The Coming Kingdom 084Matthew 4:17 • Dr. Andy Woods • December 11, 2019 • The Coming Kingdom
The Coming Kingdom 084 – Matthew 4:17
Dr. Andrew Woods –
Let’s open our Bibles to John’s gospel chapter 5:24. Here we are at the end of a long series on The Coming Kingdom. In the book I wrote (with the same name), we’re on the last chapter 26, and we’ve examined, Number 1, what does the Bible say about the kingdom—arguing that the kingdom is postponed. Amen?
Number 2, why do people believe we’re in the kingdom now? We went through all the verses that they use, showed them to be tried in the scales of justice and found wanting.
And then Number 3, the part of it that may be the most interesting part of it. I hope all of it’s interesting, but who cares? In other words, if the Church sees itself as the kingdom, why does it really matter? So, part 3 is basically an examination of nine heresies, I guess I could put it that way, if I could use that strong of language, or false doctrines that naturally come into the Church once the Church sees itself as the kingdom.
So in this section, it’s not so much an in-depth analysis of each of these nine false doctrines, but more or less, it’s an explanation as to how kingdom now theology really provides the right soil for false doctrines to emerge.
And so we’ve gone through many of these. And a lot of times as Christians, we spend our time shooting at the false doctrine. And we don’t really understand the foundation from which it emerges, and the foundation of all of these false doctrines, as we’ve tried to explain, and I would argue that almost every false doctrine that Christianity faces today is kingdom now theology.
So we’re going to try to cover the last one here— Number 9, something called Lordship Salvation, the very last chapter in my book, The Coming Kingdom. Chapter 26 deals with a controversy that’s been brewing in the church since around the 1980s called Lordship Salvation. And this is not an exposé on everything there is to know about Lordship Salvation. It’s an explanation of how if you get sloppy on your kingdom language, and you don’t make kingdom distinctions: church versus kingdom, Lordship Salvation comes right into the church. So I think most people probably have heard of Lordship Salvation— has anyone heard of Lordship Salvation? Most of the hands have gone up.
What does the Bible say? Well, Lordship Salvation really is an issue related to a controversy concerning what must the lost sinner do to be justified before God? So those of us that are against Lordship Salvation are not against the Lordship of Christ. We’re not against calling Jesus Lord because the Bible calls Him Lord. The issue is: Is the submission to Christ as Lord, in addition to faith alone, necessary, not for growth in Christ, but to come to Christ?
So you’ll notice in John 5:24, Jesus says this, “Truly, truly I say to you, He who hears My word and believes Him, who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” “Has eternal life,” is in the present tense. So eternal life is something that you receive, not when you die and go to heaven, but the moment you fulfill a condition. And once this condition is fulfilled, you have spiritually passed out of death into life. Passed out of death into life is in the perfect tense in Greek, meaning it’s a one-time action with ongoing results. So how do you pass from death to life? How do you receive eternal life from God? Notice in this verse that there’s one condition here, which is to what? To believe in Him, which means to trust in Him as your Savior. And once you do that, you have eternal life, and you’ve already crossed out of death into life. You’re not gradually crossing out of death into life. It’s already happened: a one-time action in the past. And so this is our view at Sugar Land Bible church of how salvation, justification before God, is gained. Lordship Salvation denies what I just said.
Robert Lightner, who was a critic of Lordship Salvation, and who was my professor in seminary, defines Lordship Salvation as follows: “Lordship Salvation refers to the belief which says the sinner who wants to be saved must not only… [there’s a problem, right? because we believe in faith alone. Whenever someone says ‘not only believe’ there’s a problem, it’s a gospel of works, in other words. “Lordship Salvation refers to the belief which says the sinner who wants to be saved must not only trust in Christ as a substitute for sin, but must also surrender every area of his life to the complete control of Christ.” So if you don’t do that on the front end, or at least you’re not willing to do that in addition to exercising faith, then you’re not a Christian. That’s what Lordship Salvation is.
