Grace to You Bible Questions and Answers Part 19
John MacArthur – Grace to You.
GARY: Hi John, my name is Gary. I wanted your opinion on a specific doctrine that you hear both teachings, you hear quote as humans we kind of like to put things in categories, so the free will doctrine versus the election doctrine, as far as salvation is concerned. And I wanted your thoughts on that.
JOHN: Everybody in this room believes in predestination if they believe the Bible, right? How many of you believe the Bible? You believe the Bible? That’s good. God help the rest of you. You’re either slow or heretics, I don’t know which. Now everybody believes the Bible, right? Then you believe in predestination. You say, “No, I was raised a Methodist.” I don’t care what you were raised, you believe in predestination if you believe the Bible because in Ephesians it says, “He predestinated us before the foundation of the world.”
It says in Revelation, “He has written our names in the Lambs Book of Life from before the foundation of the world.” It uses the word predestination. Everyone believes in that who believes the Bible. God predetermined who would be saved before they were ever born. That’s in the Bible. You believe it so just accept that you believe it. Now wasn’t that easy? Absolutely painless! You believe that. The Bible also says, “Whosoever will may come, and becometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” Do you believe that? Okay. So you believe that too. So you believe in man’s volition. Free will is not a biblical term because man’s will isn’t really free, it’s bound by sin, but you believe that when you became a Christian did you say to yourself, “Oh, I’m elect. I think I’ll get saved.” No! No you made a decision, you made a choice. So the Bible teaches God’s predestinated plan, God’s electing plan. I mean it says that over and over, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God, elect in Him. I have many people in that city,” he said, in the book of Acts who weren’t even saved yet, but they were already considered His people ’cause they were elect.
So you believe all that then you believe in man’s choice as well. So you believe both of those things. The problem is not whether you believe those. The problem is how you harmonize them, right? You know how you harmonize them? No you don’t. You don’t know how to harmonize them because there is no way to harmonize them. And the way I like to illustrate it is this: is Jesus God or man? Speak.
JOHN: Both. Is he all man? 100% man. 100% God. How could He be 200%? It’s a paradox. Who wrote Romans? Paul wrote Romans? God wrote Romans. They alternated verses? Who wrote Romans? It was Paul’s words from his vocabulary and his heart. Was every word inspired by the Spirit of God? How could every single word come out of the mind of God and yet Paul feel that every single word came out of his own heart? You know what’s going to happen if you try to synthesize those things? You know what happened in the early church councils? They got so confused they said, “Okay he’s half God and half man.” And you know what you have when you have half God and half man? Nothing. What’s half a man? There’s not such thing as half. What’s half of God? A nothing! So ______ heresy. So on the one hand they said He’s all deity and the idea that He was a physical being is just a phantom and they came up with a phantom view. And the others said He was all man and He’s not deity at all see, and because they tried to resolve it they came up with heresy every time. They just said He’s all God and not man or all man and not God or half and half and that’s a nothing. You have to leave the paradox.
Now when you come to the writing of the Bible some say, “Well it can’t be all Paul and all the Holy Spirit,” so Paul just wrote what the Holy Spirit told him and it’s all really the Holy Spirit. Is that true? You’ve just eliminated the Pauline authorship. On the other hand if you say it’s all Paul, like the liberals do, and none of the Holy Spirit you’ve eliminated God.
Let me ask you another question. Who lives your Christian life? Who lives your Christian life? Who? Do you? Do you? I hope you do. Is it just you out there living it up, gritting your, not I but what, Christ liveth in me, nevertheless what? I live, yet not I, but Christ. Well if it’s all Christ then I become a quietest, let go and let God. And I just, and you’ve got that movement. And on the other hand if you say it’s me I become a pietist and I wind up as a legalist. You just have to handle both and leave them in a paradox. Now when it comes down to the whole area of sovereignty and will you’ve got to leave them where they are and as soon as you try to resolve them you get all of the Calvinists who run over to this end of the seesaw and start screaming sovereignty and down goes the scale, right? And they got God doing everything. One guy came to me one day and said God even makes you sin. See that’s the ultimate.
