What Is Repentance?
“It is true that sorrow from sin is not repentance. Judas felt remorse, but he didn’t repent. (Matt 27:3). Repentance is not just a resolve to do better; everyone who has ever made New Year’s resolutions knows how easily human determination can be broken. Repentance certainly is not penance, an activity performed to try to atone for one’s own sins. But neither is repentance a solely intellectual issue. Surely even Judas changed his mind; what he didn’t do was turn from his sin and throw himself on the Lord for mercy. Repentance is not just a change of mind; it is a change of heart. Repentance in the context of the new birth means turning from sin to the Savior. It is an inward response, not external activity, but its fruit will be evident in the true believer’s behavior. (Luke 3:8)” – John MacArthur, The Gospel According to the Apostles, pg 77
MacArthur argues that Judas changed his mind, but because he did not also change his heart and turn from his sin, he was therefore lost.
Matthew 27:3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.
The text does indeed say Judas changed his mind, but it does not say what he changed his mind about. We have to turn elsewhere in Scripture to discover the answer to that.
In John 6:70, Christ refers to Judas as “a devil.” Later, in the same gospel, in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He identifies Judas as the “son of destruction” (John 17:12).
Christ was clear about Judas Iscariot from the beginning. I do not know what MacArthur thinks overkill means, but a devil and the son of destruction are hardly terms one uses to describe someone who has but failed to turn from their sin and throw themselves upon the Lord’s mercy. In fact, son of destruction sounds awfully similar to Paul’s term for the non-elect in Romans 9:22 – “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.”
Take another look at John 17:12. “Not one has been lost except the son of destruction that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.”
The fact the Scriptures had centuries earlier prophesied Judas’ betrayal means at the very least that Judas had been predestined to betray Jesus.
Psalm 41:9: even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
Does this sound like someone who but failed to turn from his sin and throw himself upon the Lord’s mercy? I suppose it does to the Arminian who believes Judas had free will. MacArthur is no Arminian though. He is not arguing Judas had free will. He knows well Judas had been ordained from eternity to betray Christ.
Judas changed his mind all right, but what he changed his mind about were his tactics and not instead his view of Christ. We cannot know his exact motivation for betraying Christ, because the Scriptures do not tell us. But what the Scriptures do tell us is Judas had been ordained from eternity to destruction, and because of this, Judas would never be brought to faith in the gospel.
Perhaps Judas’ motivation for betraying Christ was political, or perhaps he was just greedy (after all, John does say he had a penchant for helping himself to whatever was in the money bag(John12:6)).
Whatever the motivation for Judas’ betrayal, the point remains the same. Judas found himself betraying an innocent man to his death, and for this he was sorry. He did not, however, change his mind about the justice of Christ’s righteousness and sovereignty. Christ was not only righteous to predestine Judas to destruction, He was also just to do so. Judas disagreed.
MacArthur will not have this though. He insists Judas’ problem was behavioral rather than intellectual. Judas had changed his mind about Jesus, but he was still lost because he had not gotten serious about changing his morality. This idea leads MacArthur to make a most bizarre and ridiculous claim.
“Faith that remains idle is no better than the faith demons display (James 2:19)”– John MacArthur, The Gospel According to the Apostles, pg 53
“Orthodox doctrine by itself is no proof of saving faith. Demons affirm the oneness of God and tremble at is implications, but they are not redeemed. Mathew 8:29 tells of a group of demons who recognized Jesus as the Son of God. They even exhibited fear. Demons often acknowledge the existence and authority of Christ (Matt. 8:29-30); Mark 5:7), His deity (Luke 4:41), and even His resurrection (Acts 19:15), but their diabolical nature is not changed by what they know and believe. Their fearful affirmation of orthodox doctrine is not the same as saving faith. James implies that demonic faith is greater than the fraudulent faith of a false professor, for demonic faith produces fear, whereas unsaved men have ‘no fear of God before their eyes’ (Rom 3:18). If the demons believe, tremble, and are not saved, what does that say about those who profess to believe and don’t even tremble? (Isa. 66:2, 5).”– Ibid, pg 151
Demons affirm orthodox doctrine? Really?
