John MacArthur Series on Isaiah 53 – brief Comments & Observations

I’ve been quite critical of John MacArthur and his hermeneutic as I perceive taught by the Masters Seminary but haven’t really listened to much of his preaching. To put that right I have listened to his series on Isaiah 53 in the car as I travel to and from work. There has been no note-taking so what follows is made up of what came across to be the main thrust of the ministry – how it came over.

MacArthur is a really good speaker and although I’ve not been that impressed by the overall content he nevertheless has a voice that is easy on the ear, his voice or tone, or pitch doesn’t assault my senses and is very clear and well articulated. The recording is good quality so all in all it’s really not a struggle to listen.

He hasn’t said anything much I hadn’t heard before but I was looking to hear of Christ and the Gospel. This is just a statement of fact as I have been a Christian since 1979. I’ve heard a lot of sermons! I was surprised, maybe I shouldn’t have been, how quickly he got into the nation of Israel. He ran out of time on one sermon, not finishing he decided to come back to it the next time. I know this because we were told on the following message. So with time enough to finish that section of Isaiah 53, what does he do but launch into an extended sermon on Israel and its repentance as a nation leaving the verse I thought he was coming back to for a few minutes at the end. I do not know John MacArthur, have never met him, never spoken to him, never had contact with him in any way other than through these messages – and I think one or two of his books. So, my comments are purely based on what I hear, where it seems to me his passion lies. His sermon is therefore, as it were, his shop window.

The next Sunday (next message that is) a lot of visitors were in for the graduation (so we were told) and so he quickly did a review of the previous weeks. This was fair enough so people could pick up the series as he was by now well into it. John made statement here that I fail to understand. He said the Old Testament is full of Jesus where he could be found. It was a qualified statement but couched in inclusive language because Jesus can actually be found everywhere. He doesn’t find Jesus for example in the Song of Solomon because he says so in his Study Bible. I though his qualification was a little disingenuous.

Sadly what I’ve found to be seriously lacking in this series is little if any mention of the Grace of God. I am driving so might have lost concentration on the sermon for a minute but cannot recall any mention of Grace. Doesn’t the Apostle Paul call it the Gospel of the Grace of God. And amazingly there has been no mention of the Love of God. Surely when considering such a passage of scripture such as Isaiah 53 it would have been more than appropriate to quote John 3:16 ‘God SO loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes ion Him should not perish but have eternal life’. Another verse that should have been mentioned was in Acts 8 where Philip beginning with that very scripture preached Christ. For Philip then, the primary meaning of the passage is Jesus Christ. I found MacArthur’s’ view that the primary meaning of Isaiah 53 was the final restoration and repentance of Israel something that even a premillennial friend of mine thought was a bit weird.

His preaching is very light on application. There is no application to struggling believers, doubting believers, sinning believers.

I found the ministry to be full of the sufferings of Christ but little or nothing on why those sufferings were necessary. This is astonishing. In one place he gives a string of words and phrases from the passage about Christ being bruised, beaten, crushed, afflicted and how it’s all about judgement and wrath but doesn’t even mention how this demonstrates the love of God for poor lost sinners, and I include Christians here. I am really surprised  shocked even. I couldn’t possibly condone a book about preaching the Gospel by John MacArthur – I only wish it were possible. MacArthur is greatly admired as a preacher but I just don’t get it – and I’m really sorry. I’ve listened to this series for about two weeks now each day as I travel in the car. I remember listening to Michael Horton on Law & Gospel and had to just sit in the car when I reached work in tears thankful for The Lord Jesus and what He has done for this poor undeserving sinner. Not so with this. It’s just so factual and rigid. Perhaps someone could explain to me based on this series what it is I’m missing. Am I the only person in the evangelical world that doesn’t get it – I would like to know.

I’m listening to this because I said I would. But just to remind you, I am only going on his preaching in this series – his shop window. It’s what I see and frankly I’m less than impressed.

I’ve listened to the series now and I have to admit the last one was the best of the series. He used the term God’s ‘Marvelous Grace’ and then used the word Grace again. It took to the end of the series to mention the Grace of God.