And on the other hand you’ve got the Armenians who say no, no, no it’s all us, it’s all us, it’s all us. And if it’s all us, folks, we are really in trouble. Why don’t you leave it alone? Then you have the Baptists. Oh the Baptists. And the Baptists come together in the middle and they say well it’s a little bit of predestination and a little bit of free will. You see God looks down the road and He says, “Oh that’s what they’re going to do, I see, so I’ll chose it.” No! Just leave it alone. So the best way to solve that problem is to believe both and let God resolve it. Now if you could resolve all those problems you’d be God. And then there would be other problems we’d have to deal with.
Now let me tell you something. One of the greatest marks of the inspiration of the Scripture is the fact is that it has those incomprehensible paradoxes. Because if a man or men had written that book they never would have number one conceived them, number two they never would have left them there. They would have resolved them. The fact that they are there and they stand all over the place in the Bible is one of the truest proofs that God, of an infinite mind, far beyond our own, wrote those things. The very fact that there are those irreconsible apparent paradoxes in Scripture speaks of divine authorship. God understands how they harmonize, we don’t. And that means that God has a greater mind than we do and aren’t you glad about that? Okay?
GARY: Thank you.
CAROLINA: Hi there. My name is Carolina and I’d like to ask you what you think about friendship evangelism and what I mean by that is forming close friendships with non-Christians. I know there’s a verse that says, “We should love all men, but especially those of the household of faith.”
JOHN: You know what they accused Jesus of? They accused Him of being a friend of sinners. I think that we ought to have friendships with sinners. How else are we going to win them to Christ? The greatest soil for evangelism is friendship. That’s the greatest. When you give yourself to someone, when you pour your heart out to someone, why do you think Jesus came healing? He was meeting people at their deepest point of need with mercy and love and He was establishing in them an affection and a gratitude for Him as an individual for what He had done for them and out of that affection and out of that gratitude could grow faith. I mean standing on the corner screaming at a bunch of strangers isn’t nearly as effective as a friendship. I think that it’s critical that we establish. You know He went home with Zacchaeus who was the crumb of the town and they accused Him of hanging around prostitutes. Remember what He said, “The wealthy don’t need a physician, the sick do.” I think that’s the greatest way of evangelism. Okay? Okay.
ROGER: My name is Roger and I had a question. It’s a two-part question and I’ve asked this question before and I think you’ve even answered it on one of your tapes, but I’d like to get to the second part of it. Can and does Satan read one’s mind?
JOHN: No, I don’t think Satan can read your mind because I don’t think Satan is omniscient. He’s too dumb. He’s fallen and sin curses the intellect, even an angelic intellect. I don’t think he was ever omniscient anyway. Omniscience belongs only to God. I don’t think Satan can read your mind, but I do think that Satan can pretty well peg what you’re thinking by how you’re acting and how you’re talking and he can pretty well analyze the pattern of your living and he pretty well knows what affects you in what way and how you respond and react to things. So, he can pretty well pin point your weaknesses but I do not think he can read your mind. Okay? There’s nothing in Scripture to indicate that Satan can read your mind.
ROGER: The second part of the question then is if not then how or why can one be in prayer, like right here, and have a thought zing across your mind that’s like staggering or a sin flash upon the screen of your mind like it’s, I’m a young Christian so maybe there’s some other problems there, I don’t know, but this is one that I’ve had right here in the sanctuary. Sometimes it frightens me. It doesn’t happen frequently but it has.
JOHN: I think all of us have had that happen. You know you’ll be committed to studying the Scripture, you’ll be committed to praying, or you’ll be committed to speaking or teaching or witnessing or whatever, singing a hymn, and all of a sudden a totally ridiculous obtuse thought comes across your mind. It has nothing to do with anything. Like sometimes even when I’m preaching all of a sudden, you don’t even realize it, but you’ll start thinking about some dumb stupid mundane, — I remember when a guy gave me a bunch of stock. He said I want you to have this. I can’t handle it. It messes up my Christian life so he gave it to me. It’s like removing the ark of the covenant from the Gaffites to the Econrites and taking the bubonic plague with it.
