I just finished watching the opening session of the Shepherd’s Conference, where Dr. John MacArthur preached on 2 Corinthians chapter 4. The theme of this year’s ShepCon is ‘We Preach Christ’ and it is a special one, as this is the 500th anniversary of the protestant reformation. My mind is still spinning with all of the wonderful things that Dr. MacArthur taught during his sermon; it will take some time to process. The next session begins in about 90 minutes, so for today’s post I thought I would summarize his points (from my notes), as there is plenty for we lay persons to learn, although the sermon was directed primarily to pastors.
Dr. MacArthur began with 2 Corinthians 4:16 “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” He said that the translation ‘not lose heart’ was not as accurate to the original word as it could be. The true meaning, he told us, was more along the lines of ‘we do not give in to evil; we don’t defect’. Dr. MacArthur then began to preach on the convictions that Paul was certain of, as a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that kept him from giving in to evil, and defecting from the ministry. He highlighted eight convictions that Paul was certain of:
- The New Covenant was superior to the Old Covenant
- Ministry was a mercy
- he needed to have a pure heart
- his responsibility to accurately preach the Word of God
- results did not depend on him
- about his own insignificance
- convinced of the benefit of suffering
- future glory was better than anything this world can offer
For the remainder of the essay, I would like to focus specifically on points 4, 5, &6.
Pastors (and all believers on a personal level) have a responsibility to accurately preach the Word of God
Paul writes in part “…not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God; For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” (v.2;5) Paul was convinced of his responsibility to be accurate with God’s Word. Dr. MacArthur used Jeremiah 23:16 as an example of not being accurate “…They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD.” Dr. MacArthur points out that this is characteristic of all false teachers. They do not preach the Word accurately, but preach visions from their own imagination. He went on to say that “he who speaks himself, speaks his own glory instead of God’s glory” (my paraphrase).
Brethren, doesn’t that remind you of the false teaching that is going on in our day? Does it not sound familiar? Think of those false teachers in false movements like the charismatic/word-of-faith, Bethel Redding church, Hillsong, Kansas city prophets, New Apostolic Reformation, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and the list goes on. Do they teach God’s Word, accurately? Or do they say “I have a vision; I have a word” peddling their own visions and things from their imaginations, teaching that our words as mere flesh and blood have power over our circumstances.
Dr. MacArthur went on to say that “it is criminal to take the Word of God and manipulate it to one’s own ends….a favorite sport of false teachers.” Indeed. He specified that manipulating the Word included tampering, toning down, or taking the offense out of the Word, with the intention of achieving one’s own objective. Again, the false teachers and movements of our day come readily to mind. From the “progressive Christians” we have shouts of “love wins” and the removal or ignoring of dogmatic truths that offend our modern culture, like the fact that the Bible says that any sexual activity outside of a one man, one woman marriage is sin.
We are insignificant; results don’t depend on us
Here is where a biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty in salvation provides rest for the true believer. Dr. MacArthur pointed out that Paul was convinced of his own insignificance in whether or not the gospel was effective in an individual, because he was convinced that the results did not depend on him. Results were entirely dependent on God. To summarize, Dr. MacArthur exhorted “let me just be faithful to the true Word of God because the doctrine of total depravity says there is nothing I can do to awaken the dead. Preach the Word and leave the results to the Creator.” Isn’t that a joy and a relief? We do not have the power, nor the responsibility to change hearts. We do have the command to go and make disciples and preach the gospel to all nations. We accurately proclaim the truth of God’s Word, and trust Him with the results.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:4 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Dr. MacArthur expanded on this, pointing out that there are two categories of people: those who are being saved and those who are perishing. This fits with the above points: we are not responsible for determining who is in which group. We are responsible to deliver the truth of the Gospel. To some it will be veiled; to some it will be effectual, working in their hearts to bring them to salvation, because “faith comes by hearing the Word of God preached accurately.”
Dr. MacArthur closed this point by telling us that he sometimes get’s the question, “do you worry about what will happen because of what you say?” To which he responded “I only think of one thing: is this what is true? We are bound to speak what we believe; we are bound to speak the truth.”
May we all be so bold, obediently proclaiming the great gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because we are bound to speak what we believe, and we believe the truth! Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
Soli Deo Gloria!