MacArthur argues the affirmation of orthodox doctrine is no proof of saving faith. Rather, he implies a change of nature resulting in obedience to the law is proof of saving faith.
In other words, MacArthur is arguing demons are unsaved, because, although they affirm orthodox doctrine, they don’t also obey the law.
But really? Demons affirm orthodox doctrine? Where does Dr. MacArthur get this idea?
James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!
Certainly demons do agree with SOME of the claims God makes about Himself. They do agree, for example, He is one. However, the idea they affirm this doctrine from an orthodox basis is preposterous. Demons believe God is one. That is but one of the few things about God they do agree is true. They do not affirm it from an orthodox basis though. They affirm no truth from an orthodox basis. The demons MacArthur mentions from Matthew 8:29 and Mark 5:7 are far from examples of orthodox affirmation.
Matthew 8:29 And behold , they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”
Mark 5:7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God do not torment me.”
These demons were not affirming doctrine from an orthodox basis. Rather, they were affirming doctrine from an accusatory basis!
The demon in Matthew 8:29 was accusing Jesus of being a liar. Have You come to torment us before the time? I agree there is a set time, but have You come before that set time? The implication was that Jesus might as well lie about the timing too since He lies about everything else.
The demon in Mark 5:7 was the same. I adjure you by God do not torment me. The implication being, I know what a kick You get out of tormenting Your creatures, Jesus, so I adjure You by Your Father not to torment me.
Demons believe God is one. They also believe He is internally contradictory, that He lies (Genesis 3:4), that He is unjust, that He is wrong, that He is evil, and that He is unrighteous, just to name a few things. Yes, they agree it is true a time is coming when God will punish them with eternal destruction, but they do not agree, not for one moment, He is righteous to do this.
Where does MacArthur get this silly idea demons affirm orthodox doctrine? And why does he insist on spouting this nonsense about spiritual truth not being doctrinal, not being intellectual, not being something which can be mentally grasped? If spiritual truth is not something that can be intellectually understood, then how can it be understood?
“Some say faith is merely believing certain facts. One popular Bible teacher says saving faith is nothing more than confidence in the divine offer of eternal life.Biblically, however, the object of faith is not the divine offer; it is the Person of Jesus Christ. Faith in Him is what saves, not just believing His promises or accepting facts about Him. Saving faith has to be more than accepting facts. Even demons have that kind of faith (James 2:19). Believing in Jesus means receiving Him for all that He is (John 1:12). It means both confessing Him as Savior and yielding to Him as Lord. In fact, Scripture often uses the word obedience as a synonym for faith (cf. John 3:36; Acts 6:7; Hebrews 5:9).”– John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, pg 67
“The nature of faith is different in the spiritual realm. Natural faith relies on the physical senses. We tend to believe only what we or others can see, hear, taste, and feel. When we trust the water, our brakes, the surgeon, the drugstore, or the president, we do so because our sense and human experience tell us these things are generally worthy of our confidence. Hebrews 11:1 faith, on the other hand, is a supernatural conviction – a solid, unshakable assurance that is contrary to human nature. It induces a capacity to lay hold to spiritual reality imperceptible to the natural man. The clear implication of all this is that faith is a gift of God. If faith were a mere human decision, it would be no assurance at all. It might be a bad decision. If belief were merely a function of the human mind, faith would be no grounds for confidence. The mind can easily be deceived, mistaken, deluded, or misinformed. Real faith, however, is a divinely implanted assurance that rises above the natural function of the human mind. After all, the natural man cannot see Him who is unseen.” – John MacArthur, The Gospel According to the Apostles, pgs 42-43
MacArthur insists faith is more than just “merely” believing certain facts about Jesus. He insists instead faith is an imperfect, but sincere obedience to the righteous principles of the law. To keep these two notions of intellect and behavior separate, he further divides faith into two categories – natural faith, which he claims is a faith which relies upon the physical senses; and spiritual faith, which he claims is a divinely implanted, non-intellectual assurance. The problem with this definition is that it relies upon a division Scripture does not make.
