Phil Johnson on MacArthur and “Lordship Salvation”

In the whole debate over “Lordship Salvation”, John MacArthur has had a big red target painted on him, and those who teach “easy-believism” have strung him up and flung him into the depths of Hell because of one paragraph of one book he wrote 7 years ago (“Hard To Believe”). See, the “easy-believer®” doesn’t want to hear the fact that if a person is saved, they will show evidence of their salvation through good works (even though the Holy Writ is clear in many places, such as James 2:14-24 and Ephesians 2:10) that believers are saved in order to perform good works–not that those good works save them. They are so focused on painting Johnny Mac as a heretic, that–well, why bother letting the facts get in the way?

Now, let me ask you this: who would give you a better and more accurate picture of what I believe–someone who heard me say something seven years ago–or someone who hears me teach every week, who knows me personally, and has heard me explain my beliefs over the last several years?

The same question can be asked of those who continue to bash Dr. MacArthur. Who would give you a better and more accurate picture of what he believes–someone who read one paragraph of one book written seven years ago–or someone who knows him personally, works with him every day, and in fact is the editor of most of Dr. MacArthur’s books?

Phil Johnson is the editor of Dr. MacArthur’s books, and is closer–much closer–to Dr. MacArthur than those who continue to smear Dr. MacArthur’s name with accusations based on a statement that Dr. MacArthur never made to begin with. The statement in question is:

Salvation isn’t the result of an intellectual exercise. It comes from a life lived in obedience and service to Christ as revealed in the Scripture; it’s the fruit of actions, not intentions.

Now, it certainly sounds like Dr. MacArthur is teaching salvation by works. But, here’s the kicker–Dr. MacArthur never wrote those words! Here is the explanation from Phil Johnson, posted over at Paleoevangelical (Phil Johnson’s words are in green, Lou Martuneac’s words are in blue, text pertaining to the revision is in purple)–

Phil Johnson said…

Lou: “These comments reflect an effort I have made on more than one occasion. To date MacArthur has never personally disavowed the original.”

That’s simply untrue, and Lou knows it. Lou raised this issue over at the Pulpit blog in October 2006, and Nathan Busenitz answered him:

Shepherd’s Fellowship Pulpit

Nathan’s first reply to Lou in that thread quoted a statement from me that was posted on the GTY website about a week after the book’s release. That statement was displayed prominently and continuously at the GTY website until a year after the corrected edition was in circulation. Here is that statement in full:

A Word of Clarification about Hard to Believe

One paragraph in Hard to Believe contains a glaring error that has the potential to mislead readers about the book’s whole intent. The problematic passage is the opening paragraph of chapter 6 (page 93), which seems to suggest that salvation is the fruit of godly living. The truth is exactly the opposite.

The error was inadvertently introduced into the manuscript in the late stages of the editorial process, when (in order to simplify the book) four chapters were deleted from the original manuscript and one of the remaining chapters was severely abridged. John MacArthur approved the abridgments.

Apparently, however, in an effort to make a new transition that would smooth over the deletions, an editor involved in the process made significant revisions to the opening of chapter 6. Unfortunately, that change was not submitted to John for approval. We believe the error was an oversight, and not anyone’s deliberate attempt to tamper with the book’s theology. The result, however, severely muddled the message of the book.

A revision has been sent to the publisher for future editions of the book. In all subsequent printings, here is how the opening paragraph of chapter six will read (revisions are in bold):

“Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy to become a Christian. Salvation for sinners cost God His own Son; it cost God’s Son His life, and it’ll cost you the same thing. Salvation isn’t gained by reciting mere words. Saving faith transforms the heart, and that in turn transforms behavior. Faith’s fruit is seen in actions, not intentions. There’s no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile. Remember that what John saw in his vision of judgment was a Book of Life, not a book of Words or Book of Intellectual Musings. The life we live, not the words we speak, reveals whether our faith is authentic.”

6/22/2009 6:15 PM

[Did you catch the change? The fruit of our faith is actions, not intentions. I dare anyone to listen to more than 30 seconds of any sermon Dr. MacArthur has delivered and see if one can still accuse him of teaching “salvation by works”–4*P]


Phil Johnson said…

Here’s an expanded version of the facts behind page 93 of the original edition:

It’s well known that I have been John MacArthur’s primary editor for some 27+ years. I help him assemble most of his major books from sermon transcripts.

