John MacArthur – Ruth: Ordained Romance

From a Jewish perspective, Ruth wasn’t a good candidate for adoption into the nation of Israel. An impoverished widow from the pagan nation of Moab was likely seen as someone to avoid or perhaps even deport. But the providence of God isn’t bound by human logic or perception.

As a matter of survival in Israel, Ruth gathered leftover grain from the fields of a man—Boaz—who turned out to be a close relative of her deceased Israelite husband. Moreover, Boaz looked on Ruth’s plight with compassion and kindness.

Boaz seemed smitten with Ruth from the moment they met. He invited her to eat with his workers at mealtime and personally ensured that she had enough to be satisfied (Ruth 2:14–16). He instructed his workers to permit her to glean among his sheaves, and he even encouraged them to let grain fall purposely from the bundles for her sake. Thus he lightened the load of her labor and increased its reward.

Ruth nonetheless continued to work hard all day. “She gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley” (Ruth 2:17). That was a full half bushel, approximately enough to sustain Ruth and Naomi for five days or more–about four times as much as a gleaner could hope to gather on a typical good day. Ruth took the grain, as well as some leftover food from lunch, and gave it to Naomi.

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John MacArthur – Ruth: Godly Resolve

Ruth was a Moabite who’d spent her whole life embedded in that pagan culture. But her surprising marriage to an Israelite alien brought her into contact with the Jewish religion of YHWH worship. Though her husband died soon after, Ruth’s remarkable allegiance to the God of Israel remained.

When Naomi — Ruth’s Jewish mother-in-law, who had also been widowed—decided to return to Israel, she tried to dissuade Ruth from going any farther with her: “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law” (Ruth 1:15). Naomi no doubt felt it was not in Ruth’s best interests to be shackled to an aged and destitute widow. On the other hand, she must have known that it would be spiritually detrimental for Ruth to go back to her people “and to her gods.” In all likelihood, Naomi was testing Ruth, hoping to coax from her an explicit verbal profession of faith in YHWH. It would be wrong to take Ruth to Israel and place a widow without financial support in that society if she had no genuine commitment to Israel’s God.

The Resolve

Ruth’s reply is a beautiful piece of poetry in Hebrew style:

Do not urge me to leave you
Or turn back from following you;
For where you go, I will go,
And where you lodge, I will lodge.
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there I will be buried.
Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse,
If anything but death parts you and me. (Ruth 1:16–17)

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John MacArthur – Ruth: Rising from Ruins

The Old Testament book of Ruth is a flawless love story. Although it is brief (eighty-five verses), it still runs the full range of human emotions — from the most gut-wrenching grief to the very height of glad-hearted triumph.

Ruth’s life was the true, historical experience of one genuinely extraordinary woman. It was also a perfect depiction of the story of redemption, told with living, breathing symbols. Ruth herself furnished a fitting picture of every sinner. She was a widow and a foreigner who went to live in a strange land. Tragic circumstances reduced her to abject poverty. She was not only an outcast and an exile, but also bereft of any resources—reduced to a state of utter destitution from which she could never hope to redeem herself by any means. In her extremity, she sought the grace of her mother-in-law’s closest kinsman. The story of how her whole life was changed is one of the most deeply touching narratives in the whole of Scripture.

Ruth’s story began near the end of the era of the Judges in the Old Testament. It was about a century before the time of David, in an age that was often characterized by anarchy, confusion, and unfaithfulness to the law of God. There was also a severe famine in Israel in those days.

We are introduced to the family of Elimelech in Ruth 1:1–2. Elimelech had a wife, Naomi, and two sons, named Mahlon and Chilion. Their hometown was Bethlehem, famous as the burial place of Rachel, Jacob’s wife (Genesis 35:19). Bethlehem in future generations would gain more lasting fame as the hometown of David, and then, of course, as the birthplace of Christ. The story of Elimelech’s family became a key link in the chain tying the messianic line to Bethlehem.

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John MacArthur – What Is the Relationship Between Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility?

The relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is not instantly obvious, and at first glance it seems paradoxical. But Scripture offers us considerable insight into how these twin truths harmonize within the plan of redemption.

The first step in understanding the compatibility between God’s sovereignty and human will is to recognize that they are not mutually exclusive, and Scripture makes this absolutely clear. In God’s design, human responsibility is clearly not eliminated by God’s sovereign control over His creation. That’s true even though evil was included in His grand design for the universe even before the beginning of time, and He uses His creatures’ sin for purposes that are always (and only) good. Indeed, in His infinite wisdom, He is able to use all things for good (Rom. 8:28).