So he gives me this stuff and I mean at the most ridiculous times I’d be thinking, “I wonder how that stock is doing.” I finally sold it and I got $250. when I sold it. It was at the bottom. But anyway it was nothing, but that’s right, I think it happens to all of us and I don’t think it has anything to do with Satan reading our minds, and I don’t think it necessarily think it has to do with satanic intervention. It is just the nature of the flesh that it has within it the propensity toward evil and it’ll come up at the most inopportune times. Something triggers all those mechanism in your brain. For example, you’ll be having a normal conversation about the weather and you’ll have all kinds of other thoughts. Now some people can control a conversation.
Some people when you talk to them they interject all those thoughts and their conversations are very sporadic and very interesting sometimes. Have you ever talked to anybody like that where they go bang, bang, bang, bang, and there’s a lot of stuff feeding into the computer? But I think what you’re saying really reflects the nature of man. First of all your brain is a jumble of all kinds of things and thoughts. I think that the flesh very often, whatever that propensity is to sin, throws those at you and I think Satan can energize those things by something you see, something that appeals to your eye. I don’t think he can control what you think of or what you remember internally, but I think there are maybe colors or shapes or forms or people or all kinds of things that pass through and flick off other thoughts. I think he pretty well deals, and I’m saying this in a general statement, and I hope it’s true; he pretty well deals with external stimulus. Because I don’t thing that he can just invade your mind in the sense of total control.
Now it may be that he has some resource to plant thoughts, but that’s very difficult to know whether how he does that if he doesn’t do that by some external stimulus of some kind.
ROGER: To digress a moment, if I gave you an example of when I first became a Christian it was a particular Saturday morning and I had just gotten up and I had a thought about someone that I hadn’t seen in like ten years, 12 years, since college and it was a real, it wasn’t exactly eerie but it was prominent in my mind. And I thought boy that’s strange. I don’t know why I should be thinking of that person. There’s really no reason to be thinking of that person. That person called me that night and I had some problem with that and that’s why I wondering if you’re bombarded with— And then I also felt then, I started to think if this is happening then I felt Satan’s presence and then I remembered the verse, “Get thee behind me Satan,” and that was comforting. But I’m just curious.
JOHN: Well we’ve all kind of experienced that dejavu kind of thing or some of those kinds of coincidences or whatever. Sometimes God may plant a thought in someone to pray about something. It is possible. I’m not going to deny that Satan can plant thoughts. But I think primarily Satan works on external stimulus, but I’m not going to say he cannot plant a thought. If we really wrestle against principalities and powers and so forth as it says in Ephesians 6, it may be within his capacity to plant thought. I think Ananias and Sapphira why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? If we’re living in sin, if we expose ourselves, there’s a sense in which Satan can come right inside and begin to dominate the influence.
But what I’m really saying is I don’t think if you’re going along in the flow of your Christian life and so forth, I don’t think Satan can just flood in with all kinds of things. I think there’s a certain protection that’s built in when you’re walking in the Spirit and some of those things that comes up may just be your brain and the flesh that’s a part of your natural makeup throwing those things at you. But that’s a very difficult thing. That’s why we say so very often you do not want to get involved in playing around with demons in their sphere because you really don’t understand that sphere and it’s beyond us so we avoid that. Okay?
Let me just see if I can clarify it now. We believe that Satan is not omniscient. He does not know everything. I believe he is subject to the revelation of God and he is subject to objective observation within whatever objective means within his sphere. He can perceive what is going on but I don’t think there’s anything in the Bible to indicate he is omniscient. He is infinitely intelligent, tremendously intelligent, but intelligence comes, intelligence is a capacity that is fed by revealed information. Do you know what I mean by that? God is omniscient in the sense that He intrinsically knows everything and there doesn’t have to be any information. But Satan knows what he knows because God has revealed that to him within the framework of his intelligence.
