IFCA Meeting (June 26, 1989), Part 1
A number of years ago when I was pastoring here we had Dr. MacArthur scheduled for a prophetic conference and remember sitting in my office when I got a call from him and he said, "Brother Gregory, I just was talking to my elders the other night and they said that I needed to cut back a little bit on my schedule. Could I ask you if I could please be excused from coming for this round rockand prophetic conference?" That's the closest I ever got to having you come here John.
I have had the opportunity to get to know Dr. MacArthur personally on several occasions when I visited southern California. He is a member of the IFCA, not by convenience, but by conviction. He is one of our brothers. He's one of our family. He has had a very high exposure in terms of his radio ministry, his tape ministry and his writing ministry. I would hate, personally, to have everybody picking apart everything I said. But then again I'd be in a lot more trouble than anyone might say you are John across the country. But because he is one of our family and because there have been part of our family who have had certain questions about certain things that Dr. MacArthur has written or said we have opted for the proper way of dealing with that kind of situation. See we're seeking for oneness. We're seeking for solutions not for winning of one side over another, for understanding. And so we've invited him here today in order that you might be able to receive individual and personal answers.
I trust today that as we listen that we'll listen with ears that are eager to hear rather than to block out. And I pray that the Holy Spirit of God...this is my prayer...that the Holy Spirit of God will enable us to come to a clear understanding. I don't ask you all to agree. Heaven knows, this many independents together, we'd never agree on a lot of things. Some one said, "If you get 3 of them together you've got 5 opinions."
But we are asking to understand so that we might really be able to say, "I know what he believes," or, "I know what I believe." And then we can make decisions and make them in a proper Godly way.
Dr. MacArthur is serving in the Grace Community Church in California. This is the site of the convention next year, according to the action of the committee, in November, as we have been told. If there is going to be any change it's going to be because we understand and not because we have reacted. And so I've asked Dr. MacArthur to come. We as a committee have asked him to come and he has graciously agreed to come. He is not on trial he is here as our brother. So, John, come and share with us. I told him he has to come across the auditorium to get up this way. He's gonna come and...(applause).
I think I'm glad to be here. I'll know for sure in a little while. The last time I stood like this before a rather large and erudite group of IFCA people was at my ordination. I was ordained into the IFCA, having graduated at Talbot Seminary, and that was a very imposing ordination process. And the ordination process that we now use at our church is a child of the IFCA process and, I trust, equally as thorough. I, even to this day, remember some of the questions, like, name and date all of the post-exilic, pre-exilic and exilic Minor Prophets, which I've had tremendous occasion to use in my radio ministry through the years. I keep it fresh, if for no other reason, the devotional value of such information. But I was ready on that day perhaps more ready than I am today. But I'm very glad to be here and I just want you to know it's a joy to share in fellowship with you.
My father was, for a number of years, very involved with the IFCA. I have maintained my interest and my passion for the things that you hold true. And I do count myself as your brother in Christ and in terms of where we stand doctrinally. And I want to do anything I can to clarify the things I believe the Bible teaches. I'm not gonna stand here and say there are no errors in my theology. The problem is I don't know where they are. If I knew where they were I'd change them and so would you, you'd change yours. But none of us is claiming infallibility. But over the years of teaching the word of God without a lot of presuppositions I tend to conclude whatever I believe the sort of the exegetical process yields and that's why I've arrived where I have. Unfortunately, everything I say is spread all over the place. It's a very serious responsibility. Somebody said to me one time, "We're gonna record your message. It's not that we want to hear it again we want to hold it against you when you're wrong."
There's a sense in which that kind of overexposure does leave some questions so I certainly would want to clarify anything I possibly could. And I'd want you to help me to better understand the word of God. I have no personal agenda. I want to understand God' word and all it's truth. And I think till the day I die I trust I'll be a learner and open to whatever input can give me a better understanding. So thank you for giving me this opportunity.
Before we begin I've asked Dr. Gregory to lead us in prayer.
Our Lord, our Father, who are God, and we want to thank You for the privilege of being able to say that You are our Father. To know Thee, to Walk with Thee. And we pray that in these next few moments and perhaps hours that as we stand before Thee that we might remember that we stand before a God who knows the thoughts and the intents of our heart. And we thank Thee for this because we know the heart is deceitful, above all things, and desperately wicked. So we pray, Lord, that in these next few moments that You will give us all a desire to know the truth and not only to know it but to commit ourselves to live by it. In Jesus name. Amen.
And the first category would be concerning the blood of Christ. Question number 1, Dr. MacArthur, what do you believe is the shedding of Jesus blood in the redemptingprocess?
Let me address the question of the blood of Christ in a direct way because this is such an important issue, such a potentially volatile issue. First of all, let me say, the blood of Christ is precious. And I would not equivocate on that. It is precious blood. And I believe that blood; the blood of Christ, the term blood is the chief New Testament term to describe the atonement. I think it is a comprehensive term and I think when it is indicated in the New Testament, it is indicated as a term encompassing the atoning work. I do not believe that the New Testament teaches that the blood of Christ, in the epistles, when it's used, simply refers to the fluid in the body of Christ. I believe that it embraces the atoning work, for we have been redeemed by the shedding of His blood, that encompasses all of the atonement.