Proverbs 23:7 As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts
Romans 1:21 and their foolish heart was darkened
Acts 5:4 Why have you conceived this deed in your heart?
Romans 8:27 And he who searches the heart knows what is the mind of the Spirit
If foolishness is something which describes a poor mind (Prov 11:29, Ps 14:1), then it is hard to imagine how a heart could be foolish if a heart is something other than a mind.
The Bible does not differentiate between heart and mind. Both words refer to the same thing – the intellect. In fact, the Greek word for heart, “kardia”, means mind with an added focus on thinking and understanding. As someone once said, what you know in your head is what you know in your heart. The two are inseparable, because they mean the same thing.
Romans 10:10 for with the heart one believes
Contrary to MacArthur’s assertion, faith is indeed a function of the human mind. Merely has nothing to do with it. Faith is a function of the human mind. Faith is intellectual agreement with the propositions God says are true. This is the definition of faith. What MacArthur fails to take into account is the willingness part. God must make a man willing to agree with Him. This is what new birth is for; God making a man willing to agree with what He has said in His Word about His Son.
John 3:3 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.
Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves to sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
The things not seen are the things God has said about God!
John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.
John 14:9 Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.
The apostles knew Christ face to face. They saw Him, touched Him, and heard Him (1 John 1:1). Today, we know Christ through their testimony (John 17:20). His Spirit witnesses with our spirit, making us willing and wanting to agree with Him that their testimony is true. A testimony is not a person. A testimony is a statement or statements about a person. Doctrine, in other words. Think about that the next time someone tells you faith in Christ is not “merely” believing certain facts about Him.
“Trust in a person is a meaningless phrase unless it means assenting to certain propositions about a person, propositions such as “I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into Heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.” Trust in Christ, unless it means belief of these propositions, is totally without value.”– John Robbins, preface to What Is Saving Faith? by Gordon H. Clark
MacArthur insists that because faith is a gift of God, it is therefore something more than only intellectual. But if it is not only intellectual, then what else is it? What is a solid, unshakable conviction if a conviction is not something only intellectual?
If a nice feeling in the pit of my stomach is the assurance of my salvation, then I would have to say everyone who gets a nice feeling in the pit of their stomach is saved. I don’t need Jesus to get that feeling though. I can get it from drugs, from food, from money, from sex, or from any of a hundred other things. If a personal relationship with Jesus is to be defined as doing what Jesus instructs me to do, then I suppose I would have to say the seventy-two who stopped following Christ in John 6 had a personal relationship with Jesus, because they didn’t take their moneybag, their knapsack or their sandals either when Jesus sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God. (Luke 10:1-4)
MacArthur’s absurd, anti-intellectual faith is universal among the Lordship Salvationists. Popular pastor, author, and staunch MacArthur defender, John Piper, is no exception. Piper writes in his book, The Pleasures of God:
“The answer to the question, What is faith? Is the most basic one in this whole controversy. It is not a simple mental assent to facts – not lordship facts and not Savior facts. It is a heartfelt coming to Christ and resting in him for what he is and what he offers. It is an act of the heart that no longer hates the light but comes to the light because a new set of spiritual taste buds have been created and Christ now tastes satisfying to the soul. This notion of faith is taken mainly from the Gospel of John where Jesus says, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’ This view of faith implies that faith itself will inevitably wean a person away from sin because faith is a resting in what Jesus has to offer, namely, the pathway of life.”– John Piper, The Pleasures of God, page 288
Resting in Christ, argues Piper, is not trusting the facts God has said about Christ are true, but rather trusting Jesus to gradually wean His people away from a sinful lifestyle. Furthermore, Piper insists faith is not a simple mental assent to facts, but rather a heartfelt coming to Christ. But just what exactly is a heartfelt coming to Christ? And how does heartfeltly coming to Christ differ from intellectually agreeing with the facts about Him?
Piper claims his understanding of faith is to be found in the gospel of John – in particular, in John 6:35. What Piper neglects to mention is the fact these words were spoken to a group of people whom Christ had already rejected, and would, in just a few verses, leave stumbling in the darkness for want of an intellectual understanding of the meaning of a metaphor.