The biggest advocate of Lordship Salvation today is John MacArthur. And it’s hard to mention him because a lot of the things John MacArthur teaches and says, I find myself in agreement with. But I think he really got it wrong here when he went off in this direction of Lordship Salvation. John MacArthur did not invent Lordship Salvation. You can find that belief in the writings of the Puritans, and MacArthur became a big fan. I’ll show you some quotes a little bit later of how he became a real student of these Puritans, which is always dangerous when you start to study the writings of men instead of what God says. And to my knowledge, that’s what happened to John MacArthur a few decades back. So John MacArthur didn’t invent Lordship Salvation, but he certainly has done more than any person alive to popularize the belief and bring it since the 1980s into the mainstream of Christianity.
John MacArthur defines Lordship Salvation as follows: ‘Jesus is Lord of all, and the faith that He demands involves unconditional surrender…He does not bestow eternal life on those whose hearts remain set against Him.” So you notice how he uses the words ‘eternal life’ here. And he specifically says that eternal life is not gained through simply trusting in Christ, but it’s unconditional surrender. And if you go back to John 5:24, you’ll find no such teaching in that verse. In fact, you’ll find no such teaching in John’s gospel. John’s gospel is probably the one that sets forth the conditions for the unsaved more than any other gospel because it was written to unbelievers. And you can see that at the very end of the book, when John gives us His purpose statement in John 20:30-31, and he says, ‘…these things I write to you so that you may believe in the name of the Son of God and may have life in His name’
So John’s gospel is evangelistic. And in John’s gospel, you’ll find the word ‘believe’ used about 99 times, and never once, whether it’s John 3:16, (that’s a verse that we all memorize very early on as Christians), or any other verse, is salvation, eternal life, conditioned on anything other than faith alone in Christ alone. So that’s basically what Lordship Salvation is.
Now, I’m not doing an in-depth exposé of Lordship Salvation here. We taught a course here called Soteriology. And if you go back to lessons 7-9, you can get our full-blown treatment on Lordship Salvation. Lordship Salvation, to our mind, has seven problems with it.
- It changes the gospel.
- It places an impossible burden upon the unsaved.
- It confuses justification with sanctification, or growth in Christ.
- It confuses the result of salvation with the requirement of it.
- It ignores the unfortunate reality of a carnal Christian.
- And at the very end there, from a pastoral perspective, and there’s actually been an article written about this by Minirth and Meier, two psychologists who worked at Dallas Seminary. I think they wrote this article around 1998, and the name of the article escapes me, but it’s something like ‘The Psychological Burden of Lordship Salvation.’ They were basically counselors, and they started to do a study of people that had been victimized by this doctrine and the psychological effect it has on people. And one of the reasons Lordship Salvation is so negative to the psyche of the believer is because you never really know if you’ve submitted enough. I mean, if salvation comes through submission, have I submitted enough? I mean, don’t we sin as Christians? Does anybody here sin as a Christian? Well, most of you are lying because your hands are not going up. So you just committed a sin, right? “Thou shalt not lie.“
So we have 1 John 1:9 and things like that as Christians, not to get us saved again, but to restore broken fellowship. But if you tell someone that submission to Christ is necessary to get saved, they spend the rest of their life struggling with sin because we still have an old nature to contend with, wondering if they’ve really done enough to gain eternal life.
I was reading a comment by R.T. Kendall, talking about the Puritans. He calls them the Puritan Divines, people that taught this doctrine. And he said every single one of them, to a man, went to their deathbed, terrified, based on bad theology, because they really didn’t know if they had submitted enough or demonstrated enough fruit, and all of these kinds of things to go into heaven. So on their deathbed, they had no assurance of salvation. So that’s really the seventh problem with Lordship Salvation.
And the one I skipped is the one we’re going to focus on tonight related to the Kingdom. Lordship, salvation becomes popular in a climate where the church does not distinguish between the church and the Kingdom. I’ll try to flesh that out and unpack that this evening. So one of the views or the view that we teach here is what’s called Dispensationalism. People have a tendency to look at this, and they don’t really think it matters. But if you ignore this, it opens the door like a floodgate to Lordship Salvation. And most people have never really connected the dots between kingdom now theology and Lordship Salvation. So that’s sort of what we’re going into this evening. As I said before, we’re not doing an exposé completely of Lordship Salvation, but just focusing on that one angle. And that’s what Chapter 26 in my book is about.