Hard to Believe is one of only three or four books since 1981 that I had no part in during the editorial process. At the publisher’s behest, the editor of that book was a free-lance editor with no connection to our ministry. He was a highly competent man whose editorial skills are impressive and whose work is generally excellent. He assembled and edited the first draft of Hard to Believe.

John MacArthur read the manuscript, made revisions and corrections, and was generally pleased with the editor’s efforts. I read a few samples only and agreed that the portions I read were excellent. (If you want to compare the book with the sermons it was drawn from, the process is fairly simple, and the sermons are on-line and downloadable for free.)

However, some reviewers on the publisher’s side felt there was too much repetition in the book and the book was too long, so during a meeting to discuss final details about the book just before it went to press, they decided to delete four chapters from the heart of the manuscript.

John MacArthur agreed to the deletions, assuming it would be a simple process. The problem was that the original opening of (what is now) chapter 6 referred to some of the material that was deleted. So the chapter-opening was rewritten to make a different transition. To this day I don’t know if it was an editor on the publisher’s side or the free-lance editor who rewrote that opening paragraph. No one ever wanted to ‘fess up.

But somehow, owing to the late deletion and the need to keep printing on schedule, the revision (deemed “simple” by the editors involved because it was less than 8 sentences) was never sent to John MacArthur for approval. Obviously, the paragraph was written by someone whose grasp of doctrine is minimal.

That botched paragraph contradicts what John MacArthur teaches everywhere else about justification by faith. He immediately issued a corrective statement. In light of all that, the fact that the same critics keep raising this issue anew every three years or so raises question in my mind about the real agenda of the critics.

6/22/2009 6:15 PM


Indeed, it does. It shows that the real intention of the easy-believers who still want to trash Dr. MacArthur’s name don’t really care about the truth–they simply want to shoot down anyone who dares to interfere with their pet theology.

26 thoughts on “Phil Johnson on MacArthur and “Lordship Salvation”

  1. No man is perfect and John MacArthur is no exception. I am NOT looking to label him as anything other than he has taken upon himself – that of being a dispensationalist.

    But this issue of works-based salvation is not one that people make up. I recently read his book, “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore” and found it to be a generally solid presentation of biblical truth on important issues. Yet this book includes some statements that do MacArthur no favor in rebutting this specific charge. From my review, found here:

    But he also reveals why some harshly accuse him of endorsing works-based salvation (calling it “Lordship salvation”). On page 177, MacArthur says that the Pharisees were guilty of “closing one’s heart permanently against Christ even after the Holy Spirit has brought full conviction of the truth.” The man who rejects the Gospel is not saved, implying that the one who embraces the Gospel is, by that embrace, saved.

    On page 187 we find: “he (Christ) was calling people who were willing to bow to Him unconditionally as their Lord.” And on page 189, “Any Pharisee who never fully repented of his “good works” would perish in his sins, even if he did believe that Jesus was the true Messiah.” Both of these statements – if true – would leave everyone hell bound. Before being born again (which John 1:12 & 13 tell us “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”), nobody is willing to bow to Christ. And none fully knows his own sins of self-righteousness – making it impossible for anyone to “fully repent”.


  2. Song of Solomon 2. 15 “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

    It just takes a little seed here, a little bit of mold there…


  3. MacArthur explains what he means pretty well in his “The Gospel According to Jesus”, and it is definitely NOT salvation by man’s works.


  4. “Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy to become a Christian. Salvation for sinners cost God His own Son; it cost God’s Son His life, and it’ll cost you the same thing.”

    How is the last part of this statement NOT problematic? It costs absolutely nothing to become a Christian. Yes, the Son of God gave Himself for me, a costly sacrifice for which I am eternally grateful. It cost the Father the life of His Beloved Son, and the Son His Life for me… But no, it does not cost anything to become a Christian. Salvation is either 100% free or it is not at all free.

    They may have changed the wording somewhat, but the error is still right there in the text they thought they removed the error from. They are, knowingly or unknowingly, teaching that salvation is not cheap, that it cost Christ His life and will cost your life as well. That is, unfortunately, heretical.

    Salvation is a gift given by God to His elect in Christ. It costs us nothing.

    If MacArthur wants to talk about sanctification, then he should do so in a separate publication. But I think it would be best for him to no longer mix the Law and the Gospel.



  5. RB,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    What makes you think use of the word “salvation” as MacArthur used it within its context actually conflates the Law and the Gospel? All the great Reformed confessions and catechisms inveigh and affirm the Biblical witness that salvation is inclusive of both justification and sanctification [among other things], therefore your position here seems both sub-biblical, and out of confessional bounds. I say this because it seems to me that you are the one who is conflating justification and sanctification – or at least imputing conflation – not MacArthur.

