even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor, yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus than this.'" It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners among whom I am foremost. Yet for this reason, I found mercy that in me as the foremost sinner, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Paul says this, "'God in His mercy, Christ in His grace, saved me to show the world that no one is beyond redemption.'" I was the worst.

I was the worst. So Paul is saying that God is merciful, even allowing me to minister, even allowing me to preach this glorious gospel, and God is merciful to surround me with the people that I need. None of us deserve it.

No one deserves such a privilege. No one deserves, as he says in chapter 5, verse 20, to be an ambassador for God, representing the heavenly King and the kingdom of light. Such ministry always is a mercy, always a mercy. That's why back in chapter 3, you look at verse 5. Not that we're adequate in ourselves to consider anything is coming from ourselves. Our adequacy is from God who also made us adequate as servants of the new covenant.

We don't deserve this, and we aren't capable. But the Lord chose us and empowers us by His Holy Spirit. There was a sense in which Paul understood that even his own unworthiness was not a hindrance to what the Lord could do through His faithful life.

I don't think he ever got over that. I think always through his life as a person who was bent on imprisoning Christians at one time, that he was the worst antichrist activist on the planet. And the Lord gave him the ministry of the gospel and the new covenant, and he was so aware of how wretched he was. What an antichrist life he lived, that he always saw ministry as a mercy and to sustain him out of sheer gratitude. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for being with us. John's lesson today from 2 Corinthians 4 is part of our new series called The World vs. the Kingdom of God. John, what a joy and encouragement it is to realize that even in this dark world, the kingdom of light is still operating. It brings to mind a letter that we received recently from a man who was snatched out of some deep spiritual darkness, and Grace to You played a part in his transformation. So John, you have that letter. Read it to us.

Yeah, this letter is from Lynn, and I'm just going to read it as it comes. After losing my career of eight years and after being homeless for a time, I found work on a horse farm with a cruel owner, a man who would sometimes come unannounced into the trailer I shared with my wife and son, many times startling us. I started doing mixed martial arts to learn how to protect myself and my family.

We left the farm soon after. I continued in martial arts and was also deep into philosophy, but I lacked peace. Every day I struggled with fear—fear of men, fear of losing my family, fear of losing shelter again.

And at this point, Lynn went on to describe an absolutely devastating injury he received to his head and his face from his martial arts fighting. And then the letter goes on. That was it. I was at the lowest point in my life. No love, no peace, just hostility. So I decided one day that I was going to end my life. I had been reading philosophy quotes on a social media threat and decided to pick up my gun and kill myself. But somehow the app I was using started to be populated with quotes from Jesus Christ.

That had never happened before. I broke down in tears. I didn't know what to do except to download a copy of the Bible. When I searched for Bibles in my app store, the first app that popped up was Grace to You.

I immediately downloaded it, and the first sermon I clicked on was from your series, The Grip of God, Romans 8.28-39. And I lost my mind. I cried for hours. For the first time in my life, I felt the will to live. I had a desire to know Jesus.

I couldn't stop listening. I discovered grace stream and listened all day long. I started looking for a church to go to, but I was hesitant because of your messages on false teachers. But we found a good church in Fort Worth, Texas, and we've been fellowshipping with the saints ever since. Thank you, John, for holding my hand and helping me find the narrow gate. Since my salvation, my wife has come to know the Lord, and my four-year-old son loves listening to your sermons while we play them each day in our trailer. We love you and are so thankful for grace to you. God bless you all. That wasn't me holding his hand. That was God. I mean, leading him to us?

Amazing. There are lots of people like Lynn, people from all sorts of backgrounds in all kinds of conditions and circumstances, some of them desperate. They're finding their way to Grace to You because that's where the Lord leads them. And we're able to bring them biblical truth every day that changes lives because you are a part of our ministry, because you pray for us and you help us meet our expenses. So thank you for being a part of all the Lord is doing. Thank you for being a part of reaching Lynn and others like him across the globe. Yes, friend, your support allows us to put verse-by-verse Bible teaching on the radio, to translate John MacArthur's books, and so much more, including we create resources like the Study Bible app, which was instrumental in Lynn's salvation. If you'd like to be part of that, to make a donation, contact us today. You can mail your tax-deductible gift to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412, or you can call us at 800-55-GRACE.

That's 800-55-GRACE. You can also make a one-time donation or set up a convenient recurring donation online at Thank you for helping us reach people in your community and communities around the world with the life-changing truth of God's Word. Also, friend, let me remind you that the Study Bible app is free to download at our website. This app gives you the full text of Scripture. You can get it in the English Standard, King James or New American Standard Version, along with access to thousands of free online resources, and for a small price, you can add the notes from the MacArthur Study Bible. Again, the Study Bible app is free to download. Just go to Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thank you for tuning in today, and join us tomorrow when John looks at the most effective way you can help your family, your community, and even the world. That lesson comes your way with another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-27 09:38:54 / 2022-12-27 09:48:28 / 10

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