I’ve been quite critical of John MacArthur and his hermeneutic as I perceive taught by the Masters Seminary but haven’t really listened to much of his preaching. To put that right I have listened to his series on Isaiah 53 in the car as I travel to and from work. There has been no note-taking so what follows is made up of what came across to be the main thrust of the ministry – how it came over.
MacArthur is a really good speaker and although I’ve not been that impressed by the overall content he nevertheless has a voice that is easy on the ear, his voice or tone, or pitch doesn’t assault my senses and is very clear and well articulated. The recording is good quality so all in all it’s really not a struggle to listen.
He hasn’t said anything much I hadn’t heard before but I was looking to hear of Christ and the Gospel. This is just a statement of fact as I have been a Christian since 1979. I’ve heard a lot of sermons! I was surprised, maybe I shouldn’t have been, how quickly he got into the nation of Israel. He ran out of time on one sermon, not finishing he decided to come back to it the next time. I know this because we were told on the following message. So with time enough to finish that section of Isaiah 53, what does he do but launch into an extended sermon on Israel and its repentance as a nation leaving the verse I thought he was coming back to for a few minutes at the end. I do not know John MacArthur, have never met him, never spoken to him, never had contact with him in any way other than through these messages – and I think one or two of his books. So, my comments are purely based on what I hear, where it seems to me his passion lies. His sermon is therefore, as it were, his shop window.
The next Sunday (next message that is) a lot of visitors were in for the graduation (so we were told) and so he quickly did a review of the previous weeks. This was fair enough so people could pick up the series as he was by now well into it. John made statement here that I fail to understand. He said the Old Testament is full of Jesus where he could be found. It was a qualified statement but couched in inclusive language because Jesus can actually be found everywhere. He doesn’t find Jesus for example in the Song of Solomon because he says so in his Study Bible. I though his qualification was a little disingenuous.
Sadly what I’ve found to be seriously lacking in this series is little if any mention of the Grace of God. I am driving so might have lost concentration on the sermon for a minute but cannot recall any mention of Grace. Doesn’t the Apostle Paul call it the Gospel of the Grace of God. And amazingly there has been no mention of the Love of God. Surely when considering such a passage of scripture such as Isaiah 53 it would have been more than appropriate to quote John 3:16 ‘God SO loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes ion Him should not perish but have eternal life’. Another verse that should have been mentioned was in Acts 8 where Philip beginning with that very scripture preached Christ. For Philip then, the primary meaning of the passage is Jesus Christ. I found MacArthur’s' view that the primary meaning of Isaiah 53 was the final restoration and repentance of Israel something that even a premillennial friend of mine thought was a bit weird.
His preaching is very light on application. There is no application to struggling believers, doubting believers, sinning believers.
I found the ministry to be full of the sufferings of Christ but little or nothing on why those sufferings were necessary. This is astonishing. In one place he gives a string of words and phrases from the passage about Christ being bruised, beaten, crushed, afflicted and how it’s all about judgement and wrath but doesn’t even mention how this demonstrates the love of God for poor lost sinners, and I include Christians here. I am really surprised shocked even. I couldn’t possibly condone a book about preaching the Gospel by John MacArthur – I only wish it were possible. MacArthur is greatly admired as a preacher but I just don’t get it – and I’m really sorry. I’ve listened to this series for about two weeks now each day as I travel in the car. I remember listening to Michael Horton on Law & Gospel and had to just sit in the car when I reached work in tears thankful for The Lord Jesus and what He has done for this poor undeserving sinner. Not so with this. It’s just so factual and rigid. Perhaps someone could explain to me based on this series what it is I’m missing. Am I the only person in the evangelical world that doesn’t get it – I would like to know.
I’m listening to this because I said I would. But just to remind you, I am only going on his preaching in this series – his shop window. It’s what I see and frankly I’m less than impressed.
I’ve listened to the series now and I have to admit the last one was the best of the series. He used the term God’s ‘Marvelous Grace’ and then used the word Grace again. It took to the end of the series to mention the Grace of God.
As a check I thought it might be a good idea to listen to someone else on this passage. Stuart Olyott seemed like a good idea so I downloaded the three messages on Isaiah 53 by Stuart. To be perfectly honest there was some crossover of things said but there just seemed to be a different emphasis, a wholly different feel to the ministry – if I can put it like that. On reflection it was maybe unfair of me to expect John MacArthur to be anything other than consistent with his own theology. But I reckon if he left out his references to Israel and didn’t constantly repeat himself (I know that can be a good thing) it would have taken him three, maybe four sermons, instead of ten to say the same thing. What Stuart did especially in his third sermon on Isaiah 53 was apply it. The application was very encouraging to poor struggling believers. Not every Christian is marching across the world like a colossus. Some Christians are really struggling with their own sin, their backsliding of heart and a constant sense of failure. What this passage tells every Christian is that regardless of their own struggles and constant failures Jesus Christ has died for them! Even these poor examples, and I count myself as one of them, Jesus Christ died for and will bring them through for His own glory and praise. What an encouragement to once again seek this Saviour afresh and to serve Him for the rest of our days in whatever way He chooses. And then one day He will bring me, even me to be with Him in heaven. Now that’s the Gospel of the Grace of God to undeserving sinners.
If you see yourself to be one – a poor undeserving sinner. Then Jesus tells you, yes even you, to come to Him and receive from Him the gift of eternal life because He and only He has died and risen for sinners. Jesus says in Mat 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.