    Certainly the believer’s justification, sanctification, and ultimate glorification rest solely in the gracious Person and work of Christ (Gal. 2:15; Rom. 3:28) and the free gift of eternal life He offers to all those believing (John 3:16). DefCon doesn’t take a backseat to anyone in defending Sola Fide, yet we’re also fully committed to the whole counsel of God, which plainly teaches that by virtue of Christ’s imputed righteousness, justification leads to a transformed Godward life which is manifest in Christ honoring works of faith, which thing is always and everywhere the fruit of being born-again (regenerated/justified).

    This is why we, like MacArthur and the Apostle Paul, can speak of the concept of salvation as both a forensic once-for-all-time monergistic declaration of a sinner made righteousness by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone even as we also speak of salvation being a process superintended by the Triune One true and living God which sanctifies the justified saint through the continuum of time, unto final glorification at physical death.

    It’s critical that we understand the referent (justification and/or sanctification) when speaking broadly of “salvation”, which is why precision of language is often important in these types of discussions, but context is equally important, and within the context of Phil Johnson’s quotation there’s absolutely nothing “problematic” about the statement.

    The concept is true.
    The concept is Biblical.
    The concept is confessional.

    Were it not, then proper exegesis of passages such as the following would be an impossibility which would lead one towards the deadly errors of a works-righteousness false religion a la the papists:

    Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. – Matt. 10:39

    For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. – Mark 8:35

    I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! – 1 Cor. 15:31

    Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. – Matt. 10:37

    for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? – Luke 6:44-46

    What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

    But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. – James 2:14-26

    In Christ,


  6. RB,

    If you are going to accuse John MacArthur of being a heretic, then you must level the same charge against Christ Himself. After all, it was He that said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Here, our Lord commands us to lose our life.

    In other words, following Christ will cost us our life.

    So, are you going to call Christ a heretic?


  7. Joining the military is absolutely free…..but it costs you. The cost? you! It’s the same way with Christ, salvation is free but it costs you. As said above Luke 9:23


  8. Want to see a picture of a Christian family who has lost everything for God? Take a look at ours. We have lost literally everything in our battle with the gov’t, and they have made it abundantly clear that one of the main reasons we are in this battle is because our ideologies differ. They have ridiculed us for praying, for reading our Bibles while we wait for court to go in, and for telling our children about Jesus as much as we can in the nine hours we are “allowed” to see them per week. Are we in a battle for our children? No it’s far bigger than that. This is persecution personified, and yes, to lose all for Christ’s honour is worth it in spite of the pain.


  9. CD,

    I appreciate the cordial words. Here is the issue: The context of the quote is dealing with “becoming a christian.” Here it is again:

    “Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy to become a Christian. Salvation for sinners cost God His own Son; it cost God’s Son His life, and it’ll cost you the same thing. Salvation isn’t gained by reciting mere words. Saving faith transforms the heart, and that in turn transforms behavior. Faith’s fruit is seen in actions, not intentions. There’s no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile. Remember that what John saw in his vision of judgment was a Book of Life, not a book of Words or Book of Intellectual Musings. The life we live, not the words we speak, reveals whether our faith is authentic.”

    The reason why MacArthur seems to be conflating Law and Gospel is because he states that what he is talking about is not the difficulty of being a Christian. He is talking about the difficulty of becoming a Christian, and the high cost whereby salvation is “gained.”

    I agree with everything you wrote, CD, concerning salvation, justification, sanctification, etc. I am not at all in disagreement with you on those things. What I am in disagreement with is Mac’s language.

    In context, he is speaking about becoming a Christian, not being a Christian. He then states that it cost Christ everything and it will cost Christians the same. No, it won’t cost Christians a thing to become Christians; although it does cost those who are believers already everything. There is a difference. If the gaining of salvation i

    Maybe the problem is the sloppiness of his language, but the problem still remains: Mac’s words, at least on the surface, appear to be confusing Law and Gospel, in that he is speaking of the cost of “becoming” a Christian, and this cost is God’s Son and your life. He is contrasting this with the idea that “salvation [is] gained by the mere recitation of words” (a reference to “easy believism”, yes?), and is thereby explicitly speaking of justification. He shows this by going on to speak of how faith works.

    I don’t think Mac’s statement is as nuanced as you would make it seem. Rather, it is confused, making justification dependent upon something that I do – for the context shows that he is speaking of “becoming” a Christian (not in the sense of living as a Christian, but as in truly coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ Himself savingly), and how salvation is not gained.

