Paul's Passing Thoughts

A Disturbing Post by John MacArthur

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on June 9, 2015

JM Road SignOriginally published March 22, 2014

Confusion over sanctification, thanks to the Reformed camp, continues to reign in Christianity. The few who do get it in the institutional Reformed church are not calling out the perpetrators by name, and I think that is a big mistake. A post by John MacArthur is indicative of the horrible confusion being propagated among God’s people in regard to sanctification.

Per the typical, the grave concern is “Counterfeit Sanctification.”  This concept in and of itself is confusing and unbiblical. The overriding concern among the apostles and Christ was counterfeit justification, not a micromanaging of our motives in sanctification. To this point, in vogue among the Reformed is the idea that Galatians is primarily a sanctification concern. Hence, the tone of Galatians is lent to confusing justification and sanctification. The post by MacArthur reflects the reason that paralyzing fear and confusion are rampant in Christianity. Most Evangelicals in our day are ill prepared to lead others to Christ because they are unclear themselves on the difference between justification and sanctification.

Though much of the post is agreeable (no surprise since error always swims in the lake of truth), MacArthur begins to state confusing concepts in the third paragraph:

But that’s not true spiritual growth—it’s counterfeit. If you truly love the Lord, you can’t be willing to move the goalposts on biblical sanctification.

Then in the next paragraph…

There are many varieties of counterfeit sanctification. Some are easier to spot than others, but all lead to the same kind of spiritual shipwreck. Here are a few to be on the lookout for in your own life.

For sure, sanctification is deep waters, but notice the close correlation MacArthur makes between properly understanding sanctification and the separate issue of justification; viz, “If you truly love the Lord,” and “all lead to the same kind of spiritual shipwreck.” And there are “many varieties” with varying degrees of difficulty in ascertaining. But then MacArthur follows that up with warnings about things that the Bible specifically tells us to practice in sanctification!

Restraint is another possible kind of counterfeit sanctification. People don’t always avoid sin in favor of righteousness—sometimes they’re simply afraid to face the consequences of sin. They don’t necessarily have a heart to obey God or His Word. They’re just afraid of pursuing temptation because of the results.

The Bible instructs Christians to “abstain” (2Thess 4:3) from unrighteousness and even posits the fear of judgment as a motivation (2Thess 4:6). When offering an example of “counterfeit sanctification” that is something the Bible instructs us to do, it would seem that further qualification would be in order to prevent confusion. Nevertheless, MacArthur continues:

That fear could be the sign of a well-trained conscience. Maybe the person was raised in a Christian home and has built-in convictions about right and wrong. Maybe he grew up under the moral standard of God’s Word and can’t shake the nagging of his conscience. Rather than face a troubled conscience or the consequences of his sin, he’ll simply not do it.

But again, the New Testament, in many places, commands us to “keep a clear conscience before God.” The New Testament writers had much to say about utilizing and developing the conscience for purposes of spiritual growth. The Bible even speaks directly to a well-trained conscience being the opposite of spiritual immaturity (Romans 14).

My primary point of contention here is MacArthur’s steroidal hypocrisy. While chiding others for not being biblically clear and concise, he warns Christians against specific biblical imperatives with little qualification.

It’s eerily similar to the whole Reformed motif of sanctification being something that we shouldn’t try at home without the infinite wisdom of Reformed thought. Learn and do is a concept that is grasping at shadows without their deep knowledge of God’s word.


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