MACARTHUR, THE GREEK GEEKS, AND THE BLOOD

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, September 8, 2002

"Being justified fully by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:24-25).

We find in these two verses what John Calvin called "the very marrow of theology." There are many big words in this passage, but don't let that stop you from trying to understand them. First, the word "justified." The Westminster Catechism defines it as "An act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith in Christ alone."
 

The converted person is thus pardoned and counted righteous, or "justified." Then we are told that this is done "freely by his grace." Freely means "without a cause." There is nothing within you that causes God to justify you. It is done "freely by his grace." We are justified by God's grace, with nothing we have done causing it. "It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
 

Then it is "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." This means that Christ paid the price. The Greek word is "lutron" and it means "ransom." Christ ransoms the convert from God's judgment. This redemption "is in Christ Jesus." Justification and redemption are only available in Christ.

"Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood..."

"Set forth" means publicly exhibited, when Christ poured out His Blood on the Cross, publicly. "To be a propitiation" means that the anger of God is appeased. "Through faith in his blood." This is literally one long phrase in Greek, ending with "his blood" being the object of faith. All the previously mentioned blessings (justification, redemption, and propitiation) become available "through faith in his blood." That is the literal rendering of the phrase

     dia          tays        pisteos      en              toi autou haimati!
(through)    (article)     (faith)      (in)             (his blood)

All of this seems reasonable enough - until we begin to butt heads with some of the modern scholars, who do everything in their power to weaken this passage of Scripture! We should not be surprised that they attack and twist these verses. Calvin said,

There is, perhaps, no passage in the whole Scripture which illustrates in a more striking manner the efficacy of his righteousness; for it shows that God's mercy is the efficient cause, that Christ with his blood is the meritorious cause… (commentary on Romans 3:24).

I believe that he was right on this point. These two verses, Romans 3:24-25, lie at the very heart of the gospel of grace, in the Book of Romans. It should not surprise us, then, that Satan would attack them strongly, particularly in the last days.

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (II Timothy 4:3-4).

John MacArthur isn't the only one who has questioned the validity of salvation "through faith in his blood." This grand old doctrine of Reformation and revival is under attack in many places. I will place the issue and the answers before you in the form of three questions - which I will then answer.

I. Question number one: is C. E. B. Cranfield right
when he tells us not to have faith in Christ's Blood?

Cranfield, general editor of The International Critical Commentary, is highly respected by sophomoric "Greek types." Don't get me wrong, I believe in referring to the Greek.  But these Greek students hover about Cranfield's words like the bees that swarmed around the carcass of Samson's dead lion. I call these guys "Greek Geeks" because they feed off of twisting the Greek. Like Computer Geeks, who live in cyberworld, these guys live in a forest of Greek verb endings, and critical lexicon notes. And Cranfield is their high priest. Listen to the evil counsel Cranfield gives concerning the words, "through faith in his blood." Says Cranfield, "Paul is not indicating by it that the faith in question is faith in Christ's blood" (The International Critical Commentary, T. and T. Clark Ltd., Edinburgh: 1987, p. 210).
 

Cranfield goes on to say that the Blood is part of the propitiation, but the object of faith is not the Blood. He says that the Blood is the means by which Christ is the propitiation, but the Blood is connected to the propitiation and not to faith.
 

I don't care how great a scholar Cranfield is. I simply cannot accept him as a greater Greek scholar than John Calvin, who said, "I prefer thus literally to retain the language of Paul, for it seems indeed to me that he intended, by one single sentence, to declare that God is propitious to us as soon as we have our trust resting on the blood of Christ" (John Calvin, comment on Romans 3:25).  Dr. MacArthur claims to be a Calvinist.  Why does he follow Cranfield instead of Calvin?  Calvin believed that the Blood is in Heaven.  How can Dr. MacArthur honestly call himself a Calvinist and deny Calvin on this major point?
 

Why do the "Greek Geeks" run after Cranfield rather than Calvin? The answer is simple - peer pressure. Conformity, the desire to go along with the group, is the real reason the "geeks" line up behind a "new" guy and reject the "old" one - even if the "old" one was a greater scholar. You see, the "Greek Geeks" are so influenced by a juvenile fear of peer pressure, that they are totally unable to think independently enough to respect "old" guys like Calvin, or Luther, or Gill - all of whom were correct on Romans 3:25.
 

Like high school boys who line up to have their noses pierced so they can "fit in," the "geeks" line up to have their brains pierced by Cranfield. Their adolescent fear of stepping outside the perimeter of peer pressure prevents them from having an independent perspective, and viewing the comments of the great historic scholars objectively.


C. E. B. Cranfield was
wrong when he said, "Paul is not indicating by it that the faith in question is faith in Christ's blood." He was just flat out wrong!
 