It is interesting to note that though Jesus shed His blood at the cross He didn't bleed to death. It's very clear that He yielded up His life at least three hours before His heart was pierced, His side was pierced. And when He died and there rushed forth blood it indicates that He had not bled to death. There was plenty of blood still there, apparently, to have sustained His life. He died, not because he bled to death, but because He yielded up His spirit.
Now, what are people teaching about the blood? There are some teaching today that it was not human, but it was the blood of God. And, typically, they use one obscure interpretation on one verse, Acts 20:28, which talks about the church, which has been purchased with His blood. And they make the antecedent of His God. That is an arbitrary use of the Greek. The antecedent of the blood could equally be Christ in that context. But even more importantly there is no reference in the New Testament to the blood as the blood of God ever. Every mention of the blood connected with a personality is connected with Christ. It is always the blood of Christ, the blood of His cross. Never does it say the blood of God. That is a rather new interpretation, by the way, of Acts 20:28, that I have never been able to find in any commentary.
Secondly, some are teaching today that it was eternal and incorruptible. And they use 1 Peter 1:18, and I'm sure you're familiar with that. They try to push the parallel there, knowing that you are not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers but with precious blood. And so they want to say that since you are not redeemed with perishable things you were redeemed with precious blood, the precious blood must be imperishable. But that's not the parallel. The parallel is between perishable things and precious blood. And nothing in this text says that it is eternal and incorruptible fluid.
Others are teaching that this eternal incorruptible blood of God, following this line of thought, is now preserved forever in heaven. In other words, it was somehow collected at the foot of the cross, carried in some kind of receptacle into the presence of God, and now occupies a place in heaven. That particular viewpoint basically they draw from Hebrews 9, "When Christ appeared as high priest of good things to come, he entered through the greater, more perfect tabernacle not made with hands...that is to say not of this creation...and not through the blood of goats and calves but through His own blood." They would translate the preposition there "with" His own blood, which again is an arbitrary translation and better translation is "through" as noted in the New American Standard. He entered into the holy place through His own blood not with His own blood. But, again, there are those who choose to identify it as "with" and say Jesus blood somehow was collected, given back to Him, and transported by Him into heaven.
Furthermore, this new view of the blood that is becoming quite popular says that it is still being poured out on the heavenly mercy seat even today; that when a person is saved there is some kind of a pouring out and re-gathering of that blood. I've had that conversation with a number of people who have taken issue with what I have said. They use Hebrews 12:24, "The sprinkled blood...that statement regarding the sprinkled blood to indicate that it is constantly being sprinkled in heaven as an ongoing incessant offering for sin.
And then they say further that the blood is never a symbol for death in the New Testament. It always is the fluid. In fact, there was a group of Baptists that met sometime back and they voted on that in their statement that whenever the blood of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament it is always referring to the fluid and blood is never a symbol for death. Unfortunately they again turn to Hebrews chapter 9 to try to proof text that; verses 13 and 14, where it just says, "The blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself...and so forth. "Without blemish to God cleanse your conscience from dead works to served the Living God." So they say it's the actual fluid that somehow cleanses you. One person said to me, "I don't know how and I don't where and I don't know what it involves but somehow the real fluid is poured out on my sins."
Furthermore, this view has also held that it was in the body of Christ a blood form that was not derived from Mary. Have you heard that? And since Jesus had no human father...I remember Dehahnused to teach that the blood of the father comes into the son or the child and the blood of the mother never does. And, thus, the sin nature was never passed onto Jesus because He had no earthly father. My brother-in-law is the head of anesthesiology for one of the largest hospitals in Los Angeles, Cedar Sinai. He says that is medically not true. The blood of the mother does pass through the fetus. It has been tracked because they can tag blood cells. They know that as a fact.
Now where does all of this come from? Let me give you a little bit of history. This all comes basically from a man named J.A. Bengel, who lived from 1687 to 1752. And what we're having today is an echo of a Bengelian heresy that the church rejected in the 18thcentury that held this very mystical view of the blood of Christ. First of all let me just briefly answer these things and I think we can put the whole issue to rest. Number 1, they say it was not human blood, not human blood. You cannot base that on Acts 20:28, that is a completely arbitrary statement, to say that because it says the church of God, which he purchased, that, therefore, the He must modify God and therefore the blood is the blood of God. As I said before there's no biblical reference to the blood of God at all. That is an arbitrary choice of antecedents in that passage.
Furthermore, we know that Jesus produced His own blood like every other human being produces his own blood. The blood of a mother that passes through the fetus in the womb is minimal. The blood of any human being is produced by that human being and any medical doctor can give you the background. The largest single portion of whole blood is comprised of erythrocytes, or red blood cells, derived from the liver and later the bone marrow. A smaller portion is made of white cells manufactured in lymphoid tissue, also in the bone marrow. The red cells, as you know, sustain life and the white cells fight infection. More portions of blood, platelets, clotting factors and immunoglobulins and albumin and those kinds of things are also produced in the liver and the lymph system and the bone marrow. The point is this, every human being, every fetus, produces/generates its own blood system, every embryo. Jesus had blood that developed in Him just like it developed in any other human being.
