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At the end of this sermon I will print the complete text of Dr. John MacArthur's open letter, which he sent to a friend of mine concerning the controversy over his view of the Blood of Christ. You can read Dr. MacArthur's letter for yourself and see if I have treated him fairly on this issue. It is printed unchanged at the close of this sermon. If you order the manuscript of this sermon from us, MacArthur's letter will be attached at the end. It is also at the end of this sermon on our website.
I want you to know that I am not attacking Dr. MacArthur personally. He is scholarly. He is a good family man. He has pastored the same church for many years. On most things he is correct and Scriptural. I myself have been helped by many of the notes he has written in The MacArthur Study Bible. This is not an attack on him or on his integrity as a Bible teacher - on most points.
I must admit that I strongly disagreed with his position when he denied the eternal Sonship of Christ. I believed that he was truly wrong on this important subject. I was convinced that his view was heretical, because denying the eternal Sonship of Christ is denying a central doctrine of historic Christianity, going all the way back to the early centuries of the Christian faith. I spoke out strongly against his view. So did George Zeller, and other highly credible men.
When Dr. MacArthur changed a few years ago, and embraced the historic and Scriptural view of Christ's eternal Sonship, I rejoiced! I was gladdened when he changed his view and moved away from heresy on this essential point. I had prayed for him, and I felt that God answered my prayers, and the prayers of many others who love him and care for his ministry and his great church, and radio outreach.
Now I am asking you to pray for Dr. MacArthur once more. I want you to pray that he will change again, on the important issue of the Blood of Christ.
None of us are perfect. Every minister of the gospel has some blind spots. I'm sure I do as well. And every pastor needs to be corrected at times by his peers. That is why I was overjoyed that Dr. MacArthur received the correction of that fine scholar George Zeller, and others, who showed him the error of rejecting Christ's eternal Sonship.
But now we must gather in earnest prayer for Dr. MacArthur once again. It is high time that God's people enter into deep prayer for Dr. MacArthur to change his views on the Blood of Jesus. Nothing short of divine intervention by God can do this for him. We need to pray for God to change his mind on the Blood. I have made a promise to God to pray for him in this regard on a daily basis, and I am asking you to do the same. I want our deacon, Mr. Griffith, to put this on our weekly prayer-list, so that everyone will pray for him in this regard in our weekly church prayer meeting. I am asking every other pastor reading this on our website to do the same thing. Pray for this man. Pray that God will open his understanding regarding the incorruptible Blood of the Saviour. Preacher, if you are reading this, please join us in prayer on a daily basis for Dr. MacArthur. Please do not write him an angry letter. He has had enough of those. If you do write to him, please make it a kind note, and tell him you are praying that God will open his heart to the great truths of the Blood of Christ, as they are revealed in the Scripture. You can write to him at this address:
Dr. John F. MacArthur
c/o Grace Community Church
13248 Roscoe Blvd.
Sun Valley, CA 91352.
Now, tonight I am not going to preach a regular sermon. I am simply going to go through Dr. MacArthur's letter and answer some of the main points in it. As I said, you can read his entire letter, which is printed without abridgement, exactly as he wrote it, at the close of this message.
Before I come to preach, Mr. Griffith will sing a song which he himself wrote on the Blood of Christ (Mr. Griffith sings "Where Is the Blood of Jesus Today?").
Now, tonight, I want you to turn in your Bible to Revelation, chapter one, verse four:
"John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; 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" (Revelation 1:4-5).
That is our text tonight: "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Revelation 1:5). It is a wonderful text - and I hope it will inspire you to be converted "through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:25).
Now we come to the main points in Dr. MacArthur's letter, and I will answer them, to the best of my ability, one by one.
Dr. MacArthur begins by saying, "The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is holy and precious." I wonder how he can say that it "is" holy and precious when he has told us that it doesn't exist! It may only be an oversight of his, or a poor choice of words, when he wrote that the Blood of Jesus " is holy and precious." I will grant that possibility, and move on. But I must point out that since Dr. MacArthur doesn't believe that the Blood exists, it really isn't correct for him to say that it " is holy and precious." There is no Blood to be holy and precious in his view.
