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In 2021, the First Sunday in Lent is February 21.

The readings for Year B in the three-year Lectionary are below:

Readings for the First Sunday in Lent — Year B

My focus today is on the Gospel reading from Mark, which concerns the baptism of Jesus (emphases mine):

Mark 1:9-15

1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

1:10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

1:11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

1:12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.

1:13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,

1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Commentary for today’s exegesis comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

I have often written about the accounts of our Lord’s baptism as a sign of obedience to God the Father. There was no reason for Jesus to undergo immersion in the River Jordan for His sins as He had none. Yet, He partook in what would become a sacrament in order to obey the ordinances of his Father under the New Covenant and to share in our human experience.

However, there is a far greater reason why Jesus was baptised. This was His earthly coronation, as John MacArthur ably explains.

Those who have read Mark’s Gospel know that it skips parts of Jesus’s earthly life and early ministry. This is because Mark wrote it for the Gentiles in Rome. He wanted them to understand quickly and simply that Jesus is the Son of God and our Saviour.

Instead of beginning with the lineage or Jesus or the Nativity, Mark begins with John the Baptist’s ministry, but not before introducing his Gospel as follows (Mark 1:1):

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.[a]

Christ’s baptism has many scriptural hallmarks of being His coronation, through baptism, a religious ceremony that is not part of the Jewish tradition in terms of repentance.

There are ritual baths, mostly for women, but those are for the purposes of ceremonial rather than spiritual cleansing.

MacArthur looks at both the coronation and the sacramental aspect of baptism.

First, the coronation, involving this meeting between Jesus and His cousin, John the Baptist, as adults:

This is the only one recorded in the New Testament. Though they contacted each other through their disciples, there is no other indication they had met. But this meeting is monumental. This meeting has significance that is sweeping and far-reaching because on this occasion of their meeting, there is the coronation of the new King. Remember I told you that in the gentile world, as well as the Jewish world, the word euaggelion, the word gospel had to do with the ascent of a king, the accession of a king to his throne. And Mark is writing about God’s great King, the new King who is coming, who will declare a new era for the world. This is His coronation.

From the Greek word euaggelion we derive the words ‘evangelist’ and ‘evangelical’. In French, the word évangile means ‘Gospel’.

From Matthew 3:14, we know that John was reluctant to baptise Jesus, because he knew who He was, so He gave this reason:

15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

Jesus obeyed the commands of His Father, and baptism was one of them (verse 9).

MacArthur explains:

If God said this is to be done, then I will do this. It is that perfect obedience of Christ that is imputed to you and to me when we put our trust in Him. It’s what’s called His active righteousness.

But, how could the King of the Jews come from Galilee, let alone a little-known place called Nazareth?

The Jews considered Galilee unclean. MacArthur lays out the reasons why:

I don’t know if you know the history of Galilee. It was originally, of course, part of the land conquered by Joshua around the eighth century, I think – it was about then – it was invaded by the Assyrians, yes. And when it was invaded by the Assyrians, obviously they deported the Jews and many Gentiles came to live there. In the second century, they tried to – they tried to circumcise those gentiles, that didn’t go over real big.

They tried to attach them all to Judaism, that didn’t go over real big, either. So by the time you get to the ministry of John the Baptist, there are just a lot of Gentiles in that area. That’s why it’s called Galilee of the Gentiles. In fact, it was hated or treated with scorn and disdain by the Jews. One of the things that was said concerning Peter in Mark 14:70 was, “Isn’t he a Galilean?” There was nothing but scorn for Galilee. In fact, the further you were from Jerusalem, the more disdain they had for you, and this was a long, long way from Jerusalem. It was out on the fringes where the unclean people lived.

Yet — and yet — Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would come from Galilee:

It would be unthinkable for the Messiah to come from Galilee, Galilee of the gentiles, that scorned place. And yet did they forget Isaiah 9, “There will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish. In earlier times he treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious by the way of the sea on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light, the light will shine on them.”

That’s the Messianic prophecy, that the Messiah would come from Galilee of the gentiles, Messiah would come from the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. This is Galilee, northern part of Israel.

Let us take a closer look at Nazareth. MacArthur says:

the town is Nazareth, so obscure it has to be named and it has to be located into Galilee. If you said Jesus came from Nazareth, nobody would know where it was. Nazareth in Galilee because Nazareth is not known. There is no place in any existing Jewish literature, ancient Jewish literature, where Nazareth is ever mentioned. It’s not in Josephus, it’s not in the Talmud, it’s not in the Old Testament, most obscure no-place place.

Except that Nathanael knew about Nazareth (John 1:46; Readings for the Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B). He asked of the newly-called Apostle Philip, rather bluntly:

1:46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Historically, the Jews expected the Messiah to come from Jerusalem, but the prophets knew better. MacArthur tells us:

The assumption was Messiah would come from Jerusalem, the temple is there, but the head, you know, the core, Jerusalem was corrupt, apostate. So the prophets said the Messiah will come from the fringes. The Messiah will come from the outskirts. He’ll come far at the most remote place from the religious establishment that is apostate. This in itself is a commentary on the corruption of Judaism at the time. And so He came and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

MacArthur explains the River Jordan:

You may have idyllic visions of the Jordan River, this mighty river. No. Jordan River is 105 miles long if you just fly down the Jordan. If you float, it’s 200 miles like that. Ten feet deep. At the widest, 100 feet across. “River” is stretching the word.

But it was there, away again from Jerusalem, in the wilderness, away from civilization because the center was so polluted. But John was baptizing as he had been commanded by God and Jesus came to be baptized.

MacArthur discusses John’s baptism of Jesus and the origin of the Greek word for this sacrament:

Baptizō means to immerse into water, Jesus was immersed, the symbol of the washing away of the old and purification that leads to newness, He was baptized. And He was baptized because God had commanded everybody to be baptized, and He was a man, and He would fulfill all righteousness.

And He was baptized secondarily because it was symbolic, I think, of going through the river of death, bearing the sins of His people.

As Jesus emerged from the water, two dramatic things happened (verse 10).

First, the heavens were ‘torn apart’. Secondly, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove.

MacArthur interprets this for us via Luke’s version of events:

“Immediately coming up out of the water,” Luke adds, Luke 3:21, “while He was praying” – Jesus was in communion with the Father the whole time – “coming up out of the water,” which is an indication that He was immersed. It doesn’t mean He walked up on the riverbank, it means He came up out of the water. The scene, by the way, is trinitarian, right? Trinitarian, one of the great trinitarian texts in Scripture.

Our Heavenly Father had not rent the heavens apart for four centuries prior to this. During that era, He had also silenced prophesy. John the Baptist was the first prophet to emerge since that time.

Then God rent the heavens — tore them apart for that moment when His only begotten Son was baptised — and crowned. The Holy Spirit also appeared.

God also spoke (verse 11).

These three phenomena were open to public witness.

People were there to witness what Isaiah had prophesied centuries before, as MacArthur explains:

as He comes up out of the water, the coronation takes place. Has two parts, a visual and an audible – a visual and an audible. First, the anointing by the Holy Spirit and secondly, the affirmation by the Father. Let’s look at the anointing by the Holy Spirit. “Immediately coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened.” This is not a vision, by the way, folks, this is not a vision. We know it’s not a vision because … John 1:32 and following where John says, “I saw it. I saw it. I saw the Spirit descend, I saw it.”

And there’s no reason to think that others didn’t see it as well. It’s not a vision, it’s a visible reality, in contrast, for example, to the vision of Ezekiel 1. He saw the heavens opening. This is a signal of God breaking into time and space. I mean, this is huge. Now, remember, God hasn’t spoken in four hundred years. Four hundred years of divine silence until an angel comes and talks to Zacharias and Elizabeth. And another angel comes and talks to Joseph and Mary, but none of that is public. The heavens have been closed for four hundred years. And now they split.

He saw the heavens opening, and Mark uses a verb that Matthew and Luke do not use, schizō which means to rip. It’s dramatic, the heavens rip open. It’s only used one other time in the New Testament, when the veil in the temple at the death of Christ was ripped from top to bottom. This is so significant because Isaiah has been talking about the coming of Messiah, the coming of Messiah through the 40 chapters and the 50 chapters, and when you come to chapter 64, here’s the cry of the people, here’s the cry of the prophet’s heart, “O, that” – this is Isaiah 64:1. “O, that you would rip the heavens and come down.”

They were waiting for that, that God would rip open the heavens and come down and make His name known. This is anticipation of Messiah. The day is going to come when the silent heavens are going to rip open and God is going to come. The text of Isaiah 64 is a cry for God to do just that, break into history. And the Jews saw that text as evidences that Messiah would come and heaven would split open and down would come God.

MacArthur continues detailing this holy mystery of the Triune God:

God is about to come down, and He does in the form of the Holy Spirit – I love this – “and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him.” Heaven rips open and you might think of something violent happening, something crashing down, but the Spirit like a dove descends upon Him.

Now, first of all, folks, this isn’t saying the Holy Spirit is a dove. I know there are doves all over Bible covers, and all over paraphernalia and holy hardware and all that, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is not a dove. The Holy Spirit is not a dove. That’s not what it’s saying. It simply says the Holy Spirit descended visibly – visibly. Luke says, think it’s chapter 3, maybe verse 21 or so, in bodily form, in some visible form, He descended like a dove. The question is not why is He a dove, the question is how does a dove descend. You understand the difference?

A dove doesn’t come crashing down. The dove is the gentlest, according to one text of Scripture, the gentlest of the birds. It comes down lightly, delicately, and rests in its place. That’s how the Holy Spirit came. That’s all it’s saying. It isn’t saying the Holy Spirit is a dove. The Holy Spirit is nowhere pictured as a dove. You don’t have to connect it with the dove that Noah sent out of the ark, like many commentators try to do, which is impossible. A dove is a very gentle, beautiful, delicate bird, and the Spirit came down in some visible form with the same kind of gentleness and beauty which is displayed when a little dove lands softly.

This is important because Isaiah made it very clear that when the Messiah comes, He will be empowered by the Holy Spirit. So this is confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah because here comes the Spirit. Listen to Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,” that’s the father of David, out of David’s line, “A branch from his roots will bear fruit.” That’s the Messiah coming through Jesse’s line through David. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him.” Messianic prophecy. Thirty-second chapter of Isaiah in the fifteenth verse, “Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high.” They knew that when the Messianic Kingdom comes, when Messianic glory arrives, it will be with the full power of the Holy Spirit.

Listen to 42:1, Isaiah 42:1, “Behold my Servant, whom I uphold, my Chosen One whom my soul delights, I have put my Spirit upon Him.” Those are prophecies. The Messiah would have the full presence power of the Holy Spirit. In John 3:34 it says this, that God gave Jesus the Spirit – this is the key phrase – without measure – without measure, without limit. That’s not true of everybody else. Everybody else has the Spirit in measure. Even the New Testament says that even those of us living in the age of the Holy Spirit receive a measure of the Spirit.

But He received the Spirit without measure, the full presence, the full power of the Holy Spirit came down and rested on Him. The infinite presence and power of the Spirit so that the whole life of Jesus was controlled by the Holy Spirit. His whole life was controlled by the Spirit. At the risk of over-simplifying something that is profoundly mysterious and beyond the grasp of all of us, let me see if I can give you a way to understand it. You have the Man Jesus here, you have the Son of God, eternal deity here, and that which is deity is conveyed to the man which is humanity through the means of the Holy Spirit.

As it says, He grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man, it was the Holy Spirit dispensing to the man, Jesus, the developing realities of truth that matured Him. That’s how you have to understand it. The Holy Spirit is the mediator between deity and humanity. John Owen makes the point that His divine nature did not directly communicate anything at all to the human Jesus. His divine nature did not communicate anything directly to the human Jesus, it all went through the mediation of the Holy Spirit, part of His self-emptying.

Through the Holy Spirit, divine power came, understanding came, enlightenment came, revelation came, so that His human nature was under the full control of the Holy Spirit, so that everything He did, He did in the power of the Spirit.

Then the Holy Spirit directed Jesus to the wilderness (verse 12).

Mark arrives at this part of the story without filling in intervening details that the other Gospels do because he wants to demonstrate the authority of Jesus.

MacArthur explains Mark’s reasoning:

He demonstrates the authority of Christ over three realms. One, over Satan and his realm. Two, over sin and its dominion. Three, over sinners. It is important for us to know that if the new King is going to take His throne, if the new King is going to reign, if the new King is going to overthrow the usurper, the temporary king, Satan himself, and if the King is going to conquer Satan and sin and sinners, He has to demonstrate the power to do that.

And so that’s where Mark establishes His authority. First in His temptation, His authority over Satan becomes clear … He can overpower and will overpower Satan. He can overpower and will overpower sin.

Mark tells us that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days — which is how we derived the period of our Lenten season — and, whilst there, the angels tended to Him (verse 13).

During this time, Jesus went without food, which is the root for Lenten fasting accompanied by prayer.

MacArthur continues, reminding us not only of scriptural precedent but also that Satan was ever present, tempting Him to worldly comforts:

Now, Mark doesn’t tell us what Matthew and Luke tell us, and that is this: that Jesus went without food for the entire forty days. Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:2, He didn’t eat for forty days. Forty-day fasts had happened before. According to Exodus chapter 34, Moses had a forty-day fast. According to 1 Kings 19, Elijah had a forty-day fast. That’s a long time, almost six weeks of eating nothing. Verse 13 says He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. Forty days alone, forty days in isolation, forty days in a dangerous, devastating place. Forty days without anything to eat.

So you have no support system, no one to help Him, no one to comfort Him, no one to instruct Him, no one to encourage Him, and He is at His lowest possible physical condition. His strength would be gone long before the sixth week. It would begin to diminish seriously the second week. But if He is the King, He must be able, alone at His weakest, to conquer the enemy. And so the Holy Spirit throws Him into that conflict.

He is not only to be a King – and this is what you want to keep in mind. He is a King, and He is reigning over His people now, and He will reign over the earth and over all the new heaven and the new earth in eternity. He is a King, He will always reign, and He will ultimately and finally reign over everything. But He is also a suffering servant. And while as a King He is exalted, as a suffering servant, He is humiliated. The new King is also the suffering servant, it is a paradox, it is a paradox. The most exalted one is the one who suffers most.

Wandering in that place alone for nearly six weeks with nothing to eat in the wilderness, He is tempted the whole time by Satan. Some people assume that He was only tempted at the end of the forty days. Well, the temptations that came at the end of the forty days are given in Matthew 4 and Luke 4, but here we are told He was tempted the whole time. The whole time. And the interesting thing about the temptation Mark doesn’t describe, he leaves that to Matthew and to Luke, the interesting thing about the temptation was that the temptation was never a temptation for Him to give up His sovereignty.

It was never a temptation to give up His royalty, if you will. It was never a temptation for Him to give up His rights and His privileges and His honor and His exaltation and His elevation. It was a temptation for Him to abandon His humiliation.

We do not know exactly how the angels ministered to Jesus. Perhaps they kept him away from dangerous beasts, which were in the wilderness. Perhaps they distracted Him in good ways to look at the natural beauty of his surroundings. Even a desert offers God-given flowers and stunning sunsets.

