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MacArthur on Justification & Sanctification

See also Our Hermeneutics, under II. Whole Counsel.


This is what MacArthur taught as of at least 1985 on justification and what it means to have righteousness imputed:

A. Righteousness Is Imputed

Some people say that the word justified means "to declare someone righteous." They say, "Justified means 'Just-as-if-I'd-never-sinned.'" But God isn't saying, "I'm going to pretend that it was just as if they never sinned." To justify doesn't mean to declare you are righteous when you're not; it means to make you righteous. That is an important distinction.

Paul's usage of the word justify was drawn from the Old Testament concept. The equivalent in the Hebrew is the verb tsadeq, which primarily means "to cause someone to be righteous." God doesn't say, "I'm going to pretend you are righteous" - He makes us righteous. It is the opposite of condemnation. It is a transformation. If we believe that God is saying we are righteous when we are not, the conversion isn't a transformation. But justification makes us righteous. And I believe we are made right with God - that we receive an actual acquittal, an actual imputation of the righteous nature granted to us. (Justification By Faith, p. 50, John MacArthur's Bible Studies, Romans 3:20-4:25, Moody Press, copyright 1984, 1985, bold added)

Somewhere between 1985 when Justification By Faith was published and 1993 when his book, Faith Works, was published, MacArthur's position drastically changed, so much so he now rejects his former concept of justification (see below). This change is so dramatic that what he wrote above, "He makes us righteous," MacArthur now calls "Catholic theology."

Catholic theology views justification as an infusion of grace that makes the sinner righteous. (Truth Matters, p. 33; Faith Works, p. 90; see endnote 1)

Catholic theology is grossly perverted, but God making the sinner truly righteous in salvation is not (see below).

I. False Justification

In MacArthur's book, Faith Works, and in his more recent book, Truth Matters, in which he unwittingly admits he believes the truth doesn't matter (see endnote 2), MacArthur now defines justification in these terms:

God receives as righteous those who believe, not because of any good thing He sees in them - not even because of His own sanctifying work in their lives - but solely on the basis of Christ's righteousness, which is reckoned to their account. "To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5). That is justification. (Faith Works, p. 88-89, bold added; found also in Truth Matters, p. 31)

MacArthur's words here are perverted. Genesis 15:5-6 well illustrates this.

Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

Why did God account it to him for righteousness? Because, "he believed in the LORD." Is this something good that God saw in Abraham? Yes, of course it is! Faith is good (John 6:29). God wasn't blind or stupid. He did notice that Abraham believed. That's the whole point. The "it" in "accounted it" is Abraham's belief in the Lord.

Was Abraham's faith the sanctifying work of God? Yes! Salvation is "through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13). If Abraham "believed in the Lord," he was saved (John 3:18; 8:56). If Abraham was declared righteous, he was saved (Matthew 13:43; 25:46). If Abraham was not sanctified at this point, which means being set apart, made holy, he was not saved; because without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

Abraham's good was not his own, but God's (Psalm 16:2). Abraham's faith was not of himself. It was the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Nevertheless, the Lord accounted it to him for righteousness because "he believed in the LORD." In other words, God did receive Abraham as righteous because of the good thing He saw in him, and that good thing was God's own sanctifying work in Abraham's life.

Immediately after the above quote, MacArthur continues with,

Theologically, justification is a forensic, or purely legal, term. It describes what God declares about the believer, not what He does to change the believer. In fact, justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner's nature or character. Justification is a divine judicial edict. It changes our status only, but it carries ramifications that guarantee other changes will follow. (Truth Matters, p. 32, italics in original, bold added; similar statement in Faith Works, p. 89)

In the past, MacArthur taught, "justification makes us righteous." Now, he claims, "justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner's nature." MacArthur's flip is not for the better, but for the worse (2 Timothy 3:13).

