John MacArthur And The Blood Of Christ

by Pastor E.L. Bynum | August 1995

      The following article is being reprinted from the Plains Baptist Challenger of August, 1986. After all these years, this information about John MacArthur's teaching, is still needed today. His teaching on the blood of Christ is dangerous, and people are still being led astray by it. There will be a follow up article on this same subject, and if there is enough demand, we shall consider putting this information in a tract or booklet. --E. L. Bynum

In recent weeks, we have received material from two different sources concerning John MacArthur's teaching on the blood of Christ. After reading it over, I find his doctrine to be very disturbing.


MacArthur Minimizes The Blood

The April 1986 edition of Faith For The Family quotes him as saying in a 1976 article entitled, "Not His Bleeding But His Dying:" "It was His death that was efficacious. . not His blood . . . Christ did not bleed to death. The shedding of blood had nothing to do with bleeding . . . it simply means death. ..Nothing in His human blood saves . . . It is not His blood that I love... it is Him. It is not His bleeding that saved me, but His dying." It is incredible to me, that a Christian minister would make such statements.


He Does Not Like Rev. 1:5 In The KJV

In "Not His Bleeding But His Dying," MacArthur had this to say: "I may add a note on Revelation 1:5, a passage which is confusing in the King James Version. The word `washed' is not correct. The Greek work is `delivered.' " With that statement, I would like to take issue. "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Rev. 1:5). What could possibly be confusing about that? He says that "washed" is incorrect and that it should be "delivered." Like most "great" scholars today, MacArthur suffers from the Westcott and Hort syndrome. "Washed" is in the Textus Receptus, and is so rendered by George Ricker Berry in his Interlinear Greek-English New Testament. In his invaluable footnotes, Berry reveals those responsible for trying to change the reading of this verse. The word was changed by Lachmann, 1842-1850, Tischendorf, Eighth Edition. 1865-1872, and Tregelles, 1857-1872. These are three of the men that laid the groundwork for Westcott and Hort, so that they could make the alarming changes in their Revised Version. The American Standard Version, 1901, of course went along with the change, but they did put in a significant footnote. While rendering the word as "loosed," their footnote says, "Many authorities, some ancient, read washed."

I do not agree with the change as found in the ASV, when it reads "Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood." Nor do I agree with the NIV as it reads, "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood." However, whether it is rendered "washed," "loosed," "freed," or "delivered," it is still "by" or "in" His blood that this is done. While the ASV, the NASV, and the NIV definitely weaken the verse, neither one of them will really let MacArthur off the hook. Whether washed from our sins, or delivered from our sins, it is still only by the blood.


MacArthur Sounds Like Bratcher On The Blood

In his commentary on Hebrews, pages 236 to 237, I find further alarming statements as he deals with Hebrews 9:16-22. While he does say some good things, he clearly is talking in circles. When he says that "blood is a symbol of death," he sounds very much like the apostate Dr. Robert G. Bratcher, who translated the "Good News For Modern Man." This is what Bratcher believed, so he felt free to change "blood" to "death" in Eph.1:7, Heb.10:19, and Rev.1:5. He changed "blood" to "sacrifice" in I Pet. 1:19. He also managed to leave out "blood," or substitute another word in Matt. 27:4,24,25; Acts 5:28; 17:26; 20:28; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; Col. 1:20; Eph. 2:13, and Rev. 5:9. Of course Bratcher's "Good News Bible" is one of the most corrupt translations of the 20th Century. It would appear that in regard to the blood at least, that MacArthur and Bratcher are on the same wave length.


Why Pit His Blood Against His Death?

MacArthur states that "It was not Jesus' physical blood that saves us, but His dying on our behalf, which is symbolized by the shedding of His physical blood. If we could be saved by blood without death, the animals would have been bled, not killed, and it would have been the same with Jesus." I have never heard of anyone teaching that Jesus only needed to bleed a little to save us, and not to die. Numerous passages of Scripture tell us that Christ died for our sins. This is found in I Cor. 15:3, as well as many other places. If anyone denied this, I would object very strenuously to their denial, but my question is, why does it have to be His "death" or His "blood"? It is both His "death" and His "blood" that are important according to the Bible.
How can MacArthur truthfully make the following statement? "Again however, we need to keep in mind that the blood was a symbol. If Christ's own physical blood, in itself, does not cleanse from sin, how much less did the physical blood of animals." Many passages of Scripture reveal that he is dead wrong in his approach.


What Do The Scriptures Say?

The elders were admonished "to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). Redemption and remission of sins cannot be apart from "faith in his blood" (Rom. 3:24,25). We are "justified by his blood" (Rom. 5:9). "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins . . . " (Eph. 1:7). We "are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13). "We have redemption through his blood" (Col. 1:14), and he "made peace through the blood of his cross" (Col. 1:20).

In Hebrews we are told that "by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:12). We are told, "without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:22). We have "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Heb. 10:19). Jesus suffered with out the camp, "that he might sanctify the people with his own blood" (Heb. 13:12).

John tells us clearly that "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7). "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Rev. 1:5). They will sing of Christ, "thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood" (Rev. 5:9).
Even though MacArthur believes that he has dispensed with Rev. 1:5, as we previously discussed, he still must face Rev. 7:14. I think he shall find little comfort there. "These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Even the revised texts, and their new version offspring, such as the NIV, and the ASV, give MacArthur not one whit of aid and comfort. If the blood itself has no significance, then why do we have all of these Scriptures?