Matthew Henry says:

Note, The ministration of the good angels about us, is matter of great comfort in reference to the malicious designs of the evil angels against us but much more doth it befriend us, to have the indwelling of the spirit in our hearts, which they that have, are so born of God, that, as far as they are so, the evil one toucheth them not, much less shall be triumph over them.

MacArthur says that on the final day, the angels found food for Jesus:

How did the angels minister to Him? They fed Him. After forty days of fasting, they gave Him something to eat. But I think they ministered in another way as well. I think they brought by their very presence and the food the confirmation of the Father. This was God’s way of saying, “I am still well pleased.” The divine approval of His holy triumph over Satan and fierce temptation is signaled by God sending holy angels to minister to Him at the end in the exhaustion of His victory.

Then Herod had John the Baptist arrested, after which Jesus proclaimed the Good News in Galilee (verse 14).

In real time — according to the other three Gospels — this was probably over four months after the end of His time in the wilderness, according to MacArthur.

Note that Jesus preached in Galilee, the region where He grew up. MacArthur says:

Galilee was the northern part of the land of Israel, the hinterlands, the outskirts, far from the religious center in Jerusalem. The fact that Jesus really launched His ministry in full power there was a testimony to the apostasy of the core, the corruption of Jerusalem.

Jesus preached that the kingdom of God, as we still say today, was at hand (verse 15). When people say it now, we understand it to be that the end of the world is nigh.

However, when Jesus spoke of it, he did so proclaiming the era of the long-awaited Messiah. This is the best news the people of faith at that time could receive.

MacArthur explains the message of Jesus:

… this is the message. It is the good news, it is good news, it is the best news the world has ever heard. And what is it? Verse 15, it is this, “The time is fulfilled,” the kairos, not the chronos, not clock time, not calendar time, epochal time – the era, the fixed point in history for an event to happen. Or in the words of Galatians 4:4, “The fullness of time.” The administration of the fullness of time, it’s called in Ephesians 1:10. God’s sovereign moment. The significant hour in human history.

This is it for which the world has long waited, the most significant era in the world’s history, the arrival of the Savior who will pay the penalty for sin and thus provide salvation for all who have believed from the beginning of history to the end. The time is fulfilled. This is God’s great epochal moment. The promises of the Old Testament regarding Messiah, the promises regarding the Kingdom, the promises of salvation are about to be fulfilled. What is the message? That Christ has come not only to conquer Satan but to conquer sin – to conquer sin through the gospel.

The new King has arrived and with Him the Kingdom. The Kingdom is here because the King is here. Wherever the King is present, the Kingdom is. Jesus’ message, very simple, unmistakable: the Kingdom of God is at hand, here it is. I’m here, the Kingdom’s here.

When He was in Nazareth in Galilee, Luke 4, just after His temptation, right at this same time, goes in to the synagogue and He says, “Today this prophecy is fulfilled in your ears.” And He was talking about the Messianic prophecy from Isaiah 61. It is the message, the good news, God’s hour has come, the Kingdom is here because the King is here. How do you enter that Kingdom? Repent and believe in the gospel, writes Mark. Repent of your sin. Believe in the gospel, the good news concerning Jesus Christ.

Matthew Henry says that that people, by and large, forgot the ancient prophesies. Jesus reminded them:

Observe, (1.) The great truths Christ preached The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. This refers to the Old Testament, in which the kingdom of the Messiah was promised, and the time fixed for the introducing of it. They were not so well versed in those prophecies, nor did they so well observe the signs of the times, as to understand it themselves, and therefore Christ gives them notice of it “The time prefixed is now at hand glorious discoveries of divine light, life, and love, are now to be made a new dispensation far more spiritual and heavenly than that which you have hitherto been under, is now to commence.” Note, God keeps time when the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, for the vision is for an appointed time, which will be punctually observed, though it tarry past our time.

The baptism of Jesus signified His kingship as Christ our Lord forevermore.

Having posted most, though not all, of the readings for the three Lectionary years, it is now time to delve into the readings.

The readings for Sunday, December 6 — St Nicholas Day, incidentally — are in the following post:

Readings for the Second Sunday of Advent — Year B

You can read more about St Nicholas and his feast day below:

St Nicholas Day (much to learn about a man of great faith)

More on St Nicholas — feast day December 6

St Nicholas Day — December 6 (1970s celebrations in Germany)

Let us look at the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Advent in Year B (emphases mine):

Mark 1:1-8

1:1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

1:2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;

1:3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

1:4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

1:5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

1:6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

1:7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.

1:8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

John MacArthur preached an excellent sermon on these verses in 2009. Mark was the last book of the New Testament on which he preached.

Excerpts from ‘The Herald of the New King’ follow, emphases mine.

Unlike Matthew, who went into the full earthly genealogy of our Lord, Mark begins by stating ‘the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (verse 1): no ifs, ands or buts.

That is because Matthew wrote for a Jewish audience and Mark wrote for the Gentiles, specifically, those in Rome:

He’s writing to Roman Christians – and, of course, Roman non-Christians – who will hear his history read. He is not concerned primarily about the Jews, so he doesn’t frontload his book with a lot of prophecies. He doesn’t make efforts to connect the arrival of Jesus with the Old Testament, say, by giving genealogies like Matthew and Luke are so careful to give. He doesn’t give specific prophesies about Jesus, such as the virgin birth, Bethlehem, called out of Egypt. And there are a number of prophesies that Matthew refers to and Luke refers to. None of those does Mark refer to in the beginning of his history. It is simply enough to say, “He is the Son of God.” He is the Son of God.

As Christians, we take for granted that Mark used the words ‘the good news’, but, interestingly, that phrase was also used of Roman emperors. Furthermore, the word in Greek is euaggelion, ‘of the gospel’:

This is an inscription from the Roman world. The date is 9 B.C. Okay? Before Christ. This is the inscription, “The Providence, which has ordered the whole of our life” – translated into English, obviously – “showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving it to Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men and by sending in him, as it were, a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create order everywhere. The birthday of the god Augustus is the beginning for the world of the euaggelion” – of the gospel – “that has come to men through him.”

How interesting. They used the word euaggelion on that occasion, in that inscription, to describe the arrival of Caesar Augustus. Caesar Augustus is – “by the Providence,” it says – the one who will bring to us the work of a benefactor, the work of a savior, make war cease, create order everywhere. It is the arrival of a god. The good news, then, is that Augustus Caesar has arrived. That actual inscription was dedicated to him, apparently, on his birthday. Then, as a technical term again to refer to the ascendancy of the triumph of an emperor.

So, the Jews and the pagans would both see that word as signifying the arrival of a new monarch, and that would signify the arrival of a new era. And the new era would be an era of order and peace and salvation and blessing.

Mark intended for his story to describe a King that was not of this realm and to ensure it was understood as such:

This is the story of the new King who has arrived, who is about to inaugurate His kingdom and bring a new era of salvation, blessing, peace, and order to the world. One historical writer says, “The parallel between ‘evangel’” – or the gospel – “in the imperial cult and the Bible is Caesar and Christ, the emperor on the throne and the despised rabbi on the cross confront each other. Both are gospel to men. They have much in common, but they belong to two different worlds.”

So, Mark begins his historical account of the life of Jesus with language that would make his Roman readers know that the new and most glorious King has come, and He sets Himself against all other kings, including Caesar. He is the theme of this history. And this is only the beginning of His story. And what is His name? Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus identifies His human name, Yeshua or Yehoshua in Hebrew – basically, Joshua – meaning Yahweh is salvation. Yehoshua – Yahweh is salvation. That’s His name. “Call Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21. His title – His name is Jesus, His title is Christ. That is not a name; that is not His last name. That’s a title. Royal title. The Anointed One. That’s what Messiah means. Christ and Messiah are the same thing. It means Anointed One. It’s a royal title. His human name is Jesus. His royal title is Messiah, the Anointed One. Simply King. And his lineage? He is the Son of God. One in nature with God, coeternal and coequal.

And thus does Mark introduce us to the beginning of the history of King Jesus. The beginning of the history of King Jesus, the Son of God. Not the Son of some other earthly monarch.

The next two verses refer to passages from the Old Testament. Just as earthly kings had family history, Mark wanted his audience to know that our Lord had been prophesied in Scripture:

No king ever arrived and said, “Hey, I’m the king, and I’m here.” The king always had a forerunner. The king always had an entourage. The king always had some coming before him to prepare the way and make the people ready, and then was appropriately introduced by someone who bore authenticity and authority to make that introduction.

So, Mark, consistent with the Gentile approach to how kings were announced, goes to the Old Testament for the only time in the beginning of his Gospel, not to find a prophecy about Jesus, but to find a prophecy about His herald, to give authenticity to His herald.

But there was more. Mark wanted to include the story of John the Baptist, who preached of His imminent ministry:

With all the Old Testament texts that connect to Jesus Christ, Mark uses prophecy not about the new King at all, but about His forerunner, the one who is to proclaim His arrival. This would be in the kind of official structure of what people in the Gentile world will be used to.

MacArthur says that the Gentile believers in Rome would have known Isaiah’s prophecy:

So, there is coming a messenger. That’s identified in verse 2, “I send My messenger.” And he further identifies the messenger as someone who will be a voice crying in the wilderness. This is from the ancient prophets. He’s quoting from the ancient prophets, and he labels this from Isaiah the prophet. Certainly Isaiah was well-known to even Gentile Christians because of his vast book, much of which was centered on the arrival of Messiah, the servant of Jehovah, as Isaiah identifies Him. So, he draws prophecies out of Isaiah.

By the way, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all use – all use these prophecies to label John the Baptist as the fulfillment. John the Baptist is the fulfillment of these prophecies, and all four Gospel writers indicate that. “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet” – or preferably “as it has been written.” The new King is not a new plan; the new King is not an afterthought. This is the plan that God was working out in ancient times. The plan is one culminating in the arrival of the new King, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The Gentile readers need to know that the one who announced His arrival is the one prophesied by the ancient prophets, and by the notable prophet Isaiah from the Old Testament. He is an official, divinely commissioned herald for the new King. And so, he’s the one being described in these prophecies.

To be precise, verse 2 is from Malachi and verse 3 is from Isaiah:

Verse 2 is actually Malachi 3:1; and verse 3 is Isaiah chapter 40, verse 3. This is not an uncommon thing to do, to refer to only one of the Old Testament prophets, the more prominent one, the more notable one, and tuck in another prophecy by another prophet, since it was all the Word of God.

These prophecies go together so perfectly, and both refer to the same person, so they may have been frequently used together. Malachi is the introductory one; Isaiah is the more important one. But both are general references. If you go back, they’re – and this is something you need to know that New Testament writers do. Sometimes they quote exactly from the Hebrew; sometimes they quote from the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament; sometimes they make sort of a general reference to a text, and sometimes it’s an interpretive reference. Because remember now, the New Testament writers are inspired by God. And so, when they interpret an Old Testament text, they interpret that in an inspired way.

So, they always give the true interpretation of the text. Sometimes you’d directly quote it; sometimes it’s an interpretive quote. Here you have some interpretive quotation, certainly in the case of Malachi 3:1.

Isaiah 40:3 is part of the First Reading for this particular Sunday:

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

MacArthur discusses Malachi 3:1:

Malachi 3:1 records, “Behold, I send My messenger” – and Malachi says – “before Me.” Here you have an interpretation of that, “Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way.” Obviously, You and Your refers to the coming King. But before the King comes, ahead of Him comes the messenger. So, this is a prophecy that there will be one who comes before the King comes, whose job will be to prepare His way.

Like all prophets, this is a messenger. All prophets are proclaimers. He’s a preacher. He will make a strong call for people to prepare for the arrival of the new King. Malachi 3:1 is a direct reference to this messenger, this herald of the coming new King.

MacArthur then looks at Isaiah 40:3. Today’s First Reading is Isaiah 40:1-11:

from Isaiah chapter 40, the opening, and then down in verses 9 and 10, Isaiah prophesied the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity. He prophesied they would come back to Israel; they would go through the wilderness, and God would lead them. And when they arrived, God would be with them, and He would ascend to His throne, and again He would rule over them.

And so, in the near intention of that prophecy, He was talking about the return from the Babylonian captivity and the ascendancy of God to His sovereign place over a reconstituted Israel. And that would require making ready the way of the Lord. God would lead them back from captivity, would make the path for them, make the road for them, and they would head back, and God would be with them. In the future sense, one would come who would make the road ready for the new King. Make the road ready for the new King. And this, of course, is here associated with the forerunner of Jesus, namely John the Baptist. There was to come one who would herald the new King’s arrival, call people to prepare for His glorious ascent to His throne and the establishment of his kingdom of salvation, and blessing, and peace.

In verse 4, Mark says that John the Baptist — ‘the Baptiser’ — was ‘in the wilderness’, proclaiming baptism as a form of repentance.

John the Baptist lived in the desert:

… he appears in the wilderness, in the desert. In fact, in John 3:23, it places Him about 25 to 30 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, along the Jordan River. And up and down that river he went for the duration of his ministry, preaching out in the desert, away from all the cities and all the towns and all the people. He was in that wilderness, basically, his whole life. According to Luke 1:80, he spent his life in the wilderness. He was a wilderness guy. He was a desert man.

When God’s people repented in the Old Testament they were in the wilderness. Many of us consider wilderness to mean a forest, but in Scripture, it means desert. The Jews of John’s time would have understood the significance:

William Lane writes – and I think it’s well stated – “The summons to be baptized in the Jordan means that Israel must once more come to the wilderness. As Israel long ago had been separated from Egypt by a pilgrimage through the waters of the Red Sea, the nation is exhorted again to exercise separation. The people are called to a second exodus in preparation for a new covenant with God.

“As the people heed John’s call and go out to him in the desert, far more is involved than contrition and confession. They return to a place of judgment, the wilderness, where the status of Israel as God’s beloved son must be reestablished in the exchange of pride for humility. The willingness to return to the wilderness signifies the acknowledgement of Israel’s history as one of disobedience and rebellion, and a desire to begin once more. Let’s go back to the wilderness, before we ever came into the land, and start all over again.”

With regard to baptism, the only time it featured in Jewish ceremonies was when a Gentile fully converted to that faith:

The Jews had ceremonial washings, no baptisms except for proselyte baptism.

Therefore, for John to call upon the Jews to be baptised was an unusual request, as that ceremony was only for Gentile converts. Gentiles were outside of the Covenant, so they had to be fully cleansed in order to be brought into it. The Jews considered Gentiles to be spiritually unclean. One can imagine the tension this must have caused Jews who listened to John’s message:

So, a Jew would be saying, by doing that kind of one-time symbolic baptism, “I’m no better than a Gentile. I am no better than a Gentile. I am no more ready to meet the new King, I am no more ready for God to ascend to His throne, I am no more ready for God to establish His kingdom and make me a part of it than a Gentile.” That is a huge admission, for the Jews had been trained pretty much to resent and hate the Gentiles and think of them as outside the covenant.