The passage in John 6 begins with a crowd following Jesus, watching Him heal. It then continues with Him feeding the same crowd, numbering some five-thousand. After feeding them, He leaves them in order cross to the other side of the shore. The next morning, upon His arrival at the other side of the shore, He is greeted by the same crowd.
The crowd greets Him with the expectation of being fed again. After all, it was breakfast time. However, Jesus tells them not to labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life (verse 26). The crowd responds by asking what sort of labor they are to do in order to obtain this food which endures to eternal life. Christ’s answer is revealing.
“Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’”
These people had sought out Jesus because He gave them sandwiches. Literally. That is what Jesus said. He said this in verse 26; “You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” They were of the opinion it would be a jolly good idea to keep Jesus around, because He represented an endless supply of fish sandwiches. Jesus tells them though, not to labor for food which spoils, but rather to labor for the food which endures to eternal life.
Labor? Why the word labor?
Jesus uses the word labor in order to set them up for a big disappointment. In fact, He is setting them up to reject Him as He has already rejected them. He uses the word labor – to work hard, to strive, to struggle, to sweat and toil, to labor. They respond by asking Him for a list of labors they are to perform. Jesus gives them a most startling answer. There is no labor you can do, only believe in the One whom the Father has sent.
The passage gets even more interesting at this point, because they respond to Christ’s setup with a very curious request. He has just told them to labor for the food which leads to eternal life. After they ask Him to provide a list of labors, He tells them there is no labor they can do, but rather only believe. At this point they then ask, “What sign do You do, so that we may believe?”
What sign do you do? Really? What a curious question. I would have thought they might rather have asked something like, what do You say about Yourself then, or what claim do You make about Yourself? They don’t though. Instead, they ask Him to provide a sign. Why? The answer is found in the first half of the passage.
Recall this is the same crowd which watched Him heal the day before. They had also been on the receiving end of a miracle feeding. They have been following Him around for some time. They have heard Him speak. They already know what He says about Himself. They have heard Him say it, they have seen Him prove it. Why now then do they ask for a sign?
They ask for a sign, because they do not believe the things He has claimed about Himself are true! Even though they saw Him heal, and even though they had experienced the miraculous sandwiches, they still did not believe His claims.
They appreciated the fish sandwiches well enough, and they were sincere about their belief that He was a prophet (verse 14). But in their minds, there was a big difference between accepting Christ as a prophet who produced miracles by the hand of God, and accepting Christ’s claims to be the very Son of God Himself with the power to give life and to destroy. They knew what He claimed about Himself. He now tells them to agree with Him His claims are true. They ask for another sign instead.
The only thing Piper proves in his appeal to this passage is he is like one of those in the crowd! Like them, he has come heartfeltingly to Christ with the hope of another fish-sandwich-stuffed belly. What he refuses to do, however, is intellectually agree that Christ’s claims about Himself are true.
Like Piper, MacArthur also insists faith is heartfelt. It is not “merely a function of the human mind”, he argues, but rather a heartfelt trust in God. He insists a relationship with Christ is not one that the Bible defines as intellectual and propositional, but rather emotional and intuitive. And all this so that he can say repentance is not a change of mind about who Christ is, but rather a change of emotions that will inspire and lead a person to make a sincere effort to obey the righteous principles of the law so that by his obedience he might assure himself.
MacArthur claims we “tend to believe only what we or others can see, hear, taste, and feel.” The popular evolutionary Atheist, Richard Dawkins, would very much agree – or at least he would say anyone who isn’t a fool tends to believe only what he sees, hears, tastes and feels.
Matthew 4:4 Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Romans 10:17 Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
John 20:29 Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
The Bible teaches us not to place our trust in what we or others can see, hear, taste, and feel. The Bible teaches us to place our trust in something else instead.
Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
Hebrews 11:1-3 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
There are certain truths about God, His eternal power and divine nature, for instance, that can be perceived with the guidance of the senses. One can look at all the vast complexity in nature and know for certain an eternally powerful God created it. This is ultimately of no help to Man though, because all the important truths about God – His grace, His justice, His righteousness, His mercy, His holiness, His goodness – cannot be perceived this way. Demons can perceive the truth God created the universe for His glory. What they cannot perceive though, is the truth He is just and righteous to have done so.
The truth about God’s righteousness is not borne by the feel of the wind on our skin, or by the spiced scent of cider in our nostrils, or by the taste of an orange on our tongue, or by the strum of a guitar in our ears. In other words, the gospel cannot be known empirically.
Epistemology is the study of how we learn and know things. The Bible teaches us the Bible itself is the source of truth. God’s truth is all truth.
Psalm 119:42 Your righteousness is righteousness forever, and Your law is truth
Psalm 119:89 Forever, O Lord, Your word is firmly fixed in the heavens
Psalm 138:2 You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word
Psalm 119:60 The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous rules endures forever
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path
Psalm 51:6 But You desire truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart
A proposition is a statement which is either true or false. Some examples include all stop signs are red, all traffic lights are green, my pants are black, and 2 + 2 = 4. These statements may be true, or they may be false, but that is all they are.
Everything we know, we know by way of propositions. We tend not to think about this fact much, but it is true. Some people think we know by way of emotions or intuition, but what are we saying when we say we feel a certain way? Are we not saying it is true we feel a certain way? And when we make a judgment about something based upon the way we feel, are we not stating our judgment is true? This is so even when the husband and wife experience each other in the marriage bed. Is their intimate act not a true-false statement about their relationship to one another? They are not brother and sister. They are not mother and son. They are husband and wife. Adam knew his wife, Eve. He did not know his daughter, Eve.
The Bible instructs us not to make judgments about things based upon the way we feel or intuit, but rather to make judgments about things based upon what the Word of God says about those things.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Is this true? Yes, we are to judge this as true.
Why? Because the word of God says it is true.
“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him.” Is this true? Yes. Why? Because the Word of God says it is.
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” True.
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” True.
“I ask, then, has God rejected His people? By no means!” True.
This is not a new teaching, nor is it a new philosophy. Sadly, it is not well known today (no thanks to men like MacArthur), but it is not new. This is what Christianity has always affirmed. In fact, the very first pagan critics of Christianity attacked the early Christians for this very reason.
Consider Galen, for example, an early Greek philosopher, who drew a comparison of Christianity to a particular school of philosophy he found unreasonable. He said of this school:
“They compare those who practice medicine without scientific knowledge to Moses, who framed laws for the tribe of Israel, since it is his method in his books to write without offering proofs, saying, ‘God commanded, God spake.’”
Another critic, Celsus, complained that Christians sought out gullible and uneducated people “because they were unable to give reasons for their beliefs . . .they asked people to accept what they said solely on faith.”
Celsus went on to write that the gospels themselves were based only on hearsay, arguing, “Why should we give greater credibility to what is written in them than to other stories about Jesus? The accounts in the gospels were written solely by Christians and passed on in Christian circles. Should the legends there be taken with greater seriousness than the many legends in Greek literature? The Christian Gospels offer no reliable basis on which to establish the truth of the accounts about Jesus . . . there is no proof except for your word”
Another critic, Lucian, said of the Christians, “The poor wretches have convinced themselves that they are going to be immortal and live for all time. They despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence.”
From the very beginning, Christians stood resolute in their belief a proper understanding of God’s truth is dogmatic. Christians based the foundation for all their claims entirely upon Scripture alone, and not instead upon their senses, or their intuition, or their own unaided reasoning. It was a commonly held scientific belief, for instance, during the first, second, and third century, that God (or more properly the gods) had created the world using preexisting material. The Christians rejected this, however, arguing instead God had created the world from nothing. When asked to provide evidence for this assertion, they simply pointed to the first chapter of Genesis.
