The Gospel According To John (MacArthur)—Part 18

Throughout this series, however it might seem to devoted fans of John MacArthur, I have endeavored to be honest and fair—both of which require me to acknowledge, as I have before, that chapters 14 and 15 are quite edifying. The beginning of chapter 14 is not promising. He begins with a note from Pilgrim’s Progress that there is “an entrance to hell at the gates of heaven.”178 He mentions Judas as an example of one who, figuratively, at the gates of heaven stepped through to hell. Suddenly, however, this chapter and the next take a sharp, gospel turn. To this point, I have been complaining that MacArthur has yet to tell us what is good about the good news. In these two chapters, however, though he does not tell us the whole story, he does revel in the free grace of salvation.

It is that even the lowest of sinners may be ushered into heaven from the very doorstep of hell. Publicans, prostitutes, thieves, and beggars all found in Christ a Savior who gave them abundant and everlasting life in exchange for the remnants of their squandered earthly existence. He came to seek and to save the lost, and He loved plucking them as brands from the fire. No one, no matter how dissipated by sin, was beyond the reach of His redemptive power.179

This is just right. Paul says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim 1:15). We should agree heartily when MacArthur says every “repentant sinners who surrendered in faith to Christ received full salvation.”180

MacArthur is still wrong to say, “saving faith is an exchange of all we are for all that Christ is,” as noted previously (see the discussion of the “joyous exchange”)181 Yet when he turns to the parable of the vineyard (Matt 20:1–16), he sounds the right note. Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven is by grace alone.181 As he notes, grace is not fair. Were it so, none of us would ever enter the Kingdom. He is right to say that God initiates, establishes, and continues our salvation, that God is compassionate toward us sinners,182 and that salvation has personal consequences for us, namely “everyone God redeems is willing to work for Him.”183

Further, in chapter 15, his account of God’s compassion on the lost, a theme really carried over from the previous chapter, is a powerful theme because it is so true to Scripture. Jesus really is the Good Shepherd and he really did leave the ninety-nine, as it were, to come after the one lost sheep.184 Though he does not use the category or the expression “free offer of the gospel,” those who know this aspect of the Reformed tradition will resonate with his account of the Ten Coins and the Two Sons.185 God does reveal himself, in Ezekiel 33:11 (and in many other places), as not desiring the death of the wicked and as rejoicing when one sinner turns. This is a refreshing gospel note in GAJ and a place where confessional Reformed folk should say Amen.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.

The series so far.


  1. GAJ, 151.
  2. GAJ, 151.
  3. GAJ, 151.
  4. GAJ, 152–55.
  5. GAJ, 156
  6. GAJ, 155.
  7. GAJ, 159.
  8. GAJ, 160–64.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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