Consider the Lord’s opening statement in Isaiah 10:5: “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger.” At first glance, this makes no sense. If Assyria is functioning as an instrument of God’s judgment, why is He pronouncing condemnation on the Assyrians? “Woe” is an onomatopoeic word (meaning the word sounds like what it means; in this case, a cry of agony) that warns of calamity or massive judgment to come. But how can a people come under divine denunciation and judgment while at the same time functioning as a rod of God’s anger? The rest of the verse says, “the staff in whose hand is My indignation.” Assyria, this pagan, godless, idolatrous nation, is the instrument of divine judgment against God’s own rebellious people.

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John MacArthur – The First Adam, the Last Adam, and the Gospel

Was Adam a Real Person?

The church has historically affirmed that Adam was a historical man, yet with the acceptance of evolutionary science, some now claim that this is not the case. Those who believe that the earth is millions or billions of years old will not accept that God fully formed the human Adam a few days after creating the universe. However, Genesis presents Adam as a real historical man, not the result of eons of evolution.

The simplest and most natural interpretation of Genesis 1 declares that God created the specific person Adam on the sixth day of creation. Genesis 2 then offers more detail on the creation of Adam and Eve. Adam’s connection with other historical persons supports the claim that he was indeed a specific person. Adam is the father of Cain, Abel, and Seth (Gen. 4:1–2, 25; 5:1–3). Adam is also said to have had conjugal relations with his wife Eve to bear Cain and Seth, and Genesis 5:3 further states that Adam fathered Seth at age 130. These details cannot be legitimately identified as poetic or figurative language describing something other than reality.

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John MacArthur – How Scripture Empowers Personal Holiness

Becoming More like God

Godliness, Christlikeness, and Christian spirituality all describe a Christian becoming more like God. The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in one richly (Col. 3:16). When one embraces Scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in the believer’s life (1 Thess. 2:13). The process could be basically defined as follows:

Christian spirituality involves growing to be like God in character and conduct by personally submitting to the transforming work of God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

Holiness Embodies the Very Essence of Christianity

Christians have been saved to be holy and to live holy lives (1 Pet. 1:14–16). What does it mean to be holy? Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “to be holy” (which appear about two thousand times in Scripture) basically mean “to be set aside for something special.” Thus, God is holy in that he sets himself apart from creation, humanity, and all pagan gods by the fact of his deity and sinlessness. That’s why the angels sing of God, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8), and why Scripture declares him to be holy (Ps. 99:9; Isa. 43:15).

Thus, the idea of holiness takes on a spiritual meaning among the people of God based on the holy character of God. For instance, the high priest of God had inscribed across his headpiece “Holy to the Lord” (Ex. 39:30). The high priest was especially set apart by God to intercede on behalf of a sinful nation to a holy God for the forgiveness of their transgressions.

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John MacArthur – Twin Truths: God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility

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This morning we’re going back to John chapter 3, so open your Bible, if you will, and come with me to the third chapter of John. We’re going to take a look, an initial look at this section, verses 11 to 21. And then I’m going to kind of digress a little bit because there’s something I have to tell you to set this entire passage in a proper context and to put it in your mind in a way that will be most helpful.

But let me read, we left off our discussion of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in the opening ten verses where Jesus talks to him about being born again, born from above. And we talked about the new birth. We talked about being born from above. It’s a work of God; it’s a divine work, a work of sovereign grace and sovereign power. It’s a monergistic, unilateral work of God that’s not a synthetic work where you have God participating with man. It’s not some kind of coalescing of the will and power of man, with the will and power of God. It’s a singular work of God by which He comes down from heaven, irresistibly brings a call—we call it an effectual call on the heart of a sinner—draws that sinner to himself, regenerates that sinner, and then justifies that sinner, sanctifies that sinner and then glorifies that sinner. It’s a work of God. The new birth being born from above, in the very illustration of birth, makes the point because no one participates in his own birth. You didn’t participate in your physical birth; you didn’t participate in your spiritual birth. It is a work of God, a divine, creative miracle.

