John MacArthur – Understanding the Doctrine of Inspiration


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


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?


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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John MacArthur – Why Does Sola Scriptura Still Matter Today?


The Protestant Reformation is rightly regarded as the greatest revival in the last thousand years of church history—a movement so massive it radically altered the course of Western civilization. Names like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox are still well-known today, five centuries after they lived. Through their writings and sermons, these courageous Reformers—and others like them—left an enduring legacy for the generations of believers who have followed them.

But the true power behind the Reformation did not flow from any one man or group of men. To be sure, the Reformers took bold stands and offered themselves as sacrifices for the cause of the gospel. But, even so, the sweeping triumph of sixteenth-century revival cannot ultimately be credited to either their incredible acts of valor or their brilliant works of scholarship. No, the Reformation can only be explained by something far more profound: a force infinitely more potent than anything mere mortals can produce on their own.

Like any true revival, the Reformation was the inevitable and explosive consequence of the Word of God crashing like a massive tidal wave against the thin barricades of man-made tradition and hypocritical religion. As the common people of Europe gained access to the Scriptures in their own language, the Spirit of God used that timeless truth to convict their hearts and convert their souls. The result was utterly transformative, not only for the lives of individual sinners, but for the entire continent on which they resided.

The principle of sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) was the Reformers’ way of acknowledging that the unstoppable power behind the explosive advance of religious reform was the Spirit-empowered Word of God.

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John MacArthur – Can We Add to God’s Word?


Over the last hundred years, the church has seen an explosion of interest in the Holy Spirit—particularly in His work of empowering God’s people and revealing His truth. This renewed interest in the Spirit’s role in our daily lives has injected excitement and enthusiasm into many churches, as the Lord seems to be revealing Himself and His power in wonderful ways.

But for believers caught up in tales of a fresh unleashing of the Spirit, it may be hard to see the difference between what God is saying and doing today and what He said and did in the days when Scripture was being written. We must ask the question: Is there a difference between God’s Word as given then and the word He is supposedly speaking to and through believers today?

I think there is a major difference, and it’s something we must keep in mind if we are to keep the authority and infallibility of the Bible in proper perspective.

The Canon Is Closed

The truth is there is no fresher or more intimate revelation than Scripture. God doesn’t need to give us private revelation to help us in our walk with Him. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emphasis added). Scripture is sufficient. It offers all we need for every good work.

Christians—particularly charismatics, as well as those who are merely “open but cautious”—must realize a vital truth: God’s revelation is complete for good. The canon of Scripture is closed. As the apostle John penned the final words of the last book of the New Testament, he recorded this warning:

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

When the Old Testament canon closed after the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, there followed four hundred silent years when no prophet spoke God’s revelation in any form.

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John MacArthur – What Did Jesus Think of God’s Word?


Can you believe in Christ but not in the authority and infallibility of the Bible?

You can try, but it will leave you on the horns of a very real dilemma: If you say you believe in Christ but doubt the Bible’s truthfulness, you are being inconsistent and even irrational. Christ endorsed the Bible as true and authoritative. Therefore it follows that if you give Christ a place of honor and authority in your life, to be consistent you have to give Scripture that same honor and authority.

Jesus and the Old Testament

What did Jesus think of the Scripture of His day, the Old Testament? Did He see it as authoritative? In Matthew 23:35, He apparently defines the Hebrew canon as the books from Genesis (Abel) to post-exilic 2 Chronicles (Zechariah), which encompasses the whole Old Testament in terms of the Hebrew chronology.

It is also important to note that Jesus never quoted or alluded to any apocryphal works. Why was this so? Bible scholar F.F. Bruce explains that the Apocrypha

were not regarded as canonical by the Jews either of Palestine or of Alexandria, and that our Lord and His apostles accepted the Jewish canon and confirmed its authority by the use they made of it, whereas there is no evidence to show that they regarded the apocryphal literature (or as much of it as had appeared in their time) as similarly authoritative.

Although this is admittedly an argument from silence, it is still significant that sixty-four times Jesus quoted or alluded to the Old Testament while He never referred to other sources. Christ put His stamp of approval on the Old Testament in several key ways.

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John MacArthur – How did God Guide the Biblical Writers?


Robots. To the unilluminated mind, that’s what we are under the control of a sovereign God—just mindless automatons executing divine orders for His pleasure. And while the Lord could control and direct His creations that way, He doesn’t—instead He works through our wills, our intellects, and our personalities to accomplish His sovereign ends.

Nowhere are God’s methods more obvious than in the writing of Scripture. God could have simply dictated His Word through one man, or maintained a consistent tone and vocabulary across several human authors. Instead, as we’ll see today, He worked through a diverse collection of authors and personalities to deliver His Word to His people, without sacrificing the continuity or character of Scripture.

What Inspiration Is

Last time we considered several common misconceptions about how the Lord inspired His Word. Today we’re going to consider what the Bible says about its own inspired quality.