As a check I thought it might be a good idea to listen to someone else on this passage. Stuart Olyott seemed like a good idea so I downloaded the three messages on Isaiah 53 by Stuart. To be perfectly honest there was some crossover of things said but there just seemed to be a different emphasis, a wholly different feel to the ministry – if I can put it like that. On reflection it was maybe unfair of me to expect John MacArthur to be anything other than consistent with his own theology. But I reckon if he left out his references to Israel and didn’t constantly repeat himself (I know that can be a good thing) it would have taken him three, maybe four sermons, instead of ten to say the same thing. What Stuart did especially in his third sermon on Isaiah 53 was apply it. The application was very encouraging to poor struggling believers. Not every Christian is marching across the world like a colossus.  Some Christians are really struggling with their own sin, their backsliding of heart and a constant sense of failure. What this passage tells every Christian is that regardless of their own struggles and constant failures Jesus Christ has died for them! Even these poor examples, and I count myself as one of them, Jesus Christ died for and will bring them through for His own glory and praise. What an encouragement to once again seek this Saviour afresh and to serve Him for the rest of our days in whatever way He chooses. And then one day He will bring me, even me to be with Him in heaven. Now that’s the Gospel of the Grace of God to undeserving sinners.

If you see yourself to be one – a poor undeserving sinner. Then Jesus tells you, yes even you, to come to Him and receive from Him the gift of eternal life because He and only He has died and risen for sinners. Jesus says in Mat 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Go here and scroll down the page to find sermons by Stuart Olyott.


A Great Day in Aberystwyth

Pastor Geoff Thomas

In complete contrast to the ridiculous idea of having a donkey in a service of worship we were treated to the unadulterated Gospel at Alfred Place Baptist Church yesterday. Here Christ and His cross were at the centre, not donkeys, drums, entertainment and all manner of man-centred trivia. It was great to be in Aber and to hear Geoff Thomas again in his own inimitable way.

In the morning we were in Luke 19:45-48 ‘The Cleansing of the Temple’. In the evening it was Romans 8:11 ‘Christ Raised by the Spirit, and we are to be Raised Also’.

His sermons are available on Sermon Audio. Go here for MP3 Alfred Place for links.

I saw Geoff again this afternoon as he passed in his car. To my surprise he pulled over and we chatted for a while about apologetics and I asked about Greg Bahnsen. He did know him, and at one time Geoff had to stand in for him at an apologetics conference.

We continued to chat about apologetics, I thanked him for the Sunday ministry and in typical Geoff fashion he was back in his car and away.

‘On that day there shall be a fountain opened’

ZechariahOccasionally I post on the  Sunday ministry. I’ve left it bit later in the week but even so it was such a blessing that it deserves a wider hearing. I’ll not say much here but just to say it was on Zechariah ch 13. Our Pastor has been preaching through  Zechariah – a chapter at a time – and the ministry on this chapter in particular was a privilege to hear.

Pastor Watts has I believe been really gifted by God for the ministry of the Gospel. I will again commend his ministry not only to any unbeliever, but also to any would be minister or newly appointed minister as an example of ‘how to do it’. Of course I realise there is an individualistic approach and the Lord doesn’t by-pass who we are but I do commend it as a Godly example of Gospel ministry. It would be time well spent and you will not be disappointed.

Listen to it here:

Or go to the Series Page to download and listen to other Sermons on Zechariah.

The battle is the LORD’s

English: The young Hebrew David hoists the hea...
David removes the head of Goliath

1 Samuel 17:47 ‘and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”‘

For those of you that might not be too familiar with the Bible the above quotation is from probably the most famous recorded incident in the Bible. The story of David and Goliath. This was the subject of the evening New Year message given by our other full-time church worker James Young. I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be a ‘You can be like David and defeat the Goliath’s in your life’.  James didn’t disappoint, it was anything but. He laid it out as representatives of Jesus and Satan (David & Goliath) He justified this approach from Scripture during the sermon, I thought very well.