It is no doubt true that justification is "what God declares about the believer." Genesis 15:5-6 and Romans 4:2-5 illustrate that (see also endnote 3). But, to say that, "justification effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner's nature or character," and "It changes our status only," denies the very essence of the declaration itself.

First of all, God is not a liar. When He declares someone righteous, He is speaking the truth. They are righteous. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

How are they righteous? Because God makes them righteous. How does He make them righteous? By giving them His righteousness.

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24)

The righteousness of God is "to all and on all who believe." Paul put it this way:

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. (Philippians 3:8-9)

Paul forsook all (Luke 14:26-33) so that he could have, not his own righteousness (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5), but God's righteousness. God's righteousness is real, practical righteousness, as Paul wrote in another letter,

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. (Galatians 2:20)

Christ lives the righteousness of God. If Christ is living in a person, then the righteousness of God is living in that person (1 Corinthians 1:30), and it most assuredly effects actual change in the sinner's nature and character. As Paul said in Romans 6:18,

And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Justification, that is, when God declares someone righteous, this does not indicate "our status only," it indicates our very character, as it is written,

He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:4)

In other words, those who know Him, those whom He has justified, do keep His commandments (1 John 2:5; Revelation 22:14). They are righteous (Psalm 1:6; 34:15, 39).

Now, even though God does indeed make the believer righteous, are we not still unrighteous as well? Yes, as it is written,

For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

In your sight no one living is righteous. (Psalm 143:2)

So, how can the Lord rightly declare an unrighteous person truly righteous at the same time? Or, in other words, how does God justify the ungodly? Romans lets us know.

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin." (Romans 4:1-8)

When a man believes God's word (Romans 4:3), God considers this righteousness, because it is righteousness, but it is no righteousness of the sinner's. It is not the sinner's work, but God's (Ephesians 2:9-10). God takes dead sinners (Ephesians 2:1-3) and makes them alive (Ephesians 2:5) and gives them faith (Ephesians 2:8), and in all of this the Lord does not consider the sinner's ungodliness (his sin). He does not "impute" (consider) the sin of the sinner.

"But," someone may ask, "how can the Lord ignore the sin? How can He 'not impute sin' as Romans 4:8 says?" He doesn't ignore it. He has dealt with it in Christ. Jesus died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6; Hebrews 9:28). Isaiah puts it this way:

By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11)

The price has been paid for man's sins by God Himself (Acts 20:28; John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Peter 2:24).

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

So, with sin paid for, and the righteousness of God indwelling the believer, the believer is accounted righteous through the God given faith.

But, this accounting is only "forensic," according to MacArthur, as he writes,

When I was married, for example, Patricia and I stood before the minister (my father) and recited our vows. Near the end of the ceremony, my father declared, "By the authority vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you man and wife." Instantly we were legally husband and wife. Whereas seconds before we had been an engaged couple, now we were married. Nothing inside us actually changed when those words were spoken. But our status changed before God, the law, and our family and friends. The implications of that simple declaration have been lifelong and life-changing (for which I am grateful). But when my father spoke those words, it was a legal declaration only.

Similarly, when a jury foreman reads the verdict, the defendant is no longer "the accused." Legally and officially he instantly becomes either guilty or innocent - depending on the verdict. Nothing in his actual nature changes, but if he is found not guilty he will walk out of court a free man in the eyes of the law, fully justified.

. . . So when God justifies He imputes divine righteousness to the sinner (Rom. 4:22-25). Christ's own infinite merit thus becomes the ground on which the believer stands before God (Rom. 5:19; 1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9). And so justification elevates the believer to a realm of full acceptance and divine privilege equal to that of Jesus Christ.

