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Bible Questions and Answers, Part 58

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
October 14, 2022 4:00 am

Bible Questions and Answers, Part 58

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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October 14, 2022 4:00 am

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So, we must be truthful at all costs knowing that the whole enterprise of salvation is the work of God and God alone, because the only way anybody's ever going to be saved is when God does it and His power rides the truth. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Today John MacArthur is going to take a break from walking you verse by verse through a passage of Scripture, and instead today he's going to field questions about the Bible and the Christian life, questions for people at John's home church in Los Angeles, maybe some questions you've wondered about. So let's get started. You're going to hear from a man named Marshall, and then John will respond. Good evening. My name is Marshall, and I'm here visiting with my brother Travis, who I believe you know. He serves here with you.

Absolutely. And I had two quick questions I wanted to ask. One, I was wondering if you could share with us, you talked this morning about God's providential work in our lives and how that's a common thing. I was wondering if you could share an example of God's providence in your own life. And number two, I'm wondering if there were any insights over these decades of preaching through the New Testament that really you would say altered the trajectory of your own personal life, or altered the trajectory of your ministry here at the church.

All right, Marshall, let's start with the first one. My whole life is a providence of God. My whole life, I mean every single day of my life is an act of divine providence.

I am surprised every day of my life. I am almost totally a responder to the providences of God which unfold incessantly in my life in ways that I could never, ever comprehend. It might be meeting a person who fits a compelling need in my own life, or a compelling need in our ministry, or who is the perfect fit for a very important opportunity that we have somewhere in the ministry. It might might be what would seem to be a serendipitous meeting of someone somewhere in a restaurant, or a gas station, or wherever it might be.

I've even had them in elevators and hotels in foreign countries. And my whole life is just one amazing providence of God after another. But the whole story of coming to Grace Church, that was the providence of God. I mean the board just said, get a young pastor. They had two widows, two pastors who had died of a heart attack and I qualified because I was young. Things like that that sort of set them up to want somebody young when other churches were saying to me in my late twenties, we're not interested, you're too young to have no experience. Well, Grace Church was a growing and effective church that had two very mature and very fine men as pastors. Why would they take a young man?

Well, in the purposes of God, in the providence of God, when those two men were snatched away into heaven and their widows were left, there was some thought about maybe we could turn to a young man. From the start, from the very beginning, my life has been an unending process of seeing the hand of God on my life. I can recall when I had blood clots and DVT, deep vein thrombosis and the blood clots went into my lungs and I wound up in a hospital in critical condition and I was there for eight days and a physician who finally was able to help me as a result of that meeting said, I want to hear you preach when you get out of here. I haven't been to church since I was sixteen and I said, well, I have to wait a few months right before I can preach.

Yes, you can't get on your feet and whatever. The first Sunday I came back after that was Luke, the beginning of Luke and he came the first Sunday and my first message was on Luke, the beloved physician, and I preached to him and it wasn't long after that that he came to me and professed his faith in Christ. Well, look, that's a rather circuitous way to be used to evangelize and I might suggest to the Lord that Plan B could work just as well. I don't know why it takes me eight days in the hospital hanging on to life to get through to this guy, but my entire life is like that.

Every week is like that. If you just dipped into the mailbag, the phone calls and the ways that God uses the ministry here, you would see it's one long providence. Now the second question you asked was, was there at some point in my teaching a significant turning point? JOHN Just some insight that you gleaned from your studies that was surprising enough that it altered the trajectory of your personal life or your ministry. JOHN Yeah, I think it was at the very beginning when for reasons that I don't know personally, but I do understand spiritually, I began to be preoccupied with the experience of Moses in Exodus 33, seeing the glory of God. And I began to become curious about what was going on and why God revealed Himself in glory and how He manifested Himself in light and what did that mean and how God defined that as showing His loving kindness and mercy and all of that and He describes it there. And that sent me on a trajectory to try to fully understand both the intrinsic glory of God, that glory which is true to His character, which is essential to His nature, and that glory of God which is ascribed to Him glorify God on our part. And very early in my ministry, I did a series on glorifying God and I started out with this whole idea of God's intrinsic glory, that which is true of Him, the sum of all His attributes which we don't embellish and we don't add to, and developed all that in my mind.