I want to say at this point I reject the Apollinarian error. I reject the view of apollinaris who said that Jesus Christ was the combination of God/man, only in the sense that God entered a human body and nothing more. I believe that Jesus was fully man, not only in body, but in personality and in nature. He was man, 100% fully man. And in order to be fully man, which you remember the councils affirmed that He was back as early as 381, He had to be all that a man is, not some kind of human, some bloodless human with some infused divine substance. There are so many problems with that particular viewpoint, not the least of which is, where was this blood of God before Jesus? Where was it floating around? Because if it was the blood of God we're gonna have to answer that question and then we're gonna have to answer the question, "How can a spirit have blood?" Jesus said, "A spirit has not...what?...flesh and bones.
The second thing that they say is it was eternal and incorruptible. But nothing indicates that in the New Testament either. The parallel, as I said, is between perishable things and precious blood. Nothing says it was imperishable or eternal. What the atonement accomplished was eternal. And these people who say that His blood was eternal might have to also deal with the fact that what about the rest of His bodily fluids and what about His fingernails and His...you don't even want to get into that kind of fantasy. The Bible says nothing about that. Absolutely nothing.
Thirdly, they say it was preserved in heaven. I pointed out that it's He entered into heaven through His blood not with His blood. Furthermore, they say it is being poured out on a heavenly mercy seat, the sprinkled blood being continually poured out. I just warn you against this error. I'll tell you why. That is nothing but Roman Catholic, Anglo Catholic theology of the perpetual offering of the blood of Christ. That is not a Protestant viewpoint. That is heresy. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is not repeatable. It cannot be repeated. You can't have some mystical dumping of blood going on incessantly in heaven without somehow convoluting the statement, the clear statement, that "He has, by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified." There is no repeatable characteristic in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And, then, for people to say, "Blood is not a symbol for the atonement." It is a symbol for the atonement. It has to be. It is not the fluid that can save or Jesus could have bled into a chalice, taken the thing to heaven and poured that out if it was in the fluid. His atoning work demanded that He die.
Now let me add at this particular point: I do not believe for one moment that Jesus Christ could have died any other way than the way He died. I've heard people say, "Well He could have been beaten to death, He could have been stone." Not on your life, He had to be lifted up, that's exactly what He predicted who happen. He had to be put upon a cross because it said that way back on the Old Testament, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree." There was no other way then that Jesus would be crucified. And He had to pour out His blood; He had to have those great wounds where blood was she because He was the fulfillment of all Old Testament sacrificial imagery. There was no other way that He could have died than the way in which He died. I have never said anything to the contrary, never would. But at the same time it was not the fluid that saved us, it was the death of Christ. See Roman Catholic theology teaches that you take a cup of wine, the priest somehow transubstantiates that into blood, you drink that blood, and it minister's saving grace. We reject that heresy. It is not the fluid.
That, by the way; that strange view is elaborated by a man named Hicks in a book written in 1930 called, The Fullness of Sacrifice. It's another Anglo-Catholic book. We want to be very careful we're not delving into some of these things. Now blood does refer to death. Check Kittle. It says in there, "Blood stands for death." That's a quote. Alan Stibbs has written the most significant journal article on haima, which is the Greek word for blood that I've ever read. And he says, "Blood is the symbol of sacrificial death." So wherever you see the blood of Christ it embodies the whole atoning work. And I can give you a list as long as your arm of Scriptures that indicate that.
Now all of this, I'm just trying to point out to you, indicates to me that those people who are saying, "Jesus had the blood of God," are on the one hand denying His full humanity. Secondly, they're confusing the issue of God as a spiritual being. Those who say the blood is eternal and incorruptible and that it goes on existing forever and ever have taken that right out of the air because the Bible does not teach that and what about the rest of that sinless Christ? What is the rest of the residue of His humanness doing? Is it still floating around somewhere? And that it is preserved in heaven is strictly a choice of theology based upon the implication of a selected translation of a preposition. And that it is still being poured out on the heavenly mercy seat, again, twists and perverts the single character of sacrifice.
Finally, to say that blood is not a symbol for atonement is to confuse things. Blood is a symbol for death. To be sure you can go all the way back to Genesis. And when it talks about it in Genesis it says, "Whoever sheds man's...what?...blood by man shall...His blood be shed...what does that mean? If you make somebody bleed they get to make you bleed? It means if you do what? If you kill someone. Blood is always been the symbol of death. It is just a graphic way to describe death and in reference to Christ, the fullness of His atoning death.
So I just want to affirm to you that I believe Jesus Christ was fully man and that He had the body of a man and He had the nature of humanity. And as the councils have said throughout the history of the church they were not mixed and they were not confused, fully man/fully God. And because He was fully man He had the blood that every man has because it's produced in Him. And I believe that when He died on the cross He died as a sacrifice and the only way that He ever could have died, crucified. And I believe that in being crucified He shed His literal blood and He was a literal sacrifice for the sins of the world, but that the atoning work needed more than bleeding, it required death. And so whenever you talk about the blood of Christ you must embrace the whole sacrificial death of Christ. Otherwise, He could have covered our sins in the garden of Gaseminiand voided the cross altogether.
