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Monday, June 9, 2014 | Comments (14)

by John MacArthur

The disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor power plant released four hundred times the amount of radioactive material released in the bombing of Hiroshima. Experts estimate that as much as 60 percent of the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster landed in the neighboring nation of Belarus.

I’ve had the privilege to minister alongside faithful pastors and church leaders from Belarus, and they can attest to the dramatic, tragic effects of the disaster. The plume of smoke and debris deposited radioactive material across much of the country. The toxic pollution permeated the soil and the water supply, effectively poisoning the entire country, and extending the impact of the disaster to future generations.

Just as environmental pollution can wreak long-lasting devastation across a wide region, the same is true of spiritual poison. False teaching can create years—even generations—of spiritual confusion, corruption, and collapse. But unlike a rogue cloud of radioactive material, false teaching can and must be defended against.

There is a particular stripe of false teaching that has caused a great deal of destruction in the church for several decades—a spiritual scourge that has sown confusion and corruption into congregations around the world. See if you can spot it in the statements below.

  • Repentance is just a synonym for faith. Turning from sin is not required for salvation.
  • Saving faith is simply being convinced or giving credence to the truth of the gospel. It is not a personal commitment to Christ.
  • Faith might not last. It is a gift of God, but it can collapse, be overthrown or subverted, and can even turn into unbelief.
  • Christians can lapse into a state of permanent spiritual barrenness and lifelong carnality. Born again people can continuously live like the unsaved.
  • Disobedience and prolonged sin are no reason to doubt one’s salvation. Spiritual fruit is not a given in the Christian life.
  • Nothing guarantees that a Christian will love God.
  • All who claim Christ by faith as Savior, regardless of their lifestyle, should be assured they belong to God. It is dangerous and destructive to question the salvation of professing Christians.
  • The New Testament writers never questioned the reality of their readers’ faith.

Those shocking statements do not resemble the gospel of Jesus Christ and His apostles. They are in fact satanic lies meant to give men and women false assurance of their salvation and cripple the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

And yet those lies have a pervasive impact in the church today. Like poisonous fallout, that false teaching permeates the very soil of evangelicalism, and the tainted fruit of this spiritual catastrophe is deadly.

But there is an antidote to this spiritual toxin. It’s found in 1 John, a book which presents the people of God with several tests to determine the true nature of their faith. In particular, 1 John 3:4-10 gets to the heart of how believers are to think and act as new creatures in Christ:

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

Over the next several days, we’re going to consider the unmistakable truth spelled out in those verses: that the believer’s life is completely incompatible with a lifestyle of sin.


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#1  Posted by Gary Lee Fennimore  |  Friday, June 6, 2014 at 4:37 AM

Easy-believism is just that; EASY. The Life of a Christian is not easy, it is Spiritual Warfare. However, in view of an eternity in hell it is a cake walk, a yoke that was borne by CHRIST. A born-again has spiritual fruit or light and it WIL be evident because the Power of GOD must be shown in a believer's life. That is what the scriptures demand. 2 Corinthians 4:6 "For GOD, who said, Light SHALL SHINE out of darkness, is the One who HAS shone in our hearts to give the light….." If anyone claims these deceptive statements in the article as factual they are NOT saved or born again from above because GOD's Power and Light must be shown perpetually because HE said it would out of our defeated "sin darkness."

Thank You Pastor John and GTY for the classic book "The Gospel According to Jesus" and this series that will reaffirm that controversial Truth.

#2  Posted by Jeffrey Webb  |  Monday, June 9, 2014 at 8:37 AM

Can you please help me understand what seems to be a absolute in the scripture above. Even though I am born again I still sin from time to time not nearly as before but nevertheless I do. So is this saying I am not truly a believer because I still have sin in my life ?

#5  Posted by John Pietroski  |  Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 8:51 AM

I attest to you today if one should put his hand to the plow and look back is NOT fit for the kingdom God has so richly provided for those He has chosen for the purity of His colossal Love he so richly imposed Himself on a cross to profess that kingdom!

#9  Posted by Sterling Brown  |  Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Pastor MacArthur,

Thank you so much for this post, I will be following closely as you go along with this blog. It is becoming increasingly difficult and even in some cases hostile to mention words like sanctification, hell, endurance, sinner and (this list is not exhaustive) repentance in some of the evangelical churches today. To suggest to professing Christians that they need to be submitted to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and become His slave as well as God's son you will get the word "legalism" thrown at you very quickly. The list that you mentioned are becoming the norm from some of the leaders in the church. God bless you and others for standing on the truth. Thank you again and look forward to this blog series, we the elect, are listening.

#10  Posted by David Smith  |  Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 11:26 AM

I agree with what pastor John is saying here, but with three comments:

1. Every Christian who has ever lived has remained a sinner on planet earth. We'll never be perfect until we see Jesus in heaven. Repentance is not just a one-off act, it needs to happen every day. But yes, unless there is some evidence of repentance and regeneration in someone's life, I would question whether they are genuinely a Christian.