That was critical to me. Some of that was the fruit of reading a book by Stephen Charnock called The Existence and Attributes of God. I thought I understood God. After all, I read The Knowledge of the Holy which is about 75 pages. And then I read Charnock which is about 750 pages talking about God and I saw the glory of God in such grand, grand terms. So then from there I went to that which is the ascribed glory to God and I began to follow the flow through the Bible, starting with the glory of God revealed in the Garden as light when He walked and talked with Adam, went all the way to the glory of God fully revealed in Matthew 24 and 25 when He comes in full blazing glory, Revelation when they cry for the rocks in the mountains to fall on them to hide them from His face, the face that Moses couldn't see in Exodus 33 would have incinerated Him instantly. And that study more than anything in those very foundational years captured my heart and sent me in the direction of everything being to the glory of God.

How important is that? If you look at churches today, you will find that for the most part they are preoccupied with the desires of men. They want to design themselves to be attractive to men. I want to design everything I do, everything this church does to glorify God. We want to be lost in wonder, love and praise. When a non-believer comes in here, we want the non-believer to feel he is in an alien environment, that he can't connect, that he doesn't get it, that it's not normal, that it's not comfortable, it doesn't seem right, it's not like anything he's ever experienced with the hope that what it says in 1 Corinthians 14 might happen, he'll fall on his face and say, God is in this place when he sees a true worshiping community. So that has been a defining reality for us that what we do is to glorify God, worship becomes elevated, prayer becomes elevated, preaching becomes elevated, it gets above the superficial and the shallow because everything is driving at the glory of God.

And I'm so thankful that that happened early. At that time, I wrote one of the first books I wrote called Keys to Spiritual Growth. Some of you may have an old copy of that somewhere. And I honestly wrote that and the whole front of it is all of that that I was thinking through, the first part of that book and talked about how to glorify God after talking about His intrinsic glory, how we ascribe glory to Him. And I remember saying when I met with a guy to finish the book, gave him the manuscript and it was all done, I actually said, I could be content now if I never wrote another book. That was 199 books ago. But I said, I could actually be content if I never wrote another book because that's what I need to say.

So if you have an old copy of Keys to Spiritual Growth, or if you don't, you can get a new one, I think it's still around. That was definitive to me. There's one other thing, and it's a very perceptive question, Marshall.

There's one other thing that was very definitive to me. I knew Christ was head of the church and that He had a rule in His church and that I was only an under-shepherd to the Great Shepherd. And I wanted the church to be what Christ would want His church to be.

I wasn't interested in studying culture. I remember meeting with a man early in my ministry, he was a pastor of a big church in Washington, D.C. and he had just read a book by an IBM president and said, it's revolutionized my approach to the church, I now know how to build a great church using the techniques that were used to build IBM. And I was so shocked by that, it was the first time. I was sitting on his porch rocking back and forth listening to him say this. And the conversation dissipated fast because I really had no response. I didn't want to be ungracious to him, get thrown off his porch.

So I just went away thinking, what is he talking about? What does Christ want in His church? When I was in seminary, I was looking for the answer to that. What should a church be? I had grown up in a church, my dad was a pastor, my grandfather was a pastor and I knew I didn't want to do church the way I had seen it done. I had courses in church polity and practical theology and I didn't hear anything that moved me. So I was...I was just digging around trying to find an answer and I found a very obscure self-published little book published by some Plymouth Brethren publishers called The Order for Church and Missionary. That's a really bad title, The Order for Church and Missionary, sounds like something out of the sixteenth century. And it was written by a man named Alexander Rattray Hay and I felt sorry for him immediately having to deal with that. But anyway, I found this obscure book and I started to read this book and all this guy did page after page after page after page was explain everything in the New Testament pastoral epistles and the life and ministry of the Apostles that spoke directly and scripturally to the life of the church. And that is what shaped my ecclesiology. That's what shaped my view of the church, that book. I just was cleaning out my shelf the other day and guess what?

