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Thursday, September 12, 2013 | Comments (18)

by John MacArthur

I never could believe in the Jesus Christ of some people, for the Christ in whom they believe is simply full of affectionateness and gentleness, whereas I believe there never was a more splendid specimen of manhood, even its sternness, than the Savior; and the very lips which declared that He would not break a bruised reed uttered the most terrible anathemas upon the Pharisees. –Charles Spurgeon

Modern writers, agnostic academics, and liberal theologians always stress the kindness and gentleness of Christ. Their Jesus—not the One found in Scripture, but the one concocted from their own imaginations and preferences—is effectively an ideological and theological pacifist. He preached only love and self-sacrifice, never judged or discriminated, and wasn’t dogmatic about the truth. In effect, the Jesus they’ve manufactured pleads “Can’t we all just get along?” with people of all faiths.

That perspective betrays a deep and dangerous ignorance of the truth about Christ, the exclusivity of the gospel He preached, and how He confronted religious error. Even the kindest, gentlest shepherd sometimes needs to throw rocks at the wolves who come in sheep’s clothing.

The Great Shepherd Himself was never far from open controversy with the most conspicuously religious inhabitants in all of Israel. Almost every chapter of the gospels makes some reference to His running battle with the chief hypocrites of His day, and He made no effort whatsoever to be winsome in His encounters with them. He did not invite them to dialogue or engage in a friendly exchange of ideas.

In fact, Jesus’ public ministry was barely underway when He invaded what they thought was their turf—the temple grounds in Jerusalem—and went on a righteous rampage against their mercenary control of Israel’s worship. He did the same thing again during the final week before His crucifixion, immediately after His triumphal entry into the city.

One of His last major public discourses was the solemn pronunciation of seven woes against the scribes and Pharisees. These were formal curses against them. That sermon was the furthest thing from a friendly dialogue. Matthew’s record of it fills an entire chapter (Matthew 23), and it is entirely devoid of any positive or encouraging word for the Pharisees and their followers.

Luke distills and summarizes the entire message in three short verses:

And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” (Luke 20:45-47)

That is a perfect summary of Jesus’ dealings with the Pharisees. It is a blistering denunciation—a candid diatribe about the seriousness of their error. There is no conversation, no collegiality, no dialogue, and no cooperation. Only confrontation, condemnation, and (as Matthew records) curses against them.

Jesus’ compassion is certainly evident in two facts that bracket this denunciation. First, Luke says that as He drew near the city and observed its full panorama for this final time, He paused and wept over it (Luke 19:41-44). And second, Matthew records a similar lament at the end of the seven woes (Matthew 23:37). So we can be absolutely certain that as Jesus delivered this diatribe, His heart was full of compassion.

Yet that compassion is directed at the victims of the false teaching, not the false teachers themselves. There is no hint of sympathy, no proposal of clemency, no trace of kindness, no effort on Jesus’ part to be “nice” toward the Pharisees. Indeed, with those words Jesus formally and resoundingly pronounced their doom and then held them up publicly as a warning to others.

This is the polar opposite of any invitation to dialogue. He doesn’t say: “They’re basically good guys. They have pious intentions. They have some valid spiritual insights. Let’s have a conversation with them.” Instead, He says: “Keep your distance. Be on guard against their lifestyle and their influence. Follow them, and you are headed for the same condemnation they are.”

Jesus’ approach would surely earn Him a resounding outpouring of disapproval from today’s postmodern culture. Exclusive truth, discriminating instruction, and confrontational teaching simply don’t fit the “good teacher” narrative the world promotes. In fact, by today’s standards, Jesus’ words about the Pharisees and His treatment of them are horrifyingly inappropriate.

Christ wasn’t an ideological pacifist. He knew which fights to fight, and He stood up for the truth with clarity and—when necessary—severity. But that kind of commitment to and love for the truth is totally foreign to modern society, so they either dismiss or ignore it.

More and more these days, people are talking about Jesus, but what they’re saying has no biblical basis. We need to do what we can to shatter the phony caricatures the world has developed, and bring people face to face with the Christ revealed in the pages of Scripture.

(Adapted from The Jesus You Can’t Ignore.)