Therefore because of justification, believers not only are perfectly free from any charge of guilt (Rom. 8:33), but they also have the full merit of Christ reckoned to their personal account (Rom. 5:17). At justification we are adopted as sons (Rom. 8:15); we become fellow heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17); we are united with Christ so that we become one with Him (1 Cor. 6:17); and we are henceforth "in Christ" (Gal. 3:27) and He in us (Col. 1:27). Those are all forensic realities that flow out of justification. (Truth Matters, p. 32-33, bold added; similar statement in Faith Works, p. 89-90)

MacArthur claims "Those are all forensic realities." That is a lie. They are not matters that speak of "our status only." Look at some of the Scriptures he cites.

For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)

Just as Adam's offense was not simply forensic, so the "gift of righteousness" is not purely legal. It is an actual gift of real righteousness.

For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

Just as many were literally made sinners by Adam's disobedience, so through Jesus' obedience many will be (and are) made literally righteous.

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God - and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

We have literal wisdom, literal righteousness, literal sanctification, and literal redemption in Christ Jesus. None of this is purely legal. It is all actual. Every true believer has wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption from God.

But, MacArthur continues to argue his folly.

The word "reckoned" shows the forensic nature of justification. In Romans 4, "reckoned" is translated from the Greek word logizomai, a term used for accounting and legal purposes. It speaks of something charged to an account. (Truth Matters, p. 41; similar statement in Faith Works, p. 100)

Please note every time logizomai (λογιζομαι) is translated in the NKJV: Mark 15:28 & Luke 22:37 (numbered); John 11:50 (consider); Acts 19:27 (may be despised, ouδεν λογισθηναι); Romans 2:3 (think), 26 (counted); 3:28 (conclude); 4:3 (accounted), 4 (counted), 5 (accounted), 6 (imputes), 8 (impute), 9-10 (accounted), 11 (imputed), 22 (accounted), 23-24 (imputed); 6:11 (reckon); 8:18 (consider), 36 (accounted); 9:8 (counted); 14:14 (considers); 1 Corinthians 4:1 (consider); 13:5 (thinks), 11 (thought); 2 Corinthians 3:5 (think); 5:19 (imputing); 10:2 (think), 7 & 11; 11:5 (consider); 12:6 (think); Galatians 3:6 (accounted); Philippians 3:13 (count); 4:8 (meditate); 2 Timothy 4:16 (charged); Hebrews 11:19 (concluding); James 2:23 (accounted); 1 Peter 5:12 (consider). The word basically means to think, consider, as these verses testify.

So MacArthur's idea of imputation, reckoning, God accounting faith in Him as righteousness (Romans 4:3), is forensic, purely legal. Scripture nowhere teaches this concept (Proverbs 30:5-6). Moreover, if this reckoning by God was not real, practical, true, living righteousness, then God would be not only a liar, but doing what is an abomination to Himself!

He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 17:15; see also Exodus 23:7; Proverbs 24:24)

So, MacArthur makes God out to be an abomination to Himself, for MacArthur writes,

And He can declare believing sinners righteous even though they are not. That is justification. (Truth Matters, p. 45; similar statement in Faith Works, p. 104)

When MacArthur defines his idea of justification as "purely legal" and declares,

Abraham's faith was not in itself righteousness (Truth Matters, p. 45; similar statement in Faith Works, p. 103),

he makes God an abomination to Himself, as He not only "justifies the wicked," but calls evil good (Isaiah 5:20), since nothing has changed and the person is still evil and not actually righteous.

After the above quote MacArthur writes,

Faith is only reckoned for righteousness. (Truth Matters, p. 45; similar statement in Faith Works, p. 103)

As the word study above bears witness, reckoning (logizomai) means to think, consider. In other words, God considers faith in Him to be righteousness. God is not playing legal games. He is thinking truth, reality. It is truly righteousness, His righteousness.

But what about Romans 4:5? It says point blank that He justifies the ungodly? Yes, but He does so not in the way MacArthur claims. He does so in demonstration of His righteousness.