He also subverted the appearance by saying that the real Giant in the story is David as he represents or typifies The Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the strong man, He is the victor and we – those trusting in Christ – share in that victory.

Two statements James wanted us to go away with from the narrative. These are below in bold:

1 Samuel 17:32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” & 1 Samuel 17:47 ‘and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”‘

I thought this was an excellent sermon, an encouraging sermon that is well worth a listen.

To listen to the sermon click on the play button below. Or go to the Lower Ford Street Baptist Church Web-site where you may download it.

New Year Message 01/01/2012

Southern Wall of Temple Mount, southwestern corner.

It’s a New Year and what better way to begin than gathering together to worship God and hear His Word preached. Our Pastor gave a very encouraging message this morning from Haggai 2: 1-9 (“Be strong and work” – Haggai 2:4). We have home group Bible Study every other Tuesday evening. At present we discuss and further seek to apply the previous Sunday morning sermon. Notes are available for the message as an aid to our discussions. Here are Pastor Watts notes for this morning:


“Be strong and work” – Haggai 2:4

In v.3 Haggai picks up the mood of these discouraged post-exilic Jews who were trying to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple. Compared to Solomon’s Templethis second temple was going to be second-rate. It was beginning to dawn on them just how pathetic it was going to be – none of the grandeur, bespoke craftsmanship and materials of the first temple. (See 1 Kings 6:15, 18, 20-22 for a picture of the first temple)

Into this mood of discouragement Haggai brings a message from God – in v.4 three times “Be strong, take courage”, a promise delivered also by a threefold mention of “the Lord of hosts”. It reminds us of the promise to the other Joshua after Moses had died – Josh.1:5-7: and also the word from David to Solomon – 1 Chron.28:20.

Haggai encourages these Jews of Jerusalem – and us – with three things:

 1. The promise you need to hear

In v.5 Haggai takes them back to Egypt, and to the covenant that God “cut” withIsrael. It was delivered in the name of God who says “I am who I am” and who promised to be with Moses and His people.

When we get hold of a promise from God as in vv.4,5 it transforms everything. What we need is not nostalgia for the past but belief in the promises of God delivered in the past but still alive in the present.

 2. The purpose you need to see

 In dealing with discouragement Haggai not only takes them to the past but also to the future. He gives them end perspective. See vv.6,7,9. Only a little while, says God, and I am going to do some shaking. I am actually going to make the splendour and glory of this house greater than Solomon’s temple. It’s going to have God Himself within it’s courts.

The Jews of Haggai’s day seemed to be involved in a minor, insignificant work, but it is all an integral part of God’s kingdom plan. This house will see great strides forward in the establishing of God’s unshakeable kingdom.

How these Jews would be encouraged if they could see the Messiah himself standing in this temple, or to be there on the great day that the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom to signify that the work of salvation was done.

If only they could see in their day, and we could see in ours, how God is going to shake the nations in order to bring to completion the Kingdom of His Son.

 3. The peace you need to know

Haggai prophesies future peace – v.9 – the peace that will come after God shakes the nations. Peace in the Bible comes after shaking, after judgment. God puts things right, then there is peace – Zech.9:10. God judged sin in Jesus Christ and now he gives peace. When he has shaken the nations he will usher in his final kingdom of peace.

If your faith and hope is in Jesus Christ you have peace with God: at the core of your being things are right. When we feel secure then we can work – illustration, the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and its safety net.


To listen to the sermon click on the link below. Or go to the Lower Ford Street Baptist Church Web-site.

Can the Gospel be Simply Stated?

The Westminster Assembly in a Victorian histor...
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been challenged recently in my own mind from a couple of quarters about presenting the Gospel of the Grace of God in a simple and understandable way. I didn’t say simplistic, but simple. There is today an undeniable emphasis on academic credibility within Christian circles. I don’t say this is necessarily wrong, not at all. We are to love God with all our minds. You see this in the writings of earlier generations, The Reformers and The Puritans for example. I’ll try to tease out what I see the difference generally speaking might be between then and now. The plain fact is God has given us brains and we ought to use them.