Okay, are there any questions from the panel?
I have just one other question. There were several questions but you pretty well covered that in answering.
I try to.
This question had quoted you and you cleared up much of what was said. But here is the question that was added to this. How are you different in this issue than Bob Theim?
I'm not sure that that matters. I'm not sure what he believes about that. The only issue would be whether it's biblical. I certainly am very different than Bob Theimin a lot of...almost everything I can think of. I certainly don't want to identify at that point. You know there may be times in the past when I've said something that left something unclear. But, you know, the man who doesn't offend with his tongue is the perfect man. You know, there may be things that would make someone assume something like that. Somebody asked me; in fact I get asked all the time, do I ever listen to my own tapes? And my answer is, "Only when I want to find out what I believe." Because I teach constantly, you know, and I have for all these years and I forget what I believe about something. But I don't think I hold the same view as Bob Theim. I'll leave it at that. I'm not sure what his view is.
All right, there's a question. Mr. Parson?
You mentioned the death comprises the atoning. The blood relates to death to the atoning work as in Leviticus 17:11. My question is, does death only comprise the whole redemptive atoning work? And my thought is along this line. The death...the blood points to life, a life poured out, pointing always to the perfect Lamb of God. Blood presents...the blood presented because the blood shed isn't enough. The blood is presented and the blood is the life received and the blood is precious. It is life possessed. In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ went as the Lamb of God. He is the perfect priest, the perfect sacrifice. He perfectly satisfies God. And my question, I guess, is when death is spoken of in your tapes or that which you...you sent us a master tape. You may not have but it came as the official tape. In there it is said...nothing is said of His suffering. That death would be the beginning and end of blood, blood equals death by metonymy, metonymy...metonemine...period...done. That's my question. Is it finished in your mind then? In other words, would I represent you properly if I said blood equals death...a big one?
I'm not sure how to answer that, believe it or not, even though you clarified it a couple of times. What I am saying is that the atonement for our sins necessitated a death. It necessitated the death that Jesus died in the very way that He died and in no other way. And what I am simply saying is that while blood does not equal death totally because the blood shedding of Christ and the sacrificial element of that was a part of the death of Christ, yet, when the New Testament writer refers to blood he is equating it with the whole atoning work, which embraces the blood and the death. A parallel to that would be the blood of His cross. Now there's no blood in the cross. You also have...talking about that we've been saved by the cross of Christ. Well what does that mean? The wood didn't save us. The wood didn't bleed for us. But whether you're talking about the death of Christ, the blood of Christ, the cross of Christ, you are simply using terms which embrace in one graphic way or another the whole atoning work of Christ. That's the only way I can explain it. I don't know.
Just a point that may help: If I was left with listening to the tape that was sent and we played that for the regional men, it would have been very difficult for us to go beyond, from the tape, beyond blood equals death period. I think all these others...and I'm not saying you don't say them...you just did not say them. And I think that may trigger...
Sure. I understand that.
A great deal of reaction.
And that's the difficulty, you know, in being taped because...that's why Martin Lloyd Jones, in his book on Preachers and Preaching, said, "Those infernal tapes." Because you can't say everything about every theological issue every time you bring it up. So what happens is you get a point here and there. You just kind of don't cover the full thing. But I hope that clarifies what I believe. I'm not necessarily asking you to believe it. I'm not mandating that. But I think it's consistent with Scripture and that's where I stand.
Okay, thank you. We'll move onto the next category, which has to do with eternal _____________. And the first question: Do you agree with this statement? And any one of the members of the God head could have become the Son. Please explain this in the light of Colossians 1:15 and 7.
I reject that statement. That is modalism. That is a form of cebalionheresy. I do not believe in a modalistic view of the trinity. I do not believe in the view that says any member of the Trinity at any given point in time can function in any role. I believe that the Trinity has very distinct personhood within the Trinity and that they had very distinct roles, which were laid out in eternity past and that those roles are absolutely inviolable. I do not believe any member of the Trinity could have become the Son. That is modalism, and that I believe to be wrong.
Question number 2: If the roles of the three persons were determined at some point previous to the incarnation and the first person of the Trinity was the head of the Second person of the Trinity, the present Father/Son relationship must have existed. Please explain or use a different term if the role/relationship always existed?
Read that statement again and I'll stop you at a certain point.
If the roles of the three persons were determined at some point previous to the incarnation...
That is correct. That's a correct statement.
Okay. And the first person of the Trinity was the head of the Second person of the trinity...
That is not necessarily a correct statement. There's nothing in the Old Testament that says that the first person of the Trinity was the head of the second person. That is an assumption. That brings the point to where the issue really lies. The only time you have God ever spoken of as the head is in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 and who is he the head of? Well no, "Man is the head of the woman, Christ is the head of the man, and God is the head of Christ." That is an incarnational term. But when you go to the Old Testament you're not gonna find anything in the Old Testament anywhere that says that the first person in the Trinity is the head of the second person. In fact, you find the very opposite because Jesus says in John 17, "Father, receive me back to the glory which I had with You before the world began." And he uses that little Greek phrase, pros ton fa on, face-to-face. And Philippians 2 says, "He thought it not robbery or something to be grasped at to be...what?...equal with God." There is nothing in the Old Testament, prior to the incarnation, that ever puts the second member of Trinity in a subservient role to the first member of the Trinity.