So don’t think there’s anything to indicate that Satan can read your mind, but Satan can influence your mind. But I think primarily it is by external things that may trigger thought patterns. But it is also true that demons can come in and Satan can come in and if they can come into a believer there’s a sense in which they must be able directly to affect the thinking process somehow. But that for one, I think, who has been given over to Satan to some extent. Okay.
DAN: Hi John, my name is Dan. I have a question concerning Jewish witness from Romans 11 and I was talking with a pastor of another church about Jewish witness and this chapter seems to be suggesting that the Jews hold a very special place in God’s heart and that in verse 12, “Now if their transgression be riches for the world,” in verse 15, “For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world,” and then going farther down into verse 24 comparing the cultivated olive tree off of which they came to us being the wild olive tree having to be grafted on and then going farther down and saying, verse 25, “But I don’t want you brethren to be uninformed of this mystery lest you be wise in your own estimation that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles and thus all Israel will be saved.” And then finally on verse 23, “How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways.”
Now this pastor suggested to me, and it sounded logical to me, that the judgment of the Jews is something that God may have a special dispensation for the Jews and that it’s not necessarily absolutely necessary for them to know Jesus Christ as their savior, to be saved, as long as they are well founded Jews and they seek the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and they live a good Jewish life. And he suggested that it’s possible because of the mystery that you mentioned here and because of the unsearchableness of God’s judgments that perhaps it’s not absolutely necessary that they know Jesus Christ because their hearts have been hardened. Now what do you think about this?
JOHN: I think that’s totally wrong. That’s horrifying thought because if the implication of that thought is you don’t evangelize a Jew that’s a horrifying thought. First of all he does not understand the interpretation of Romans 11. That’s clear. Secondly he doesn’t understand the doctrine of salvation. That’s clear. Thirdly he doesn’t understand the extent of either of those and I’m not disparaging him, I’m just saying if that’s what he believes, I don’t even know who he is, but if that’s what he believes that’s a horrifying thing. The point in the text here is that God does have a special place for Israel. Israel will be restored if the diminishing of Israel, that is if they’re setting aside with the riches of the Gentiles, look if Israel was set aside and the church was born and we’ve all been enriched by it, what greater thing will occur when they are grafted back in?
In other words if they’re diminishing this for us, what in the world would their salvation mean for us? It’s very much like the Romans 5 argument where he says if the death of Christ could reconcile us to God what can the life of Christ do to keep that reconciliation a reality? So I think what the text is saying here is that God has set aside Israel. There’s no question about that, but they are not set aside permanently and they are not set aside totally because earlier in the chapter he says that there is a remnant according to the election of grace in Chapter 5. So it is a partial setting aside and it is a temporary setting aside because later in Chapter 11 he says all Israel is going to be saved. But he also says in Acts 4 does the Holy Spirit that neither is their salvation any other for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby they must be saved. He said that to Jews in the city of Jerusalem who were the Jewish leaders.
That is a very definitive statement, a very clear statement. So what he is saying is Israel was set aside, yes, temporarily and partially. There will be a day, and in their setting aside the riches was turned to the Gentiles after the Gentiles fullness has come in, after the church is complete, that’s what that means, God will go back and redeem Israel.
Zechariah tells us exactly how. He says, “They will look on Him whom they have pierced and they will mourn for Him as an only son.” Zechariah! That is an indication that their salvation comes about directly as a relationship of their focus on Jesus Christ. At that point they will be saved and then He will fulfill His covenant, verse 27, He will take away their sins as concerning the gospel now they have become enemies for your sake.” In other words their setting aside affected the salvation of the Gentiles, but as touching the election, in other words, in God’s eternal purpose they are the beloved for the Father’s sakes for God cannot change His covenant. His callings are without repentance so He will bring them back. There’s no question that He’ll bring them back, but the bringing back has to be around the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you go back to Chapter 10—
DAN: Are you saying that doesn’t speak to necessarily to Jews today? To people that we are families and friends who are Jewish?