So Charles Ryrie defines Dispensationalism as what he calls the sine qua non. Say that 3 times fast. It’s Latin. It means ‘without which there’s nothing.’ So if you take one of these things away, you’re not a dispensationalist anymore.
So traditional or normative dispensational theology is a system that embodies three essential fundamental concepts called the sine qua non, ‘without which there is not.’
(1) The consistent use of a plain or normal, literal grammatical historical method of interpretation, the most important word there being ‘consistent.’ In other words, a dispensationalist is someone who tries to take the Bible literally in its ordinary sense, not just in some parts of the Bible, but from Genesis to Revelation—taking into account figures of speech when they’re conspicuous in the passage. And when you become committed to that method of interpretation, what you start to see very quickly is that…
(2) There’s something called Israel, and there’s something called the Church, and the two are not the same. Israel is a nation. The church is a body or a worldwide spiritual organism. And what you start to see is that not just Israel and the church are different, but what you start to see is God has separate programs for Israel than He does for the church. So, for example, when you look over at, I wasn’t planning on going here, but if you look over at 1 Corinthians 10:32, Paul says, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.“
So do you see how Jews, or Israel and church of God are distinguished there? In fact, when you go through the book of Acts, you’ll see Israel and the church mentioned about 20 times each during a time period before Rome had pushed Israel out of her land. And the two entities are always kept separate. And you start to see this as you become committed to a literal approach to the Bible from cover to cover.
(3) And the third part, of the sine qua non is God’s overall purpose in history is to glorify Himself. So God works in history not to save men, but to glorify Himself. Because when people get saved, who gets the glory? God does. And this is very different than a lot of theological systems. They’ll say God’s purpose in history is salvation. No, no, it isn’t. If you believe God’s purpose in history is salvation, then you have no explanation for His dealings with the angels. Good angels and fallen angels. Because the plan of salvation is not open to the fallen angels, see that? God’s work in history is related to glorification of Himself, and our salvation is subsumed under that because when we get saved, who gets the glory? God does.
So that basically is what a dispensationalist is. And when you ignore the structure, what happens is people take concepts from the kingdom [there on the far right of the screen — see slide on Prophecy Panorama] the thousand-year kingdom, Revelation 20, and they start to incorporate those concepts into the church. And so my book is a reaction against that. And one of the things that will percolate in the church when the church takes kingdom concepts and appropriates them to the church is Lordship Salvation will come into the church. Now, let me sort of unpack that and explain to you why I think this.
The kingdom, as we’ve studied, is a time period of perfect justice. It’s a time period where Jesus is ruling with a rod of iron, Psalm 2:9. It’s a time period of perfect justice, Isaiah 11:4. It’s a time period when rebels will be immediately dealt with, Zechariah 14:16-18.
So if the kingdom is present now, just think about this for a minute, that ideas have consequences. If the kingdom is present now, every single believer, every single person who names the name of Christ, should be 100% submitted to the Lordship of Christ. And that fits exactly with Lordship Salvation because Lordship Salvation basically says submission to Christ or a willingness to submit to Him is a condition for justification. So kingdom now ideas and Lordship Salvation—they’re sort of like bedfellows; they go together.
So one of the things that is an unfortunate possibility, from our perspective, is something that is denied by Lordship Salvation or kingdom now theology, which is the reality of a carnal Christian. You get into Lordship teachings and those significantly downplay carnal Christianity, and they’ll act like such a thing probably doesn’t even exist. And that fits perfectly with their system, because you have to submit to Christ perfectly on the front end in order to get saved. So there really is not any such thing as a carnal Christian.