    I am not attacking MacArthur, or you. I enjoy your blog from time to time, and I have no personal beef with you or Mac.



  10. A Correction –

    I wrote “No, it won’t cost Christians a thing to become Christians…”

    What I meant was: “No, it won’t cost a person a thing to become a Christian…”

    I guess we all screw up 😉


  11. fourpointer,

    I wasn’t explicitly stating that Mac is a heretic, but that his words are heretical – perhaps without him even knowing it….Only the Lord knows. My point was simple: By stating that salvation = the life of the Son of God + my life, he is mixing Law and Gospel. It costs nothing to become a Christian. Salvation is not “gained by reciting mere words;” nor is salvation (in the context of the passage, remember, he is talking about justification) “gained” by my works of righteousness. It is because I have been saved that I am persevering in faith and obedience, and it is because I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of promise that I will follow Christ.


  12. RB,

    Christians are followers of Christ, disciples.

    and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. – Acts 11:26

    And discipleship comes with great cost:

    25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:25-33

    In a very real sense all believers are “becoming” as we are being conformed into the image of Christ from glory to glory:

    Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. – 1 John 3:2

    MacArthur didn’t say that something is required of the sinner in order for him to become regenerate. Again, he’s speaking broadly and inclusively of salvation, of which both justification and sanctification are inseparable components. But given your concern about the wording of the MacArthur quote, what is your exegesis of Philippians 3:8?

    Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

    I know you won’t accuse the inspired Apostle Paul of conflating the Law and the Gospel when he speaks of counting everything as loss, and for the sake of Christ suffering the loss of all things in order that he may gain Him, so what in the world was he talking about here, and please explain how the content of this passage differs from the gist of MacArthur snippet you take issue with?

    May you have a blessed Lord’s Day, in the Lord’s house, with the Lord’s people today!

    In Him,

    “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” – Luke 13:24


  13. CD,

    I still don’t see how Mac’s statement is not about justification. Perhaps you could clear this up for me. Rather, what seems to be evident is that he is speaking of becoming a Christian, and that the cost in being converted, coming to know Christ savingly, etc, is divisible into two parts: (a.)that which Christ did for me (which I receive by faith) and (b.)my giving up of my life. I understand that “Christians are followers of Christ, disciples.” The point was this: One is saved by grace alone through faith alone, apart from any works I contribute. Therefore, becoming a Christian costs me nothing. Living as a Christian/Disciple, however, does cost me everything. There is a difference.

    Yes, “No who loves father or mother [etc] more than [Christ] is worthy of being [His] follower.” But this does not mean that its costs an individual his or her life to become a Christian, but to live as a Christian. And it is one’s perseverance in following Christ – in spite of the loss of riches, the absence of the praises of men, the trials that come up over our heads like the sun beating down on a plant, the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, et al – that shows whether or not one actually believed the Gospel to begin with (1 John 2:19). I think it is really that simple. Does He not speak to those who are already following him? He does. Does He not speak to those who, like the multitude in John 6, probably desire nothing more than to follow for the sake of filling their bellies (i.e desiring earthly bread and not the True Bread from Heaven)? He, most likely, does. Then the call is to examine whether or not they have believed in Him, to examine their motives for following Him.

    The cost is not what it costs to become a Christian, but what it costs to follow Christ, after one has been superficially following Him, paying lip service to faith in Him, as the Jews in John 8 did. They believed something about Christ, but they did not believe savingly. Rather, they believed in an idol of their own construction and grew indignant when Christ more fully explained to them their spiritual estate and His nature as God Incarnate.

    If they truly did believe, they would’ve desired to give everything up for Christ’s sake.

    But what are these things that Paul has (in the past) given up, and which he continues to count as loss? Are they the same things that the Lord Jesus mentions in Luke? He tells us what these things are that he suffers the loss of:

    i. “confidence in the flesh” (v.4)


    ii. pharisaic, legalistic, self-righteousness that sought to earn God’s favor (vv.5-6)

    How do we know that these things remain the same in verse 8? Because he tells us so in context. Verses 8-9 read:

    ” Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith

    What else would Paul have to give up that would give him a false sense of self-righteousness of his own, which comes from the law? His Phariseeism, legalism, etc.

    Paul counted his self-righteousness as rubbish, excrement. He knew that Christ + anything = anathema. So, Paul was not mixing Law and Gospel at all! He was, rather, drawing a rather sharp line between the two. In context, Paul is not speaking about the same thing that the Lord Jesus is talking about, although they may appear to be at first.



