Thank You John MacArthur
By: Deji Yesufu
Pastor John Fullerton MacArthur Jr. is 83 years old. He has been pastor of Grace Community Church, LA, USA, for 53 years. Last Sunday, he was unable to minister at the second service and news began to spread that he was ill. He had preached at the first service and it was obvious that he was not feeling too well; so when he did not make it back to the pulpit that morning, people became a bit worried. Grace Community Church eventually published a short note on their website indicating that Pastor John was fine – he had been seen by his doctors that afternoon and was recuperating. Quite a number of blogs and vlogs picked up the story; and it was obvious that members of his church were relieved to learn that the great evangelical preacher was okay. MacArthur’s father, Jack, lived up till the age of 91 and preached throughout – he never retired. Many of us have taken it for granted that John MacArthur (JM) will lived for a long time – at least a little over the age his own Dad passed. I no longer wish to be in that class of thinkers anymore. JM is a human being and one day, very soon, we are not likely to have this great man of God with us again. Here is my tribute to Pastor John MacArthur – written while he is still alive.
To say that JM has influenced my thinking is to actually make an understatement. Coming from a country like Nigeria where you find very few religious figures one can emulate, Pastor John is a breadth of fresh air. I heard the name John MacArthur for the first time in 2013. I had gotten into a debate on the whole subject of grace on Nairaland and someone mentioned him as a grace preacher. Later when I began to investigate Cessationism as a doctrine, the “Strange Fire” book and conference came to my rescue. While John MacArthur and other ministers influenced my belief in Cessationism, MacArthur has influenced my life and ministry in many other ways. In 2020, when the church we attended here in Ibadan shut down, it was MacArthur’s bold stand for the truth, and his encouraging Christians to return to physical gathering, that led to our beginning to meet. That gathering is today a church plant in the city of Ibadan, Nigeria. MacArthur’s preaching has become for me an example in sermon delivery – I pay careful attention to his manner of exegesis; especially his penchant for historical facts and contextual preaching. It is MacArthur that first introduced me to expositional preaching before I studied it at seminary.
In recent times, MacArthur’s bold stance for the truth, especially his defense of true biblical Christianity, as he did during the “Lordship Controversy” has become quite an important theme for me. The Lordship Controversy was a debate that arose in the 1980s after MacArthur had published his book “The Gospel According to Jesus”. JM’s main thesis in that book was that while salvation was by faith alone, true conversion in the hearts of Christians must always yield good works. He wrote this book against a kind of antinomianism that is still present in American evangelical Christianity till today. It is the idea that true saving faith in the heart of the saint need not yield up sanctification of life. It was a situation where Christians were high on theology but very low in good works. “Salvation by faith” was the only theme these brethren emphasized; and they tended to be critical of anyone who insisted that true faith ought to follow up with good works. MacArthur was labelled a false teacher. Some said he was a Pelagian. Others condemned him for introducing works righteousness into evangelicalism. Thirty years since that controversy, MacArthur has been vindicated. A kind of reformed Christianity is emerging from America, especially, that pays very little attention to holy living. Reformed Christians are now known more for drinking and smoking, than for charity towards their neighbors. These people are caustic, divisive and very proud. They know a lot of theology but their hearts are cold stiff of Christian love. This is what MacArthur warned against in his book. He was saying in essence that the writings of Paul, as sound as they are, cannot be divorced from the fruit of true Christianity as Jesus demands in the gospels – particularly with his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.
I dare to say that while the 16th century gave us Luther and Calvin, the 17th century gave us Owen, Baxter and Bunyan, the 18th century gave us Whitefield and Wesley, the 19th century gave us Spurgeon and J. C. Ryle; it is safe to say that the 20th/21st centuries gave us Sproul and MacArthur. Certainly there are many others we can look up to as heroes of the faith and defenders of sound doctrine but it is good to have been alive in the days that John MacArthur preached. The internet and social media has exploded the Christian message all around the globe. While the internet has its downside, it has also afforded the gospel ease of reach to third world Christians like ourselves. So that rather than waiting weeks to receive books and tapes, when I take my morning jog around the estate I live in, I plug my ears listening to MacArthur on the “Grace to You” app. MacArthur’s teachings, along with other reformed preachers, is raising a new breed of Christian thinkers in Nigeria. Many of us became reformed listening to or reading either John MacArthur, John Piper or R. C. Sproul. This is also leading to a rise in church plants today all around the country that are distinctively reformed – with a rise in the number of Christians that are committed Reformed Baptists in this country. For example, the gathering that MacArthur inspired in my locality has become the first reformed Baptist church plant in Ibadan – a city of no less than twelve million inhabitants.
Thank you, John MacArthur, for all that you do. Just when one was becoming wary of religion, God brings you and a few others up as genuine examples. I pray that the Lord restores you to full health and grants you many more years serving him in his vineyard. While your reward and praise abides with the One you serve daily, some of us feel that we can express our gratitude to you while you are alive. Thank you for the sacrifice; thank you for standing for the truth; thank you for preaching the truth; thank you for exemplary Christian living; thank you for living Christianity out for us. I trust God that whether in this life or in the life to come, whenever you do meet your Master, like we all hope to do someday, you will hear those word: “…well done, thou good and faithful servant…”
Thank you, John MacArthur.