It’s possible to hear preaching that attempts at critiquing Gospel ministry by saying what the Gospel is and what it isn’t, and yet not actually preaching the Gospel. At such preaching we might be temped to respond by saying ‘did he speak or did he say something’. After such preaching people can come out and wonder just what it is they heard and wonder what on earth is the Gospel. There is a vast difference between preaching about the Gospel and preaching it.

I suppose the reality is that it’s ever been thus but one might articulate the difference between then and now as that of a furnace and a match. Both produce heat but are poles apart in intensity. Ministers ought to be as qualified as they can be BUT not at the expense of Gospel heat. A zeal for the Gospel of Christ ought not to be mistaken for a thirst for knowledge. Be a Gospel man! Having said that the combination of Gospel heat and zeal combined with an academic brilliance is a great gift of God to the Church. We see this particularly in men like Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, Calvin, Luther, Augustine, The Apostle Paul and many many others. The challenge is to the Seminaries of our day to turn out men with such a combination. Thankfully there are such and we ought to pray for more. Many men from earlier times knew more of the cost than we do today, having Gospel fire for some meant they burnt in the fire. But they warned their generation of the eternal fire to come.

I know a number of Gospel ministers so I’m not getting at anybody, all I’m attempting to do is sound a warning bell as a reminder that the ministers prime calling is to preach Christ and Him crucified not to get an education or be so high falutin that no one but themselves can understand what on earth they are on about. An education is fine in so far as it enables them to preach Christ and to minister to the people of God according to their gifts.

The Challenge

We are not all gifted in extraordinary ways but even so, here’s the challenge. First to myself. Can I explain the Gospel simply, clearly, directly and in a brief and understandable manner. Secondly to anyone else that wants to have a go – can you explain the Gospel simply, clearly, directly and in a brief and understandable manner. In a following post I will try to do this. I’ll invite you to i) critique my attempt, and ii) have a go yourself. I think this could be a profitable exercise for anyone wanting to explain the Gospel to a Gospel ignorant generation. This isn’t a game by the way – this is a serious challenge to see if we can communicate the Gospel to our generation. How about setting a limit of 100 words. What do you think?

Spiritual Wisdom, Spiritual Preaching, Spiritual Words, Spiritual People

Here’s the audio from this Lord’s Day morning ministry. We are so privileged to hear such ministry week by week. I don’t usually post the preaching of Pastor Paul Watts but I thought today’s was especially well worth sharing. Listen via the audio box below or visit the LFSBC website to download and check out other sermons.

Pastor Watts is preaching through 1 Corinthians. The ministry this morning (1 Cor 2:6-16) ought to be heeded especially by other preachers and those of us that listen week by week should be equally discerning considering the destructive man-centred culture we all live in.

For some reason the above audio  is not working – I’ll try and get it working. Meanwhile, I would still encourage you to listen to it via the LFSBC link above where it can also be downloaded to your MP3 player, phone, or whatever.

Update: Audio sorted – I didn’t link it correctly.

New series on Joshua

A little while ago Pastor Watts preached a series on the life of Moses.  We were then privileged to hear series on Jeremiah, Nehemiah & Ezra.  The ministry is always challenging but always full of the Grace of the Gospel of Christ.

Last week he began a new series on the life of Joshua.  This follows on from the death of Moses and the challenge this was to Joshua.  Joshua is told to ‘Be strong and of good courage’.  But Joshua is also told ‘… as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave you nor forsake you’.

If you are discouraged in the way, or if you are not even on the way – listen to these messages.

You may listen here: [Audio] Part 2 of this series should be this evening.

Go to the Church Website to see the other series and download sermons.

Jesus’ Birth and Your New Birth

We are privileged to attend a church where the Word of God is faithfully preached each week.  The Lord Jesus Christ is lifted up in the ministry.  Sadly, for many churchgoers this is not always the case.  If you were wondering what Christmas is about then listen to the sermon from this morning.  Pastor Watts links Incarnation with Regeneration.  His text is from 1 John 3:1

‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: …. ‘

You can listen to it Here, or, click on play below.