Then he says, "The shedding of His blood in death was the price of atonement for sins. As he literally poured out His blood in a sacrificial act, He sealed forever the New Covenant and purchased our redemption."
I do not doubt that he believes this. But you should notice that those words do not address whether or not he believes that the Blood of Christ exists today. He has not dealt with the question in that statement.
Dr. MacArthur then says, "For several years, however, I have been under attack by a small but vocal group of men eager to discredit my ministry. They have charged me with denying the blood of Christ and have called me a heretic in several nationally distributed publications."
It is a sad shame, if it is true that only "a small but vocal group of men" have taken him to task on the existence of Christ's Blood! If it is true that only a "small group" has done this, I am afraid that it shows the weakness and apostasy of the churches in our day. If Spurgeon were living, he would have spoken strongly for the existence of the Blood, as he often did in his lifetime. If Dr. Torrey were still alive he would have thundered against the idea that the Blood of Christ disappeared in the sand around the Cross. So would Chapman, and Scofield, and Haldeman, and William Jennings Bryan, and a great host of others in that day. The old-time Fundamentalists believed in "the Book, the Blood, and the Blessed Hope." I am sure that Bob Jones, Sr., "Fighting Bob" Shuler, J. Frank Norris, T. T. Shields, and John R. Rice would have thundered forth against the idea that the literal Blood of Jesus disappeared in the sand, and is no longer available to cleanse sinners. Surely, if they were transported into our time these men would have spoken long and loud against Dr. MacArthur's view that the Blood perished.
But these men are long dead. We are now deep in the end-time apostasy - and, sadly, only a "small but vocal group of men" are standing up for the existence of the Blood of Christ. It shows what a pitifully impoverished spiritual condition we are in - now as this age draws to a close.
"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" (II Timothy 4:3).
A hundred years ago every evangelist and major Bible teacher in America would have corrected Dr. MacArthur. But now we are deep in the darkness of end-time apostasy. There is no one left to correct him but a "small but vocal group." Dr. MacArthur goes on in the letter to say:
Nonetheless, a small core of zealots have kept the issue swirling around every ministry I'm involved with. One man has literally made a career of going to any church in the country that will pay his way and giving a series of messages on the error of "MacArthurism."
I think I know who that "one man" is. He is no fool. He earned a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) at Dallas Theological Seminary, and is an expert on the Greek of the New Testament. Furthermore, this man was right when he criticized Dr. MacArthur for rejecting the eternal Sonship of Christ. The fact that Dr. MacArthur recently came over to this man's historic and Biblical view of eternal Sonship absolutely vindicated this "one man," whom Dr. MacArthur belittles. And this "one man" is also correct when he points out that Dr. MacArthur is wrong about the existence of the Blood.
Then Dr. MacArthur gives point one in his letter, "Jesus' Blood is the Basis of Redemption." What Dr. MacArthur says on this point is Scriptural and orthodox. But under this point he does not deal with the question of the literal Blood of Jesus in Heaven (cf. Hebrews 12:22-24). An alert person will notice that he does not deal with that doctrinal point at all under this particular heading.
Then Dr. MacArthur gives point two, "Jesus Shed His Literal Blood When He Died." Here we begin to see that Dr. MacArthur has wrong ideas about the Blood. He says,
The meaning of the crucifixion, however, is not fully expressed in the bleeding alone. There was nothing supernatural in Jesus' blood that sanctified (sic, should be "justified") those it touched. Those who flogged Him might have been spattered with blood. Yet that literal application of Jesus' blood did nothing to purge their sins.
Who ever said it did? This is an evasion, a rhetorical maneuver to prejudice the reader against the literal application of Jesus' Blood. I know of not one Bible-believing theologian or preacher who ever said that. The people who had the Blood of Jesus "spattered" on them during our Lord's agony and crucifixion were not justified because they did not have faith in His Blood! The Bible plainly tells us:
"Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:24-25).
