Monday, August 1, 2016

Make Much of Christ: Proclaim the Four Gospels (John MacArthur)

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In the final summer D. Min lecture at TMS Pastor John MacArthur shared a brief word on making much of Christ especially as we preach through the four gospels.  In this lecture MacArthur noted that the gospels are historical narratives written with a theological purpose.  In view of this, MacArthur recommended that we all read Dr. Abner Chou's opening chapter (Did God Really Say...?  Hermeneutics and History in Genesis 3) in What Happened in the Garden.  In this chapter Chou demonstrates that history is the ground of theology.  "The biblical writers do not see history as merely a means of communicating theology; rather, they see history as the means of actualizing theology" (p. 29).  In the gospels Divine truths about God, Christ, Man, the Kingdom, and Salvation are taught.  The historical Gospels are especially Christological which makes them a treasure trove for preaching and Christian worship.

MacArthur went on to say that one of the most theologically rich chapters in the Bible is John 3 which highlights the doctrine of Divine regeneration ("the new birth").  Jesus' doctrinal instruction in John 3 does not compliment Billy Graham's book title, "How to be born again" as the new birth (regeneration) is monergistic (a work of One).  God alone can make dry bones come alive.  He alone can bring a spiritually dead sinner (Eph. 2:1-10) to life again.  In short, don't miss the rich theology of Christ as you work your way the four gospels!

John MacArthur also encouraged a room full of pastors and missionaries to make Christ fully known in the New Testament.  "If you do this your people will find Christ where He truly is in the Old Testament (sort of like Where's Waldo)."  He then cautioned us to not read Christ into Old Testament passages where He is not found; (note the TMS faculty lecture series). MacArthur said supersessionist's are sometimes guilty of this kind of eisogesis.

Working through the four gospels has many practical benefits.  Chiefly, preaching through the gospels will help sanctify your congregation (note the Beatific vision in 2 Cor. 3:18), as gazing on Christ and His glory, is one of the primary things God uses to make us more like the beloved Son.  This makes "Gospel" preaching very relevant as we seek to fulfill our ministry mandate (Col. 1:28-29; "to present every person complete in Christ").

Preaching the Gospels (Asides):  A) An integrated harmony of the gospels should help you appreciate the full story especially when preaching Matthew, Mark, and Luke; (utilize resources like One Perfect Life).

B) Though each gospel has one central purpose do not flatten out the multilayered theology that is present in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

During his closing lecture MacArthur answered the following question:  How to tackle a sticky passage like Mark 16:9-20?

Textual criticism asks, "What did God actually write?" "How do we know we have an accurate translation of the perfect Revelation of God?"  Muslims (and some Mormons) believe that the Bible is a corrupt book and that the Koran and/or the book of Mormon is trustworthy and reliable.  How do we answer our Muslim friends and/or liberal skeptics?

Another way of saying this is as follows; Before we ask "What does this Text mean" we need to ensure that what we have in front of us is the Word of God.  Answering this question informs how the student of Scripture should approach disputed textual variants like Mark 16:9-20.

First of all we must consider the abundance of evidence regarding the original manuscript.  About 25,000 New Testament manuscripts exist today.  The science of textual criticism discerns with great precision what the original autographa is.  These manuscripts go back to the first century and second manuscripts (P 52; Chester Beatty papyrus, etc).  This is remarkable when you consider how much persecution the early church endured; (Bibles would have been outlawed and/or destroyed).  Gifted linguists have compared the best and earliest manuscripts and have been blown away of how God preserved the holy Scriptures.  The early church father's also quote the Bible.   By comparison, Homer's Iliad only goes back to the 13th century and has far fewer manuscripts; (note the article, Manuscript evidence for superior New Testament reliability). Their are only minor variants in the modern translations of the Bible.  Textual criticism allows us to have great confidence in the translations of Scripture that are available today (NAS, ESV, NKJV, KJV, RSV, etc).

Mark ends his gospel abruptly and dramatically in Mark 16:8! The earliest and best manuscripts do not include verses 9-20 (as modern translations point out).  The external and internal evidence support the conclusion that Mark ends his Gospel in verse 8.  Abruptness and amazement mark the beginning and end of Mark's Gospel (examine Mark 1-2 against Mark 16:8).  This makes since seeing that Mark's goal in writing his Gospel is to amaze us with the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.  Mark 16:8 therefore is a fitting conclusion to an amazing gospel.