JOHN: No, that speaks to the nation; it speaks to the nation as a nation not to individual Jews today. An individual Jew today is saved like anybody else is by faith in Christ.
JOHN: And apart from that there is no salvation. Okay we’re really out of time so we’ll just go real quick. These two folks have been waiting here so we’ll get two questions here and maybe one more over there. All right, quickly.
Larry: My name is Larry.
JOHN: Hi Larry.
Larry: I got, I guess it’s a controversial question on gifts of teaching. It’s in Corinthians 14:26-34, I guess. And basically I’ve heard different interpretations of verses 34 where it says, “Let women keep silent in the churches for they are not permitted to speak.” My interpretation of what it’s talking about, and correct me if I’m wrong, that’s why I’m here, is that they do not possess any of the gifts listed in verse 26, which are teaching and edifying gifts. And I don’t know if that is right or wrong. Maybe you can help me there.
JOHN: Well I don’t think it has anything to do with gifts. In fact I think it may assume that they do have the gift of teaching, otherwise it wouldn’t have to control how it’s used. You understand what I’m saying? If he says, “Let the women keep silent in the churches,” that may mean that there will be a temptation on the part of the women to want to teach in the church, which indicates that perhaps they do have the gift and so it has to be regulated.
In the public service of the church the men were to lead. The women were to learn in subjection, but the older women were to teach the younger women and there’s nothing in the Bible at all that says that women cannot have the gift of teaching or other gifts. The point here that in the assembly of the church, when the church comes together, the prophets were to take over. He said the spirits of the prophets will be subject to the prophets and the women are to be silent. This is a affirmed in I Timothy where it says I permit a woman not to teach nor to take authority over men, but to learn in all subjection and so forth. This is the God ordained pattern. Doesn’t mean that women are dumb. It just means that God has designed women to be different and their role is different within the church. But it doesn’t mean they don’t have the gifts.
LARRY: So what about the teaching that are taking the pulpit today and are teaching or leading Bible studies with other men present and stuff?
JOHN: Right. We would believe the New Testament clearly teaches that women are to teach other women and children, but they are to be taught to teach their children, instruct their children, but women are not to take the place of teaching men or mixed groups. That’s our view. That’s our perspective as we look at the Scripture. People say that’s chauvinistic but that isn’t the point.
The point is it’s biblical and it isn’t chauvinistic to put a women in the place God intended her to be, which is a place of dignity and so forth. The balance, you see, in I Timothy, it says, “Woman is not to teach.” Her influence is not to stand in the pulpit and teach. Where is her influence? The same passage that she should be saved and what? Childbearing and God has marvelously balanced the thing. You ask my children who has influenced them the most. They’ve sat in church and heard me preach but you ask them who has influenced them the most and I doubt whether they can answer the question because in my wife’s bearing them as children and the intimacy that a mother gives to a child there is a level of influence that can’t even be equaled in the pulpit. So the balance is there. See. Okay?
QUESTIONER: Hi John. I wanted to ask you two quick questions. The first one, I guess, is a question about situation ethics. Someone believes that there are no absolutes there are only shades of gray and he gave me the example that if you have one person pursuing another and the person that’s doing the pursuing is doing it with the intent to harm the individual, and say that individual hides in your home and then the pursuer comes and knocks on your door and says, “You know is Joe Blow here?” And you lie and you say, “No.” Now we know lying is a sin, but then how do you answer something like that? There are absolutes, there are yes this is right, this is wrong, no it doesn’t depend on the situation.
JOHN: If you’re going to argue about absolutes start here. Say, “Do you believe there are absolutes?” And if you get a no answer say, “All right, would you mind if I hit you in the side of the head with a plank?” Just for starters. There are absolutes. If you jump off a building you go down. It doesn’t matter what your ethics are, it doesn’t matter what you believe, it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe anything, you’ll go down because there’s an absolute law of gravity. There are absolutes and if there are absolutes in the physical realm, and that’s where you want to start with people like that. There are absolutes in the physical realm. You stick your hand in the fire you’ll get burned. You’ll feel cold water; you’ll feel hot water.