And one of the other things you’ll see significantly downplayed in Lordship Salvation is the Bema Seat Judgment. The Bema Seat Judgment is there following the rapture to reward, not to determine heaven or hell, but to reward or not reward Christians. Because we believe carnal Christianity is a reality, when is God going to deal with that? Well, all Christians will be in heaven, but not all Christians will be equally rewarded in heaven. You see that? When you get into Lordship teachings, they totally downplay that as a possibility, and they kind of make it sound like at the Bema Seat Judgment, everybody gets a blue ribbon for participation, because after all, you couldn’t be a Christian to begin with, could you, unless you were submitted to Christ on the front end?
So there is a reality in the Scripture called carnal Christianity. Now, I should say this: We’re not saying, ‘Yay, carnal Christianity. Get out there and be carnal.’ No, it has a consequence. One of the consequences is a lack of reward at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. There’s always a price tag you pay when you go into sin. But we acknowledge it as a possibility, and you don’t have to get far into the Bible to see it. When you go over it, you can follow me over if you want or look at it on the screen. Hebrews 5:11-14, the author of Hebrews says “Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers,…” [So he wants to give them a meaty subject, the Melchizedekian priesthood, but he doesn’t think his audience can handle it because they’re not mature enough. And he says ‘You should have grown out of that condition a long time ago.’ So they were in this state of spiritual immaturity far too long as far as the author of Hebrews is concerned.
And when you look at John MacArthur’s commentary on the book of Hebrews, he says that everybody in this paragraph is an unsaved person. Now, why would he say that? He’s saying that because submission to Christ is necessary to be justified. So all of these people here in Hebrews are unsaved people. So he’s downplaying or denying the reality of a carnal Christian. And yet, his explanation strains credulity because Hebrews 5:12 also says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers.” [How could he be saying that to an unsaved person? Can you think of any scenario under any circumstances where an unsaved person would be teaching a saved person? I mean, the paragraph doesn’t make any sense. And so this is a very good paragraph to reveal the unfortunate possibility of a carnal Christian. When the key passage on carnal Christianity is 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NKJV), where Paul says, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people, but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, and not with solid food; for until now you are not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal…” [And then he starts describing what carnal Christianity is like], ”…where there are envy, strife and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” So you notice he calls them carnal, or babes in Christ. You see that in verse 1, which indicates you can be a babe in Christ, you could be carnal in Christ, or you could be spiritual in Christ.
So Paul takes the world, and he divides it into half: unsaved and saved. And a lot of people’s analysis stops there. But you’ll see Paul is far more sophisticated than that. [See slide on 4 Kinds of People from 1 Corinthians 3:1-3] He takes the world of the saved, the justified, and he divides it into three groups.
First of all, you’ve got your spiritual believers, not perfect, obviously, they’re not sinless, but they’re sinning less, and they’re discovering who they are in Christ, and they’re growing. And those people are always a blessing in the church.
Then you have a second group called infants. And by the way, these categories I’m getting right out of the passage, those are the things I’ve got underlined. You have very new Christians, and they’re sort of doing age-appropriate things. You know, when you’re sucking your thumb at age 2 to 3, it’s sort of cute when they’re doing it at age 16, it loses its cuteness, but they’re infants in Christ, and they’re growing and they’re sort of cute. But then you’ve got another group called the carnal, and they’re called carnal because carnal means flesh. You might recognize the word carnivorous, or flesh, or meat. They keep going back to the sin nature over and over again. And those are the people Paul is correcting here in his epistle.
Now, think about this for a minute. If we are in the kingdom, and Jesus is ruling with a rod of iron, you wouldn’t have carnal Christians, would you? And the denial of a carnal Christian fits exactly with what Lordship Salvation teaches. So the more kingdom now the church becomes, the more Lordship Salvation becomes popular in the church. Kingdom now theology is the right soil is what I’m trying to get at, through which the false doctrine of Lordship Salvation grows.
