John MacArthur takes Jude 3 seriously. We have been given the command to “contend earnestly for the faith.” MacArthur rejects the postmodern concept that Christians should be in conversation with other world views. Christians are to stand firm for what they believe.
MacArthur uses Jesus as our example. Some say Jesus’ ministry was characterized by pacifism, not contention. MacArthur argues that Jesus confronted those whose beliefs were in direct conflict with the heart of the gospel. Jesus had a running battle with the chief hypocrites of His day, and He was not winsome in His encounters. (20) There was “no effort on Jesus’ part to be ‘nice’ toward the Pharisees.” (21)
One of the many examples MacArthur gives from the life of Christ is that found in John 5. “Jesus is not doing any bridge building with the religious establishment here; he is upbraiding them, and none too gently.” (121) MacArthur notes, “They needed some harsh words.” The gracious reason for the harsh words was their salvation.
MacArthur notes that in Mathew 6 Jesus “painted a colorful word picture, actually making a humorous parody of the Pharisees’ spiritual flamboyance. He was using sanctified mockery to expose the silliness of their system. By the standard of today’s over tolerant evangelical subculture, such satire would be deemed a mercilessly cruel way to point out the faults of one’s adversaries.” (142)
Throughout the book, I was concerned that MacArthur was giving a license to judge. He did note that we are admonished to “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). “So an underlying assumption is that we must judge carefully and biblically.” (145)
I was also concerned that MacArthur used sinless Jesus, “omniscient God incarnate” (191) as our example. We imperfect human beings can never judge perfectly. He finally addresses this issue in his epilogue. He acknowledges that Jesus has all divine wisdom and omniscience available to Him, unlike us. MacArthur also realizes John 5:22 says that the Father committed all judgment to the Son. (202,3) MacArthur reminds the reader of humility and caution. “We need to remember that we are indeed prone to misjudgments and errors of our own.” (205) We must be willing to give and to suffer. We must be humble. “Scripture commends meekness, commands us to be peacemakers, instructs us to be gentle, and forbids us to judge what we cannot appraise righteously.” (205)
MacArthur adds, “But none of that gives us any reason to suspend judgment altogether.” (206) “...[W]e have some fighting to do.” (206) If you wince at the “aggressive attitude” that MacArthur prescribes for doctrinal error, “you need to review and rethink what the entire New Testament says about false teachers and how Christians should respond to them...” (206)
MacArthur closes his epilogue with the warnings Jesus gives to the various churches in Revelation. “It is clear from those letters to the churches in Revelation that battling heresy is a duty Christ expects every Christian to be devoted to.” (208)
MacArthur did not convince this imperfect Christian that I can judge righteously and should, in fact, be doing so. I go back to the book of Jude and his account of the archangel Michael, contending with the devil over the body of Moses. “He did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’” (Jude 9) The same biblical writer who admonished us to contend for the faith also spoke of “blasphemous judgment.” I plan to pray more and judge less.
This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.