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#1  Posted by Astrea Jones  |  Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 10:12 PM

Hooray for John! We have been faced with the painful (and frustrating!) task of confronting false teaching from a well known pastor that our pastor has become "enamored" of. We have done tons of research on this man and his beliefs. One of the invaluable tools (next to the Bible) has been GTY and videos of John on the internet confronting different sinful ideas or lifestyles. The contrast between this man and John is extreme. For example, I watched video of this man and John both asked about the sinfulness of homosexuality. The other man could barely bring himself to say it was sin and said "sin doesn't send you to hell." He talked around and around the issue revealing his true valuation of the Word of God. John sat next to a practicing homosexual and without pause or equivocation upheld the truth of God's Word. He also was totally respectful and even compassionate to the other man but with no compromise or attempt to be "nice." We are beaten over the head with charges to be loving and tolerant. The biggest sin to many these days is for someone to be judgmental, which apparently is defined as saying that something is wrong even though God has already judged it wrong! How many times have we been told, "Well, Jesus ate with the sinners!" Apparently they were singing folk songs and telling each other, "I'm alright, you're alright!"

We desperately need to hear that Jesus taught repentance from sin not acceptance of sin...and apparently we need to start in church. Praise God that John and GTY realize that Jesus was teaching repentance- for the salvation of souls from the damning power of sin...and that's the nicest thing anyone could do for you!

#2  Posted by Nancy Alvarez  |  Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 4:38 AM

Praise the God of all creation for giving us a teacher like John MacArthur! All truth with clarity. Helping me understand and not quench the Living Holy Spirit within me. Thank you so much Pastor, teacher John MacArthur.

#3  Posted by Bryan Shaw  |  Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 5:04 AM

Thanks for another great post John. When I think about the complex mixture of our Lord's emotions in Luke 19-20 and Matthew 23--His love for the flock, and sorrow for Jerusalem, coupled with His hatred for those teachers that attempt to harm or deceive His people--it always reminds me of some of the storms we get in Texas. All at once: one side of the sky is dark purple, and the other side is clear, bright blue and sunny (but softly raining).

On a similar note, it seems to me that some of the false teachers of the 21st century are becoming a little harder to detect than those of the past; their doctrine/ideas are becoming a little more sound and reformed. Unfortunately, a proper understanding of God by a false teacher only makes him more devilish, in my opinion. Some of the classic false teachers that you've mentioned in your latest sermons (e.g., O. Roberts) are so comically false that they are easy to pick out, like the easy questions on an exam. But these new ones seem a little tougher, to the point where I waiver on some as to whether they are real or fake. But the bearing of their fruit requires time, and so time will always tell!

#4  Posted by Donovan Brown  |  Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 6:26 AM

Praise almighty God for the wisdom and knowledge of His word. I must agree with Nancy, the teaching of the word that comes from pastor, teacher John MacArthur is excellent. Since i found gty my life as never been the same, i am more empowered in my spiritual walk., i feel like i just start living my christian life all over again. Thank you pastor John for such a wonderful work in explaining the scripture.

#5  Posted by Mae Ella Jones  |  Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 7:56 AM

Thank you for this blog, Pastor.

I studied with a teacher who proclaimed that God never cursed anyone, and a watered down doctrine on standing on the word of God. I began to compromise in my life, putting up with ungodly actions. I thank God that He was merciful to me and brought me out of that bible class. I have had to "unlearned" many things. I am so grateful for the good sound teaching I get from GTY.

#6  Posted by Kourtney Harper  |  Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 8:48 AM

Amen brother!

#7  Posted by Barbara Henderson  |  Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 11:39 AM

This is a very timely post in light of the Pope's recent statement that even atheists can go to heaven.

#8  Posted by Horace Ward  |  Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 12:18 PM

I wish the whole world could read this. Just this week I really thanked our Lord for John Macarthur.

#9  Posted by Guy Lacelle  |  Friday, September 13, 2013 at 1:40 AM

I thank the Lord daily for speaking truth through brother MacArthur in this dark deceiving world. The Bible is clear, we have to understand God's judging wrath before understanding His great love.

#10  Posted by Vic Nicholls  |  Friday, September 13, 2013 at 11:38 AM

YAY!!!! Thank you Pastor MacArthur for speaking the truth and showing that our Lord is the One of strength.

#11  Posted by Sunny Shell  |  Friday, September 13, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Thank you for sharing this Pastor MacArthur (and GTY staff).

Unfortunately, there ARE too many false teachings about Jesus today in: books, films, movies, blogs and even sermons where the christ that's preached is not the Christ of the Bible.

In March of this year, I was contacted by the History Channel's media people asking if I would like to review and help promote their version of "The Bible" mini-series (produced and written by Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett). Prior to their contacting me I had heard nothing about it. So, I prayed and began watching the was heretical AND blasphemous and I was disgusted. It was difficult to watch, but I felt I needed to in order to write a proper review of it.