Now, here’s a man that I did a lot of work on. I wrote my master’s thesis against his view on eschatology. I wrote my doctoral dissertation against his view on eschatology. Kenneth Gentry is basically what you call a post-millennialist preterist. You can’t get more kingdom now than the writings of Kenneth Gentry. And I did all this work on him and his eschatology, and somebody said, ’Do you know about Ken Gentry and his views on Lordship Salvation?‘ And I was so focused on his eschatological teachings because he takes the whole book of Revelation and puts it into the past with a few shreds he saves for the end. And that’s how he believes we’re in the kingdom now, because the book of Revelation has been or is being fulfilled. So he thinks society is getting better and better and better. And his problem, of course, is the book of Revelation, which says things are going to get worse. And he says, ‘I have an answer for that. We’ll just put the book of Revelation in the past.’
So I’ve been working on that. And someone said, ‘You know what? Ken Gentry has written on Lordship Salvation?’ And I said, ‘No, I had no idea.’ And it turns out, and I have the footnote in the book in Chapter 26, that Kenneth Gentry was not just a leader in the area of post-millennial preterist, reconstructionism, kingdom now theology, but he was actually writing the leading academic work on Lordship Salvation. And once I discovered that, I said, ’that kind of makes sense’ because the man is kingdom now; he believes basically that his ilk, called reconstructionists, are going to take over the United States, and are basically going to legislate the law of Moses from Washington, D.C. It’s a very right wing, I guess you can put it that way, form of reconstructionism. So he believes we’re in the kingdom. He hates the viewpoint of eschatology we have here, Dispensationalism. And it turns out that as he’s doing all this work on the kingdom, he’s also writing leading articles on Lordship Salvation. So Kenneth Gentry is sort of the brain behind Lordship Salvation. Kenneth Gentry was talking about Lordship Salvation long before John MacArthur ever got hold of it. John MacArthur himself really didn’t believe a lot of the things he teaches today concerning Lordship Salvation.
And if you ever, he’s passed away now, but listen to John MacArthur’s father, Jack MacArthur, Jack MacArthur thinks exactly like we do on every single subject, prophecy, salvation, etc. So John MacArthur didn’t grow up being an advocate of Lordship Salvation. He absorbed the teaching from somebody else, and John MacArthur became the popularizer of Lordship Salvation. Kenneth Gentry is sort of the academic mind behind Lordship Salvation, but I point that out to show you that the two go together. Kingdom now theology and Lordship Salvation are sort of bedfellows, if you will.
One of the things, sadly, that’s happening at Dallas Seminary, and I’ve made many references to this in our series, is the ascendancy of the already-not-yet view of the kingdom. You guys recall me talking about that? Basically, the younger folks there, for the most part, believe that we are in an ‘already’ form of the kingdom. In other words, Jesus is ruling from David’s throne presently in an ‘already’ sense. And one of the things that Zane Hodges points out, a free grace fellow, who is also with the Lord, is the moment that school went in that particular direction, is the moment Lordship Salvation began to take hold at that particular institution. So Hodges writes this. He says, “Regrettably, some published materials written by DTS faculty members confirm my earlier concern. First there was Dr. Darrell Bock’s review …” [Now, Darrell Bock is one of the progenitors of the already-not-yet view of the kingdom]… “of MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus which showed significant confusion on the subject of assurance…” [of salvation]. … “Darrell has told me, both in person and in writing that his position is “soft Lordship Salvation”— [which to me is kind of like being a little bit pregnant; I mean, the moment you add any work to the presentation of the gospel, you can call yourself “soft Lordship Salvation-hard Lordship Salvation.” It doesn’t matter, but you fundamentally altered what the gospel is. The moment you give man any opportunity to do something to gain God’s favor in addition to faith, you fall under the curse, if you will, that the Apostle Paul outlines the anathema of the false gospel in Galatians 1:6-9. But Darrell Bock calls his view “soft lordship,” “a view Hodges says that would have been rejected by the [founder and first] president of Dallas Seminary, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer.”
So again, you see this pattern. You’re a little bit into the kingdom, already into the kingdom, and so that affects your soteriology. You start to call yourself ”soft lordship.” It’s just another example of how Lordship Salvation seems to enjoy ascendancy in a climate where the church thinks it’s in the kingdom in any sense. So I want to show you this quote from MacArthur. This is not mishearing something he said on the radio. It’s there in black and white in his book, The Gospel According to Jesus.
