John MacArthur – Why Does Sola Scriptura Still Matter Today?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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

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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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John MacArthur – Calling the Church to Repent (Part 2)

Revelation 1 through 3 is the setting for last Sunday’s message and the message this Sunday as well. And I started off last Sunday by asking a couple of questions around a similar theme: “Have you ever heard of a church that repented, a church that repented? Have you ever been part of a church that repented? Have you ever led a church in repenting?” And the answer is, “Not likely. Not likely.”

Rarely do churches repent. I mean collectively, rarely do they repent, repent of their collective sins and unfaithfulness to the truth written and incarnate, to their compromises, to their tolerance of sin; very rare. But there are thousands of churches that need to repent. There are a lot of ways that we know that. We can know that by how they have deviated from the truth of the Word of God, how they have made other things their priority, how they have embraced the culture, how they become tolerant of sin and iniquity, and how they have made a comfortable place for sinners.

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John MacArthur – What Is True Love?

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“All you need is love.” So sang the Beatles. If they’d been singing about God’s love, the statement would have a grain of truth in it. But what usually goes by the name love in popular culture is not authentic love at all; it’s a deadly fraud. Far from being “all you need,” it’s something you desperately need to avoid.

The apostle Paul makes that very point in Ephesians 5:1–3. He writes, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”

The simple command of verse 2 (“walk in love, as Christ loved us”) sums up the whole moral obligation of the Christian. After all, God’s love is the single, central principle that defines the Christian’s entire duty. This kind of love is really “all you need.” Romans 13:8–10 says, “The one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments … are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Galatians 5:14 echoes that selfsame truth: “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus likewise taught that all the Law and the Prophets hang on two simple principles about love—the first and second great commandments (Matt. 22:38–40). In other words, “love … is the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:14 NKJV).

When Paul commands us to walk in love, the context reveals that in positive terms, he is talking about being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to one another (Eph. 4:32). The model for such selfless love is Christ, who gave His life to save His people from their sins. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

In other words, true love is always sacrificial, self-giving, merciful, compassionate, sympathetic, kind, generous, and patient. These and many other positive, benevolent qualities (see 1 Cor. 13:4–8) are what Scripture associates with divine love.

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John MacArthur – Why Integrity Matters

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As I regularly read in and through Scripture all the time, there are certain passages that, for whatever reason, maybe the Holy Spirit sort of causes to jump off the page to me. And there is such a passage in 2 Corinthians – 2 Corinthians, admittedly, one of my very favorite books in all the Bible. Just an amazing book. That is partly because the author of the book, the apostle Paul, writes in this book a very personal, a very heart-felt, a very passionate, and at the same time, a very humble defense of his ministry. And so because he’s my spiritual hero, the apostle Paul, I’ve learned much about ministry from him in the book of 2 Corinthians.

But there is a particular portion of Scripture that fascinates me in the 5th chapter and I’m going to read it to you. It’s 2 Corinthians 5:11-15, 2 Corinthians 5:11-15, we read this: “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

Now, this is a very personal portion of Scripture. Paul, as you know, in the background of 2 Corinthians, is under attack. False teaches want to destroy his influence in the Corinthian church. They want to undermine him – I’m not going to go into all the details of that. But they have attacked him every way possible. They have called every part of his life and ministry into question. They have tried to undermine all his credibility so that they can then take over the Corinthians’ minds and lead them into false doctrine. This is what the devil does.

So Paul has to write this letter, and it’s very difficult for him to do it, because it’s a self-defense of a certain kind. He’s very reluctant to defend himself. In fact, it is the most distasteful thing that he has ever had to do. It’s worse than being beaten with rods. It’s worse than being whipped. It’s worse than being stoned. It’s worse than being shipwrecked. It’s very difficult for one who sees himself as a clay pot, as he says in chapter 4, verse 7. Just a simple, humble vessel, to have to rise to the occasion of defending himself.

This is very distasteful stuff for him; and so against the grain of his own sense of humility, he writes this lengthy letter defending himself, not for his own sake, but for the sake of his ministry, which is absolutely critical and vital. And in the verses that I read to you, he touches on some of the things that he is concerned people know about him, some of the things that they need to know. If they’re going to evaluate him and who he is, they need to know these things. But what makes this passage so fascinating to me is, in this book that is a personal defense, in this passage that is a simple, straightforward set of obvious statements that unfold what’s in his heart, there is a massive doctrinal truth laid down. And what this reminds us of is the doctrine powers everything. Doctrine powers everything.

There are people who would discount the importance of doctrine, who would say that doctrine doesn’t really matter, that we get divided over doctrine: “That’s a negative in the church. We need to set all of that aside and love each other.” Profound doctrine understood establishes the power and the conviction that rules a life, otherwise, you’re left to whimsy and emotion. So what we’re going to see in this passage is how a massive doctrine anchored Paul’s entire life in a way that might be unexpected.

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