Two passages of Scripture—2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21—tell us what inspiration really is. Many versions of 2 Timothy 3:16 say something like, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (KJV, emphasis added). The English Standard Version is more accurate, however, when it translates the verse, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” The Greek expression used here is pasa grafe theopneustos. Let us take a closer look at the meaning of these three crucial words.

Theopneustos is a combination of the Greek word theos (God) and pneu (breath). We get such English words as pneumatic and pneumonia from the Greek root pneu. Theopneustos then literally means “God-breathed.” The key to understanding the concept of “God-breathed” really comes out of the Old Testament. In Psalm 33:6 we read: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.” In other words, God breathed the universe into existence. In the same way, God breathed into existence His Word, the Bible. When Scripture speaks, God speaks. Romans 3:2 tells us that the Scriptures are the “oracles of God”—His very words.

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John MacArthur – How Did God Inspire His Word?


Have you ever watched an athlete or musician give “an inspired performance”? Have you ever heard your pastor preach what might be called “an inspired sermon”?

Most of us have heard the word “inspired” used in those ways, but frankly I question that kind of terminology. If people give inspired performances or preach inspired sermons, what is the difference between all that and what we call inspired Scripture?

Perhaps it sounds as though I am pushing a point or being picky, and perhaps I am, but for a very good reason. With the authority of Scripture under attack from every side as never before, it is important for the Christian to understand the biblical definition of “inspired.” In the New Testament, the term “inspiration” is reserved solely for God’s Word. The Bible was written by specially chosen men under special conditions and the canon is closed. There are no songs, no books, no visions, no poems, no sermons that are inspired today.

But in order to understand the difference between biblical inspiration and the rather casual way we refer to something or someone as “inspired” today, we need to look closely at what Scripture has to say. Inspiration is tied very closely to another term—“revelation.” Revelation is God’s revealing of Himself and His will. Inspiration is the way in which He did it. To reveal Himself, God used human beings who wrote the Old and New Testaments in order to set down in exact and authoritative words the message that God wanted us to receive.

What Inspiration Is Not

In order to arrive at a correct definition of biblical inspiration, we need to look at some of the erroneous concepts some people have when they talk about the inspiration of Scripture.

First of all, inspiration is not a high level of human achievement. There are people—particularly certain theologians—who say the Bible is no more inspired than Homer’s Odyssey, Mohammed’s Koran, Dante’s Divine Comedy, or Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In other words, whoever put the Bible together was simply working at a high level of genius. “Oh yes,” say these advocates of natural inspiration, “the Bible is full of errors and mistakes and it certainly is fallible at many points, but in regard to its ethics, its morals, and its insights into humanity it reveals genius at a very high level.”

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John MacArthur – Faithfulness Versus Popularity


Motivation 5: Preach the Word

Because of the Deceptiveness of the Sensual (2 Timothy 4:3–4)

Having reminded Timothy of the ultimate accountability, Paul continued by warning him that faithful preaching will not necessarily be popular preaching. As the apostle explained, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (4:3–4).

Sinners, throughout all of church history, have refused to heed the truth that saves and sanctifies. Instead, hardening their hearts, they seek out soft-peddled messages that accommodate their sin. Thus, they search for preachers who make them feel good, not guilty. And false teachers are happy to oblige, tickling the ears of their audiences with man-centered messages and false hopes.

In the process, the seriousness of sin is downplayed and disregarded; greed is promoted with promises of prosperity; worship is reduced to vain emotionalism; and felt-needs are highlighted while the true gospel is ignored. These false teachers are the same people who, according to 2:16, pursue worldly, empty chatter that leads to further ungodliness. Their worldly message may be popular, but like gangrene, its spread is actually deadly.

Paul’s words certainly describe the scene in contemporary American Christianity. Doctrine has become a bad word; truth is viewed as relative; and numbers have been made the measure of ministry effectiveness. The temptation to tickle ears is great, since the preachers who attract the largest crowds are deemed the most successful. But to pervert the truth by watering down the gospel is a deadly form of wickedness. The minister who caters his message to the whims of the world, telling unregenerate hearts only what they want to hear, has sold out.

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John MacArthur – Calling the Church to Repent (Part 1)

I had the opportunity to speak to the conference that’s called Together for the Gospel, and I was assigned the responsibility of speaking on the subject of “Christ’s Call for Reformation.” We are essentially 500 years past the Reformation itself, back when Martin Luther pinned his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg and launched the Protestant Reformation. And so they were kind of celebrating the Reformation at that conference, and this was the particular responsibility that fell to me to speak about Christ’s call to Reformation.

There’s only one place you would go with that assignment in the Bible because there’s only one place in the Bible where Christ actually calls His church to reformation, and that is in the opening chapters of the book of Revelation. And that is why I wanted to read those to you, or at least a portion of it, chapter 1. His call gets specific to His church in chapters 2 and 3. And I will confess to you that the more familiar you are with Revelation 2 and 3, the more you’ll be able to track with me as I speak to you, because we’re not going to go down into those chapters and into those seven letters specifically, but rather to look at them in general. And I think it’ll be very helpful for us.

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