There are absolutes. You drive an immovable object into an irresistible force then you’re going to have a problem. There are absolutes. We know that two and two is four. It’s always four. You can write three until you’re blue in the face on your paper and you’re going to get it wrong every time. There are absolutes.
So what you want to start with is the fact that there are absolutes and then all you need to show people is that if there are absolutes in the physical realm why will you not permit the same kind of absolutes in the relational realm or the ethical realm or the moral realm? Because the same God who drew the rules for this category must be the God who drew the rules for the next category.
Now if you’re going to come to the place of knocking on the door and so forth you’re right back to that same kind of a thing. I had a guy do that and try to kidnap my children. Okay? and he banged on the door and said, “I want to come in there and get your children. I’ve got a knife,” and so forth. And I’ll be very honest with you. I said to him, “If you come through that door you’ll not only not get my children, but you will find your head in Encino.” That’s exactly what I said to him. Now I don’t have a gun in my hand and I’m going to blow him away, but I’m going to take care of that situation without necessarily telling him a lie about it. I’m not going to say nobody’s home here. Just us chickens. But you could treat a situation like that by saying, “I’m going to call the police or you have no, there’s no one here who has any interest in you, you have no interest in this house. You’d better leave.”
QUESTIONER: I guess my second question was in talking with the same person, are there degrees of sin? Okay we know that all sin is against God and self and in my mind I think one is like there are degrees in my mind that one sin is worse than the other.
JOHN: Well the only indication biblically that there are degrees of sin is the statement, that I can think of off the top of my head, Hebrews 10, down there in 26 and following. It says, “Of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy has trodden under foot the Son of God and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing.” Of how much greater punishment shall he be thought worthy indicates that there are degrees of punishment? If there are degrees of punishment there must be degrees of sin. At least there’s a difference between sins of deed and sins of faith toward God or toward Christ. Those are the severer sins so that the sins of the apostate or the heretic are the severer ones.
Now when you’re coming down to whether it’s worse to steal, lie or whatever it’s very difficult biblically to see any distinction in those.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
JOHN: I’m going to have to stop. It’s oh 8:30 and —
QUESTIONER: One quick question.
JOHN: You got a real short one?
QUESTIONER:I’ve heard Jesus called Rose of Sharon. Could you elaborate and from all the Bible classes I’ve even been to I’ve never been able to know where that comes from.
JOHN: The Rose of Sharon. Song of Solomon 2 isn’t it? Song of Solomon 2, I think.
JOHN: That’s just a nice thing. The next time you see your wife just call her a Rose of Sharon and see what kind of reaction. I think we’ll answer one because this fellow has been waiting.
QUESTIONER: Who are the sons of God?
JOHN: Well what he’s saying in Hebrews 1:5 it says, “Which of the angels have He ever said, ‘This day have I begotten Thee.'” And that is a specific designation to Christ. So what it’s saying in Hebrews 1:5 is what angel was ever called the very special son of God, the begotten son of God. Yeah. What in the context of Hebrews what angel was ever given the role of the messiah, the Son, the Lord, the Prince, whatever. In a genuine sense, in the Morning Star sang together and the sons of God for joy and all that in the Old Testament is a term for angels. Keep this in mind. The same question needs to be raised in reference to men. Are all men the sons of God? Yes by virtue of what? Creation. No, by virtue of redemption. So you see the same kind of parity in that issue too.
QUESTIONER: Thank you.
JOHN: Okay. Well that’s great. We had a good time and some good questions tonight didn’t you think? Let’s stand for prayer.
Thank you our Blessed Father for the good fellowship we’ve had tonight. How refreshing it is to be in your word and with your people and we thank you so much that your word speaks to us and it’s so exciting Lord to know that it can be applied in our daily living. We thank you for what is evidenced tonight of the hunger and the study of the word of God in the hearts of these people. Continue to refresh us day by day as we spend time in your word and we’ll praise you in Christ’s name. Amen.
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