So we went through that discussion, verses 1 to 10, with Nicodemus. Our Lord continues to speak to Nicodemus but beyond Nicodemus because as you begin in verse 11, the pronouns are plural as He says, “I say to you.” In verse 11, the pronoun is plural, so it broadens beyond Nicodemus to anyone else who happened to be there listening and to everyone else, for that matter, who will ever read this.

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John MacArthur – Understanding the Doctrine of Inspiration

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We come now to a wonderful opportunity to consider the great doctrine of the inspiration of the Scripture. We’re going to look at the theology category that is called bibliology, the study of the Word of God. It was some years ago that I read an interesting interview. A very popular Christian songwriter, many of whose songs we all sing and enjoy, was asked to explain how he was able to write a certain song, and this was the answer. “Regarding that song, it came quickly, and we do not care to discuss the theology of it. In fact, we feel that to dissect the song would be tampering with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who inspired the song,” end quote.

Well, I think I understand what the writers of that song meant, but that really is a startling claim; to say that they don’t want to discuss the theology of the song nor dissect the words of the song, because that would be tampering with the Holy Spirit, who inspired the song, may indicate that they don’t quite understand what it means when something is inspired. In defense of them, we use that word a lot. We especially use it with regard to music. It’s one thing to say, “I was inspired by the music.” It’s something else to say, “That was an inspiring rendition of the music.” We mean we were lifted up, and encouraged, and our emotions were elevated in the experience of singing that song, or hearing that song. A writer could even say, “It was an inspiring experience for me to write that song.”

But to say that a song is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore should not be dissected or tampered with, is to make the song equal to Scripture. Are we to say, then, that a songwriter who writes a song is inspired in the same way that Luke was inspired when he wrote the gospel of Luke? Or Paul was inspired when he wrote the book of Romans? Or Isaiah was inspired when he wrote the prophecy that is called Isaiah? What do we mean when we say the Bible is inspired? Do we mean it’s an inspiring book because it inspires in us faith, and religious feeling, and understanding? And are people today still inspired when they write songs, in the same way that writers of the Bible were inspired? Are books today inspired? How about sermons? Are they inspired?

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John MacArthur – Grace vs. Holiness

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One of the great dangers facing the church in these postmodern days is that professing believers will substitute the God of the Bible for a lesser deity of their own design—one that reflects their values, their morality, and their priorities. It’s a subtle shift, as men and women who claim to know and love God de-emphasize aspects of His nature and attributes that don’t sit well with them, or adhere to their worldview.

Even those who truly love God can venture onto that slippery slope, as they stress the more attractive features of God’s character and sidestep those that offend and convict. As we saw last time, many believers have lost all sense of the fear of God, and instead imagine Him in more casual, friendly terms. If we’re to truly worship the Lord, we need to eliminate such theological imbalance.

God’s Grace Does Not Cancel His Holiness

Perhaps we have lost the fear of God because we take His grace for granted. At the very beginning, God said to Adam and Eve, “The day that you eat from [the forbidden tree] you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). They ate from it, but they were not struck dead on the spot. Their physical lives did not end that very day; in fact, they lived for hundreds of years. God showed them grace.

Throughout the Bible we see that God is gracious. The law called for death for adulterers, blasphemers, and even rebellious children. But many in the Old Testament violated God’s laws without suffering the death penalty the law prescribed. David committed adultery, but God didn’t take his life. God’s grace is greater than all our sin.

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John MacArthur – How Does the Spirit Work Through Scripture?

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Most of the modern discussion about the Holy Spirit focuses on His supposedly ongoing miraculous and revelatory ministries. But despite what the charismatic church would have us believe, the Spirit is not revealing new truth and prophecies to God’s people today. Nor is He is deploying miraculous power at the whim of televangelist faith healers and prosperity preachers.

Instead, the Holy Spirit’s work always centers on the Word of God. Over the last several days we’ve focused on His role in the inspiration of Scripture. But His work did not end with the closing of the biblical canon—today He works through His Word in the lives of His people.

The Spirit Illuminates

Divine revelation would be useless to us if we were not able to comprehend it. That is why the Holy Spirit enlightens the minds of believers, so they are able to understand the truths of Scripture and submit to its teachings. The apostle Paul explained the Spirit’s ministry of illumination in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16. There he wrote,

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Through the illumination of the Word, the Holy Spirit enables believers to discern divine truth. (cf. Psalm 119:18)—spiritual realities that the unconverted are unable to truly comprehend.

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