When I published my review on my blog (, I was surprised to receive many unkind and mean responses from professing Christians who loved the movie and said I was being judgmental and Pharisaical because I pointed out that the Jesus they (Roma Downey and Mark Burnett) represented was not one who is holy, righteous or just, but only "loving" by the world's definitions, and not by God's.

Though there were many who were grateful for the review, I was very sad about the numerous professing Christians (even a sister in Christ and graduate of DTS) who told me that I was wrong to publish my review because this mini-series was a great tool to share the Gospel with the lost. WHAT???

I reminded her that whatever we win people with is what we win them too. If we win them with a false christ, then that's who've we've won them to and now have done one of the meanest things a Christian can do...give someone false eternal security.

Please pray for the Body of Christ Pastor MacArthur. We're being deceived by the world's depiction of the false Jesus and we're taking THAT to a lost and dying world, rather than giving them true hope in the one and only God and Savior.

#12  Posted by Jeremy K  |  Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 7:34 PM

Funny this subject just came up as I just finished reading The Jesus You Can’t Ignore: An Interview with Phil Johnson and John MacArthur from back in 2009. It's a great break down of this subject and Phil mentioned something that was quite poignant -: ]

"What you're saying here, and especially the idea that truth is worth fighting for, might strike some of our listeners, even Christian listeners as shocking or politically incorrect or possibly even offensive; because we live in a culture that says it's okay to fight for personal rights but not for personal convictions"

And that's just so true.

#13  Posted by Kimona Grant  |  Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Truth! The Lord bless you Pastor !

#14  Posted by John Gerald C. Gomez  |  Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 8:51 PM

When asked is Jesus Nice? To me He (Jesus Christ) is nice to those who come to the truth of His saving Knowledge, to those who have accepted Him as personal Savior and Lord, He is More than nice, He is gracious in all things. But to none believers who are self centered, self minded, hypocrites, who think of himself as someone higher than anyone else, better, richer, perfect in all and all knowing, what would you think? He isn't nice to those who follow the worldly system by the prince of the power of the air, an Antichrist, and like the hypocritical people the Pharisees, selfish leader in government, and people worship themselves+money, wow what do you think? No to these people. God is not nice to them.

#15  Posted by Eric Henry  |  Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 10:42 PM

Thank you John. There is so much compromise in the world today-sometimes it's just a thin line between right and wrong as the enemy cleverly disguises the truth with its lies. I thank God for servants of God like you who uphold God's truth no matter what. I listen to your sermons everyday when i drive to work and this has richly blessed me. I share the sermons with my wife.

Thank you again John. God Bless you and your family.

#16  Posted by Anita Andrew  |  Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Re:"coupled with His hatred for those teachers". Jesus did not hate people, just their actions.

#17  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Friday, September 20, 2013 at 9:10 AM

Anita (16), Jesus hated those who were confident in teaching and promoting perversions of God's holy law- burdening the sheep of His pasture beyond their ability to worship the Shepherd they so longingly desired to worship. The indignant wrath He had for these teachers goes beyond hating only their actions. The rotten fruit produced by the sinful rebellious hearts of these pedagogues stirred divine wrath in the heart of God toward them.

The prophets of Baal weren't led to the Kishon stream to sunbathe. See 1 Kings 18:40

Pastor John MacArthur and the GTY staff post these blogs, written for you, me, and others, in genuine love and sincerity in order to build us up in the truth; fruit produced over years and years of deep love and diligent study of the wonderful truth of Scripture-not sentimental deceptions formulated to give an illusion of our glorious Lord and Savior, but a crystal clear perspective on Who Jesus really is. He is Holy and He calls His elect to be holy also.

#18  Posted by Jeremy K  |  Friday, September 20, 2013 at 4:15 PM

I'm open to correction here but I don't know whether Jesus actually hated the Pharisee's per se. There's one account, apart from Paul of a Pharisee being saved, namely Nicodemus who was a member of the Sanhedrin. He certainly hated their fraudulent system and I would assume verses like Matthew 5:44 and Luke 23:34 would kind of declare his love for them.

I know Matthew 23 absolutely condemns them too so I don't know - just saying. The Pharisees attributed the works of the Messiah to Satan, which is about as low as one can go and Jesus simply played a game of escalado with them, he upped them every time and my take on it is that in order to do that he had to speak very very harshly and truthfully - but perhaps stopping short of hatred?