I'm not gonna grant that premise because if I grant that premise I'll get caught in the next statement. And that's the very point we want you to understand, is that Christ entered into this world incarnationally as a servant to the first member of the Trinity. And that is...the prophet says that, "He will come as the suffering servant. He will come as the Son of the Father." But such designation is not clearly distinguished in the Old Testament prior to the incarnation, where the role of subservient comes, as He becomes the servants, becomes the Son, becomes Mashiah, the Christ. Then he takes that role in his incarnation and his work.
The latter part of that question, Dr. MacArthur, said the present Father/Son relationship must have existed. And it says, "Please explain why we use a different term if the role relationship always existed?"
Okay. I don't believe the role/relationship always did exist in experience. Now...let me give you this too. I just jotted down a few notes while I was circling Philadelphia here. Let me...I think I can help you with this. Let me just give you several points. Number 1: Jesus Christ is eternal God. He is the second person of the Trinity. That's how we identify Him. It doesn't say that in the Bible. You understand that? It doesn't say Trinity in the Bible. But we understand He'd be the second person of the Trinity. He is eternally God, a very God. He is never, in essence, inferior to God. He is never, in essence, less than God. Okay.
Second point: He is referred to in the Old Testament as the Lord. "The Lord said unto My Lord." He is referred to as the angel of the Lord, the angel of Jehovah. And when he is referred to as the angel of the Lord he functioned as a heavenly messenger, as angels do. Did He not? In other words, when the pre-incarnate Son, as you want to call Him or the pre-incarnate Christ, the second member of the Trinity appeared in the Old Testament. He appeared when sent to earth as a messenger in what form? The angel of the Lord, okay.
Third point I want to make. He never is called Son in the Old Testament, except prophetically. That is a very important issue because I'm only trying to deal with exegesis here and with the text. He's not called Son except in anticipation. So what we can say is this: the term Son was His by expectation but became His by experience in the incarnation. And then was affirmed in exaltation, for He became a Son through His resurrection. In what sense? In the sense that He inherited it and that's what a Son is.
Two things identify Him as a Son; now keep this in mind, when the Bible says God Father and Christ Son that is an accommodation to our mind right? That's to describe for us some kind of intimate sharing of nature. Now listen carefully to this. The Father Son picture is to describe for us a sharing of nature. It certainly works in the incarnation because what is the big issue with regard to Jesus Christ? What was the big agenda? To tell the world that He was Whom? God, one in nature with God. That was not something that was debated when the Trinity was in heaven. Nobody was debating that. So it wasn't important to call the first member Father, the second member Son because when They were existing before the world began or before the incarnation in that Trinitarian existence there was no debate about who the second member was or who the third member was. But as soon as the second member becomes incarnate then the burden of proof is on that second member to prove to the world that He's what? That He's God. Therein lies the terminology Father Son, which better than any other term speaks of common essence, common nature.
Now there are some Old Testament passages that perhaps I can allude to. Proverbs chapter 30 and verse 4, here the words of Agur the son of Jakeh and so forth, it says, "Surely I am more stupid than any man, I do not have the understanding of a man. Neither have I learned wisdom, nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy One, of God. Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garments? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know!" And what's he saying? I believe this is a very general statement. He is saying simply, do you know anybody who knows the things God knows? Do you know anybody who can do the things God does? If you do, what's His name and what's His son's name. I want to go meet em. I don't think necessarily that that is even a reference to God and His son. Proverbs 30 verse 4.
So apart from that particular statement you have no other reference in the Old Testament regarding Jesus as Son except what is prophetic. Isaiah 9:6, right? "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." That's prophetic. And he was given in incarnation, prophetic. And you have the same thing in Psalm 2:7, "Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, I'll give Thee nations as Thy inheritance and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession." Now the question comes, what day did God have in mind? "Thou art my Son, Today I have begotten Thee." The fact that God said today takes the Sonship of Christ out of eternity and puts it into what? Are there any today's in eternity? That's a time designation. That's a time designation.
I believe that there is sense in which you could say Christ was always the Son in anticipation. But He didn't enter the role of Sonship, which was a role of submission, until His incarnation. And He didn't enjoy the benefits of Sonship until His resurrection and He inherited the nations that God had promised to Him. The designation Son refers to two things: submission and inheritance. When did Christ submit? When did He submit? Philippians 2, "He thought it not robbery to hold onto His equality with God, to grasp it, but He submitted." That's Sonship. So the first move of Sonship was in the incarnation, the birth of Christ. The second one, according to what the Bible says, very clearly was through His resurrection He became a Son. In what sense? That's inheritance. The second feature of Sonship is inheritance. When did that happen? In His resurrection.