2. There is no agreement over what is and isn't a sin. As an example, some churches take the view that the Bible teaches that watching television is a sin. By that standard I am living a lifestyle of sin, as I watch some TV, if only the news, most days. Whilst that's obviously a pretty extremist viewpoint, there are other areas of deep division within the church over what the Bible teaches. We must be careful not to say "The Bible says X is a sin, you are doing X, you are living a life of sin, therefore you are not saved". For X, how about drinking alcohol, being a female pastor, not tithing, using contraception, to offer four subjects of disagreement.

3. There is a tendency in this area to focus on outward sins. The unmarried couple cohabiting is a classic example - everyone can see it. But things that are less visible - for instance greed - tend to get overlooked.

Finally, here's something to think about. Being significantly overweight is extremely bad for your health - that's a scientifically proven fact. The Bible teaches that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and condemns gluttony. Abusing your body is a sin. A fruit of the Spirit is self-control and so Christians are able to control how much they eat. Someone who claims to be a Christian but is significantly overweight is therefore living a lifestyle of sin and therefore cannot be saved. I would challenge any pastor in the US to preach this from their pulpit and place obese members of their church under discipline, to be removed from membership if they don't repent of (ie turn away from) their overeating and lose weight quickly!

I look forward to the rest of this series.

#12  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 1:19 PM

First of all, I think it's a pretty significant overstatement to say that "there is no agreement over what is and isn't a sin." While the modern church does seem divided over some specific issues, and while you would find occasional variance on some issues throughout church history, it's not as if the nature of sin is completely unknowable. The passage quoted above makes it clear that sin is the transgression of God's law, and most churches God's Word is faithfully taught would be in general agreement about what constitutes a transgression of God's law. In fact, there are plenty of sins that even the unbelieving world would agree on with us. Yes, there is legalism. And, yes, it can confuse us about what truly is and isn't a sin. But that's one of the reasons personal Bible study is so vital--because it keeps you from always relying on someone else's interpretation of Scripture.

Furthermore, the tests of authentic faith provided in 1 John are primarily intended to stimulate self-examination. We're not supposed to chase each other around the church trying to determine who is and isn't saved, like some sanctified game of "Gotcha!" God gave us a pattern for church discipline in place in Matthew 18, and it doesn't involve jumping to conclusions about the state of another person's heart.

As for the tendency to confront outward sins more often than less visible sins, you're always going to have an easier time spotting a brother in sin when his sin is out in public. Sinful attitudes, motivations, and desires are invisible to everyone else--in fact, we can't know about an inward sin until after it has been expressed outwardly. One of my favorite pastors talks about knowing it's time to confront someone about their sin when that sin is something you could take a picture of--when there are concrete examples of how they are sinning. That doesn't mean you won't have some idea when your wife or your kids are nurturing a bad attitude or a wrong motivation. But even in those most intimate relationships, there is still a lot of conjecture involved in knowing what's going on inside their heads and hearts.

Finally, with regard to overweight believers, I think you're right that their weight is often a result of bad and even sinful lifestyle choices (of course, sometimes there are other contributing factors that result in obesity, but for the purposes of this discussion we can set aside people in that minority). Someone who truly loves the Lord shouldn't be given over to the sins of gluttony or laziness. But I also think there aren't many sinful patterns that are harder to break, or sins that leave a lasting physical impact. Let's keep in mind that it's the lifestyle and not the weight itself that is sinful. Just as others--including John MacArthur himself--have encouraged me on this very issue in the past, we need to encourage God's people to govern and care for their bodies as unto the Lord, adorning the gospel by how they live.

#16  Posted by David Taggart  |  Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 10:02 PM

Comment deleted by user.
#11  Posted by Brandt Kiskurno  |  Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 11:54 AM


One of the Key words in the above passage is the word practice. It says no one who is born of God practices sin, as in a habitual life style of sin. We know as Christians we will sin, as 1 John 1: 8, and Romans 7 tell us. The Christian life is a straight and narrow path and it in no way resembles a sinless life style, but the scripture is clear that those born again are in fact, born again and will produce the fruits of the sprirt in their life, as God is the one at work in them. I believe that fruit is born in varying degrees, depending on where we are in our Christian walk, oru disciplin in prayer, study of the Word, etc, but the sinners life is changed and fruit is born.

Its not always easy for us Chrisitans to read the above passage with ease. I grew up reading the KJV, where it says those born of God doth not commit sin (it seems so black and white), and it immediately puts some fear and doubts into our minds, thinking of the sin we just commited and jumping to the conclusion that we therefore must not be saved. This is where a complete understanding of scripture comes in and the importance of knowing passages like Romans 7, or how David commited sin with Bathsheba as a believer but was forgiven.

Its easy for us to be drawn away from the truth and that just shows us the deceit sin causes within. Gods grace is so perfect and amazing, that when we confess our sins, which should be daily, He is faithful and Just to forgives us of ALL our unrighteousness.

Anyone feel free to correct or add..