MacArthur discusses the importance of repentance, which involves a genuine turning away from sin:

He’s calling the Jews to declare themselves no better than Gentiles, to turn many of the hearts of the people toward righteousness, away from rebellion, as Luke 1 put it. And to mark that repentance, that deliberate metanoia which means a turning, a genuine turning. They would need to bring forth the fruit of repentance. Do you remember how John the Baptist said that? Matthew 3:8 records it; Luke 3:8 records it. Luke says, “Bring forth fruits fitting for repentance.” Prove it. The first step would be to be willing to undergo a proselyte baptism and view yourself as if you were no better than a Gentile. Radical, radical repentance. And this was the message that came from God to John, Luke 3:2, “The Word of the Lord came to him,” and this is what He said. This is not baptism in Jesus’ name. We know that because John the Baptist’s followers were later baptized by Paul in Jesus’ name, according to Acts 19.

John’s message worked. We might find that surprising, yet, as MacArthur explains, no one wanted to be left out of the Messiah’s kingdom to come, so they followed along (verse 5):

He was a judgment preacher – fierce judgment preacher. That’s what drove the people to want to deal with their sins. The fear that when the Messiah finally came, when the new King ascended to His throne and established His kingdom, they’d be on the outside looking in. And so, he was a judgment preacher. Judgment was coming. But while God was a God of judgment, He was also a God of grace, and He offered forgiveness of sins for those who repented.

Well, everybody practically wanted to be a part of the Messiah’s kingdom. They didn’t want to get left out. They knew their own heart’s sinfulness. So, according to verse 5, all the country of Judea was going out to him, all the people of Jerusalem. They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. This looks like a national revival.

Verse 6 describes John’s primitive appearance and way of life. This would have been according to Nazirite vows that some men took. Paul took Nazirite vows, but for him and most Jewish men, those were only temporary. Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist took lifelong Nazirite vows. In John’s case, this was prophesied. Luke 1:5-17 has the story of John’s conception and the angel’s prophecy of how he would live.

This post of mine has more information about Nazirite vows:

Luke 1:5-17 – Zachary, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Nazirites, incense, Aaron’s lineage, priesthood

See what the angel said to Zechariah, John’s father, in Luke 1:13:17. Abstinence was part of the Nazirite vow:

13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

John knew that he was merely the messenger for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He knew his role was to prepare people for His ministry among them.

He said that Jesus was ‘powerful’ and that he was unworthy of undoing his sandals (verse 7).

He also added that his baptism was of water but that the baptism that Christ would bring was one ‘of the Holy Spirit’ (verse 8).

MacArthur notes that John never pointed to himself, but to the Lord:

he points to Christ; he points to Church; he points to Christ. Never points to himself. John 3:30, “I must decrease, He must increase.” This is a model for any preacher. Don’t identify with the people, identify with the prophets. Don’t look like the people; look like the prophets. Maintain the dignity of that office handed down. And don’t point to yourself; point to Christ.

“After me the One” – literally definite article – “After me the One is coming who is mightier than I.” How mighty is He? He’s the Lord; He’s Yahweh; He’s Kurios; He’s God the Son; He’s the King – King Jesus. How far above me is He? Huh.

Here’s the negative. “He is so much mightier than I, that I’m not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.” You know what? That was the lowest possible job that any servant could have. That was it. That was the bottom. If you were the servant who untied your master’s sandals, you were the scum of the scum of the scum. Dirty feet.

Old quotes from Hebrew sources. “A Hebrew slave must not wash the feet of his master, nor put his shoes on him.” That’s beneath the dignity of a Hebrew slave. Another one, “All services which a slave does for his master, a pupil should do for his teacher, with the exception of undoing his shoes.”

John says, “I’m below the people who do that. I’m not even up to the level of those who would untie His shoes. That’s how low I am.”

Well, that’s the picture, but what’s the reality? Verse 8. Why am I so different? Why are we so infinitely separated? “Because I baptize you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

“All I can do is stick you in the water; He can transform you on the inside.” This refers to the soul-transforming work of salvation, being born of the water and the Spirit. This is not some Pentecostal second baptism; this is the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit of Titus 3. This is the new covenant: purification, cleansing, transformation, regeneration, new birth.

John says, “I can’t do that. Only God gives the Holy Spirit. So, the new King, He will give you the Holy Spirit.” With the Holy Spirit comes salvation, sanctification, service.

John MacArthur’s sermon adds more meaning to the Advent message of repentance and to John the Baptist’s ministry.

My last post about the Revd John MacArthur’s ministry and church was dated October 5, 2020.

Thousands of people attend his Grace Community Church services each Sunday.

There are three services each Sunday.

MacArthur has defied lockdown regulations in Los Angeles County since July.

By way of background, here is a report from The Federalist from September 11 (emphases mine):

Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff of the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction Thursday that prohibits Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church from “conducting, participating in, or attending any indoor worship services.” The ban also extends to services held outside “unless onerous restrictions are followed.”

Since the church first began meeting in-person and defying local lockdown orders in July, Los Angeles County officials have threatened fines, arrest, and even terminated the lease held between the church and the county for parking lot space claiming health and safety concerns.

A $1000 fine issued by Los Angeles County was also imposed on the church this week for signs asking congregants to refrain from entering if they were experiencing “an elevated temperature, a cough, or any flu-like symptoms.” According to the county, the signs were not placed at the proper entrances and exits and did not contain instructions asking people to “wash hands or use sanitizer, to wear face coverings and to maintain social distancing.”

Special counsel Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri expressed their disappointment in Thursday ruling, claiming that the court “ducked the issue” and failed “to apply the appropriate constitutional standard of review.” They also explained their belief that the church was held to a different standard than other activities during COVID-19 lockdowns.

“The court also did not properly consider the medical and scientific evidence that the current number of people with serious COVID-19 symptoms no longer justifies a shuttering of the churches. Nor do we believe that the court gave adequate consideration to the fact that churches have been treated as second-class citizens compared to the tens of thousands of protestors,” LiMandri said.

This opinion by the court, according to Ellis and LiMandri, shows that the church was unfairly targeted.

Church is essential, and no government agent has the runaway, unlimited power to force churches to close indefinitely. The County’s argument was basically ‘because we can,’ which is the very definition of tyranny,” Ellis said. “Without limiting government’s power in favor of freedom and protected rights, we have no liberty. We will fight for religious freedom, as our founders did when they wrote the First Amendment.”

“More than ever, California’s churches are essential,” LiMandri agreed.

Despite the court’s ruling, Pastor John MacArthur told Fox News’s Shannon Bream on Thursday night that the church would still be meeting.

“1/100th of 1 percent of Californians with a virus apparently wins over the U.S. Constitution and religious freedom for all? That is not what our founders said,” said MacArthur. “Nor is that what God says, who gave us our rights that our government—including the judicial branch—is supposed to protect. The scale should always tip in favor of liberty, especially for churches.”

The Thomas More Society also said that they will appeal it to “ultimately vindicate our clients’ constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion.”

The Federalist‘s article also included a tweet from Jenna Ellis:

On September 25, The Federalist reported:

In a previous order by Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff, the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction that was intended to prohibit MacArthur and Grace from “conducting, participating in, or attending any indoor worship services.”

“It’s tyranny to even suggest that a government action cannot be challenged and must be obeyed without question. This case goes to the heart of what our founders designed for the purpose of the legitimate government—not to be above the rule of law,” said Thomas More Society Special Counsel Jenna Ellis. “Pastor MacArthur is simply holding church, which is clearly his constitutionally protected right in this country.”

While the trial will not officially commence until 2021, the judge agreed to host a hearing in mid-November “to consider the scope of the challenge to the validity of the preliminary injunction order for purposes of the contempt trial.”

“This ruling prevents Los Angeles County’s attempted rush to judgment in its continued prosecution of Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church for courageously exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Special Counsel Charles LiMandri. “We are pleased that Judge Beckloff indicated he agreed with the major points that we made on behalf of Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church and we are very gratified that the judge’s ruling today reflects that he appreciates the importance of the constitutionally protected rights at issue in this case.”

MacArthur said:

We are holding church. The Lord Jesus requires us to meet together and we will continue to do that because we are commanded to and because it is our right.

Well said.

On October 22, the Los Angeles Times reported that three COVID-19 cases have been linked to Grace Community Church, which receives 7,000 worshippers each Sunday:

Grace Community Church in Sun Valley has seen three confirmed cases, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Public health officials are investigating the outbreak and said they will work closely with the church to help limit transmission of the coronavirus in the church, which has an estimated attendance of 7,000. The county did not provide any further details about whether the cases were confirmed among staff or worshipers. Attorneys for Grace Community Church did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under the county health officer’s order, places of worship must report to the county Public Health Department when at least three coronavirus cases are identified among staff or worshipers within a span of 14 days so the agency can determine whether there is an outbreak.

The conservative megachurch announced in late July that it would restart indoor services — despite a county public health order barring any house of worship from doing so. Thousands of people have attended services, with most not wearing face coverings as they sit side by side indoors, or close together outside under a tent, according to public health officials.

Pastor John MacArthur has repeatedly told the congregation that no one from the church has gotten sick with COVID-19 and claims the pandemic threat is overblown. The church does not screen congregants for symptoms before they enter or require them to follow any protocols, according to court records and interviews with members.

MacArthur has been increasingly skeptical of the pandemic, a viewpoint he has shared from the pulpit. He and his attorneys have argued that it is their constitutional right to hold church services and that meeting together in person is a crucial part of how Grace Community Church’s congregants exercise their religion.

MacArthur has been bucking the county regulations. Good for him.

On October 24, The Federalist reported that Jenna Ellis, one of the two lawyers representing MacArthur and Grace Community Church, said:

Three very mild positive tests among more than 7,000 people is hardly news. 0.0004% or 0.043% is not an ‘outbreak.’ The LA Times and others’ grossly misleading and fear-mongering headlines aim to mischaracterize Grace Community Church as irresponsible and a superspreader.

She added:

It has never been the Church’s position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season. Our position has been that LA County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% survival rate, especially when state-preferred businesses are open and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion.

The day before, Ellis retweeted this Bible verse from MacArthur’s The Master’s Seminary:

I could not agree more.

May our good Lord continue to guide John MacArthur and his congregation.

That’s Paul-ine (not as in the female name Pauline), reminiscent of the Apostle Paul.

By resisting California’s local and state government, the Revd John MacArthur is walking into St Paul’s territory.

When I last wrote about the travails of Pastor MacArthur’s Grace Community Church, he was still in battle with Los Angeles County. That was in mid-August.

His and his church’s fortunes have not improved since then.

Before going into Grace Community Church’s struggle in detail, an unfortunate situation has resulted from the coronavirus. This is universal and separate, going on throughout Western countries.

It might have happened by accident or by design, through lockdown.

However, the unchurched or the formerly-churched who wished to find comfort and succour in a church community because of a pandemic were unable to do so because of lockdown.

Some Christians often say, ‘Church is everywhere you look or what you make of it personally. If you don’t, it’s your own fault’.

Those from a Calvinist tradition strongly maintain that church is not a building. The Church of Scotland holds to that tenet. Their attitude is: ‘Lockdown? So what?’ Someone from the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) lambasted John MacArthur here a few weeks ago.

For the rest of us, however, that belief does not hold true. In fact, not being able to worship in person in community, particularly at a difficult time, can be deeply unsettling at a time when people feel the desire for a spiritual — and physical — connection more than ever.

RedState, much improved since the departure of Erick Erickson, posted an article by Kira Davis: ‘The Church Has Spectacularly Failed the COVID Test … and the Faithful’.

Ms Davis met up with a friend of hers in California. Her friend was clearly upset about not being able to go to church during lockdown. She said she thought perhaps she was having a crisis of faith.

Ms Davis diagnosed her friend’s problem differently (emphases mine below):

Listening to her in person made me realize a couple of things. For one, she wasn’t really expressing a loss of faith. She was expressing a loss of connection. Having suddenly been disconnected from all the things that kept her grounded and the community that regularly helped her explore her relationship with God, she was left floating without an anchor.

The second thing I realized is that people are suffering under lockdowns much more than we may think. My friend has a beautiful family and they’ve been able to continue working through COVID shutdowns. She has a lot to be thankful for and on the outside she might strike one as very adjusted. That is the veneer she — like many of us — has had to adopt in order to keep life as normal as possible for her children.

Davis rightly chose to put the blame where it properly lies — with our clergy. I don’t live in the United States, but even those of us in other Western countries have experienced limitations on our fellowship. In England, at least, we need to sign in to attend a religious service, wear face coverings, observe social distancing, bring our own liturgical printouts/Bibles, realise we mustn’t sing and remember to greet from a two-metre distance.

At least we can worship indoors.

In California, the state mandates outside worship, more on which later:

Church leadership has fooled itself into believing that YouTube services and drive-by food donations count as “serving” the community. Even as churches begin to accept limited permission from the state to meet, we have to make reservations and worship outside in order to enjoy the privilege of religious freedom.

Our world is currently burning around us. There are no answers to the current state of our national angst without the Church and yet the Church has voluntarily put on a muzzle. People are desperate for answers, even more desperate for connection. These are the two things we are best at.

Too right!

During normal times — the rest of our lives, bar 2020 — priests and pastors have been telling us that we must attend church for the state of our souls:

Every pastor will tell you at one point or another that we humans are born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts and we spend our entire lives searching to fill it.

Yep. Except when there’s a pandemic.

During this crisis, those same clergy — men and women– have scurried from sight, just when so many of us need them:

There are a lot of holey hearts out there right now. Space abhors a vacuum. Something will fill those empty spaces and the Church has been willingly sidelined. We no longer have community — our most powerful draw — to offer. What is left to fill the vacuum? Rage without resolution, bitterness without forgiveness, punishment without grace. Alcohol, drugs, loneliness, resentmentall of these things are filling those lost empty hearts out there without much challenge from the institutions God has appointed to lead and to serve.

With John MacArthur in mind, Davis then zeroes in on the current conflict between Church and State. She nails it perfectly:

Whatever their personal feelings about John MacArthur may be, California churches should be supporting his move to defy a state authority that has thwarted our human and constitutional right to assemble and worship. Every Sunday, we’ve heard our pastors proudly and loudly share stories of how Jesus was a revolutionary, a direct conduit of the counter culture of the Kingdom. We brag about this aspect of our God, even as we cower before state authorities who have no interest in keeping our tax-exempt sanctuaries thriving because God…the Church…is always and always has been direct competition to the gods of the state. We don’t even pay them taxes. We are worthless to them and it is beyond tragic how our pastoral leadership has, for the most part, confirmed as much.

She concludes:

The specter of losing our church properties to fines or penalties scares us more than our brethren (people like my friend) losing their faith and their communities. It is not lost on me that Peter obviously later redeemed himself by becoming one of the most influential Christians in human history. It is also not lost on me that the ultimate price Peter paid for his eventual obedience to the name of Jesus was to be crucified in an extraordinarily brutal fashion.

California church leaders aren’t even willing to incur a fine in the name of Jesus.

Nope.