With that in mind look at Romans chapter 1 and see how clear the New Testament is. It says, in Romans 1:3, "That the gospel is all about the Son, who was born...or literally ghen-nay-mah...who became a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power by...what?...resurrection." So He was born a Son, an incarnation, and took the role of submission, that's a son's role. And then he was declared a Son through resurrection and took the inheritance. The Father glorified Him in the resurrection, took Him back to glory, sat Him at His right hand and has given unto Him the kingdoms of the world and some day He will take His inheritance and make it His own.
Hebrews chapter 1 is the other passage. I think all of this comes out of my commentary on Hebrews. And I'm just grappling with trying to understand this. Here is one of the three times that Psalm 2:7 is quoted in the New Testament. Another one of the times is in 5:5 of Hebrews and then there's one in Acts 13:33. But it says, talking about Christ, "To which of the angels...verse 5...did God ever say, "Thou Art my Son; today I have begotten Thee." Now, again, you have here a today, a today. That designates time not eternity. Paul ties the Romans 1:3 passage to Psalm 2. The writer of Hebrews ties this passage to Psalm 2. And so what we can conclude is this; He was always the Son in expectation. He became the Son in experience through incarnation as He submitted through resurrection, as He was exalted to receive the inheritance. And I believe now it is proper to call Him fully by the term Son for He has entered into the fullness of His Sonship to us and to God He will always be the Son, the eternal Son.
Now, you remember 2 Samuel 7:14? The writer of Hebrews also quotes that. "I will be a Father to Him and He shall be a Son to Me." That's future tense. Second Samuel 7:14, "In the future, God says, "I will be a Father and He will be a Son." Now, one other thought on this and then I'm gonna go because I don't want to take too much time. Would you please notice there's a New Testament ringing principle that many people have missed and it's so sad. Look at 2 Corinthians 1:3. I want you to follow me for a minute. This idea of Father Son in the New Testament is really a grand idea. In fact, Jesus, whenever He talks to the first member of the Trinity He calls Him what? You remember? Father. Does He ever call Him anything else? Is there any prayer in the entire New Testament where the second member of the Trinity addresses the first member in any other way than Father? Only one. What did He call Him? My God. Why? There was an alienation, wasn't there? But every other time He calls Him Father. But notice how the New Testament writers pick this up. Look at verse 3, 2 Corinthians 1, "Blessed be the God and Father of our...what?...Lord Jesus Christ." Why do you think Paul said that? What's he trying to prove there? That Jesus is the same essence as God. Right? The God and Father. That's the emphasis of essence.
What about Ephesians 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." You see once God became incarnate and people looked at Jesus as a man the question comes up, "Well how can I believe He's God? He's standing right there. He's a man." And so this over and over again, Ephesians 1:3, "Blessed it be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Do you know that the New Testament says more about God as the Father of Christ than God as the Father of us, to emphasize that this is God of the same essence. Colossians, same thing, chapter 1 verse 3, "We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It goes on like that, 1 Peter 1:3 and so forth. All I'm saying is that biblically the text simply identifies the term Son with the incarnational submission and inheritance that is granted to Christ in His work.
For example, was Jesus always the Lamb of God? Answer that question. Was He always the Lamb of God? Yes or No? It's a hard question to answer. Right? He was the Lamb of God in anticipation when He was standing beside John the Baptist and John said, "Behold...what?...the Lamb of God." But that was only in anticipation. He became the Lamb of God in experience when He was the Lamb of God on the cross. And for us forever He will be the Lamb. He is the Lamb in heaven in Revelations so He remains the Lamb. But, again, that full experience of that title is entered into in His incarnation and His atoning work. So I just say, if you want to believe that he is...that the term Son, if you're comfortable with that as an eternal designation of Christ, you can't find any Scripture that will support that, but it's fine. That's fine if you want to think of it that way. But understand that He never entered into the fullness of the expression of that Sonship role until the time in which He was incarnated.
Look at it another way. Could we say Jesus is the eternal king? Yes, but has He embarked upon the fullness of His reign? No. So what He is in expectation He will come to be in experience.
This question. In light of your published statements, which clearly deny the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ, saying that He did not become the Son of God until the incarnation, how do you reconcile this with your full agreement and heartily signing the IFCA doctrinal statement, which says, "We believe in one trying God. Eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?"
I agree with that. You can designate Them by those terms. Those are very comfortable terms. That's the way I would designate Them. I'd say, again, that we do not see by the way the fullness of the expression of Sonship until the incarnation. And as a footnote to that you will not find in the Old Testament that it as at all typical for Jews to ever have designated God as Father. Have you noted that? Have you ever tried to find the Fatherhood of God in the Old Testament? It's almost non-existent because those terms didn't come into full display until the incarnation. But I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believe They've always had those separate roles but the fullness of them didn't really come into expression until the incarnation. Is that clear? I hope. Okay.
Final...do you have any questions? Brief specific questions, brief specific answers. Hi George.
I don't want any...in the audience, any form of displeasure or anything like that please.
In January 23, 1989 we received a statement, a paper that was sent out, "John MacArthur's view on the Eternal Sonship of Christ," which is another official paper. In June 1989 we received a copy just to make sure it was updated. It's exactly the same as in January. I'm going to take the thought that's written here and a quote. I'd like to do it in two parts if I can just to see if I got it all right.
