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General Session 4 – John MacArthur (Q & A)

The sense of anticipation in and around this building has built to a crescendo. No, it has nothing to do with the speaker who will next take the pulpit, nor with the topic he will address. It has to do with books. The patio outside the worship center is filled with tens of thousands of books and everyone knows that in just another hour, the doors will fling open and all of the pastors will be invited to take one of each of these books. The number I hear most often is “28,” as in, “everyone will get 28 books.” And what do pastors like more than books? Not much, in my experience. I am guessing that the stampede to get to those books will by far exceed the stampede to sit near the front of the worship center during the sessions. From my seat I can see a large stack of copies of C.J. Mahaney’s book Humility. Wouldn’t it be ironic to see pastors pushing and shoving to get ahold of a copy?

Well, that’s not likely to happen. But in just another hour or so, everyone walking around this campus will do so with a large stack of books. In fact, many people have brought an extra bag just to haul away their newly acquired treasure.

Having looked around a little bit (while actually seeking a Dr. Pepper – thanks for nothing, Paul) I can see that I already own several of the books. I may take them up on the option of having the books sent to me for the cost of shipping.

And now John MacArthur has opened the microphones for the annual question and answer session.

“Children of disobedience or children of the devil.” What do you call them and are they destined for hell and does God love them?

This can be answered by showing that the love of God for the unregenerate is displayed in non-salvific ways through common grace. MacArthur has written a book on this (The Love of God). Unbelievers are given many blessings of God’s grace and this is expressive of a loving God. God also expresses his love towards sinners in a measure of his own sympathy and compassion in that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Also, the love of God is shown in a universal expression of truth so that all men, elect or not, are able to know of the truth of God through creation. It is also shown in the Great Commission, which tells us that we are to take the message of the good news to all men. God has love and kindness towards humanity, not only the elect. The elect are loved by God in a special way. To say that God loves the world is a true statement and to say that God loves the elect is a more refined statement.

You referred to John Calvin and his three-fold definition of a church. We planted a church three years ago because there was not a single church that did that. Another conservative church in the area has accepted a person into membership that we have disciplined. What should the nature of our relationship be with them?

Grace understands this because they are a church that faithfully exercises church discipline. What has happened through all these years, is that when a person will not repent, is that a person who has been disciplined runs to another church. Grace immediately notifies the staff of another church and lays out the situation and the reason that the person was put out of the church. It is becoming more and more difficult to make people in another church care about this, and so it poses a difficult question.

Do we now engage in community enterprises with this church? That is a difficult question to answer because it seems that there ought to be consequences for the unfaithfulness of the church, and yet we are not responsible for being the punitive hand of God. It seems wrong to punish the entirely body of that church for something they may not be aware of. And so a church will have to exercise some degree of wisdom.

Romans 1:19-21 – a question about elect sinners.

Unfortunately I could not hear the question, so while I heard the answer, it did not make a great deal of sense to me.

It is a question about people who come “close” to salvation – Hebrews 6 and how it relates to sovereignty and election and human responsibility.

MacArthur affirmed the importance of knowing to whom something is written, whether we are discussing the Bible or even a book of human authorship (he mentioned The Purpose Driven Life in particular). Hebrews 6 speaks about people who were exposed to Christ in the apostolic era. These people saw Jesus, heard His word, sampled the word of God, sampled the power of the Spirit of God – they had all the revelation that was available, and still fell away. If your decision after a full disclosure is to turn away, then nothing else can be said.

So how does this incomplete faith fit into the sovereignty of God? Did God try to save them and fail? No. Did someone come to a full understanding and then, of their own power, reject God? No. It is just that there are some who will never hear the word of God and be damned and there are some who will receive a full disclosure and be damned.

If you can reduce God and all the elements of the gospel to categories which can be fully understood, you have just denied them. There are just no categories for some of these things – they have no rational, human explanation. If you spend all your time trying to rationalize these things, you will inevitably corrupt them. You will have pulled Him down from His transcendence. So just enjoy the fact that you don’t know anything. That is comforting, because if you did, you would be God.

A question asked by the pastor of an Iranian Baptist Church in Dallas. When do we get our glorified bodies? Is that when we leave the earth or only after the rapture?

To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. To be with Christ is immediate when we leave this world. MacArthur believes that the resurrection has not yet happened, but is tied to the arrival of Jesus Christ. The dead in Christ rise first and then the ones who are alive and remain are caught up with the Lord. Romans 8 says that we are still waiting for the redemption of the body and so we long for the redemption of our bodies. We will be embodied in an everlasting body.

After bringing greetings to “Johnny Mac,” (a term which MacArthur does not object to) a pastor asked about the propriety of naming names when it comes to heresy. When a person reads a passage from a “bad” book from the pulpit, should he publically mention a person’s name?

When a book or ministry is public, it is exposed to necessary and public criticism. MacArthur invites criticism of his words. Once we put something out there it is subject to assessment and evaluation to guard both the truth and the people of the truth.

A question about inerrancy and the fact that inerrancy is applicable only to the original autographs.

MacArthur affirms the classic doctrine of inerrancy that Scripture was inerrant in its original autograph. So it is not currently, in every case, inerrant. But, the good news is, that the discrepancies and differences are minute. God has preserved His Scripture and this is a work of the Spirit. The great watershed event on this was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls which proved the accuracy of Scriptures hundreds of years old. The hand of God is obvious in the preservation of the Bible, not just in the message of Scripture but in the very words.

A question in regards to church leadership and a person who disagrees with the pastor in the area of falling away from salvation.

MacArthur believes that the best teachers are those who are most teachable. He would urge caution towards those who feel they already know a great deal and are unwilling to be taught. He also is nervous about people who seek to lead without seeking to serve. In Grace, those who are in leadership have served their way to that position.

At this point I stopped being able to hear and pay attention as many of the attendees began to file out (which I suppose is a cost of sitting near the doors). I’m guessing that some people are making a break for the book table and lunch lineup!

I believe I am now heading for Tommy’s to eat one of those world famous chili burgers. It could be a long, heart-burning afternoon.

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