Fortunately, at the age of 81, with a full life of ministry dating back to the late 1960s, John MacArthur has decided to don St Paul’s mantle.

No doubt, he and his godly wife Patricia have prayed together over this issue since July.

On September 16, MacArthur told Laura Ingraham of Fox News that he and his church were still under threat of fines or imprisonment. He said, ‘Bring it on’:

That day, RedState‘s Alex Parker compared him to Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry in The Enforcer: ‘Pastor John MacArthur Backs Down Not an Inch: If California Wants to Jail Him, “Bring It On”‘. Citations follow below.

It’s hard not to cheer along with the congregation at this announcement of his from August 9, because the only legitimate way to assemble en masse these days is through ‘peaceful protest’:

Returning to his interview with Laura Ingraham, he expressed his deep admiration for Paul the Apostle:

We received a letter with a threat that we could be fined or I could go to jail for a maximum of six months. Of course, my biblical hero apart from the Lord Jesus Christ is the apostle Paul, and when he went into a town, he didn’t ask what the hotel was like, he asked what the jail was like because he knew that’s where he was gonna spend his time. So I don’t mind being a little apostolic if they want to tuck me in a jail.

He also reminded Ingraham and her audience of the COVID-19 figures and the absurdity of prohibiting state-wide public worship:

We believe that the governor, the county, the city, and the health department are going against the Constitution,” MacArthur said in the Tuesday night appearance on Fox News. “And just to remove one obvious question, the rate of COVID in California is 1/100 of 1%. So 1/100 of 1% of 40 million people have COVID and that eliminates freedom to worship from the entire state.

He told Ingraham that President Trump is also on his side. Excellent news, even if MacArthur is self-avowedly apolitical:

I am so thankful that President Trump has told me personally that he supports the church as essential and the churches need to stay open. So, with the Constitution on our side and the president’s backing, we’re open.

A few days earlier, on Sunday, September 13, MacArthur appeared at the pulpit to resounding, if not deafening, applause and cheers. If you had heard only the audio, you would have thought that President Trump were standing there.

MacArthur had a long list of demands from the State of California to read to his congregation:

He thanked them and said, by way of compliment:

You people are out of control. Thank you, thank you.

The requirements follow.

Keep in mind that thousands of worshippers attend Grace Community Church each Sunday:

– No indoor meetings;

– Registration of every person on church property;

– Screening and temperature checks upon entry;

– Six feet of social distancing mandated, including in the car park and in restrooms;

– Every other parking space must be left vacant;

– Everyone must be masked;

– Restrooms must have monitors;

– Floors must have tape markings;

– Restrooms to be used during the service, rather than afterwards to prevent queues;

– Hymnbooks, Holy Communion and Bibles are forbidden;

– No one can shake hands;

– Mandatory seat covers must be in place;

– Services must be shortened (congregation laughs);

– Worship must take place in a tent with a maximum of 350 people;

Anyone who comes in contact with someone outside of their family afterwards for more than 15 minutes must self-quarantine for two weeks.

A lot of those sound like what we have in England.

MacArthur concluded:

Obviously, this is not constitutional but, more importantly, it goes against the will of the Lord of the Church.

On Thursday, September 24, Ryan Helfenbein of the Falkirk Center interiewed John MacArthur at length (26 minutes). This is the second of a two-part series on COVID-19 and the Church:

Ryan Hefelbein asks him about his critics decrying his reopening of Grace Community Church.

MacArthur says that Scripture says that the members of the Church are called out to meet together. There is no such thing as an ungathered church.

The notion that the church is scattered is an un-scriptural belief:

That is a foolish statement to make.

MacArthur and his legal counsel had appeared in court that day — September 24 — and presented the enduring infinitesimally low statistic of contracting, let alone dying from, coronavirus, especially between the ages of 30 and 60:

On the basis of statistics alone, this [lockdown] is completely arbitrary.

He says that, even though he is cautious, he believes that whether we live or die depends upon the:

purposes of God.

MacArthur says that his mission in life is to make sure that as many people as possible hear the word of God.

He said that there was only one person, a physician, who had COVID-19. The doctor recovered.

As such, word got around the congregation. MacArthur said that many wondered if the alarm surrounding the pandemic was justified. Through nothing of his own doing, people began to return to church. That would have been in July. Prior to that, he and his assistants had been doing online worship broadcasts in several different languages.

He said:

The Church should never close its doors.

He spoke about the irony of our clergy lauding the heroes of the Reformation (Martin Luther, John Knox), yet they will never run that risk of being in danger — especially surrounding a virus. He pulled a face, disapprovingly.

He took exception to the vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris comparing COVID-19 to the Second World War:

Last I knew, no one was bombing LA.

Nice one!

MacArthur said that more and more people have been attending his church’s services every week. That’s probably because there is nowhere else for them to worship normally.

He dismissed ‘conspiracy theorists’ but posited an ongoing ‘conspiracy’ in California and elsewhere in the West — pre-COVID — undoing the tenets of the Gospel as expressed in the Book of Romans:

This culture has done a massive work on destroying the law of God in the heart.

He said that the only remaining bulwark is the Church, but, that, too, has been restrained, not only this year but over the past few decades:

What the hell is going to keep this culture from going to Hell at warp speed?

He said that the only solution is to:

keep preaching, living godly lives, confronting these things

Ryan Helfenbein asked if the coronavirus had changed him.

He replied that, no, it hadn’t. The word of God and his ministry had not changed. Yet, the culture has certainly changed.

Incredibly, he ventured into politics, which is somewhat of an unknown frontier for him, because in past sermons he says he was not interested in the subject. Yet, today, he says that the parties have divided along moral lines (19 minutes in):

For a Christian, a real Christian, I do not believe they can vote Democratic …

Not only do Christians have to uphold righteousness, they must take the side of those that uphold religious righteousness … God wants you to take the stand for righteousness’s sake …

He reiterated not to vote for a platform — the Democrats’ — which goes against God’s will as expressed in the Bible:

Certainly not to vote for that, otherwise you have complicityMurder and perversion is not an option for a Christian on any level. I think it’s come down to that.

He says that the Republican platform — not necessarily the personal lives of their candidates — is on the side of biblical morality.

True to form, MacArthur has a can of Fresca by his side on the desk. He loves Fresca. So did my late maternal grandmother.

Fresca has a weird taste, but if you grew up with it, as I did, it brings back fond memories.

Returning to a serious note, MacArthur reminds us that Jesus Christ is King of Kings and the Ruler of the world. MacArthur warns us about the different forms of wrath that can be wrought against a culture.

In Romans 1:24-26 and 28, he says, that God will deliver persistent sinners unto their own devices: serious sin, including sexual immorality. Essentially, God gave them over to a ‘reprobate mind’ i.e, insanity.

He believes that, by and large, we are now ‘in a reprobate mind’ — not all of us, but too many — and that God has unleashed judgement. However, MacArthur says the judgement is temporary, provided that we, as a people, repent.

MacArthur ended by saying:

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

Part 1 of the interview is here.

This week, I have been writing about the Revd John MacArthur‘s — and Grace Community Church‘s — battle with Los Angeles County over holding indoor church services during the coronavirus restrictions.

On Wednesday, August 19, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors asked the county court to hold both MacArthur and his church in contempt of court for having held indoor worship on Sunday, August 16. The Thomas More Society issued a press release that day stating (emphases in bold mine):

Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, are the targets of a County of Los Angeles request to be held in contempt of court. Thomas More Society attorneys are representing the internationally followed preacher and his church and defending their religious freedoms against the county’s unconstitutional violation of the right to worship together.

Jenna Ellis, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society, responded to the attack by the county:

The LA County Board of Supervisors has decided to continue their unconstitutional attack against Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church. They are now asking the court to hold the church in contempt for simply being open for worship last Sunday. Pastor MacArthur is standing firm that church is essential and has no plans to yield to this tyrannical board, which is clearly defying the constitution’s mandate to protect religious liberty.”

MacArthur and Grace Community Church are suing the county – and the state of California – for attempting to shut down their worship under COVID-related orders that violate the state’s constitution. The lawsuit was filed after MacArthur received a cease and desist letter prohibiting indoor worship and threatening him with fines and imprisonment should Grace Community continue to worship in their church building.

After a California Superior Court judge denied the county’s request for a temporary restraining order against MacArthur and his congregation, the church held weekend worship services. Following that, the County of Los Angeles asked the court to hold the pastor and church in contempt.

The Revd Dale Matson, an Anglican priest serving the Diocese of San Joaquin in California, sent me a positive update from the Thomas More Society, which is representing Grace Community Church. I am most grateful to him for sending me the news during a time when I have been busy offline.

The Thomas More Society’s press release dated Thursday, August 20, reads in part:

The Los Angeles County Superior Court announced on August 20, 2020, that there is no court order prohibiting Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church from holding indoor worship services. The renowned minister and his Sun Valley, California, congregation are being targeted by the County of Los Angeles, which has made repeated attempts to shut down the non-denominational, evangelical megachurch. Thomas More Society Special Counsel Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri are representing the church, defending the religious freedom of the pastor and congregants against the county’s unconstitutional violation of the right to worship together.

Ellis responded to the judicial finding:

We are pleased with the outcome today. Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff correctly found there is no court order prohibiting Grace Community Church from holding indoor services. LA County continues to harass and target Pastor MacArthur. Having failed to get a court order to shut down the church they have sought three times, theyre going to try again by hauling us back into court. Ironically, LA County said in its application for contempt that, Grace Church cannot thumb its nose at the court when decisions dont go its way, yet thats precisely what LA County is now doing themselves. We will simply continue to defend our clients constitutionally protected rights because church is essential.

What unprofessional, if not vulgar, language for the county to use, especially with regard to a church.

That aside, this is excellent news not only for John MacArthur, his church and the congregation but possibly also for other churches in Los Angeles County, if not California as a whole.

Well done to Jenna Ellis, Charles LiMandri and Judge Beckloff.

I share Fr Dale’s sentiments regarding this ongoing legal battle:

I think a lot of churches will be looking to see the results. God bless this pastor and church.

I hope that the clergy and congregation of Grace Community Church enjoy a lovely Sunday together in air-conditioned comfort.

John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church is at loggerheads with Los Angeles County.

They are still holding indoor church services, despite curtailment of indoor worship during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yesterday’s post looked at the legal background and how MacArthur’s church decided to resume indoor worship.

Today’s will excerpt the church’s statement of July 24, explaining how it complies with Romans 13:1-7 and similar verses on obeying civil authority.

The statement is entitled ‘A Biblical Case for the Church’s Duty to Remain Open’ and ‘Christ, not Caesar, Is Head of the Church’.

Emphases mine below.

The statement begins by saying that Christ is the head of the Church and:

As His people, we are subject to His will and commands as revealed in Scripture. Therefore we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gatherings. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.

The statement explains why this is not in violation of Scripture’s commands to obey civil authorities:

Some will think such a firm statement is inexorably in conflict with the command to be subject to governing authorities laid out in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. Scripture does mandate careful, conscientious obedience to all governing authority, including kings, governors, employers, and their agents (in Peter’s words, “not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable” [1 Peter 2:18]). Insofar as government authorities do not attempt to assert ecclesiastical authority or issue orders that forbid our obedience to God’s law, their authority is to be obeyed whether we agree with their rulings or not. In other words, Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 still bind the consciences of individual Christians. We are to obey our civil authorities as powers that God Himself has ordained.

However, while civil government is invested with divine authority to rule the state, neither of those texts (nor any other) grants civic rulers jurisdiction over the church. God has established three institutions within human society: the family, the state, and the church. Each institution has a sphere of authority with jurisdictional limits that must be respected. A father’s authority is limited to his own family. Church leaders’ authority (which is delegated to them by Christ) is limited to church matters. And government is specifically tasked with the oversight and protection of civic peace and well-being within the boundaries of a nation or community. God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church. The biblical framework limits the authority of each institution to its specific jurisdiction. The church does not have the right to meddle in the affairs of individual families and ignore parental authority. Parents do not have authority to manage civil matters while circumventing government officials. And similarly, government officials have no right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters in a way that undermines or disregards the God-given authority of pastors and elders.

When any one of the three institutions exceeds the bounds of its jurisdiction it is the duty of the other institutions to curtail that overreach. Therefore, when any government official issues orders regulating worship (such as bans on singing, caps on attendance, or prohibitions against gatherings and services), he steps outside the legitimate bounds of his God-ordained authority as a civic official and arrogates to himself authority that God expressly grants only to the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign over His Kingdom, which is the church. His rule is mediated to local churches through those pastors and elders who teach His Word (Matthew 16:18–19; 2 Timothy 3:16–4:2).

Therefore, in response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services.

Later in the statement, we read:

In short, as the church, we do not need the state’s permission to serve and worship our Lord as He has commanded. The church is Christ’s precious bride (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:23–27). She belongs to Him alone. She exists by His will and serves under His authority. He will tolerate no assault on her purity and no infringement of His headship over her. All of that was established when Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).

Christ’s own authority is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And [God the Father has] put all things in subjection under [Christ’s] feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:21–23).

Accordingly, the honor that we rightly owe our earthly governors and magistrates (Romans 13:7) does not include compliance when such officials attempt to subvert sound doctrine, corrupt biblical morality, exercise ecclesiastical authority, or supplant Christ as head of the church in any other way.

The biblical order is clear: Christ is Lord over Caesar, not vice versa. Christ, not Caesar, is head of the church. Conversely, the church does not in any sense rule the state. Again, these are distinct kingdoms, and Christ is sovereign over both. Neither church nor state has any higher authority than that of Christ Himself, who declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

My post on Romans 13:1-7 has several quotations from one of MacArthur’s sermons on said verses which would seem to contradict the church’s statement. He gave the sermons in 1985.

It says:

… how you behave under the authorities in your country, your nation, your city, whatever it is, will demonstrate your faith, the legitimacy of your faith, to that society. And so we are to submit then to the king, to the governor, to anyone who is over us in authority.

Also:

It was not consequential whether the Roman emperor was kind or good, whether he was a persecutor of Christians, or a lover of Christians. It was not consequential whether he was elected by the people, whether he was appointed by the senate, or whether he took over in a military coup. It was not consequential worker the assertion of imperial authority by Caesar was just or unjust, whether he was wicked or whether he was basically good. None of that was consequential.

It was simply and only that government, as it exists in any situation, is for the purpose of God in that situation. And resistance and rebellion against that government is resistance and rebellion against God. Now again I say, unless it is obvious that the government has overstepped its bounds and is forcing you to do that which is contrary and counter to all that Scripture indicates. God operates in the maintenance of government. We obey …

So government is divinely decreed, and to resist it is to resist God. Now I want to take you to a third thought as we wrap up. Those who resist will be punished. Look at verse 2, again. “They that resist shall receive to themselves judgment.” If you resist the government, you’re going to be punished. That’s the way it is. The word is krima. It’s a word that means judgment.

However, his sermon also has this:

Even when government and the Word of God conflict, we should not disobey overtly until we have done all we can to try to resolve the conflict peacefully. Did you get that? To try to resolve the conflict peacefully.

Well, the church is definitely doing that by going through the courts.