Just let me say, what I said is what I believe. I'm not sure what's on those papers. So if that helps.
It does. But, John, bless your heart, you've got to remember that this what...
I understand that, sure.
"Jesus Christ our Lord, He really took on the title and role of the Son."
Yes. Do you understand what I'm saying by that? That when He became incarnate He did not become something in the sense that He came into existence. He merely took on a title and a role. He was already the eternal second member of the Trinity. That's what I'm trying to say. He just simply took on the title and the role that from all eternity was a sign to Him. He embarked on it. That's the idea. That's why I use the word "merely" so it doesn't look like some substantial change in His nature or His character. Sorry.
"He acquired the role, he played the function, He assumed, etc." Page 2, "The term Son has only to do with Jesus Christ in His incarnation and beyond and not before."
Yes. And the reason I say that is this: If you try to crawl out of your little world and get into the Trinity before the world began would They be talking to each other like Father and Son?
That's my question.
No. They wouldn't be. Father and Son is an accommodation. We understand father and son, that's an anthropomorphic accommodation. How are we going to understand what the Inter Trinitarian communion of pros ton fa on, face-to-face equal with God is all about? We don't understand that. We don't understand that at all. And when it existed in the Old Testament time before the incarnation that's why the second member of Trinity is never called the Son. He's called the messenger of the Lord, He is, "The Lord said to My Lord," but in the future there will be a Son and that Son is the one that is always the second member of the Trinity. But the Trinity, with perfect knowledge, doesn't need verbal accommodation in English or in any language. So the essence of the Trinity is inexplicable. But once God wants us to understand the submission and the inheritance feature he ties it into Sonship because we can see that. But in the purer sense, was Jesus the Son of God by birth? No. He was no created being. No created being. He was eternally God.
This is what, by the way, confuses Jews so much when we talk about the Son of God. You might take a different approach if you hold the view that I do about the Son of God. It really solves a lot of problems with Jewish people because they can't understand why we are forever saying that Jesus has always been the Son of God. Because if you say that then how can He be God? But if you say He is God the second person in the Trinity who came into this world taking the role of a Son they understand that in incarnation. Okay.
We're gonna have to move on here.
I think it's important this one part if I may?
One brief question George please.
In making it simple, Brother Wayman Strauss, in his book, The Second Person, page 4 and 5, makes this statement, "Every claim of Jesus Christ, including the confession of other men that He was the Son of God is a remarkable expression that shows the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. His title of Son of God is not based upon His virgin birth. He did not become the Son of God by virtue of His birth in the manger of Bethlehem but He was Son of God by inherent right in eternity past. There is no support in favor of the doctrine that the divine relationship between Father and Son had its beginning at the incarnation. There was never a time when this relationship between the Father and Son had a beginning." One more quote in the end of this section, "This chapter might well be the eternal Sonship of Christ." Is this your position?
No. Were there any verses sprinkled into that passage you just read?
I do not know.
Because that...you can say that but you're gonna support it. What are you gonna say when God says, "Thou Art My Son today I begotten Thee." That puts begetting into time; today. Again, I think it's a silly thing to argue because nobody's arguing the deity of Christ. It's such a minor issue. If you want to believe that He was eternally the Son, eternally the Lamb, eternally the Rose of Sharon, eternally the Lilly of the Valley, eternally the Shepherd of the sheep, eternally anything, fine! Because in anticipation He was and since there's no time in eternity anyway believe it! All I'm trying to do is deal with a Scriptural text that says, "You're My Son, Today I begotten You." That's all.
Alright, we'll move on to the next category of dispensationalism. And here's first question. In view of some statements that seem to cast doubt on your position of being a dispensationalist, please clarify what your true position is. Are you mixing reform covenant views with dispensationalism? Elaborate your views by reviewing the number and characteristics of dispensation.
Now we're back to the pre-exilic kings and the . . .I just want you to say...I want you to know that I am a...I am a historical dispensationalist, pre-tribulational, pre-millenialist. I believe that from the Scripture...please note, from the Scripture not the notes at the bottom of the page...emerges a dispensational hermeneutic. I believe that dispensationalism is a hermeneutic, it is a hermeneutic. But I believe...I don't believe it's a presuppositional hermeneutic, I believe it is a hermeneutic that rises out of an understanding of the text. So I am a historic dispensationalist. I have never wavered on that. I have never moved from that position. What do you mean by that? What I mean primarily by that is that you must distinguish in the way in which God rules in this world or to be a conomyby which He mediates His rule in this world at different points in time.
Obviously there was a point in time in which God mediated his rule through an innocent man. I have no problem with that at all. God walked and talked directly with Adam and Adam did what God him to do without any interruption or hindrance whatsoever and God mediated His rule on the earth through man who had become king of the earth. When man fell God had to mediate His rule in a different way. And God, then, began to mediate His rule in the world through a fallen man and He had to use the revelation of Himself, which He did first of all to the patriarchs, which He did by then giving the law. I believe that God's mediated rule on the earth is much more sophisticated after the law. There were obviously times and seasons, which God overlooked, pre-law as there are times and seasons, which he was gracious with, pre-grace. If you want to make that distinction.