What Christ Said About The Blood

MacArthur's belief cannot be reconciled with the words of my Saviour, when He said, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28). "This cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you" (Luke 22:20). These words were spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ as He instituted the Lord's Supper for His Church. In all honesty, it would seem to me, that MacArthur should eliminate the drink, "the fruit of the vine," from the Lord's Supper. He only needs the unleavened bread. Of course if he were to do so, he would be in direct disobedience to the Word of God.

The children of Israel were told to slay the passover lamb. They were to take the blood of the lamb, and strike it upon the door posts of their houses. "And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you..." (Ex. 12:13). God did not tell them to hang the body of the lamb on the door post.

MacArthur's doctrine is in conflict with Lev. 17:11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul."

It is perfectly clear that MacArthur minimizes the blood of Christ. To me, this is a terrible thing for anyone to do. While he may not go as far as R.B. Thieme, Jr., he certainly is headed in the same direction. Bible-believers need to mark such men, and avoid them, according to the Scriptures. The teaching of MacArthur, on this subject, is very dangerous, and he should be exposed.

The clear and direct statements of the above Scriptures prove that John MacArthur is wrong in his teaching about the blood of Christ. He has departed from the general Biblical teaching on this subject. No matter how popular he may be, we must believe the Bible and not MacArthur.


He Is In Conflict With Writers Of The Past

I have examined a number of the writings of other men on Heb. 9:22, and I find that they are not in agreement with John MacArthur. Of this verse, John Gill says, "And without shedding of blood is no remission; that is, of sin; there was no typical remission without it; and there can be no real remission but by the blood of Christ; no instance can be given of pardon without it; if it could be otherwise, the blood of Christ had not been shed..." (Gill's Commentary, Vol. 6, page 734, Baker Book House).

Matthew Poole says, " . . . without the death of some living creature as a sacrifice, and the blood of it not only shed, but sprinkled, there could be neither legal pardon of guilt, nor purging of ceremonial filth. By this God signified to Israel, that without the blood of Christ his Son, and the Testator of his testament, shed as a sacrifice, to purchase and procure both remission and the Spirit, there could be neither pardon of the guilt of sin, and removal of the punishment, nor purging the filth, or renewing the nature of the sinner, his blood being the inestimable price purchasing both for them." (A Commentary on the Holy Bible, by Matthew Poole, Vol. 3, page 851, MacDonald Publishing Company).

E. Schuyler English says of Heb. 9:22, "And now we come to a dogmatic and absolute statement: `and without shedding of blood is not remission.' All men stand upon one level in respect to the sin question and as to the remission of sins. It cannot be apart from the blood--blood that is shed. This is God's way. This is precious truth. Not one sin can ever be remitted apart from the blood. All generations must look to the blood--the blood of Christ." He further writes, "Sin is a serious matter. It's only antidote is the blood of Christ ...No, dear friend, we ourselves have no merit, nothing in which we can boast, no hope in the world or in eternity, saving in the precious blood of Christ that was shed for us and pledges to bring us into an eternal inheritance that is incorruptible and cannot fade. `Without shedding of blood is no remission.' " (Studies In The Epistle To The Hebrews, by E. Schuyler English, pages 270-271, 1955, Southern Bible Book House). While English may be placed in the new evangelical camp, his teaching on the above verse is Biblical.


What Spurgeon Said About The Blood

Charles H. Spurgeon preached a sermon entitled, "The Blood Shedding," February 22, 1857, from Hebrews 9:22. He describes the suffering and death of Christ, and says, "mark his brow--they have put about it a crown of thorns, and the crimson drops of gore are rushing down his cheeks! . . . But turn aside that purple robe for a moment. His back is bleeding . . . They lift up the thongs, still dripping clots of gore; they scourge and tear his flesh, and make river of blood to run down his shoulders! This is the shedding of blood without which there is no remission ...They fling him to the ground; they nail his hands and feet to the transverse wood, they hoist it in the air ...Blood from his head, blood from his hands, blood from his feet. . .They pierce his side, and forthwith runneth out blood and water. This is the shedding of blood, sinners and saints; this is the awful shedding of blood, the terrible pouring out of blood, without which for you, and for the whole human race, there is no remission. ...It is not a thing which you may doubt, or which you may believe; it must be believed and received, otherwise you have denied the Scriptures and turned aside from God." He further states, "It cuts off every other hope. Bring your hopes here, and if they are not based in blood, and stamped with blood, they are as useless as castles in the air, and dreams of night. `There is no remission,' says the text, in positive and plain words . . . Except you put confidence in the shedding of our Saviour's blood, and in the blood shedding alone, for without it there is no remission." (The New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 3, pages 90-92, Pilgrim Publications).

Spurgeon never changed in his preaching of the blood. On May 30, 1875, he preached again from the same text. In his sermon, he repeated over and over, "Without shedding of blood is no remission." Without resorting to lengthy quotations, we can honestly say that his doctrine never changed. He said, "It is not possible that any sin should ever be forgiven to any man without shedding of blood." (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 51, page 426, Pilgrim Publications).
Of course nothing is true simply because Spurgeon, Gill, or someone else said it, but it so happens that what they said on the blood is biblical and sound, while what MacArthur has said is false.

No one can deny that MacArthur is a gifted and talented speaker. He is the Senior Minister of Grace Cathedral, Panorama City, California, and the popular speaker on the widely distributed radio broadcast entitled, "Grace To You." He has built a tremendously large church, and he has a very large radio audience. This is all the more reason why someone should expose his false teaching on the blood. No doubt we shall lose some friends over this exposure of error, but we hold truth dearer than we do friends. The cause of truth must ever be first.

August 1995 | Published by: TABERNACLE BAPTIST CHURCH

Tabernacle Baptist Church

E. L. Bynum, Pastor

1911 34th Street

Lubbock, Texas 79411

God's Simple Plan