Back to the statement, which briefly acknowledges the Constitution but is based on a biblical defence of the church’s actions:

History is full of painful reminders that government power is easily and frequently abused for evil purposes. Politicians may manipulate statistics and the media can cover up or camouflage inconvenient truths. So a discerning church cannot passively or automatically comply if the government orders a shutdown of congregational meetings—even if the reason given is a concern for public health and safety.

The statement ends as follows:

As government policy moves further away from biblical principles, and as legal and political pressures against the church intensify, we must recognize that the Lord may be using these pressures as means of purging to reveal the true church. Succumbing to governmental overreach may cause churches to remain closed indefinitely. How can the true church of Jesus Christ distinguish herself in such a hostile climate? There is only one way: bold allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even where governments seem sympathetic to the church, Christian leaders have often needed to push back against aggressive state officials. In Calvin’s Geneva, for example, church officials at times needed to fend off attempts by the city council to govern aspects of worship, church polity, and church discipline. The Church of England has never fully reformed, precisely because the British Crown and Parliament have always meddled in church affairs. In 1662, the Puritans were ejected from their pulpits because they refused to bow to government mandates regarding use of the Book of Common Prayer, the wearing of vestments, and other ceremonial aspects of state-regulated worship. The British Monarch still claims to be the supreme governor and titular head of the Anglican Church.

But again: Christ is the one true head of His church, and we intend to honor that vital truth in all our gatherings. For that preeminent reason, we cannot accept and will not bow to the intrusive restrictions government officials now want to impose on our congregation. We offer this response without rancor, and not out of hearts that are combative or rebellious (1 Timothy 2:1–8; 1 Peter 2:13–17), but with a sobering awareness that we must answer to the Lord Jesus for the stewardship He has given to us as shepherds of His precious flock.

To government officials, we respectfully say with the apostles, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge” (Acts 4:19). And our unhesitating reply to that question is the same as the apostles’: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Our prayer is that every faithful congregation will stand with us in obedience to our Lord as Christians have done through the centuries.

No doubt the church’s prominent legal counsel will be able to put that into more secular language in court.

The church has a press release issued this month which presents the lawyer’s arguments. Excerpts follow:

The Thomas More Society announces that nationally renowned attorneys Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri will represent Pastor John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, California as Special Counsel …

the State of California is using COVID-19 as a pretext to attempt to force churches to close indefinitely. This illegitimate, over-broad, and unconstitutional order to indefinitely cease assembling, and exercising their religion and sincerely held religious beliefs, forced Grace Community Church to defy the order and continue exercising their rights, seeking shelter in the guaranteed religious freedom protections of the United States and California constitutions. By unanimous vote of the Elder Board, led by Pastor MacArthur, Grace Community Church issued a statement July 24, 2020 explaining their decision.

That is the statement I have cited above.

The press release also has statements from Ms Ellis and Mr LiMandri:

The City of Los Angeles through a cease and desist letter has threatened Grace Community Church and Pastor MacArthur specifically with a daily fine of $1000 or arrest.

“Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church are not disobeying the Constitution; it is California’s Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti that are defying their constitutional obligation to protect religious freedom and church assembly,” said Ellis. “Our American system of government specifically recognizes that our individual, fundamental right to free exercise of religion and freedom of assembly is a pre-political, God-given, inalienable right. That right is not given by the government or the Constitution, but rather, government is mandated by the Constitution to preserve and protect it for the church. Grace Community Church has every right to assemble without impossible and unreasonable infringement from the state, and the state has absolutely no power to impose the restrictions it is demanding. Church is essential, and the government has no power to arbitrate whether religious organizations are essential. This is not about health and safety, it is about targeting churches.”

LiMandri said, “It is unconstitutional for Governor Newsom and the State of California to discriminate against churches by treating them less favorably than other organizations and activities that are not protected by the First Amendment. Pastor MacArthur and his church, as well as all churches, are entitled to practice their religion without government interference. This is especially the case when the government has given free rein to protestors, and is not similarly restricting marijuana dispensaries, large retail outlets and factories, and abortion providers. The government orders are also unconstitutional because there is no compelling need for the onerous restrictions on the churches at this time. The hospitals are not overwhelmed and the percentage death rate from COVID-19 is now extremely small. It is time for Governor Newsom and Mayor Garcetti to recognize what President Trump has already proclaimed: Churches are providing an ‘essential’ service to the people. Therefore, they must be allowed to serve the people in the manner in which God has called them.”

I can hardly wait to see how this turns out come September 4, the date of the hearing.

I certainly hope that Grace Community Church wins this battle.

In late July 2020, the Revd John MacArthur resumed weekly services at his Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California.

The church is located in Los Angeles County.

At first, few people came, because California is still under lockdown.

As the weeks passed, more and more people began attending Sunday services.

A full hearing about the church’s indoor services will take place on September 4.

At the moment, Los Angeles County could fine the church and have prison sentences imposed. The Washington Times reports:

The county issued a cease-and-desist order July 29 warning that the church would be subject to fines up to $1,000 and 90 days in prison for each indoor service.

In Los Angeles County, all religious services must be held outdoors, with masks and social distancing:

Under the county order, churches may conduct outdoor religious services, and participants “must wear cloth face coverings and maintain six feet of distance from each other unless they live in the same household.”

Grace Community Church objects to the lax attitude of Governor Gavin Newsom towards the summer protests, a stark contrast to his stance on indoor church services:

The Supreme Court has ruled twice in favor of state authority to issue emergency orders in lawsuits by churches challenging coronavirus health restrictions, but the Grace lawsuit argued that California Gov. Gavin Newsom had discriminated against churches with his lax enforcement of public-health mandates on protests.

With regard to the congregation not wearing masks at the service on Sunday, August 16, MacArthur offered this explanation:

“They were going to be asking us to do two things, social distance and wear masks,” said Mr. MacArthur. “We agreed, [saying] look, we’ll comply for a few weeks. They asked that for three weeks. We’re not wanting to be defiant. We will do what is reasonable. That was not enough for the city. They went to the appellate court Saturday late, and had that order removed.”

The California Court of Appeal issued a stay of the judge’s order, ruling that the dangers of COVID-19 outweigh the right to hold services at the popular church, where Sunday attendance has in pre-pandemic years topped 8,000.

Grace Community Church has hired a lawyer from the Thomas More Society, which handles religious freedom lawsuits.

Jenna Ellis is representing Grace. She is also a Senior Legal Adviser to President Trump’s campaign team and one of his personal lawyers.

Charles LiMandri is also representing the church.

PJ Media has more on both lawyers:

MacArthur and his church have hired Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri. Ellis is the senior legal adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign, private counsel to President Donald Trump, and served on his legal team for the impeachment trial. She also serves as a senior fellow at the Falkirk Center for Faith & Liberty and is the author of The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution. LiMandri began the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund in 2012 and has litigated high-profile cases in California for decades, including the ACLU’s effort to remove the Mount Soledad Cross and San Diego’s effort to force firefighters to participate in a gay pride parade against their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Breitbart quoted the judge who found in favour of the church on Friday (the stay came on Saturday):

On Friday, Judge James Chalfant of the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, upheld the right of MacArthur and the church to remain open and hold indoor worship.

Attorney Paul Jonna of the firm LiMandri & Jonna LLP, which litigates civil rights issues, tweeted some quotes from Chalfant’s ruling against Los Angeles County, which apparently argued that churches are being treated no differently than other “businesses.”

“The Governor can’t just issue policies without a rational basis to do so,” the judge said. “To my knowledge he never has developed a rational basis to distinguish between businesses. This is all sort of shooting from the hip, which is understandable at the beginning of an emergency and less understandable as time goes on.”

Chalfant continued that “although the moving paper purports to treat churches the same as other businesses, that is constitutionally wrong.”

“They’re entitled to heightened protection, not to be treated like a hair salon,” he said, adding that he agreed that Newsom and Los Angeles County “have not treated churches differently than any other business, and they have to. They absolutely have to.”

The PJ Media article summarises how Grace Community Church got in the crosshairs of the state and the county:

After Newsom ordered churches to shut on July 13, Grace Community Church released a statement on July 24 explaining that Grace Community Church would remain open. “Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He is also King of kings—sovereign over every earthly authority (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Grace Community Church has always stood immovably on those biblical principles,” the church said. “Therefore we cannot and will not acquiesce to a government-imposed moratorium on our weekly congregational worship or other regular corporate gathers. Compliance would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”

On July 29, the City of Los Angeles sent a cease-and-desist letter, threatening Grace Community Church and MacArthur with a daily fine of $1,000 or arrest. The letter gave him one day to respond. On Sunday, August 2, health officials came to the church, asking to inspect the premises. The church declined to let them in without a warrant and told them to speak with the church’s counsel. At that, they left.

The statement is on the church’s website. I will go into it in more detail tomorrow.

For now, here is the addendum, added on August 6. It gives the history of this year’s lockdown and the church’s initial compliance (emphases mine below):

The elders of Grace Church considered and independently consented to the original government order, not because we believed the state has a right to tell churches when, whether, or how to worship. To be clear, we believe that the original orders were just as much an illegitimate intrusion of state authority into ecclesiastical matters as we believe it is now. However, because we could not possibly have known the true severity of the virus, and because we care about people as our Lord did, we believe guarding public health against serious contagions is a rightful function of Christians as well as civil government. Therefore, we voluntarily followed the initial recommendations of our government. It is, of course, legitimate for Christians to abstain from the assembly of saints temporarily in the face of illness or an imminent threat to public health.

When the devastating lockdown began, it was supposed to be a short-term stopgap measure, with the goal to “flatten the curve”—meaning they wanted to slow the rate of infection to ensure that hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. And there were horrific projections of death. In light of those factors, our pastors supported the measures by observing the guidelines that were issued for churches.

But we did not yield our spiritual authority to the secular government. We said from the very start that our voluntary compliance was subject to change if the restrictions dragged on beyond the stated goal, or politicians unduly intruded into church affairs, or if health officials added restrictions that would attempt to undermine the church’s mission. We made every decision with our own burden of responsibility in mind. We simply took the early opportunity to support the concerns of health officials and accommodate the same concerns among our church members, out of a desire to act in an abundance of care and reasonableness (Philippians 4:5).

But we are now more than twenty weeks into the unrelieved restrictions. It is apparent that those original projections of death were wrong and the virus is nowhere near as dangerous as originally feared. Still, roughly forty percent of the year has passed with our church essentially unable to gather in a normal way. Pastors’ ability to shepherd their flocks has been severely curtailed. The unity and influence of the church has been threatened. Opportunities for believers to serve and minister to one another have been missed. And the suffering of Christians who are troubled, fearful, distressed, infirm, or otherwise in urgent need of fellowship and encouragement has been magnified beyond anything that could reasonably be considered just or necessary. Major public events that were planned for 2021 are already being canceled, signaling that officials are preparing to keep restrictions in place into next year and beyond. That forces churches to choose between the clear command of our Lord and the government officials. Therefore, following the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, we gladly choose to obey Him.

Tomorrow’s post will look at the church’s statement and how it complies with Romans 13:1-7.

Since the end of July 2020, the Revd John MacArthur has resumed holding indoor services at Grace Community Church in the face of a ban on indoor worship by the State of California.

I will have more on how the legal battle unfolded between July and the present day.

For now, MacArthur decided to continue with indoor services on Sunday, August 16:

The Daily Wire reported (emphases mine):

Grace Community Church and its senior pastor John MacArthur continued indoor services Sunday even after the California Court of Appeal struck down a lower court ruling that would have allowed the church to gather indoors with masks and social distancing.

As The Daily Wire reported, a Los Angeles County judge denied the county’s request Friday for a temporary restraining order against Grace Community Church and MacArthur after they did not comply with Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to shutter their house of worship because of the coronavirus. The church nevertheless agreed to abide by mask and social distancing protocols at least until the full hearing in September.

According to a Saturday night press release from the Los Angeles County COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center, “The California Court of Appeal today set aside a lower court order that would have allowed indoor services to take place at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley. The Court of Appeal’s decision temporarily upholds the County’s Health Officer Orders prohibiting indoor worship services in order to protect congregants and the community as a whole from transmission of the highly contagious and potentially fatal COVID-19 virus.”

This is what happened at Grace Community Church on Sunday morning:

“We’re having church,” MacArthur told his cheering congregation on Sunday morning. Explaining that he is unsure exactly what the city intends to do, he said that the church is not trying to be rebellious, but rather simply trying to do what they believe God has commanded them.

He continued:

We’re meeting because our Lord has commanded us to come together and to worship him. There was a court order that granted this church, and this church alone, the right to meet indoors. And the powers of the city were not happy about that. They were going to be asking us to do two things: social distance and wear masks. That was until yesterday, when the city — we agreed, look, we’ll comply for a few weeks, they asked that for three weeks. We’re not wanting to be defiant. We will do what is reasonable. That was not enough for the city, so they went to the Appellate Court at the last minute on Saturday late and had that order removed.

So the good news is, you’re here, you’re not distancing, and you’re not wearing masks. And it’s also good news that you’re not outside because it’s very hot out there. So the Lord knew that we needed to be inside and unmasked. So he did us that gracious favor. They don’t want us to meet, that’s obvious. They’re not willing to work with us. They just want to shut us down. But we’re here to bring honor to the Lord. They’re not our enemy, we understand that. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders, for their salvation. We need to be faithful to do that.

This is a large congregation, in the thousands. Those people will attend nearly every Sunday. Grace Community Church also has Spanish services, so it is a broad community of Christians choosing to worship at one of three services every Sunday.

Interestingly, I wrote about Romans 13:1-7 only a week ago. John MacArthur has strong thoughts on respecting civil authorities, which I cited in my post. Therefore, for him to go against what he has been preaching for decades is highly significant.

However, he sees this particular battle as a constitutional issue regarding freedom of worship.

More to follow tomorrow.

On June 24, 2020, John MacArthur posted a sermon, ‘Act Like Men’, with the key phrase from the Bible, ‘be strong and courageous’:

It is one hour and six minutes long and, as you would expect, every minute is well spent watching and listening.

Without saying it explicitly, MacArthur disparages the welfare state which has caused millions of men to relinquish their family responsibilities.

Those of us who have had responsible fathers will greatly appreciate what the founder of Grace To You and Master’s Seminary has to say to men in the modern world.

In order to place this into context, you might wish to read my post from June 29, ‘John MacArthur videos about the protests’, which offers excellent advice about what to do in our journey as Christians.

Excerpts from the ‘Act Like Men’ transcript follow, emphases mine.

MacArthur begins by saying that, in the wake of the protests across the United States and the rest of Western world, he called a meeting of men from his congregation and Master’s Seminary — particularly men of colour — to enlighten him further. He asked them to give him five working points for a Christian agenda moving forward:

These are young Black men that gave up a chunk of their time to sit with me and talk through some of these issues. Thanks to Carl Hargrove for kind of leading that discussion which was powerfully fruitful for me

So I said to these men after about two hours plus of talking together, and it was a very gracious and loving communication. I said, “So give me five things that we need to do as believers in Jesus Christ to reach across racial lines and bring the gospel to these people and have it received.” So I said, “You get five shots, and I’ll have this as the introduction to my sermon.” So here we go. This is what they said to me.