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

God is just, in that the payment for sins has been made (Isaiah 53:5, 8, 10a), and He is the justifier, making righteous men and women (Ephesians 2:1-10) and declaring them so through faith in Him (Romans 4:3; 5:19). This is real, practical, and true righteousness, as the day of judgment reveals:

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28-29; see also Romans 2:6-10)

No one is capable of doing good (doing righteousness) on their own (Psalm 14:1; 16:2). It is only through the God given faith and His righteousness anyone will be found to be "doing good" (Romans 2:7).

In addition, with MacArthur's twisted idea of imputation, he makes Christ's payment for sin a "purely legal" matter.

As our sin was imputed to Christ (1 Peter 2:24), so His righteousness is imputed to the believer. (Truth Matters, p. 42; Faith Works, p. 101)

Christ indeed bore our sins in His own body. Does that mean it was something only "forensic." No, it was as real and graphic as it gets. Christ literally became sin.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

This verse more literally reads,

For the One who did not know sin, for us He made sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The word for sin here is a noun both times, αμαρτιαν (hamartian). God did not make Christ sin, in the sense of making Him do something evil. But, He made Him sin in the sense that He made Him into the very essence of sin itself. This is no "purely legal" matter. This is horrifically real! It is no wonder Christ cried out on the cross twice over, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). It is no wonder Christ agonized in the garden the night before (Mark 13:34-35; Luke 22:44). He knew He was soon to become sin itself (John 16:30; 18:4) and receive the wrath of the Almighty God.

II. False Distinction

MacArthur's deceit above is largely, if not wholly, founded on his unbiblical distinction between justification and sanctification. Even though he states, "justification and sanctification are so closely related that you can't have one without the other" (Truth Matters, p. 33), he also claims,

Justification is distinct from sanctification because in justification God does not make the sinner righteous; He declares that person righteous (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16). [Truth Matters, p. 33; Faith Works, p. 90, bold added]

Scripture nowhere teaches this distinction (Proverbs 30:5-6).

Nevertheless, MacArthur continues,

Justification imputes Christ's righteousness to the sinner's account (Rom. 4:11); sanctification imparts righteousness to the sinner personally and practically (Rom. 6:1-7; 8:11-14). Justification takes place outside the sinner and changes his standing (Rom. 5:1-2); sanctification is internal and changes the believer's state (Rom. 6:19). Justification is an event, sanctification a process. The two must be distinguished but can never be separated. (Truth Matters, p. 33; Faith Works, p. 90)

Of the Scriptures cited, only one specifically mentions sanctification (Romans 6:19), and in that one there is no distinction made as MacArthur makes between justification and sanctification, nor is there any such thing in any of the Scriptures mentioned; and that's because Scripture teaches no such thing. None of the passages support this distinction that he is making.

Nonetheless, MacArthur continues,

If sanctification is included in justification, then justification is a process, not an event. That makes justification progressive, not complete. (Truth Matters, p. 34; Faith Works, p. 91)

MacArthur reveals here his false gospel. Salvation (justification and sanctification) is both an event and progressive. Scripture clearly bears this out.

For the event, note 1 Corinthians 6:11 in which Paul says to the Corinthians,

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Notice Paul says, "such were some of you." In other words, some of you were fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), but now they are not, because they were washed (past tense), were sanctified (past tense), and were justified (past tense). Titus 3:5 says, "He saved us" (past tense). Revelation 1:5 says He, "washed us from our sins in His own blood." Hebrews 10:10 says,

By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (see also Romans 5:1; Titus 3:7)

So, salvation is indeed an event. But it is also progressive, as it is written,

Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38-39)

The "is justified" in verse 39 is the Greek word δικαιουται (dikaioutai) which is a present indicative verb. This depicts both in the English (is justified) and Greek continual action, i.e. continual justification. See also James 2:24 which also has δικαιουται (dikaioutai).

