The Bible is full of commands, Old Testament and New. Perhaps no issue confuses people as much as rightly determining which commands are for New Covenant people and how they are to obeyed. Early in the history of our religion, an argument arose that continues still today: does almighty God command man to do that which he is unable to do? When Augustine wrote a prayer asking the Lord to command what He would and grant what He commanded, Pelagius went bonkers over the thought that God must grant the creature the ability to obey what God commanded. His view was that man must inherently be able to do what God commands him to do, as it violated his sense of “fairness” for God to command man to do what man could not.
In our day, many people think Matt 5:48 (be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect) is a command we can perform. This perspective is fraught with an unreasonably high opinion of man, missing the point that Christ alone is perfect and we can only be acceptable in the Father’s sight by being found in Him – not by working real hard trying to be perfect.
To properly interpret and apply commands from God, one must understand the context (historical and theological) and getting things in their proper order – commands follow and are applied according to identity; imperatives follow indicatives. The command to repent and believe on Christ can only apply to and be obeyed by one who has been regenerated and raised from spiritual death by the Spirit of God.
While not anywhere close to a comprehensive lesson on this topic, it’s important to grasp it in order to see why what the preacher in the following sermon did was so wrong. This is not an uncommon error, but it’s one we must be on guard against – no matter who is preaching.
The title of this problematic sermon is good (available here): 4 Marks of a Hell-Bound Man. It sounds like a message about indicatives that reveal one bound for hell. But the way John MacArthur preaches this sermon is to present each of the 4 marks as something you can choose to do if you want to go to hell – “How is it that people die in their sins unforgiven? How does that happen? Unjustified, unconverted, unregenerated, unredeemed and bound for everlasting hell. Well, there are four attitudes that guarantee you will die in your sin, four attitudes. If you want to die in your sin then these four things will make that a reality.” These four attitudes, self-righteousness, worldliness, ignorance, and unbelief are each presented with this assessment: “You want to die in your sin? Be selfrighteous, worldly, unbelieving and willfully ignorant.” Continue reading