Number One: “Tell people that racism is a sin.” Racism is a sin, isn’t it. Any kind of hate is a sin, and racism is an utterly irrational hate. Racism is what causes genocide, what caused the Holocaust, what causes ethnic battles all across the planet as long as there’s been human history. But then men in their natural state hate God, and the Bible says they hate each other. The first crime was a murder based upon anger, based upon hate, when Cain killed his brother.

Any kind of hate is a sin. Any kind of racial hate is an irrational expanded form of hate coming from any human heart; it is reflective of the fallenness of that heart. And we also know in our society that there are some people who have received more of that than others. We need to make it very clear that to hate anyone on any basis or any group of people is a sin against God of monumental proportions.

Secondly: “We need to show compassion, compassion to those who’ve experienced this.” And lots of people have. We need to open our hearts and weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Jesus looked at the multitudes and had compassion. Even when He went to the grave of Lazarus, He wept; and He knew He was going to raise him from the dead, and He still wept. That’s the heart of Jesus.

Life is hard, and it has been especially hard for some groups of people; and that certainly speaks to the issue of the history of Black people in America. For those of us who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, they don’t want to hear the statistics, but they would love to know you have compassion for them.

Thirdly, we talked about the fact that, “We need to listen.” And that’s pretty much a basic principle, isn’t it: slow to speak and quick to hear. We may have all the theological answers, we may have all the statistical answers, but can we keep our mouths closed long enough to hear the heart of someone else? Engaging someone with the gospel is so much more effective if that comes in the context of having heard their heart.

Number Four they said: “Use these days as an opportunity to show the love of Christ.” This was really rich advice for me. Say racism is a sin, and it is. Any kind of hate coming from anybody in any direction and you can see that it is tearing this culture to shreds.

Show compassion, listen, and use these opportunities as an occasion to show love. That’s four; got one more. And the final one was this: “The only thing that’s going to break the cycle of our problems in this country is godly fathers. Help us develop godly fathers.” Now you might say that was a providence of God that it happened the week of Father’s Day. Sure set me up for this morning because I want to talk about fathers.

Here are the current American statistics on fatherhood. These involve the main demographics, by the way. The statistics are probably similar, proportionally, throughout the Western world. Please read these and note them well:

Here’s the current reality. Twenty-five million children in our country live without a biological father – one out of three. Grades 1 to 12, forty percent of children live without a biological father in the home. Over fifty percent currently of children are born outside marriage. Eighty-five percent of prisoners grew up in a fatherless home. Eighty-five percent of children with behavioral disorders came from fatherless homes. Ninety percent of youth who run away and become homeless come from fatherless homes. Children from fatherless homes are three hundred percent more likely to deal drugs and carry weapons.

This is a holocaust. And it’s not limited to any group of ethnic people, it is a national holocaust. The statistics I gave you are across the board for our country. Just that one statistic, eighty-five percent of prisoners grew up in a fatherless home, is a terrifying reality.

I used to hear when I was a kid that if you had a good mother you could have any ol’ schtick for a dad. That’s not true. I used to hear when I was a kid preachers say, “You men, it’s important how you live, you Christian men, because your children will get their view of God from you.” That’s ridiculous. They don’t get their view of God from me, they get their view of God from the Bible. That’s an insult to God. What they do get from me is their view of a man. Children will get their view of a man and what a man is from the father.

There, I must disagree, at least in part. I have posted a few entries on fathers and clergy who have not fulfilled their respective responsibilities, either in the family or in the Church:

Here’s what happens when Dad doesn’t attend church

Consistent churchgoing habits important for children

The Methodist Church advocates man-centredness — survey (2010)

Which is more deplorable, the gun culture or the fatherless culture?

What kind of father doesn’t protect his family? (concerns bishops)

But I digress.

Back to John MacArthur:

Sexual immorality, relentless assault of feminism, overexposure to perversion, complete collapse of homes has just produced generations of bad fathers. And the reality is nothing is more devastating to a society than that, nothing. And on the other hand, the only hope for stability and the only hope for sanity, the only hope for peace in a society is masculine, virtuous men.

Some will find that hard to absorb. However, think of the rise of the welfare state over the past half-century. That might begin to put this into context. A virtuous life is not about absentee fathers or Big Government acting as a husband or father. If you sire a child, you need to be there as part of a family unit.

Even if one disagrees with that, it is hard to disagree that, during the past 50 years or so, the further we slip into moral laxity, the more we see evil. In fact, we’re seeing unimaginable evil. We thought we would be nice and allow people to do what they please. Now we see the results of that ill-advised experiment:

Evil abounds absolutely everywhere. How men respond to its presence determines the survival and well-being of a society. Let me say that again: “Evil abounds everywhere. How men respond to its presence determines the survival and well-being of that society.” One psychologist said, “Masculinity is taking responsibility to reduce evil and produce good.”

No culture will ever rise above the character of its men: fathers. The feminist lie has been that patriarchy is bad. It is tyrannical. It is toxic. It needs to be destroyed. And they’ve been doing it for decades. To destroy masculinity, to destroy strong male leadership and character leads to the current disaster: irresponsible men running loose in the streets terrorizing a society. Weak men have given us this legacy. Weak men produce the death of society. And men are in a crisis today, they are being continually told to try to get in touch with their feminine side, so they have become defensive about their masculinity.

Women rise higher and higher and higher and more frequently into positions of leadership, as men feel overwhelmed and overpowered and unable to fight against the trend. Oh, there are lots of men at the gym, pretty buff, have some muscles, but they’re doing virtually nothing to stop the tide of evil in the world. And by the way, in case women haven’t begun to realize it: weak, immoral men abuse women, and they produce more weak, immoral sons. No, children don’t get their view of God from their father, but they do get their view of what a man is. And we are in some serious trouble because the current crop of men are infecting the children.

There are two views in the Bible on generational sin. If one repents of a generational sin, one has wiped his slate clean. See Ezekiel 18:19-20:

19 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

Yet, where there is no repentance from generation to generation, the sin endures as a punishable act:

Listen to the Word of God, Exodus chapter 20 and verse 5: I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.” Listen to Exodus 34:7, “God will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.” God says it again in Deuteronomy 5:9 and 10, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

Repeatedly, God says corrupt fathers create in society a legacy of corruption that is generational. He’s not saying that a son would be punished for a father’s sin; clearly that is not the case. Deuteronomy 24:16 says, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone will be put to death for his own sin.” We’re not talking about an individual suffering punishment for another person’s sin. What we are saying is fathers – plural – who are corrupt leave a legacy that will not be overturned in three or four generations. And if the next generation is corrupt, it pushes that out another three or four, and the next generation another three or four, and it becomes an impossible cycle.

In the words of the prophet Zechariah as he begins his prophecy, “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the prophet, son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying, ‘The Lord was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Return to Me,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I may return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. “Do not be like your fathers.”’” Something has to break the cycle.

This is what happens without repentance:

Clearly, a generation dominated by sinful fathers will bear the crushing consequence of their sinful progenitors. Their children will suffer. Their grandchildren will suffer. Their great-grandchildren will suffer. No generation exists in isolation or as an island. A wicked society defined as wicked by the behavior of the men won’t be rooted out for multiple generations. So it isn’t that people get their view of God from a father, but they do get their view of what a father is, and if it’s the wrong view, it’s just purposely repeated again and again and again.

So, as Christians, what do we do? First, we need to acknowledge that we are all prone to sin. When we give in to sin, we give in to all sorts of carnality. On the other hand, when we are alive in Christ, God’s infinite grace enables us to resist temptation through faith and the gifts of the Holy Spirit:

The default position of every man is corruption, right? It’s the most natural thing they do is sin. The most accessible affect of that sin is on the women in their lives, and then on the children in their lives, and then it extends to everybody else.

The problem is, “There’s none righteous, no, not one. They’re all evil,” as we read in Romans 3. They don’t seek after God. They hate God, they hate others, and they’re influencing their children while they’re harming their wives. I understand why there’s a women’s movement. And even though it’s wrong and totally devastates a society, pushes women into places they were never intended to be and men out of the places they were intended to be, I understand it because of the corruption of men.

So where do we begin? We have to begin as believers who have new natures, right? We are new creations in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, and we start by breaking the cycle. It’s not going to be broken, it’s still around, right? What you’re seeing today in the chaos of this culture, what you see in the weakness and foolishness of people in high places, what you see is just the reality that corrupt fathers destroy society.

MacArthur then begins discussing one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: fortitude. As we are in the season of Pentecost — please do ignore the term ‘Ordinary Time’ — it is important that we take some lessons from the weeks from Pentecost until the end of the Church year, just before December.

Fortitude is no casual word. It is not restricted to men alone, however, it is in scarce supply these days among some of today’s men, enough to make a difference in Western society:

Fortitude. What is fortitude? It’s a great word. Firmness, strength of soul that faces danger with courage and bears loss and pain without complaint. Fortitude: “Firmness and strength of soul that faces danger with courage and bears loss and pain without complaint.” That’s not a theological definition, that’s just a definition of the word.

When you say a man has fortitude, you’re talking about someone who doesn’t compromise even when there’s danger, even when that danger escalates to fear and pain. Fortitude is a combination of conviction, courage, and endurance – conviction, courage, and endurance. It is the willingness – it is not just the willingness, I would say it’s even the desire to risk, to literally create challenges if they’re not already there, to attack difficulty, to challenge difficulty head on, to bear suffering with courage. This is what makes a man a man, and this is the kind of man in whom a woman finds her security, finds her protection; and in that kind of relationship, the woman’s femininity flourishes.

Men are those who should be the protectors, the purifiers, who secure their wives, who secure their children, who accomplish all that needs to be done to reduce evil in a society and produce good; and yet this society for years and decades has had men busy producing evil, and diminishing good. True manliness is bound up in the word “courage.” That is the virtue that marks a real man. Truth, conviction, courage.

Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 16, 1 Corinthians chapter 16. At the end of this wonderful letter, near the end, is tucked a very important verse, actually two verses: verses 13 and 14. Listen to what the apostle Paul says: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” “Be on the alert,” – danger is everywhere – “stand firm in the faith,” – don’t waiver in your belief and convictions – “act like men,” – What does that mean? Fortitude, uncompromising courage – “be strong.” The New King James actually says, “Be brave, be strong.” “Act like men” essentially means to conduct one’s self in a courageous way, to conduct one’s self in a courageous way.

Courage is the stock-in-trade of a man: courage in the face of danger, courage in the face of temptation, courage in the face of loss, courage in the face of suffering. This strength of verse 13, essentially four statements saying, one way or another, “Be strong.” Is then balanced in verse 14 by, “Let all that you do be done in love.” And how important is it to add that. There’s nothing more manly than a man with consummate conviction, courage, and endurance, who is marked by love. That’s a man – not weak, not vacillating, not fearful; and loving.

Real men face life with this kind of fortitude. They’re watchful of the dangers around them. They’re alert. They’re protectors of their wives and children, and of their friends and all the people over whom they have influence. They have convictions about what is true. They have courage to live out those convictions and the strength to be unwavering when those convictions will cost them everything. Your convictions, they’re only real convictions if they hold up under the most intense pressure.

MacArthur then goes into the many Bible verses with the words ‘be strong and courageous’:

In Deuteronomy 31, Moses is passing the mantle on to Joshua, and in verse 6, Deuteronomy 31, he says this: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them,” – meaning your enemies – “for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” “Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” That’s the greatest transitional leadership speech ever.

Look at … 2 Samuel chapter 10 and verse 12. This is Joab to the Israelites who were facing opposition, strong opposition, tremendously strong opposition. Back in verse 6, it lays out the forces that were coming against them. But in verse 12, Joab says to the Israelites, “Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”

First Kings chapter 2. In 1 Kings chapter 2, David addresses Solomon his son. “David’s time to die drew near. He charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I’m going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke.’” Moses to Joshua, Joab to the Israelites, David to Solomon.

For another view of David’s speech to his son Solomon, look at 1 Chronicles chapter 22. I’m showing you these because I want you to see how common this is. First Chronicles 22, David calls for his son to build the house of God, and we can pick it up in verse 11: “Now, my son, the Lord be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the Lord your God just as He has spoken concerning you. Only the Lord give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will prosper, if you’re careful to observe the statues and ordinances which the Lord commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed.” All of these declarations assume that your devotion to God is going to be tested, and you’re going to have to be strong. It’s going to be tested, no way around it.

David says again, 1 Chronicles 28:20, to his son Solomon, he gives this speech another time: “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” Just a couple more.

Toward the end of 2 Chronicles, Hezekiah is speaking to men in positions of leadership. Hezekiah, chapter 32 of 2 Chronicles, the first verse: “After these acts of faithfulness Sennacherib king of Assyria came, invaded Judah, besieged the fortified cities, and thought to break into them for himself. Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come invading Judah and he intended to make war on Jerusalem; he decided with his officers and warriors to cut off the supply of water from the springs” – this was a siege – “which were outside the city, and they helped him. So many people assembled and stopped up all the springs and streams which flowed through the region, saying, ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and find abundant water?’ And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, built another outside wall, strengthened the Millo in the city of David, made weapons and shields in great number, appointed military officers over the people and gathered them in the square of the city gate, and spoke encouragingly to them, and this is what he said: ‘Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.’” That’s a great pep talk, isn’t it, for an army. Psalm 27:14 says, “Be strong and let your heart take courage.”

Men don’t give in to fear. Men don’t give in to pressure. Men don’t give in to intimidation, and they don’t give in to temptation. They don’t seek the easy way. They will take the pain, they will invite the risk, they will confront the challenge, and they will not bow to the pressure to compromise the commandments of God. Strength of a man is that he lives on principle, that he lives on conviction, that he has the courage of those convictions, stands strong against everything that comes at those convictions, bravely faces the challenges in a fortified way. Manly fortitude means contending with difficulty, facing every enemy, meeting the enemy head on, bearing the pain, maintaining self-discipline, upholding truth, pressing on to the goal. That’s what defines a man.

MacArthur cites more examples. God spoke the same words to Joshua in the presence of Moses:

I want to show you another passage back in Joshua, right at the beginning of Joshua. Moses gives this speech again as he passes the baton, as it were, to Joshua. He says to him in chapter 1 of Joshua, verse 5, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.” This is God now speaking, God is the one speaking. “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.”

So here it comes not from Moses to Joshua, but from God to Joshua in the presence of Moses. And here’s what God says to Joshua, verse 6: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.”

And here comes the key to that. How do you live like that? How do you live with that strength and courage? How do you live without ever compromising? Verse 8: “This book of the law” – the Word of God – “shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” It’s an incredible speech from God.

“Be strong” – verse 5 – “because God will be with you,” – “because you’re fulfilling a divine cause, a promise from God.” Verses 7 and 8, “The only way you can do this is to submit to the Word of God so that it constantly is in your mind and you live out its truths.” You will be able to be obedient if you’re saturated by the Word of God empowered by the Spirit of God.