There he was, old Rattray Hay right there on the shelf. And it was a wonderful book and I especially loved it because when they manufactured the book, they completely messed it up and the sections are out of place and upside down. So you have to read it and then turn it over and then jump here. So if you can get through it, it's the signal of a great effort just to get through the book. And I loved it for its idiosyncrasies. So I knew when I came here that the glory of God was the compelling issue and that the church needed to be what the Word of God said a church needed to be.

And that is what has set the course for us through all these years. In fact, just one thought further, I said to some other pastors, I said, you know, we have to discipline sin in the church, we have to...we have to confront people, take two or three witnesses, confront them again. If they don't repent, tell the whole church. If they still don't repent, throw them out. I couldn't find anybody who didn't say to me, you're crazy, you can't do that, you cannot do that. I said, what do you mean? We have to do that.

It's what it says in the Bible, either we do it or we don't. And Grace Church became the first and only church I ever heard of that did that in those years. So maybe that helps a little, huh? Yeah, thank you.

You're welcome. My question to you, as I was listening to you speak about, you know, just, you know, how long you've been going through the New Testament. I mean, I just came in towards like four years, so that's like two books or so. But I wanted to, I was curious to see, do you see this as a blueprint for other churches or pastors as far as how, you know, how to go, you know, that they should go through 40 years and like just start in the beginning and just preach through it? And what's your thought about that versus I know like, you know, some churches, you know, they go through a more topical approach for each week, it's something that... No, it's a very good question, excellent, excellent question.

The answer is yes. I not only see it as the preferred way, I see it as a mandate. In 2 Timothy chapter 4, Paul says to Timothy, preach the Word...preach the Word. Be instant, immediate, preach the Word, keep doing it in season and out of season. That means all the time.

It's either in season or out of season, so it's all the time. Preach the Word, preach the Word. There is no other mandate.

There's absolutely no other mandate. You can do a topical message drawn from the Word, but the heart of all faithful ministry is to explain the Scripture. It comes down to this, everything God wants you to know is here, right? This is one source, the faith once for all delivered to the saints, don't add to it and don't take away from it, it's all here. So the responsibility of the faithful shepherd is to feed the flock of God what God has revealed.

How are you going to do that? You have to do that systematically and methodologically, you have to stay at it, you have to dig down. You also understand that you're commanded to divide it rightly or to interpret it accurately. You're also told to go beyond the milk to the meat. And that doesn't mean that some teaching truths are milk and some are meat, it means in all teaching there's a milk level and a meat level.

You can go down. I think that's what every pastor should do. That's why...that's why I've advocated it for all these years. This is what's called expository from the English verb exposit which means to explain. You explain the meaning of divine revelation. I think that is not only the best way to preach, that is the mandated way to preach. You might not survive long enough to go through the whole New Testament, but wherever you are, whenever you're there, explain the meaning of Scripture. It's not about tear-jerking stories, it's not about clever illustrations, it's not about cultural sensitivity, it's not about hitting people where they are, scratching them where they itch, it's about explaining the meaning of Scripture because the power for salvation is in the Word, begotten again by the Word, the power for salvation is in the Word, we're sanctified by the Word, the comfort comes from the Scripture and the hope of glory comes from the Scripture.

Everything is contained in this immense treasure. You can go back to Charles Simeon who preached in the same church for 50 years, systematically through the Scriptures. You can go back to John Gill who preached systematically through the Scriptures. You can even go back further to John Calvin who is known for Calvin's Institute's theological, massive theological treatise. But by those of us who are expositors, he's known as the one who basically wrote commentaries on the entire Bible, everything but the book of Revelation. So the men who have left their mark, long-term mark, have been the men who made the truth of God's Word accessible to God's people. That's what we do. I think it's the way we are mandated to preach.