Blood which spattered on them could not atone for their sin because they did not have "faith in his blood." Without faith it is impossible to please God (cf. Hebrews 11:6).
Then Dr. MacArthur says, "It is important to note also that though Christ shed His blood, Scripture does not say He bled to death; it teaches rather that He voluntarily yielded up His spirit (John 10:18). Yet even that physical death could not have brought redemption apart from His spiritual death, whereby He was separated from the Father (cf. Matthew 27:46)."
Here Dr. MacArthur seems to be strongly influenced by the ideas of Colonel R. B. Thieme, Jr. I was present when Dr. MacArthur took notes from Colonel Thieme on this subject, in 1961. In his book, The Blood of Christ, Colonel Thieme said:
The analogy between something physical and something spiritual will not be confused if we understand the nature of the Lord's physical death and see that although it has great significance, it was not a means of salvation. Christ's physical death simply indicated that His work was completed. Nevertheless He died physically…by dismissing His own soul and spirit when the Father's plan called His to depart (R. B. Thieme, Jr., The Blood of Christ, 1977 updated edition, pp. 13, 31).
Like Colonel Thieme, Dr. MacArthur puts great emphasis on the "spiritual" death of Christ, and downplays His physical death. This is the reason Dr. MacArthur deemphasizes the literal Blood of Christ. If the physical death "was not a means of salvation," as Thieme said, then the literal Blood of Christ is not necessary. Dr. John F. Walvoord of Dallas Theological Seminary wrote that he disagrees with Colonel Thieme on this false teaching. But sadly Dr. MacArthur believes it and repeats it.
Also, in this paragraph, Dr. MacArthur says, "Scripture does not say He bled to death." Of course it doesn't! Whoever said it did? I know of no mainstream theologian or preacher who ever said, "He bled to death." This is another rhetorical evasion, tossed out to downplay the importance of Christ's physical death and physical Blood.
In point three, Dr. MacArthur says, "Not Every Reference to Jesus' Blood is Literal." He then shows several passages (like John 6:53-54) where the Blood of Christ is not to be taken literally. Then he mentions the false Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and says, "Trying to make literal every reference to Christ's blood can lead to serious error." This, of course, is true. Correct hermeneutics demands that the preacher determine, in context, which passage is to be taken literally and which one is to be taken figuratively.
But Dr. MacArthur never deals with the other side of the issue. While it is true that "trying to make literal every reference to Christ's blood can lead to serious error," it is also true that trying to make every reference to Christ's Blood figurative can lead to serious error!
It is a very serious error to make the Blood of Christ merely figurative in such passages as Hebrews 12:24, I John 1:7; Romans 3:25; I Peter 1:19; Revelation 1:5, etc. The Roman Catholics went to one extreme, and Dr. MacArthur goes to the other extreme, making every reference to the Blood figurative, merely a metonym (another word meaning the same thing) for Christ's death, which he does repeatedly in his writings and in the notes in The MacArthur Study Bible (see, for instance, his note on Hebrews 9:14, "Blood is used as a substitute word for death").
In point three of Dr. MacArthur's letter, we now come to the heart of his error on the Blood of Christ, when he says:
Those who have attacked me…teach that the physical blood of Christ was somehow preserved after the crucifixion and carried to heaven, where it is now literally applied to the soul of each Christian at salvation. We are not saved by some mystical heavenly application of Jesus' literal blood. Nothing in Scripture indicates that the literal blood of Christ is preserved in heaven and applied to individual believers. When Scripture says we're redeemed by the blood (I Peter 1:18-19), it is not speaking of a bowl of blood in heaven. It means we're saved by Christ's sacrificial death.
Dr. MacArthur has often said, "You don't think an angel took Christ's blood to Heaven in a golden cup, do you? That's a medieval Catholic teaching." Those who listen to him have heard him say words like this many times.