This dogmatic faith of the early Christians held true for all their doctrine. Celsus, for example, found himself so infuriated by their dogmatic appeals to Scripture concerning the doctrine of resurrection, that he wrote:
“What sort of body, after being entirely corrupted, could return to its original nature and that same condition which it had before it was dissolved? As they (the Christians) have nothing to say in reply, they escape to a most outrageous refuge by saying that ‘anything is possible to God.’” (a reference to Christ’s words in Matthew 19:26)
As for the Christians themselves, they encouraged the dogmatism. The early Christian writer, Hippolytus, for example, addressing a sect which claimed to be Christian yet followed the critic Galen, wrote in his book, “The Little Labyrinth”:
“Instead of asking what Holy Scripture says, they stain every nerve to find a form of syllogism to bolster up their impiety (atheism). If anyone challenges them with a text from divine Scripture, they examine it to see whether it can be turned into a conjunctive or disjunctive form of syllogism. They put aside the holy scriptures of God, and devote themselves to geometry, since they are from the earth and speak from the earth, and do not know the one who comes from above.”
People who “tend to believe only what we or others can see, hear, taste, and feel” are also people who tend not to believe the Bible is true. The fool says in his heart there is no God. Why? Because he cannot see, hear, smell, taste, or touch God.
2 Peter 3:1-7 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
Peter says the scoffers deliberately overlook the fact the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God. How did Peter expect them to know this as a fact though? After all, they weren’t around when the earth was first formed.
Peter expects them to know it as fact, because the Bible says it is a fact. They deliberately reject the Bible’s propositions though, and for this reason, Peter accuses them of deliberately overlooking the facts.
God had told Adam in the day he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. Satan told the woman she would not die. She believed Satan’s proposition was true, and God’s was not.
God does not communicate His propositions to us through feelings or emotions, or non-intellectual somethings or another. Rather, He communicates them to us through propositions. Those propositions are contained in sentences written on the pages of a book which is meant to be read and studied and intellectually understood and agreed with. That book is called the Bible.
The Bible rejects MacArthur’s natural faith. The Bible knows only one kind of faith, and that is intellectual assent (agreement) with the propositions of God’s Word. It does not mean belief in what our senses tell us, or belief in what our reason tells us, or belief in what our intuition tells us, or belief even in what our natural world tells us. It means one thing and one thing only; belief in what the Word of God says is true.
MacArthur has created a concept which exists nowhere in the Bible – natural faith. He then contrasts his invention with something he calls, “spiritual faith.” He identifies this spiritual faith as something which is both non-sensory and non-intellectual. All well and good to call it non-sensory, but how can it be non-intellectual? How can someone who intellectually agrees with the Bible not intellectually know he agrees with the Bible?
If I agree with what the Bible says about Jesus, and I know I agree with what the Bible says about Jesus, then how can I not mentally know I know this as true? The argument is absurd.
Faith in Christ is intellectual agreement with the propositional statements Scripture makes about Jesus Christ. That is it. It is nothing else. When is the last time you physically touched Jesus or audibly heard Him speak? Never? Good. Now when is the last time you agreed with the sentences Jesus instructed the apostles to write down onto a piece of paper? How then can you say you do not know Jesus purely by way of your intellect?
Declared righteous by grace through intellectual agreement with the Bible’s propositions about Christ. This is what the Bible means by justified by grace through faith in Christ.
The Bible has some very specific things to say about Christ. A man either agrees these statements are true, or he does not. If he does agree they are true, then he does so because God has imputed him righteous and has regenerated him, making him willing to believe the Bible’s claims are true. (1 Cor2:10-16, Jhn 3:3-13). If a man does not, then it is because God has not (Matt 11:25-27).
MacArthur flips this on its head. He insists we have no right to think we are saved simply because we used to think one way about Jesus and now we think another. He insists we must instead supplement all this intellectual stuff about Jesus with behavior modification and moral improvement. He says this is the only way that we can know we are saved.
This is not Biblical dogmatism. This is empiricism. This is not justification by faith. This is justification by sight. It is Anabaptist nonsense flying directly in the face of the Reformation.
How do I know I have been saved? If I look to my behavior for evidence of change, then I am not looking to the cross. I am instead looking to me, to my works. If I think I am saved because my morality has improved, then I am not trusting the Word of God alone. I am instead trusting what my senses tell me.