Okay? JENNIFER MCCARTHY Hi, Pastor MacArthur. My name is Jennifer and I was wondering over the past few years in which you've preached through the New Testament, what has been maybe your favorite passage that you've studied through, or sermon that you've preached that has been most edifying to your own soul? Oh, Jennifer, it's like asking me which is my favorite grandchild.

Aye, aye, aye. I love them all and I love the one I'm with, you know, but I...ministering to my own soul, just immediately coming to mind, I can't get away from the person of Christ. Any portion of Scripture about Jesus Christ is totally captivating to me.

I'm literally unrestrained in my joy when I study and preach concerning Christ. So it could be any passage related to Him. I have a particular love on a personal level for the book of 2 Corinthians. And I know that's not kind of a high on the reading list for most Christians because it's a book in which the Apostle Paul agonizes over his relationship to the Corinthian church. But for a pastor, it's where I live in the agonies of disappointment and the agonies of failure and success in the life of a church.

I love that book and I've often said, I'm so glad I didn't try to preach it early in my ministry, I never would have understood it. I needed to be beaten up. I needed to have 250 people leave Grace Church and mad at me.

I needed to have the whole staff mutiny and walk out and protest against me. I needed to have suffered enough failure and disappointment and pain, or I never would have been able to understand it. But for my own soul personally, 2 Corinthians is a book that I love to live in and dwell in. I can honestly say that preaching through it was a life-transforming experience because I was identifying so much with the pain of Paul.

And then going back and doing the commentary on it, I've often said, in some ways, it's my favorite commentary because it's directly ministering to what I do. PHILIPE- John, today a lot of people work in very high-stress jobs. Even though the work may be very enjoyable, there's just a whole lot of it. Home life can be really stressful. These are very difficult times. A few months ago you talked about, in the context of joy, you mentioned that burnout was related to pride.

I was wondering if you could unwrap that for me. JOHN- Yeah, I don't think...I don't think burnout as such, if you talk about that psychological notion, is so much the result of hard work as it is the result of the pressure of expectations. It might be your expectations for yourself. It might be your self-imposed expectations.

It might be the expectations that are imposed upon you by the people who are in authority and power over you. But when we talk about burnout, that's a popular term that's been used among preachers. Oh, I'm worn out. Oh, I'm burned out. I've been preaching every week for the last six months, I need a break. Come on.

What are you talking about? Work is a good thing and obviously you can push too far and I understand what you're saying. You can become weary and you can neglect things that you should not neglect by overworking. But burnout is a term that was used to describe someone who reached a level of discouragement. Weariness is one thing.

Messing up your priorities is another. But burnout was this idea that I'm not fulfilled, this is wearing me out and I'm not getting the results that I deserve. And that's why I say it's related to pride. You get pastors complaining about the effort they make when it's really not that, you know, there might be 50 percent of the men in their congregation making a greater effort than they make at their jobs. I mean, pastors aren't punching the clock at seven and work until five and taking work home every day. So when I talked about burnout, I was talking about that idea that I'm discouraged and I'm down and, you know, I'm not being appreciated and that is related to pride. You know, burnout is tied to the fact that you think you should be treated better than the way you're being treated when the truth is everything we have is by grace anyway. And I'm just trying to help pastors get past the point where they feed off their own expectations, because churches can be pretty tough.

Okay? Hey, my name is Roman and I have a quick question for you. What is personally your biggest weakness and how do you battle that biblically? Oh, you know, just my biggest weakness's a combination of all that I am, you know. I am my own biggest weakness. You know, I think patience sometimes because I have so much to do and so aggressive.

Time for prayer, I should spend much more time to give much more attention, but I'm tyrannized by the high level of demands that are placed on my time. I'm not always a good listener because I'm a professional talker. I'm a good reader because I'm desperate to know what I want to know, but I'm not nearly so desperate to know what you want to tell me.

Not all the time. I mean, I'm trying to be honest, you know. I'm just telling you what my wife says. She should answer the question.

Only you don't have enough time to hear the answer and to go on and on. You know, I am just what you are. I am a man who has been given a ministry by grace. I'm unworthy of the salvation I have.