Likewise, Hebrews 2:11, αγιαζομενοι (hagiazomenoi), and 10:14, αγιαζομενους (hagiazomenous), both use the Greek present passive participle, and the NKJV does well in translating them, "those who are being sanctified." Similarly, 1 Corinthians 1:18 and 2 Corinthians 2:15 both have the present passive participle σωζομενοις (sôzomenois), and the NKJV correctly translates them both as "who are being saved." Likewise, Romans 3:24 has the present passive participle, δικαιούμενοι (dikaioumenoi), which the KJV and NKJV both well translate, "being justified."

Salvation is a continual process. This is why Hebrews 7:25 says,

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (see also Romans 8:34)

God is the Holy God and He cannot look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13). He hates evil (Proverbs 8:13) and responds to it with wrath (Psalm 90:11), and so we continually need an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1-2). If we didn't have this, we would be eternal toast (Isaiah 66:24; Leviticus 10:1-2)! As long as we are in this flesh (Romans 7:14-25), there is a continual need for intercession and washing, as 1 John 1:7 displays.

If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

This describes a continual cleansing in the only atonement available to man, the blood of Christ.

So, salvation (justification and sanctification) is an event in the past and progressive and also a future reality, as it is written,

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:9-10)

We shall be saved (future tense) from the coming wrath, for it is Jesus "who delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Jesus said, "he who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13).

Justification itself is explicitly declared to be yet future, as Jesus said,

By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:37)

And as Paul wrote,

For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. (Romans 2:13; see also 2:6-10; for more info see Not By Works)

So, MacArthur believes in an unbiblical distinction between justification and sanctification, and argues against the word of God which reveals justification is indeed progressive. But, that does not make it "not complete" as MacArthur claims. For that, see Romans 8:29-39 and Colossians 2:8-10.

MacArthur's folly continues immediately after the above quote.

One's standing before God is then based on subjective experience, not secured by an objective declaration. Justification can therefore be experienced and then lost. Assurance of salvation in this life becomes practically impossible because security can't be guaranteed. And the ground of justification ultimately is the sinner's own continuing present virtue, not Christ's perfect righteousness and His atoning work. (Truth Matters, p. 34; Faith Works, p. 91)

Here again MacArthur argues against the revelation of God. The above Scriptures are not based on subjective experience, justification can indeed be lost (e.g. John 15:1-6; Romans 11:19-22; Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 10:26-31), and yet assurance of salvation in this life is secure (Romans 8:29-39; Hebrews 10:39). For more, please see our report on Eternal Security.

Furthermore, MacArthur claims if these things are so then "the ground of justification ultimately is the sinner's own continuing present virtue," but this is a lie as well, as Philippians 2:12-13 demonstrates.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

The reason Paul exhorts them to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling is not because it all depends on them, but because it all depends on God; "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." That may not make good human logical sense, but it makes good Biblical sense.

MacArthur continues with his deceit by saying,

God does not declare sinners righteous legally without making them righteous practically. Justification is not just a legal fiction. When God declares someone righteous, He will inevitably bring it to pass. "Whom He justified, these He also glorified" (Rom. 8:30). When justification occurs, the process of sanctification begins. (Truth Matters, p. 45; Faith Works, p. 104)

MacArthur perverts the Word once again. Romans 8:30 says nothing about a process of sanctification or inevitably bringing anything to pass. The entire verse is all in the past tense.

Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:30)

This is all in the past tense. These are all matters that have already been done (e.g. see Ephesians 2:1-6).

God's righteousness is not inevitable, as MacArthur claims, but immediate, as it is written,

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

So, MacArthur now teaches justification "effects no actual change whatsoever in the sinner's nature or character" and is something that "takes place outside the sinner" and is something that "He will inevitably bring to pass." But Scripture declares God's salvation, which includes both justification and sanctification, is an actual change in the sinner and his character, and it happens at the point of faith in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17); and when God says He accounts it as righteousness, it means that God actually considers (logizomai) faith in Him righteous, for that is the good work of God (John 6:29).