  14. I think we would all agree that none of us is born a Christian. We are born sinners, as evidenced so many times by the Scriptures. We were born sinners, but we are now Christians. We were given, by God, the faith to believe; and believing, we left behind our former self, we crucified the old man, and put on the new. Therefore, there must have been a point in time at which we became Christians. (And lest I be accused of easy-believism myself, let me say this–if we are truly saved, then we have been given the faith that will keep us saved–but let’s leave that for another time). There is, in fact, a point at which we are translated out of darkness, and into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love.

    Of this fact, we have evidence in the Scriptures:
    Matthew 18:3–“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
    John 1:14–“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
    John 12:36–“‘While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.”

    Would you say that the words of John the apostle, as well as those of Jesus Christ Himself, are heretical because they say that we “become” children of God, and that we “become” children of light?

    Consider Luke 14:27-33–“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it…Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?…So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”

    Would you also consider these words of our Lord to be “heretical” seeing as how Jesus Christ Himself told us that there is a cost involved in following Him?

    When Dr. MacArthur says that “It is not easy to become a Christian”, he does not mean that we are the ones responsible for our salvation, nor is he implying salvation by merit. What he IS saying is that in order to follow Christ, one must turn their back on their old life to the point of “losing” their life, consider themselves dead to sin, take up their cross, and follow Christ–which is what Jesus Christ our Lord told us is required of us.


  15. fourpointer:

    As always, very well said. It’s good from time to time to refresh ourselves with the basics (no matter what stage of spiritual growth we may be at), because I think we can get such tunnel vision on one element of the salvation process, that we either “see” the rest of Scripture through the lens of our developed theology, or lose sight of the whole of what God has clearly said in His word. And I think that is where the problems of Arminianism and Hyper-Calvinism arise.


  16. RB,

    I’ve tried to clarify my understanding of the quote in its context several times, but you’ve consistently rejected my interpretation and I don’t know what else I can say that hasn’t already been said. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

    In Him,


  17. CD,

    I will buy the book and review it on my blog soon


    Dude, you’re buggin, homie. I did not once say that Mac’s words smack of heresy because he said something about “becoming” a Christian. You’ve really misunderstood me.

    My point, again, was this: Mac’s words, taken in context, seem to be speaking about how one becomes a Christian. And if he is talking about becoming a Christian, then he is saying that: Jesus’ Sacrifice + My own sacrifice = salvation.

    That would be heretical.

    We are all born sinners. We who have been saved have been regenerated by the Spirit of God and granted the gift of faith to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. And as a result, we see the foolishness of the world, in greater or lesser degrees, of course, but always growing, and desire to forsake all to follow Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

    We agree, don’t we?

    All I take issue with is John’s words, because he seems to be making justification dependent upon my self-sacrifice.

    If you’re going to quote Luke 14, please remember the context. The Lord Jesus is not addressing people and telling them how to become Christians. Not at all. Read verse 25:

    “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus…”

    Jesus spoke to those who were already following him. See the distinction?

    If you want to see Christ preach the Gospel, read John 4.



  18. OK, now I see where the misunderstanding is coming from. You think that MacArthur is saying that the giving up of our old life is the means of our salvation, and that we somehow add to the Cross of Christ. That is NOT what he is saying IN THE LEAST.

    What MacArthur is saying is that in order to follow Christ (i.e., become a Christian), one must turn their back on their old life (or, as Jesus commanded in Mark 1:14-15, “Repent!”) and, perhaps, cut ties with all those that we associated with before (as Jesus said in Luke 14:26) and giving up everything we once held dear (as Paul said in Philippians 3:4-11).

    THAT is the cost that MacArthur is talking about. What he is saying is that one does not simply “say this little prayer” and then go on with their lives, with no change to give evidence of salvation, and no repentance from sin. If we are going to follow Christ (become a Christian), we must be willing to forsake our old life of sin (see Luke 9:62). THAT is what he means when he says “it will cost you the same thing” [i.e., your own life]. Which is why he went on to say that “Salvation isn’t gained by reciting mere words. Saving faith transforms the heart, and that in turn transforms behavior.”