So I see a difference before the fall, after the fall, before the law, after the law, before the cross, after the cross, before Christ comes and after He comes and in the eternal state. Now I don't know how many of those there are. I haven't counted them all up. I'm not sure I want to dot all the I's and T's on human government and conscience and all of that. But I do know that once man fell God had to mediate His rule on the earth through His spirit and His spirit worked through conscience and His spirit worked through the patriarchs and then His spirit worked through the prophets and the priests and His spirit, of course, brought the law and God mediated in that way. And then, of course, once we come to the new covenant God mediates His rule on the earth by the spirit of God and dwelling the church. The day will come when the church is raptured out and God will mediate His will on the earth in a direct way as He pours out judgment on the earth, takes the earth back, and the mediates His rule on the millennial kingdom for a thousand years with Christ reigning on the throne until the eternal state in which everything falls into the blending of God's sovereignty in the final form of our existence. So I would be a very historic dispensationalist.
People ask me all the time, "Are you reformed?" The reformed people don't know what to do with me because they hear things that sound thrilling to them and then somewhere down the page they get confused again because I don't buy the whole ball of wax. To be honest with you all I'm doing is going in my church every week and preaching the next passage. That's all I've done for 20 years. And so I just try to understand what it says. And somebody will say, "Oh that sounds reformed." Somebody will say, "Oh that's really dispensational." I'm just trying to be biblical. I really am and I'm not trying to build a system or advocate a system. I really do believe in a biblical theology, more than that, an exegetical theology. I'm just trying to hammer that thing through and refine myself. And I know that maybe there're times when it's contradictory.
I spoke one Sunday night on why the antichrist will be a Jew. And somebody came and said, "You're wrong, I'd be a Gentile." So I studied all week and the next Sunday night I preached on why the antichrist would be a Gentile. I don't know. For all I know it might come from Pennsylvania. I don't know. I put my pants on just like you, go down to my little study, get out my books and do the best I can, and have at it. And I'm not trying to develop some sort of secret hidden agenda. I'm just trying to understand the Word of God. But I do believe and the major dispensational issue for today is, I believe with all my heart and soul that you cannot come up with a covenant view of theology and maintain any kind of coherent hermeneutics. If you come up with covenant theology, which assumes then that the church is the new Israel and all the promised blessings to Israel are now fulfilled in the church, if you come up with that view you have violated the basic premise of biblical interpretation. Because what you have said is this, all of the curses of the Old Testament were on Israel, were fulfilled literally. Is that not true? Nobody argues that. It's a question I ask every covenant theologian, non-millenial, ________ meet and we have a discussion. You tell me, were the curses promised to Israel for their sin fulfilled literally? They all say the same, "Yes." Then answer this. The promises given by the prophets in the same breath, you're telling me are all to be fulfilled figuratively? That is an impossible hermeneutic. That is a divided hermeneutic. You can't have it both ways. They are either all literal or they're all figurative, but not one or the other. So I believe that you literally confound the Scripture.
And since I also believe in a literal, historical, grammatical, contextual rule of interpretation I'm stuck with a literal interpretation. So I have to have a literal Israel, in a literal kingdom, with a literal Christ reigning in a literal Jerusalem for a literal thousand years. And the best part is I'm gonna be there. So are you and we'll all get along perfect. I tell my church this, you know, I say, "Look, some of you people are very difficult to work with but if you think you're gonna give me ulcers or get me upset or make my life miserable, you're wrong. Because I know something and what I know is some day you're gonna be perfect and I'm not gonna lose my sanity trying to get you where you're gonna get any way."
Okay. This will be the final question on dispensationalism. It has to do with your book, The Gospel According to Jesus. The question states, "It's heavily footnoted with reform theologians as well as including two prefaces by reformed men. Could you find no one from the dispensational pre-mil, pre-trib position to write support for your views?"
I'm sure we could. The publisher made the choices. We had a number of people write those forewords. Part of the reason for that is to show...and I quoted a lot of people because I think through the years the reformed theology that has come out of the reformation or the doctrine of salvation has been most carefully and thoughtfully preserved in reform circles. I think they're so terriology, and even their new matologyhas really been a very strong backbone for the church. I do not hold to a reformed view, say of ecclesiology or eschatology, but I think they have, in many ways, been the preservers. And doesn't that seem right? I mean if Martin Luther got everything else wrong he got one thing right. And that was the heart of it. And he just about did get everything else wrong, by the way. But he got the part right about the just shall live by faith. He got the part of salvation by grace through face, plus and minus nothing right. And that is the backbone of reform theology has maintained that strength and that's why I quote those people because through the centuries they have been the most articulate proponents of the doctrines of salvation. So they stand in good stead. And I think...I think...as far as I know isn't James Boice dispensational?
And from my viewpoint he was a pre-millenial dispensationalist with reform so terriology and was...the other reason we chose those two forewords because they were really positive and we though it might sort of get the people in the book and not think that I was coming off the wall with some new view, as many have thought. So I tried to mainstream myself a little bit in that way.
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