#23  Posted by Chad Nelson  |  Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 3:11 PM


I appreciate your reference to 1 Jn. 1:8. The Greek word in that verse translated "have" is in the present tense. Thus, taking Dr. MacArthur's rendering of the present tense, the word "have" here would indicate continual action. So then, we might accordingly say, "If we say that we continually/habitually have no sin, we deceive ourselves. . ." Thus, this verse apparently says that we all continually/habitually sin; to say otherwise indicates that the truth is not in us (as the remainder of the verse says). So, if we all continually/habitually sin, how do we know if we are saved? How do we reconcile 1 Jn. 1:8 with 1 Jn. 3:9 where we are told that if we continually/habitually sin we are not born of God?

#13  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Thanks Jeremiah, for your response to David Smith. It wa sorely needed. I hope you take Jeremiah's response to heart David.

And Brandt, I could not agree more when you point out to Jeffrey that a key word in the 1 John 3 passage is "practice." "Little children, [make sure no one deceives you], the one who 'practices righteousness' is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who 'practices sin' is of the devil.

#15  Posted by Steven Y Frankel  |  Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 3:53 AM

A response to David Smith, who's comment can be found in post #10.

He writes:

"Finally, here's something to think about. Being significantly overweight is extremely bad for your health - that's a scientifically proven fact. The Bible teaches that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and condemns gluttony. Abusing your body is a sin. A fruit of the Spirit is self-control and so Christians are able to control how much they eat. Someone who claims to be a Christian but is significantly overweight is therefore living a lifestyle of sin and therefore cannot be saved. I would challenge any pastor in the US to preach this from their pulpit and place obese members of their church under discipline, to be removed from membership if they don't repent of (ie turn away from) their overeating and lose weight quickly!"

Not everyone that is overweight has abused their body. Perhaps a quick review of the book of Matthew, chapter 7, might help you change your view?

#18  Posted by John Eddy  |  Friday, June 13, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Speak of spiritual fallout pastor John, let me first state that I'm about to complete my BA in Christian education and God willing going to go on to complete my M.Div. and make THD you along with Michael as Horton RC Sproul And JI Packer have been so my favorite teachers and I consider myself a Calvinist. But I also attend a pre-tribulation old and dispensation was church, Calvary Chapel in which I hear great expositional Bible teaching and warnings against the word faith movements of Joel Olsteen. And however I have supported Grace to you ministries over the years and have a great many of your books on my shelves and consider you to be a a exceptional pastor and teacher but now I am beginning to wonder if you have not let the enemy creep into your camp for the attacks seem to be unwarranted against Calvary Chapel and check Smith in particular is a very careful student of biblical culture history and and pluralism and postmodernism I do not see where your concern is warranted against Calvary Chapel and Chuck Smith. So my hope is that this response to this blog will have you prayerfully reconsidering the reasons and motives behind why you are saying these things about a church that holds same values and the same doctrines as saying the Baptists do less not argue over how many angels can dance on the head of the pin. Respectfully yours

#20  Posted by Manuel Jr. Reyes  |  Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 11:17 AM

The closest person we could ever judge and criticize is our "self". We don't know anyone else best but ourselves. I must first have to fully and perfectly know another person before I judge him/her -- which is impossible. Thus I must judge myself against the Word of God honestly and not insipiently. Thanks GTY! God bless!

#21  Posted by Shane Haffey  |  Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 11:08 PM

The non believer is not interested in self examination. Why is self examination important for the believer? Because it gives us assurance of our salvation which leads to obedience. John is not appealing to non believers here but believers. Since John's audience cannot lose their salvation why did John see it fit to point out characteristics of one that is saved? For assurance. The glaring motive for the apostles epistle was to give assurance to his readers of their salvation.

This letter is about source. If God is our source then we will walk in righteousness. We will not have a pattern of continuous sin because "whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked" 2:6. Why? because it's the natural response of one who has the spirit of Christ. Christ is righteous and Christ is obedient, therefore so is the saint.

Additional assurance comes to us in that saints do not love what the world loves, Why? Because God does not love the world .."If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him".

God is the source of love therefore "whoever loves has been born of God and knows God", 4:7. We do not manufacture love we simply transfer it. God's love is reflexive.

Furthermore, whoever is born of God has a pattern of receiving truth.. "Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us.." Everyone born of God keeps God's commandments not merely externally but from a free will offering of the heart.."For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments and his commandments are not burdensome." Why? Because God is our source. He is our source of 1. Fellowship 1:7 2. Righteousness 2:6 3. Holiness 2:15 4. Love 4:7 5. Knowledge 2:20. John writes this epistle to believers so that they may have confidence in their eternal salvation because they will find themselves to exhibit these very characteristics. What a blessing!

It is one thing to believe in God's promises it is quite another to believe that God's promises are for me. When we know that we exhibit the character consistent with 1John we will know that God is for us. What an amazingly wonderful truth that leads us to obedience from the heart. Assurance of ones heavenly destiny leads to righteousness. When we live in the truth of God's promises we love the law of God. We desire with all our hearts to please Him. A failure to believe that God is for us leads to self-trust which leads to sin.

Dear brethren let us not forget that the thrust of this epistle is to give us confidence in our salvation not doubt. How do we have this confidence? 2:28 "And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming." Abide in Him. God is the source for all we need to possess eternal life and greet the king with confidence. Praise and Glory to Christ forever!