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A Turning Point

This week, Pulpit Magazine began a series of posts on “Lordship Salvation” taken from the writings of Pastor John MacArthur on that subject. Today, they republished a 2003 article titled A 15-Year Retrospective on the Lordship Controversy, which begins by noting that it was fifteen years (now eighteen) earlier that imageMacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus was published. The article gives a brief discussion of the nature of the controversy, and why a correct view of the lordship of Christ is so important to our Soteriology.

The Pulpit article caused me to do a retrospective of my own. I remember very well when The Gospel According to Jesus was published. I was newly married and living in Fridley, Minnesota. I was driving a delivery van for a formal wear company, which gave me the opportunity to listen to the radio most of the day as I made my rounds around the Twin Cities and surrounding area.

It was during this time that I was introduced to John MacArthur through the Grace to You radio broadcast. MacArthur was the first genuine expository preacher I had ever encountered, and it wasn’t long before I was hooked on Grace to You. I was no undiscerning listener, though. I had mentioned MacArthur to some friends from the Lutheran Bible School I had attended, and one of them had warned me that he was a Calvinist. I had not heard any overtly Calvinist teaching on Grace to You, but I was on guard lest I be taken in by that heresy.

The first point of doctrine that impressed me while listening to Grace to You was MacArthur’s conviction that salvation was more than a pardon from damnation. A redeemed sinner cannot continue in sin. The “carnal Christian” is a myth. The Gospel According to Jesus completely changed my perspective on so-called “Free Grace” Theology. My opposition to this absurd heresy had formerly been legalistic. To think that one could be saved and still do whatever he wanted was repugnant. Although I affirmed that salvation was by grace alone, there was a sense in which I believed that salvation was contingent upon obedience. I would have denied it, but I really believed that we are saved by grace, and kept, at least in part, by works. I think things through slowly, and do not usually change my mind quickly (I regret the times that I have, as I have been wrong in almost every case), so it took me longer than just reading this book for the truth to sink in. I eventually came to understand that a true believer lives obediently not out of obligation, but because his desires have been changed. He is being conformed to the image of Christ, not by his own effort, but by “God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

As much as I appreciated MacArthur’s expositions of Scripture and his stand against the antinomianism of the “Free Grace” movement, I remained on guard against any sneaky Calvinism that might creep into my thinking. I still have my first-edition hardcover copy of The Gospel According to Jesus, with one paragraph marked where he snuck in his belief in eternal security. I was greatly disappointed, since the rest of the book was so good.

Over a period of at least ten years, as I listened to Grace to You, read MacArthur’s books and study guides, increased my study of other theological sources, and searching the Scriptures “to see whether these things were so,” I learned two things. First, I learned that I had been right. Calvinism as I understood it is heresy. Second, I learned that I had been wrong. Arminianism is serious error, and some of what I had believed was heresy. Third, I began to see that genuine Calvinism is no less than Biblical theology, but it would still be a few years before I would understand that completely and be willing to say so out loud.

In fact, there are some points that I have only recently come to terms with, and others that I know I never will. I am convinced that many of the debates over the finer points of Calvinist Soteriology are attempts to answer the unanswerable. The more I see of these discussions, the less they interest me.

To conclude these somewhat rambling thoughts, the Pulpit Magazine series on “Lordship Salvation” takes me back to a major turning point in my life. imageThat first edition of The Gospel According to Jesus on my shelf is a memorial to the day in my life when I really began to pursue theology seriously. Since then I have read many other books, including many that are better and more important, but The Gospel According to Jesus is the one that started it all. And I reached that turning point because I was working a low paying, dead end job that allowed me to listen to the radio all day.

Posted 2006·09·27 by David Kjos
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Posted in: “Free Grace” · John MacArthur · Lordship · The Gospel According to Jesus · The Thirsty Theologian

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