III. False Conclusion

Finally, in the preface to MacArthur's book, Truth Matters, Phil Johnson writes,

So we selected our favorite chapters from some of our pastor's most important published works. Then we narrowed our choices down enough to make a manageable single volume. The result is the cream of a very select crop. (p. xi)

This cream has cyanide in it.

Johnson also writes,

This book epitomizes what John has devoted his life to: clear, in-depth biblical exposition that makes the truth accessible to lay men and women. (p. xi)

Indeed, it epitomizes what John has devoted his life to: clear, in-depth biblical exploitation (2 Peter 2:3) that makes the truth inaccessible to lay men and women. May God repay him according to his deeds (1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9).


1. Truth Matters, Landmark Chapters from the Teaching Ministry of John MacArthur, p. 33, copyright 2004, Thomas Nelson Publishers; found also in Faith Works: The Gospel According To The Apostles, copyright 1993, p. 90, Word Publishing.

2. Quoting Witsius MacArthur writes,

It is of no great importance, besides, to the church at large, to know quite correctly the precise number of fundamental articles. (Truth Matters, p. 91; also found in Reckless Faith, p. 115)

Earlier MacArthur wrote,

All who call themselves Christian should agree that there is a body of doctrine that is non-negotiable. The articles of faith that make up this constitutional body of truth are the very essence of 'the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints' (Jude 3). These are the real fundamentals of the faith. They are doctrines so indispensable to true Christianity that we ought to break fellowship with those who profess Christianity but who deny them (2 Cor. 6:14-17). (Truth Matters, p. 83-84; also found in Reckless Faith, p. 106-107)

So, on the one hand MacArthur says there are doctrines that are so essential "we ought to break fellowship with those who profess Christianity but who deny them." Yet, it doesn't matter ("It is of no great importance") if we know what they all are, even though they are "necessary to salvation." As MacArthur writes,

It is not my purpose here to attempt to give an exhaustive list of fundamental doctrines. To do so would be beyond the scope of this book, and certainly beyond my own abilities as a theologian. As Witsius has written: "To point out the articles necessary to salvation, and precisely determine their number, is a task, if not utterly impossible, at least extremely difficult." (Truth Matters, p. 91; also found in Reckless Faith, p. 115)

For more info, see our report on MacArthur.

3. Justification is where someone is declared or acknowledged as righteous. This is illustrated, for example, in Luke 10:29 where it says,

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Here the man wanted to be seen as just, as righteous, so he wanted to justify himself. In other words, he wanted to speak in such a way that would dictate he was righteous.

Another example can be seen in Romans 3:4 where it says,

Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged."

In other words, "That God may be seen or declared righteous (justified) in His words."

Another example, akin to this, is found in Luke 7:29.

And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John.

In other words, they acknowledged the righteousness of God. They justified Him.

The Greek verb for "justify" is δικαιοω (dikaioô) and it is found in Matthew 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:29, 35; 10:29; 16:15; 18:14; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 2:13; 3:4, 20, 24, 26, 28, 30; 4:2, 5; 5:1, 9; 6:7 ("freed" NKJV); 8:30, 33; 1 Corinthians 4:4; 6:11; Galatians 2:16(3x)-17; 3:8, 11, 24; 5:4; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 3:7; James 2:21, 24-25. The word for "righteous" or "just" in the Greek is δικαιος (dikaios, e.g. 1 John 3:7).

The Greek noun for justification is δικαιωσιν (dikaiôsin) and is only found in Romans 4:25 & 5:18. There is also δικαιωμα (dikaiôma) that is translated "justification" in Romans 5:16 (e.g. KJV, NKJV, NAS). This Greek word is also found in Luke 1:6 ("ordinances"); Romans 1:32 ("righteous judgment"); 2:26 ("righteous requirements"); 5:18 ("righteous act"); 8:4 ("righteous requirements"); Hebrews 9:1 ("ordinances of divine"), 10 (fleshly "ordinances"); Revelation 15:4 ("judgments"); 19:8 ("righteous acts").

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