Let's look at that question closely. We shouldn't reject a doctrine just because the ancient Catholics believed it, should we? The medieval Catholics believed in the virgin birth of Christ. They believed in the divinity of Christ. And they believed in the Blood atonement. They were better than a liberal Baptist like Harry Emerson Fosdick, who called the Blood atonement of Christ "a slaughterhouse religion" (ref. Horton, Church History and Things to Come, Pensacola: A Beka Books, p. 156). Fosdick attacked the virgin birth, the inspiration of the Bible, the second coming of Christ, and the Blood of Christ. He castigated those who believed in "the blood of our Lord" in his famous sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" (Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, preached at First Presbyterian Church, New York City, May 21, 1922). The medieval Catholics were much better than a liberal Baptist like Harry Emerson Fosdick. And they were much better than a liberal Baptist like Nels F. S. Ferre, who "attacked virtually all the historic fundamentals of the Christian faith" (David Beale, In Pursuit of Purity, Greenville: Unusual Publications, 1986, p. 176). It was Dr. Nels Ferre who said, "The blood of Jesus Christ could no more wash away sins than the blood of a chicken." The medieval Catholics were better than a liberal Baptist like him! So, we should not reject a doctrine simply because medieval Catholics believed it, should we? They were better than modern liberals on the Blood atonement!
Then, what about angels doing something with Christ's Blood? You don't really have a problem with that, do you? If you do, may I ask why? There were angels present throughout the Gospel accounts of Christ's agony, death, resurrection, and ascension. The night before His crucifixion, in the Garden of Gethsemane, an angel came and strengthened Him, according to Luke 22:43. Later that night, Christ told Peter that He could call on 72,000 angels if He wanted to escape the crucifixion. Dr. MacArthur himself says, "That would represent more than 72,000 angels…this many angels would make a formidable army" ( The MacArthur Study Bible, note on Matthew 26:53). When the two Marys came to the tomb, an angel told them, "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said" (Matthew 28:6). And when Christ was translated bodily into Heaven, two angels were there, and spoke to the Disciples (Acts 1:10-11). So, the Bible tells us that angels appeared all though the agony, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Why should we be troubled at the thought of another one taking His Blood to Heaven, if 72,000 of them were available, as Dr. MacArthur himself points out ( MacArthur Study Bible, note on Matthew 26:53)?
And what about the golden cup? Isn't that a weird Catholic doctrine? Not at all. The Bible plainly tells us that there are many golden objects in Heaven, including "crowns of gold" (Revelation 4:4) and streets of "pure gold" (Revelation 21:21). Oh, and yes, and the Bible plainly tells us that there are seven golden vials, or cups, in Heaven (Revelation 15:7). Yes, that verse makes it very clear that there are golden cups in Heaven! Surely Dr. MacArthur believes Revelation 15:7? So why should he be concerned about another golden cup in Heaven containing the Blood of Christ?
Then, what about the Blood of Christ being in Heaven? Well, the Bible itself quite plainly lists Christ's Blood as one of the seven things in Heaven in Hebrews 12:22-24:
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.
7. The blood of sprinkling.
Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley, of all people, certainly cannot be accused of "Catholic doctrine" when he gives the following statement concerning Hebrews 12:22-24!
Now there is no doubt about the reality of all the above [in Hebrews 12:22-24]. "Oh yes there is," says this new breed of preachers. All that are mentioned above are real except the blood…They displace it altogether. There is no blood in heaven, they affirm. There is no blood of sprinkling there…They…reject the plain teaching of the Holy Word of God. What their "scholarly" minds cannot conceive their "scholarly" arrogance rejects. God states that the blood is in heaven. They say it cannot be for it is lost…They say, you can't have the real, literal blood of Christ in heaven. They ban it from the presence of God. [But] the blood is just as real in heaven as God, the Lord Jesus, the angels and the saints. That is what the Bible states and I believe it (Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley, "Ten Impossibilities if the Blood of Christ Perished," published by The British Council of Protestant Christian Churches, Martyrs Memorial Publications, 356-376 Ravenhill Road, Belfast BT6 8GL, Northern Ireland).