Can you see why this speech is repeated so many, many times? This is the mark of a man. It takes a father like that to raise a son like that. Spiritual men are courageous, strong, principled, uncompromising, and bold. This is God’s role for men to play in a society, but it is also God’s role for the men to play who are the leaders of His people Israel. And this is God’s standard for the men who lead His church.

This is what we should expect from our clergy:

When we come into the New Testament and we are introduced to the kind of men that the Lord commands to lead His church. This is how He describes them in 1 Timothy 3: “This man must be above reproach, a one-woman man, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (if a man doesn’t know how to manage his own children, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” High standards for a pastor, an elder.

To Titus, Paul says similarly, “Appoint elders. If a man is above reproach, one-woman man, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion; for the overseer” – or the shepherd, pastor, bishop – “must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he’ll be able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.” This is the kind of men who lead the church.

Why is the standard so high for the leaders of the church? Because the leaders of the church have the responsibility to set the pattern for what manliness looks like in a godly environment. It’s not that they alone should be like this, it is that they should be like this so the others can see what a man should be. It isn’t that the Lord wants to pick up all the pastors and elders and take them to another level of spirituality which no one could attain, it is rather that this is what God expects from every man. But it’s got to be modeled. Men like that and men, as Ephesians 5 said, who love their wives like Christ loved the church, and who are protectors of their wives and who literally are the saviors of their wives, are the kind of men who become a haven for the wife, who make her feel secure and protected, nourished, cherished. And when children grow up in a home where the man secures the woman and the children, there’s peace.

So, how have we gone so far astray?

This culture has turned on God, eliminated His Word. The bible and the gospel is an enemy.

One wonders what John MacArthur thinks of President Trump. To my knowledge, he has not been invited to the White House. I wish that President Trump would invite him. That would make for an interesting transcript.

But I digress. MacArthur says:

The leaders of this nation have no interest in God or in His Word, and they are basically running this country right into hell as fast as they can. The only thing that’s going to stop this is not a group of feminized men who thinks God just wants to give them what they want so they can be happy. What this world needs is not sensitive men, it needs strong men. We live in a world of compromise, more than compromise. You could barely call it compromise because there’s nothing left of that which is good, so what are they compromising with.

That said, it is clear that MacArthur, a Californian, disapproves of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s views. Newsom is a self-proclaimed Catholic. Here’s a 2008 video of the two of them on the old Larry King Show on CNN when Newsom was the mayor of San Francisco and married to his second wife at the time:

Now on to the word ‘integrity’:

To add another word to your thoughts about this, I would say that people who have no price have integrity, integrity. So we talk about fortitude, let me talk about integrity. “People who have no price have integrity.”

What is integrity? It is essentially unbreakable fortitude. Integrity is defined as steadfast adherence to a moral code. It comes from “integer,” which means “whole” or “complete.” Its synonyms are “honesty,” “sincerity,” “simplicity,” “incorruptibility.” It’s antonym is “duplicity” or “hypocrisy.” A person who lacks integrity is a hypocrite. Integrity means that you live by your convictions: you say what you believe, you hold to what you believe, you’re immoveable. That’s wholeness. That’s integrity: you are one. It was said long ago of a preacher that he preached very well, but he lived better. The world is a seducer, and Satan is a seducing deceiver, pushing us into compromise, and therefore into hypocrisy.

When our Lord indicted the scribes and Pharisees who were the frequent objects of His blistering attacks. Inevitably it was on their integrity that He assaulted them. For example, in Matthew 23:3, He said, “They say things and do not do them.”

MacArthur, who is truly blessed, has a number of additional observations. As such, I would invite you to read or watch his sermon in full.

In short, manliness does not involve belonging to a street gang.

Each man, at some point, will have to rely upon his own wits, determination and fortitude to resolve his own trials, whether they be his own or those of his family.

We need to recover the biblical ideal of manliness, which has kept Western society protected for centuries. It hasn’t always succeeded, but we are fallen people, susceptible to temptation and sin.

Men have been beaten into the ground for decades. This must be remedied:

We need a generation of men who are alert to danger, who stand firm in the faith, who are courageous with the Word of God, uncompromising and strong.

And, listen, everything about this that I’ve said indicates they will be tested. Manliness will be tested. Conviction will be tested. Courage will be tested. Strength will be tested. The pressure will come, it’ll come in unexpected ways, but it’ll come. You may get away with your statement of conviction for years, but there will come a test, and many men will shock the people who knew them by selling out, compromising, abandoning their integrity, playing the hypocrite out of cowardice. This falls into a translation of Romans 12:2. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.

Stay strong. Stand firm in the faith, as Saint Paul did.

The world needs real men now more than ever, especially to stand by principled women.

John MacArthur has given sermons about the protests and riots we have been seeing over the past several weeks.

A big thank you goes to my reader John in Cheshire for telling me about them recently.

The first one is a short video wherein MacArthur says that every life matters and that, if black lives matter, then why is it that Planned Parenthood aborts a thousand little black lives every day:

The next two are much longer but well worth watching. In fact, time will go by very quickly as MacArthur goes through many verses in the Bible to explain why violent protests are not the answer.

Here is the first one, discussing who is to blame for the riots. The video clip above comes from this sermon:

Here is the transcript. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

We are obviously living in very bizarre times that have produced massive fear and confusion. On top of that, our society is drowning in a sea of lies, lies about virtually everything, and lies on top of fear and confusion create an almost fatal insecurity and a devastating chaos. We have little confidence in believing what politicians say or what health officials say or what social activists say or what university professors say or what media says or, frankly, what religious leaders say. We have been lied to so constantly. And there is One to whom we can turn and always hear the truth: that is to the living God who has revealed Himself on the pages of Scripture, the one true living God. And Scripture says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” God is the God of truth. The Son of God is the way, the truth, and the life. “Satan, the prince of this world,” – said Jesus in John 8:44 – “is a murderer and a liar.” And the whole world lies in the lap of the Evil One, and is therefore bent on killing and lying.

So we’re in a time of chaos and lies. We have only one place to turn that we can trust, one who is faithful, and that is God in His word. Jesus said in John 17 to the Father, “Your word is truth. Your word is truth.” So let’s look at the truth and find out what the truth is about who’s to blame for the riots. We can start in … the book of Isaiah, way back in the first chapter.

Seven hundred years before the Lord Jesus Christ, God was confronting another nation, the nation of Israel, steeped in sin and transgression, having rejected their God and on the brink of judgment. And in chapter 1, the Lord speaks to Israel in verse 2: “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the Lord speaks, ‘Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.’ Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.

“Where will you be stricken again as you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, not softened with oil. Your land is desolate, your cities are burned with fire.” This is the desolation of a people that turn against God.

In the fifth chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy there is a specific indictment among all of the sins that were part of Israel’s rebellion against God. Here is one that substantially defines their true condition. Verse 20 of Isaiah 5: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Essentially that’s the sin that signals the coming of judgment. Turning truth and righteousness and virtue upside-down.

Israel was headed for a devastating divine judgment. They had turned against God, they had flipped truth and morality on its head, and in Isaiah 28:17, Isaiah says they found refuge in lies, they found refuge in lies. Isaiah 59, Isaiah says to them in verses 3 and 4, “For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion and speak lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.”

This is where humanity in every generation and in every nation tends to lean toward the reality of the very things that were true of ancient Israel. Humanity leans in the direction of calling evil good and good evil, substituting darkness for light, light for darkness, substituting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. This is the nature of all of us, to believe lies, to follow the father of lies, to overturn right and wrong, and the current situation in which we live is just another historic manifestation and picture of the perversion of humanity.

So confusing. It’s essential to keep harmless working people locked down at home, kept away from their jobs and businesses so they don’t get the flu. But it’s also essential, in fact, more essential to let people bent on doing harm run free in the cities destroying the very places people earn their living. Lock up the weak and the fearful and let the strong and violent run loose to create havoc. Call on all forces, grind the world to a halt to stop a virus, then remove all restraint when a far more deadly virus sets out to destroy a whole nation. Demand justice when a man’s life is taken, and then applaud lawless mobs of criminals attacking the police. Put the police in a position where they can’t act to protect property, but rebel mobs are allowed to destroy it.

You can’t shop in a store, but you can loot it. You can’t work, but you’re free to steal. You can’t attend church, but you can burn it down. You can’t eat in a restaurant, but you can demolish it. Now we’re seeing charges being brought in these riots, not against the rioters, but against the police. We see leaders who totally control the weak with fear of the flu, but can’t control the strong because they’re afraid. And by the way, if you worship the god of anger, the god of hate, or the god of vengeance, you can have church anywhere, anytime, indoors or outdoors, without any rules. You’re completely free to worship the god of mayhem, and the perverted solution to this is to abolish the police, those who are the protectors of the good and the punishers of those who do evil.

What is wrong? What is wrong is exactly what is stated in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe” – that’s a divine curse – “on those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

We need the truth, and the truth is in the Word of God. It’s not my task nor my interest to give you any human opinion, mine or anybody else’s, but you do need to hear from God. I want to help you to understand who’s to blame. We’ll start in Romans chapter 3, Romans chapter 3 and verse 10. Here we have a summation of human nature. This summation, running down through verse 18, is basically drawn from the Old Testament. These are all statements made in the Old Testament – all of them except one from the Psalms and one from Isaiah.

So God hasn’t changed His moral standards, nor His definition of humanity. There has been no improvement in the seven hundred years between Isaiah and the hundreds of years between the Psalms and the present situation that Paul addresses in Rome in the time of our Lord and after. There’s no change. What was true of man in the ancient times was true of man in New Testament times. And here you have the foundational understanding that is essential to know what’s wrong in the world. And summing it up, this is what the Scripture says.

“As it is written,” – and that means in the Old Testament drawn from the Psalms and the book of Isaiah, here is a definition and description of the pathology of humanity. Four times the word “none” is used, and three times “all” is used. “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” That’s a pathology that would make a sensible psychologist go get a job at a gas station. That’s what you’re dealing with; lots of luck

I hear people saying Black lives matter; and they do. God knows they do; they matter just as much as any other life. But if they matter so much, how is it that Planned Parenthood can support Black Lives Matter when there are a thousand little Black lives being aborted every day

Proverbs 16:6 says, “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” Mark it down. “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” And that’s why Proverbs 23:17 says, “Be in the fear of the Lord at all times.” Where there is no fear of God, where there is no sense of transcendent and eternal culpability, guilt, and punishment, you free humanity to be what they are

Now beyond the absence of the fear of God is the rejection of God. It’s not just that they don’t fear God, that’s a negative. They do more than that. They actually reject God. Go back to Romans 1. This is a very familiar passage. Paul is describing what is also true of man, personally and collectively. “The wrath of God” – verse 18 – “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” That’s what they do. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness. What truth? “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” …

Verse 21 says this is characteristic of humanity. “They knew God,” – that is they knew God existed, that’s reason – “they didn’t honor Him as God or give thanks. They became empty in their speculations, their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man, birds, four-footed animals, crawling creatures.”

That’s what I was saying earlier. They reject the true God. Reason would lead them to the true God. Reason would define the true God in terms of His creation, what they know about His creation, and what they know about His law written in their hearts. They reject all of that. They run from the true God, and they run to false gods as a way to escape the true God.

So what does God do in response? This is one of the most profound passages in the Bible. “God gave them over,” verse 24. That is a legal term: handed them over to punishment, handed them over to execution, handed them over to sentence. “God gave them over.” Verse 26, “God gave them over.” Verse 28, “God gave them over.”

Three times God says, “You’re guilty of rejecting Me, rebelling against Me. I turn you over.” To what? “He gave them over” – verse 24, first of all – “to lust of the hearts to impurity, so their bodies would be dishonored among them.” When God gives a people over there’s a sexual revolution. Immorality becomes acceptable, and you will find a culture swimming in a septic tank of pornography.

And when God gives them over, secondly, verse 26, “He gives them over to degrading passions, and women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and the same way also men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their persons the due penalty of their error.” When God turns a society over because it has rejected Him, there will be, first of all, a sexual revolution, followed by a homosexual revolution.

And finally, the third phase in this judgment, “God gave them over” – verse 28 – “to a depraved mind,” a mind that doesn’t function. They can’t think straight. That’s when you have a political party that builds its party platform on killing infants in the womb, destroying the family, elevating homosexuality, transgender perversion, and they’re proud about it. “That’s when you become filled” – verse 29 – “with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossips, slander, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and though they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they do not only do the same, but they give hearty approval to those who practice them.” They elect them to office.

On top of the natural sinfulness is the added reality of divine judgment on those people who have rejected God and those nations who have rejected God. So the corruption is systemic. It is not social, it is systemic and it is personal, and nobody escapes. It’s not related to a lack of opportunity. It’s not related to a lack of money. It’s not related to a lack of privilege, a lack of education. Man naturally is a sinful beast who rejects God, rejects His law, rebels, does not fear God. We were all born with that internal wretchedness that corrupts and defiles. It scars beauty, it darkens wisdom, it defiles love, it robs purity, and it steals peace

So how does a person shut down conscience? Two ways: misinform it. Conscience is not a law, conscience is a mechanism. You can shut down pain, right? You can shut down pain; just take drugs. Mask pain. If you mask pain, you mask the reality that you’re doing some damage. You can mask conscience by misinforming it. How do you do that? You take the true law of God, which is written in Scripture and written in the human heart, and you basically eliminate it, denounce it, diminish it, remove it, and replace it with another law; and if you do this generationally you’ll eventually raise generations of people whose conscience is now informed by lies.

This is what propaganda is. Propaganda is lies. And you see people and you say, “Well, how could they be so zealous? How can Islamic terrorists be so zealous? Don’t they have a conscience?” Their conscience is informed by whatever law they have come to believe. And if you believe all the lies that are thrown around about our society and all the issues, if you believe those, if you got the university and they pound those into your mind with all of their ideological instruction, if you buy into all those lies, your conscience will cease to function because it will be misinformed. If you have a society that says, “Let’s get rid of the Bible,” that’s the first step in having an entire generation of people misinformed about what’s right and what’s wrong. And now, where are we? We’re in Isaiah 5:20, everything is upside-down: right is wrong and wrong is right.

The other thing you can do to shut down the conscience is just think you shouldn’t feel guilty. Let psychology take you off-the-hook: “You shouldn’t feel bad about yourself. You’re wonderful. You’re the best. You can be anything you want to be. You’re heroic. You’re a good person. You ought to be able to do whatever you want. You live any way you want. Don’t let anybody make you feel guilty for anything.” Just keep driving all efforts against the normal work of the conscience and misinform the conscience and you’ve turned the beast loose. This society in which we live today has been doing that damage for decades, for decades.

Where’s the conscience of these people? Where is the conscience of these who do damage, these who overturn everything? Oh, ha, it’s been informed. It’s been informed with lies, and it’s now controlled by lies. And it’s been told again and again and again that it ought to feel good about itself, that every person is his own master, master of his own fate. Every person is his own god. There is no god, you’re god. You shouldn’t feel guilty, everybody should bow to you. And if that’s not working, get drunk, take drugs.