  19. You say “Johnny Mac!”. Is he a “Big Mac?”. I don’t eat many of those while trying to reduce weight 🙂

    No but seriously, it IS, as you say, astounding how such a simple error can be made so complex. Without sounding “uncharitable”, it sounds like some people need to “get a life!” (Hey, maybe thats a good way to witness to someone: if they talk about people needing to “get a life”, as a Christian I could turn it into a discussion about eternal life like Jesus with the woman at the well).
    But even more seriously, I find it difficult to believe that there is ANYONE out there (I’ve never actually met anyone myself because all the churches I’ve gone to since becoming a Christian taught- and rightfully so- that “good works” and “a change of heart”, while neither CAUSING NOR CONTRIBUTING TO SALVATION, are an inevitable by-product. The way I’ve INDIVIUALLY THOUGHT OF IT IS LIKE SMOKE, FIRE AND LIGHT. Just as the smoke doesn’t produce light, it WILL be there if there is a fire. Just as fire inevitably produces smoke and light, so authentic faith produces salvation and good works (well, even “faith” is really an “instrumental cause” while Jesus’s sacrifice actually produced it and regeneration from the Holy Spirit produces repentance”$”).


  20. Nowhere in any example of Gospel preaching in the New Testament is it made “hard” to “become a Christian”. What must I do to be saved? BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

    Those who simply believed the Gospel were baptized. There is no example of anyone counting the cost or giving up anything in order to become a Chrisitan, although AS A CHRISTIAN those works were evident BECAUSE they were already SAVED and bearing fruit.

    I agree with RB.


  21. It’s not hard to become a Christian. To become a christian is a work of God by his pure grace, and we become so through faith. What must i do to be saved? BELIEVE on the LORD JESUS CHRIST and you shall be saved.

    When people heard the Gospel and they believed it’s message they were saved. There is no cost to count involved in becoming a Christian, but there is once we become a Christian and continue to grow in sanctification. Then we must enter the kingdom through trials, and there is a cost.

    MacArthur’s statement seems to front load the Gospel message and I agree with RB.


  22. Zaphon,
    You claim ‘There is no example of anyone counting the cost or giving up anything in order to become a Christian’, that is not what the Bible teaches. Have you not read Luke 14:33 “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”? Or Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. ”
    Or Luke 14:27 “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

    Perhaps the biggest one is this, “”If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 Denying what you deem important and submitting to the authority and lordship of Christ is the toughest battle for a true believer.

    You also claim we have the ability to have faith, is this correct? If so, I direct you to Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace, faith, and salvation are all part of God’s gift, when He saves, He gives the sinner the ability to have faith, we don’t believe apart from Him gifting us with that ability.

    The Gospel message is a command, not an invitation or a choice laid out for sinners to accept or reject. Christ commands sinners to repent {Luke 13:3}, God commands sinners to repent {Acts 17:30} there are numerous verses with this command, I have only given two to save space.

    Bear in mind, even the demons believe Christ is who He says He is {Mark 5:7; Luke 4:41}, so a mere verbal profession is not all that is evidenced in genuine salvation.

    As for those who received His word and were baptized in Acts 2:4`, you have to go back a few verses and see how they were saved, Peter preached the whole counsel to them, which caused them to be ‘cut to the heart’ {Acts 2:37} and cry out what they must do to be saved. Only a heart broken by the power of God and the preaching of His word will cut to the heart of a sinner. Peter told them salvation was for ‘everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” -Acts 2:39. God does the calling and He does the saving.


  23. RB, becoming a Christian IS like losing your life. It IS free but it’s also hard. You basically lose your life by letting God take control of it and love others through you. It’s hard to become a Christian because we do what the world doesn’t do; we decide to go against the flow of the world instead of succumbing to it. Thus, becoming a Christian is hard because you give up your control, which for some people is hard to do.


  24. It is interesting how Calvinists like to claim there must be evidence of salvation once one has been sealed by the Holy Spirit and is guaranteed an inheritance in Christ for all eternity. Yet those same Calvinists also seem to preach that one cannot stop sinning even though one is born again. This is completely unbiblical. The scriptures teach we do have the power and ability to stop sinning if we are in Christ, and we are exhorted to do so. I believe it is this somewhat schizophrenic gospel message that comes from some Calvinists that makes preachers like MacArthur and other Calvinists look heretical. Just an observation, not passing judgment.


  25. Alan – Yet the apostle John says – to the church – that if we say we have no sin, we lie and the truth is not in us. Please tell us where in the Bible it says we have stop sinning. Yes, we can say no to sin, but this does not imply that we are 100% successful. Do you follow John Wesley?


  26. But John MacArthur does still currently assert that repentance from personal sin is a PREREQUISITE for salvation, rather than a fruit of salvation, which contradicts salvation by grace alone through faith.


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