Why would he say something wrong? Simple: he had to say something new - or they wouldn't print it. All the true stuff had already been said, so he had to write something false to get published! It's about that simple. After two thousand years, all the true stuff about the Bible has already been said by someone. That's the main reason these modern "Greek Geeks" feel that they have to write something false. The desire to write something "new" pushes them into writing something false. That's why I always trust the old guys more than the new guys when it comes to Bible commentaries. All the true stuff has already been said! Nothing is left to say except falsehood! That's one of the reasons I don't trust modern "geeks." They usually write to say something "novel" rather than to explain the truth.

"Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:24-25).

II. Question number two: Why was Cain's offering rejected,
while Abel's was accepted?

Dr. John MacArthur is driven by a desire to publish "new" things. His comments on the offerings of Cain and Abel illustrate this. He says:

Abel's offering was accepted, not just because it was an animal…but because it was obediently given (note on Genesis 4:4-5).

Then he says:

It wasn't personal preference on God's part, or disdain for Cain's vocation, or the quality of his produce that caused God to reject his sacrifice (note on Genesis 4:7).

Notice how Dr. MacArthur thus downplays the Blood. Abel's offering "was acceptable, not just because it was an animal." Then he says of Cain's offering, "It wasn't…the quality of his produce that caused God to reject his sacrifice." Then, in his note on I John 3:12 Dr. MacArthur makes this rather astonishing statement:

Cain's offering was not acceptable because he was sinful!!! (The MacArthur Study Bible, note on I John 3:12).

Wow! So, to MacArthur you have to be sinless to give an acceptable offering to God! No wonder he believes in "Lordship salvation"! He says that Abel's offering was acceptable because he was obedient (note on Genesis 4:4-5) - and that Cain's offering was not acceptable "because he was sinful" (note on I John 3:12). So, to be saved you have to stop being sinful and be obedient - and this will save you - according to Dr. MacArthur. No wonder he downplays the Blood! No Blood is needed in MacArthur's view. A man can save himself by quitting sin and becoming obedient. That's the basis of Dr. MacArthur's "Lordship salvation." And I reject it because it does not give first place to the Blood! It is pure Pelagianism!  It is not Reformation theology.  It is the teaching of the Catholic church!
 

But why not stick with the Scofield note on these verses? Instead of twisting in the wind with MacArthur's modern "Greek Geeks," why not stick with the solid interpretation of our forefathers? The Scofield note says this concerning Abel's blood sacrifice:

Abel is a type of the spiritual man. His sacrifice, in which atoning blood was shed, was therefore at once his confession of sin and the expression of his faith in the interposition of a substitute (Scofield, note on Genesis 4:2).

Then, in the Scofield note on Genesis 4:4 we read these comments on the lamb that Abel offered:

A lamb fitly symbolizes the unresisting innocency and harmlessness of the Lord Jesus. This type is brought into prominence by contrast with Cain's bloodless offering of the fruit of his own works, and proclaims, in the very infancy of the race, the primal truth that "without shedding of blood is no remission" (Scofield, note on Genesis 4:4).

Have we really gone so deep into the end-time apostasy that people can't see that the Scofield note represents historic Protestantism, while MacArthur's note is Catholicism -  salvation by human works? MacArthur says:

Cain's offering was not acceptable because he was sinful
    (MacArthur Study Bible, note on I John 3:12).

How spiritual does a person have to be to see the complete error of that statement? Kindergarten-level Christians should know that Bible offerings point to the forgiveness of sins through Jesus' Blood. In fact, the exact opposite of MacArthur's statement is what the Bible teaches: the offering is only acceptable if you are sinful! Sinless people cannot avail themselves of the offering! "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick" (Matthew 9:12).

Dr. MacArthur says:

Cain's offering was not acceptable because he was sinful.
    (MacArthur Study Bible, note on I John 3:12).

This is actually a Roman Catholic idea, not a Protestant one. The Catholic must confess his sin and "get rid of it" before he can bring the offering. The Protestant brings the offering while he is still a lost sinner! That was what the Reformation was all about - justification by faith in the Blood of Christ (cf. Romans 3:24-25) - not justification by being sinless!
 

Cain and Abel were both sinful!  Both of them brought an offering.  The difference was this - Cain did not bring any blood!  "It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11).  Abel had been as disobedient and sinful as Cain.  But he brought blood.  "It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Leviticus 17:11). It is the BLOOD, not obedience, that makes the sacrifice acceptable.  That is the great teaching of the Reformation:  Sola Fide - Salvation by faith in the Blood.  Sola Gratia - Salvation by grace, not obedience!  Salvation rests upon grace, not obedience.  Salvation is through faith in the Blood of Christ (ref. Romans 3:24-25).


MacArthur and his geeky groupies get so close to the
trees of the Greek words that they can't see the forest of Bible truth! They are so busy parsing verbs that they miss the basic Bible truths of the Reformation! They are so close to the forest that they can't see the trees! We need to drop the "Greek Geek" message and go back to the old Protestant and Baptist message - "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7).

"Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:24-25).

III. Question number three: Why would God list the "blood of sprinkling"
in Heaven if there were no Blood there?

It is pointedly clear that the Blood of Christ is the last one in a list of seven items found in Heaven. The listed items in Hebrews 12:22-24 are:
 

1. The city of the living God.

2. An innumerable company of angels.

3. The church of the firstborn.

4. God, the judge of all.

5. The spirits of just men made perfect.

6. Jesus.

7. The blood of sprinkling.
 

As Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley has pointed out, there is no doubt about the reality of all seven of those things, which are given in the list of things that exist in Heaven (ref. Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley, "Ten Impossibilities if the Blood of Christ Perished," published by the British Council of Protestant Christian Churches). But the "Greek Geeks" say that only six of the seven items are there in Heaven. Later on in the apostasy they will deny the existence of some of the other six items - but for now it's enough for them to deny the last one. "Greek Geeks," like most other apostates, like to start by attacking the Blood of Christ in one way or another. Harry Emerson Fosdick called the Blood "a slaughterhouse religion." Nels Ferre said, "The blood of Christ cannot wash away sin any more than the blood of a chicken." The liberals have attacked the Blood of Christ for years.
 

And Dr. MacArthur and his Geeks join the chorus, saying, "We believe that the first six things are in Heaven - but not the Blood! Me, oh my, our Cranfieldized, intellectualized, pseudo scholarship just will not let our pea-brained rationalistic frontal lobes accept the reality of the "Blood of sprinkling."

"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies…And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of" (II Peter 2:1-2).

What's the matter with MacArthur and his Geeks? The answer is simple: they have never been converted. Having never experienced either conversion or the new birth, these men simply cannot "see" what is in Heaven, even though it is plainly told to them in Hebrews 12:24. They will poo-poo the next verse because they think they understand it, but they don't. It says:

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

Without being born again a person can't see the kingdom of God either now or in the future! All that the Scripture says about Heaven is hazy and unreal to the person who has never been born again. No wonder he can't "see" the Blood in Heaven! "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." They can hide behind Greek verbs now, but they cannot hide from the piercing eye of God, who says, "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).

"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned"
    (I Corinthians 2:14).

"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not…" (II Corinthians 4:3-4).

"Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…" (Romans 3:24-25).

Someone may ask, "How did these Greek Geeks become preachers?" Well, you see, they were "church kids" who grew up in the stuffy mildew of a dying religion. They raised their hands and came forward at "invitation time." They were unquestioningly baptized and received into full church membership. They grew up snickering behind the old preacher's back, mocking and making fun of his "authoritarianism" and his "stupid" Scofield Bible.
 

Finally the old preacher died and these "church kids" took completely over. In fact it was a "church kid" who replaced the old preacher, who was gone - but not forgotten by the "church kid," who now fills his pulpit. He's not forgotten because the church-kid-preacher is still snickering at him and rebelling against him! "The old fool with his old Scofield Bible!"
 

It is no secret that John MacArthur is the son of a preacher. I knew his father well.  He preached in our church camp several times.  His father was an old-time, Scofield Bible preacher.  Dr. MacArthur is very definitely a "church kid." So are most of the Greek Geeks that follow him regarding the Blood.
 

That's why I won't let you kids off the hook. You've got to get converted - really converted - or you'll turn out to be just another Greek Geek - just another unconverted, rebellious evangelical.

Young people, remember these words:

"Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…" (Romans 3:24-25).

Make sure that you are converted to Christ.  And then go on and preach and proclaim the glorious Gospel of Reformation and revival - the Gospel of the Blood - the Gospel of Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Bunyan, Whitefield, and Wesley!  Preach it to the ends of the earth!
 

CLICK HERE FOR MORE MATERIAL ON DR. MACARTHUR AND THE BLOOD

(END OF SERMON)

 

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 3:24-25.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"There Is a Fountain" (by William Cowper, 1731-1800).
 

THE OUTLINE OF

MACARTHUR, THE GREEK GEEKS, AND THE BLOOD

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"Being justified fully by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:24-25).

(Ephesians 2:8-9; II Timothy 4:3-4)

I.   Question number one: is C. E. B. Cranfield right
when he tells us not to have faith in Christ's Blood? Romans 3:25.

II.  Question number two: why was Cain's offering rejected, while
Abel's was accepted? Genesis 4:4-5, 7; I John 3:12;
Matthew 9:12; I John 1:7.

III. Question number three: why would God list the "blood of
sprinkling" in Heaven if there were no Blood there?
Hebrews 12:22-24; II Peter 2:1-2; John 3:3,7;
I Corinthians 2:14; II Corinthians 4:3-4; Romans 3:24-25.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."

For a tape recording of Dr. Hymers preaching this sermon, send $4.00
and request the sermon by date and title. Write to Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
P. O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015.


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