The second restraint God has put into human society is the family, the family. Deuteronomy 6, God says, “Teach His law to your children.” Ephesians chapter 6, “Raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” What is a family? Father and a mother in a union. Family is a divinely created institution for – listen to this – family is the divinely created institution for the formation of restrained sinners

There’s a third provision that God has made and it’s government. So we talked about personal authority in the conscience, parental authority in the family. Government is the social authority. The prime role of government is not material welfare. That is not the prime role of government. The prime role of government, according to Paul in Romans 13 as he speaks on behalf of the Lord Himself who designed government, Romans 13, very, very important portion of Scripture, verse 1: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there’s no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” No authority may be perfect, but every authority is ordained by God. No family is necessarily perfect, no father or mother, but they’re ordained by God. No one’s knowledge of the law of God or conscience is necessarily perfect, but they are designed by God even with a measure of imperfection to restrain this beast.

So, verse 2, “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.” What you’re seeing in the streets is people opposing God. I don’t care what their ideological issues are. I don’t care what it is that they think is unfair or unjust. They are flying around opposing the authority that God has ordained, and they are opposing God. And by the way, they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. God keeps accounts; you don’t get away with it

There’s one more restraint: that’s the church. And just saying that, I feel a pain in my heart, because a lot of these people that are rioting in the streets are rioting right in front of churches. A lot of churches in the communities of all these major cities, what have they been saying? It’s more likely that some of the people in those churches would be joining them than trying to stop them. But the church, critical: the last stand

And this is why I say this is a sad thing for me because church after church, after church, after church is not salting the culture with godliness. False teachers abound: charlatans with religious Ponzi schemes taking money from poor people on the promise of miracles and wealth; pastors whose lives are unholy and immoral; entertainment centers trying to make sinners feel good about themselves, denying, in many cases, whole denominations, denying the veracity of Scripture, denying the deity of Christ, denying the gospel; popular megachurches just entertaining sinners. Little concern for holiness, godliness, virtue, righteousness; it’s not their message. They don’t confront sin. They don’t call for holy living. That would empty the place. So we have to say that Satan’s done some serious damage to the conscience, to the family, to the government, and to the church

Who’s to blame for the riots? Who’s to blame? Sinners, all of them, everybody, all of us; families who failed to raise virtuous, disciplined children in loving marriages; weak government leaders who fail to protect the good, punish those who do evil; and false churches not full of godly people, transformed hearts, living righteous lives.

So what’s the answer? How do we fix this? Well, restore the law of God so the conscience can be informed. Restore the family so restrained children can be the next generation. Restore the government to its role of true justice. And restore the church …

Sad times. And yet if we take the steps of restoration, sometimes in the past God has allowed such revivals, such times of restoration. If we go back to the Word of God, back to ordered families, back to just government, back to sound faithful godly churches, it can change. Apart from that, it grows worse, until we are taken, the final restraint, and judgment falls. And Christ will then come, bring that judgment to its end and establish His glorious kingdom. By the way, we’ll come back with Him – amen? – in that kingdom …

The following week, he gave another sermon on the protests, this one being the Christian response to them:

Fortunately, he has a transcript of this sermon, too. Excerpts follow:

Laws basically are made to protect us from each other. You get that? Laws are made to protect me from you and you from me. But I don’t need those laws if I love you. What is missing in the human heart is this kind of love. There’s no love for God, there’s no love for others that satisfies God. So in light of this reality, we are to love. We are to love God so that we obey His word; and His word says, “We are to love others as ourselves. We are to do no injustice, take no vengeance, do no harm to anyone ever.”

So as a Christian, I’m looking at the world today and I’m watching all kinds of things going on with regard to injustices and suffering. There’s no question about it, there’s lots of injustice in the world. It’s everywhere. Nobody has a corner on it and no group of people have a corner on it. So what are my options in the current situation? Let me be specific and give you some that have been suggested.

First of all, one option would be to join Black Lives Matter, join their cause, because, after all, Black lives do matter; of course, they do – created in the image of God. And those who have suffered deserve our support, and they do; and they have suffered injustice, and they have. So should we just join Black Lives Matter to affirm these things? “Can we join out of sympathy? Can we join out of compassion?” That’s not really the question. The question is, “Can we join, and in joining express love to God?” because whatever we do for our neighbor is subsumed under loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind. “Can I join Black Lives Matter? Can I be a part, if not a member; can I be a part of their function?” They are disruptive. They are rebellious. They are radical. They are anti-authority. They are Marxists. They are atheistic.

What are their guiding principles? Let me read them to you. In their own document we read this: “Black Lives Matter is transgender-affirming. We make space for transgender siblings. We do the work required to dismantle cisgender”which means biological sex – “and uplift transgender Black folk, especially transgender Black women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans antagonistic violence.” They are transgender-affirming. According to Deuteronomy 22:5, transgender behavior is an abomination to God.

Also, this is their declaration: “We are womanists rather than feminists.” Quote: “We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments where men are centered.” End quote. Transgender-affirming and wanting to pull down the leadership of men. According to the Word of God, man is the head of the woman, as God is the head of Christ. The man has the responsibility of leadership. That’s an anti-God idea. Another paragraph – and there are many more: “We are queer-affirming. We gather to free ourselves from the tight grip of the belief that all are heterosexual.” They gather to put an end to the notion that everybody needs to be heterosexual.

In he same book of Leviticus, where the Lord says, “I am the Lord; be holy,” chapter 18, verse 22 say, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. In the next verse it says it’s the same as having intercourse with an animal. Chapter 20 of Leviticus, verse 13, exactly the same thing. Romans chapter 1.

Here’s a quote from Black Lives Matter: “We are intentionally amplifying that the particular experience of violence that Black queer transgender, gender nonconforming women and intersex people face, there can be no liberation for the Black people if we do not fight for these people.” This is an organization designed by Satan to use the suffering of some people as the means to destroy their lives, to destroy morality, conscience, the family, and even the church, and replace it with behavior that is immoral, perverse, abominable, soul-destroying, family-destroying, marriage-killing, and culturally disastrous. Bottom line: those documents are anti-God, anti-Scripture, anti-Christ. This is an organization that is the enemy of God. Do you really believe that going down that path is going to do anything to lift up a culture? It has nothing to do with the color of anybody’s skin. Go down that path and it’s the path of absolute total destruction. Wipe out the law of God in the heart, give people immorality as a standard, destroy the family, take the message of the gospel out of the church, and the only possible restraint left is the police to try to stop the flood.

I can’t be a part of that because 2 Corinthians is very, very straightforward. Listen to what the Lord says, 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you, and I’ll be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

So that leads to chapter 7, verse 1: “Therefore, having these promises,” – of being sons and daughters to God – “beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” We’re back to Leviticus again. You can’t be a part of something that is designed by Satan to destroy the only institutions that can uphold sanity in a society. Are we surprised that since that philosophy, that worldview, has assaulted the law of God, assaulted the family, has corrupted the church that now they want to get rid of the only remaining restraint which is the police?

So you say, “Well, okay, you can’t be a part of that. But can you join the protests? Is that an option? Can I mingle in a crowd of the lawful and the lawless, lovers of people and haters of people?” Look at Ecclesiastes chapter 8, this is very instructive, Ecclesiastes chapter 8. And I’m just looking for answers in Scripture. Chapter 8, verse 1: “Who is like the wise man and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man’s wisdom illumines him and causes his face to beam.” You want to be wise? You want to have a happy life? Verse 2: “I say, ‘Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave him. Do not join in an evil matter, for he will do whatever he pleases.” You put yourself in jeopardy if you rebel against the authorities.

“Since the word of the king is authoritative,” – in verse 4 – “who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ He who keeps a royal command experiences no trouble, for a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure. There is a proper time and procedure for every delight, though a man’s trouble is heavy upon him. If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen?” So you start a rebellion, you get involved in a rebellion, and you don’t know what’s going to happen; but it may turn out very badly

What value is there in being part of rebellion against authority? Paul also speaks in regard to that in Romans 13; let me remind you of it – and we’re going to get back to Ecclesiastes in a minute. Romans 13, verse 1: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” So you not only have the issue of Ecclesiastes where you’re acting in some kind of a protest against the authority, you don’t know how it’s going to end up; but you could lose your life because you can’t control the wind or the day of your death.

Not only that, not only do you have to deal with that reality, but you oppose authority, you oppose the ordinance of God, and you fall under His condemnation. “For rulers are not a cause for fear of good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it doesn’t bear the sword for nothing.” – and that’s a terminal weapon – “It is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” It’s necessary then to be in subjection …

But things happen in a society that aren’t fair. Listen to the words of Peter, 1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake; I am the Lord. Submit yourselves” – be holy – “to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors that’s sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Do right. Do right. And part of doing right is to submit.

Verse 17: “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Even servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also who are unreasonable.” You have an unreasonable boss; submit. “For this finds grace, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.” So you suffer unjustly? Guess what: welcome to the world. Welcome to life in a fallen world.

“This finds grace.” You put yourself in a position of divine grace when you suffer unjustly. “For what credit is there” – verse 20 – “if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure, this finds grace with God.” So you suffered, you suffered unjustly. As a child of God, you have been given grace in that occasion.

Here’s the great example, verse 21: “You’ve been called for this purpose.” What? Yes. “You’ve been called to suffer unjustly, since Christ also suffered for you, not only in a redemptive way, but as an example for you to follow in His steps.” Suffering unjustly, He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being unjustly reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” That’s our example. So you suffer, you suffer unjustly. What do you do? You do what a believer is called to do: you commit no sin, no deception; you don’t strike back; you utter no threats; you just entrust yourself to the one who judges righteously.

“And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” When Christ suffered unjustly, He accomplished the greatest work ever in history. By suffering unjustly, He provided redemption for the human race.

God has His purposes in our suffering. Peter says in 1 Peter 5:10, “After you’ve suffered a while, the Lord makes you perfect.” Paul says, “There was a thorn in the flesh, and I prayed three times for the Lord to remove it, and the Lord kept saying to me, ‘My strength is perfected in your weakness.’”

And here’s my problem with the protests. We are people of the truth. First of all, I have to embrace the suffering the Lord brings into my life because through it He is perfecting me, and He is extending to me grace.

Secondly, in everything, I have to be a person of the truth. The protests? Sure. They have some grievances; obvious, we get it. But they have covered the truth with lies. They have gone way beyond an injustice or several injustices to conclude that there is systemic racism, White hatred, widespread police brutality. Those are lies, those are not true. I can’t, I can’t join the protest without being part of the lies. Proverbs 19:22 says, “It’s better to be a poor man than a liar.” And, “Satan” – John 8:44 – “is the father of lies.” So if you have a satanic system, you expect lies – all goes together.

You say, “Well, okay, I can’t join the Black Lives Matter Association. I can’t really join the protest because I have to embrace whatever I might suffer. And I can’t be a part of lies and deception that is attempting to bring down the last restraint, the authority of the police, government. Thirdly, then, “Could I work to change laws? Could I work to change policies? Is that an option?” Better laws: great. Better policies: we would all appreciate that. But here’s the problem: no matter how many laws you make, you can’t change the sinner, the law-breaker.

Titus 3 is a really often overlooked description of the natural man. Verse 3: “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” Now what do you think laws are going to do to that person? They don’t deal with the disobedience, the deception, the enslavement, the malice, the envy, the hate.

Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” The problem is, you can make a lot of laws, and you can change a lot of policies, but there’s a principle that Paul lays out in Romans 8; and you are familiar with it. Let me read it to you: “For what the Law could not do,” – and this is the law of God, which is reflected in human law, – “what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh.” That’s the problem: the law has no power. “What the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh.”

Verse 5: “Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.” Verse 6: The mind set on the flesh is death.” Verse 7: “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; it doesn’t subject itself to the law of God, it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” God laid out a lot of commandments in Scripture; sinners cannot submit to those laws. They are, by nature, haters injurious. Sinners can’t keep the law. So we can keep adding laws, changing policies, and never get to the issue.

Well, maybe there’s a fourth option. “Should I seek to change the people in power?” Black Lives Matter’s opening statement in their documents says, “We want power.”

“Okay. Is that an option? Do we just swap new sinners for the old ones? Do we just flip this? Let’s put out of power the people who are in power and replace them with lawless people who are trying to overthrow them and assume that’ll be better. We’ll swap sinners.”

Well, the problem with that, we saw also last time, “There’s none righteous, not even one; there’s none who understands; there’s none who seeks for God; they’ve all turned aside, together they have become useless; none who does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave, their tongues keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, the path of peace they haven’t known. There’s no fear of God before their eyes.” Hmm. None righteous, no, not one. So swapping the current sinners for some other sinners doesn’t make a lot of sense.

As I told you last time, God has put restraints in the world: the law of God written in the heart in the conscience. This culture has completely destroyed that. The second restraint is the family and the authority of parents and the discipline that parents bring to restrain sin in children; and this culture has destroyed that. And the church has fallen on very hard times with its pragmatism and its desire to entertain sinners and make them feel comfortable, so it no longer comes with any force against sin. And we’re not at all surprised that the next restraint and the final one standing is the police; and they’re under assault

It was back of the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth, in the early 1900s before World War I, there was a lot of social issues in America: child labor, poverty, the things that come along with poverty. There was a Baptist pastor by the name of Rauschenbusch who decided that the church ended to shift away from the Bible and the gospel and work on social issues. At the turn of the century they had began to do that. The church started to preach what was called the social gospel. Before they were done, every major denomination in this country had abandoned the Bible, abandoned the gospel, abandoned the cardinal truths of Scripture. All their schools were corrupt, all their universities were corrupt, all their seminaries were corrupt, and now you have vestiges of those denominations that are nothing but rockpiles on corners in old cities. It wiped out every denomination. It’s back again, back again about hundred years later, and it’s beginning again to wipe out churches. When you get caught up in the stupidity and foolishness of trying to fix the world, you’re striking a blow against God’s will and God’s purpose, and you’re violating His commands.

We submit to Him, to His providence. We love Him and we love our neighbors as ourselves. This is reconciliation. Sinners must be reconciled to God, and only then can they be reconciled to each other. Once you become reconciled to God through Christ, you become reconciled to every other Christian because we’re all one in Him.

So what do we do? We do what we always do. We live godly lives in the world. We live quiet, peaceful lives in the world. We proclaim the law of God, which is to love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. We proclaim the family: fathers, mothers, raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We declare the support of those who are in authority over us because God has ordained government. We honor them, we respect them. We do nothing to diminish their authority because that is God’s institution. And then, we let the church be the church and not turn into some social agency caught up in trying to do what is designed by Satan to be folly instead of wisdom. And as we go living these lives, we live quiet, peaceable, God-honoring, Christ-exalting lives; and we are ambassadors, proclaiming Jesus Christ is Lord, proclaiming the gospel in His holy name. We are ambassadors, begging people to be reconciled to God, 2 Corinthians 5 says. We are ambassadors for God

In an era when so many churches are closing or empty, John MacArthur’s church is full every Sunday.

These sermons explain why.

Preach the Gospel, not the social gospel.

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