I'm unworthy of the calling I have. And I give God the glory for everything that He's accomplished through my life in spite of my many, many weaknesses. I have learned that by following my hero, the Apostle Paul, that if you are going to overcome your weaknesses, there are several things you must do.

One is, you must have a pure heart. Paul says, my conscience is clear. I have lived with a clear conscience. My conscience is not accusing me. That means you win the spiritual battle in the heart so that you don't live with an accusing conscience.

That will suck the sap right out of you, turn you into a hypocrite. The second thing is, and there's really no alternative to this, is to live a life of discipline, of discipline. To be able to come every Sunday for all these years, Sunday morning, Sunday night, and then preach wherever else I preach during the week and around the world and whatever else I do and all the books I write, demands an immense amount of time ordering and personal discipline.

I don't know where all that came from. I think I learned some of it in athletics when I was young, to achieve certain goals, you make certain sacrifices. I learned some of it in seminary as a student. But it's the tyranny of Sundays that has forced this discipline on me. And I think that the Lord has used that demanding discipline of studying the Word of God to get ready for every Sunday to make the Scripture the purifying agent in my life.

So the way to deal with weakness, and I say, look, I don't know what I'd be if I wasn't a pastor, but I'm so glad I am because exposing my life to Scripture all the time and being forced to this discipline accomplishes the two things that are most necessary in overcoming your weakness. That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, answering questions from the congregation he leads. It's part of today's special Q&A edition of Grace to You. John, of course, we didn't have time to cover every question that you were originally asked by Grace Church's congregation. In fact, I remember the night you did this Q&A, and we ran out of time and there were still people lined up with questions.

And that's how it always is. There's more questions than we have time to answer. And so I want you to recommend a resource. If you could give just one resource that you recommend for people who still have lingering questions, where would you send them, first of all, to find answers? Well, from our ministry to the MacArthur Study Bible, there's 25,000 footnotes, and they're laid out at the bottom of every page of the Scripture, and they explain each passage. And the questions are answered there. If you've picked the right passage and the question is raised, you go to the footnote and it's available. The bottom of each page. The MacArthur Study Bible will explain the Bible.

It's the library in one volume. In fact, I got a call from a nationally known pastor the other day. It was Saturday night, and he was preparing for Sunday, and he had a problem with a verse. And he said, I couldn't figure out the problem for this, and I knew I had to preach it in the morning. I'm going to grab my MacArthur Study Bible. And that one note was the clarifying insight I needed. And so he called me on the phone to say thank you for capping off my sermon last night. Yeah, you know, I have that experience all the time.

If I called you every time it happened, I'd be on the phone with you a lot. Well, you have a Study Bible. It's all there for you. You can get a MacArthur Study Bible in the New American Standard, which is the translation that I've preached from through the years, New King James and ESV, available in numerous kinds of covers and formats. So get your MacArthur Study Bible.

Shipping is free on orders placed in the United States. That's right, friend. This resource has been a tremendous help to me, many other pastors, and it will be for you as well. To take advantage of those 25,000 footnotes that explain nearly every verse, contact us today and order your copy of the MacArthur Study Bible. You can call us anytime at 855-GRACE. You can also order the MacArthur Study Bible at our website, that's

The MacArthur Study Bible comes in multiple English translations, the New American Standard Version, the New King James Version, the English Standard Version, and it also comes in many non-English translations. So call us at 855-GRACE or review all the choices at our website And if one of John's books that you already own has taught you how to live boldly for Christ, if your family has been strengthened spiritually by this broadcast, or if someone you know has come to faith after hearing John's teaching, we would love to hear your story. Email your feedback to letters at That's our email address, letters at Or you can send a note to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson encouraging you to watch Grace To You television this Sunday and be here next week when John helps you follow the path to victory over temptation. He's launching a study from Romans 6 and 7 titled Freedom From Sin, with another thirty minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Monday's Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-06 06:27:43 / 2022-12-06 06:38:57 / 11

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