Dr. MacArthur said, in his letter,
When Scripture says we're redeemed by the blood it is not speaking of a bowl of blood in heaven (letter from MacArthur, page 3, reproduced at the end of this sermon).
What a strangely unspiritual statement! The Bible teaches that there are angels. The Bible teaches that there is a great deal of gold, including golden cups, in Heaven. The Bible teaches that "the blood of sprinkling" is in Heaven (ref. Hebrews 12:24). How odd, and unscriptural, and unbelieving - and we may say, "liberal" - that question is! Why does Dr. MacArthur line up with the liberals on the Blood?
You don't think an angel came down with a golden cup and
scooped up His Blood and took it to Heaven, do you?
Why does he ask such a question? Why does he say, "When Scripture says we're redeemed by the blood it is not speaking of a bowl of blood in heaven"? Why say such a thing? How does Dr. MacArthur know that the Blood of Jesus isn't in a bowl in Heaven? How does he know that?
I don't know that. The Bible doesn't say anything on that point. The Blood of Christ may very well be in a golden bowl in Heaven. And this is where I take exception to Dr. MacArthur's view - he says he knows! He tells us he knows it isn't in a bowl in Heaven. In fact, he says the Scriptures tell us it isn't. But the Scriptures do not say it isn't. The Scriptures are silent on this point. Therefore, Dr. MacArthur has added something to the Word of God that just isn't revealed!
I say that Dr. MacArthur's view is actually worse than the beliefs of medieval Catholics! MacArthur's view is worse because he rejects the clear revelation of Scripture, in Hebrews 12:24, which tells us that the Blood is in Heaven. Thus, Dr. MacArthur's view is actually worse than that of ancient Roman Catholics! It is a sad shame when a modern "Protestant" is worse on the doctrine of Christ's Blood than a medieval Roman Catholic!
John MacArthur teaches that there is no real Blood in Heaven. He denies the revelation of Scripture in Hebrews 12:24. This makes him worse than a medieval Catholic like Chrysostom, who said, in the fifth century A.D.,
He suffered without, but His Blood was borne up into Heaven. Thou seest then that we partake of Blood which has been carried into the Holy Place, the true Holy Place (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Hebrews, Homily XXXIII, in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, volume XIV, Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and the Epistle to the Hebrews, edited by Philip Schaff, translated by Frederic Gardiner, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1978 reprint, p. 517).
Because I believe Hebrews 12:24, I stand with John Chrysostom, and with great Spurgeon, prince of preachers, who said:
I know that his precious blood in heaven prevails with God on behalf of them that come unto him (C. H. Spurgeon, "The Warrant of Faith," Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1979, volume 9, p. 530).
Therefore I call on you tonight to turn by faith to Jesus Christ, in Heaven at the right hand of God. Turn by faith to the ascended Christ, and to the "blood of sprinkling" in Heaven!
"Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:24-25).
Look to Christ by faith! Look to His Blood by faith!
"The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin"
(I John 1:7).
I ask you to come to Jesus Christ. I ask you to come "unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Revelation 1:5). His Blood is in Heaven, waiting to cleanse you (cf. Hebrews 12:24). Come tonight and believe in the Blood of our loving Saviour!
There is a fountain filled with blood Drawn from Emmanuel's veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood Lose all their guilty stains.
("There Is a Fountain," by William Cowper, 1731-1800).
CLICK HERE FOR MORE MATERIAL ON DR. MACARTHUR AND THE BLOOD
Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Revelation 1:4-5.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"Where Is the Blood of Jesus Today?," by Mr. Griffith.
HERE IS THE OPEN LETTER FROM DR.
WHICH DR. HYMERS ANSWERED
HERE FOR MORE MATERIAL ON DR. MACARTHUR AND THE BLOOD
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