And I want to show you that John MacArthur’s promotion of Lordship Salvation, really, when you look at it carefully, is actually related to his attack on Charles Ryrie’s traditional dispensationalism. So MacArthur says this on page 31, The Gospel According to Jesus, “Israel and the Church are separate entities…and in that regard, I view myself a … dispensationalist… There is a tendency, however, for dispensationalists to get carried away with compartmentalizing truth to the point that they make unbiblical differentiations. An almost obsessive desire to categorize and contrast related truths has carried various dispensationalist interpreters [Chafer, Ryrie, Hodges, etc.] far beyond the legitimate distinctions between Israel and the Church. Many would also draw hard lines between,…” [now let me stop reading. Now he’s going to go through all the things that he thinks ought not to be separated. And he thinks if you separate these things, then you are getting carried away with unbiblical ideas, and you’re dominated by an obsessive desire to categorize, when in reality, I don’t think making these distinctions at all is related to getting carried away with unbiblical ideas. It relates to a literal approach to the Bible, and when you engage in a literal approach to the Bible, you start to see distinctions that God has made. So we’re not reading these distinctions into the Bible. We are observing the distinctions that God Himself is pointing out.
So what are some of these unbiblical hard lines according to MacArthur? ’You should not draw lines’ “between discipleship, salvation and discipleship...” In other words, you don’t draw a distinction between what’s necessary to get saved versus what’s necessary to grow as a Christian. Now, I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think that’s a totally appropriate line to draw. And if you don’t draw that line, you know what you’re going to do to the lost? You’re going to teach them a works-oriented gospel.
If you take commands given to the Christian, ‘Renew your mind; put on the full armor of God, pray without ceasing,’—all these things that are necessary for us to grow, and you hold those out to the lost as a condition to be justified, and you don’t know how to rightly divide God’s Word in that sense, you just preached a works-oriented gospel.
So you’ll notice that this whole Lordship Salvation thing comes from John MacArthur’s willingness to see key distinctions in the Bible.
What other distinctions does he not like? The distinction between “the church and the kingdom.” That’s what our whole course is about, isn’t it? How the church and the kingdom are completely different. He won’t acknowledge that distinction. What else won’t he acknowledge? The distinction between “Christ’s preaching and the apostolic message,… More on that in a second. And he won’t acknowledge the distinction between “the age of law and the age of grace.”
I mean, you’ve got to be kidding me. You’re not going to see a difference between the commands through Moses at Mount Sinai to the nation of Israel related to things like if someone picks up sticks on the Sabbath, you’re to stone them to death? And you’re not going to see a distinction in that economy with what God is doing today? I mean, that’s insanity, but sloppy soteriology comes out of not making key kingdom-like distinctions.
Now, let’s explore just for a minute this distinction that he has between the apostolic message and Christ’s preaching. He goes on and says—this is now on page 96 of the same book. “Unfortunately, traditional dispensationalism tends to miss that simple point. Some dispensationalists teach that ‘the gospel of the kingdom’ Jesus proclaimed, is distinct from ‘the gospel of the grace of God.‘ The substance of this gospel of the kingdom,’ one popular source says, is ‘that God purposes to set up up on earth the kingdom of Christ…in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant.’ Lewis Sperry Chafer, [who he criticizes frequently], wrote that the gospel of the kingdom was for the nation of Israel only, ‘and should in no wise be confused with the gospel of saving grace.”’
“Another early dispensationalist writer declared that the gospel Jesus preached had nothing to do with salvation but was simply an announcement that the time had come to set up the kingdom of Christ on earth. That may fit neatly into a particular dispensational scheme, but Scripture does not support it. We must not forget that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, not merely to announce an earthly kingdom. When Jesus proclaimed His kingdom, He was preaching salvation.”
Now what he is attacking here is the difference between the kingdom gospel and the personal gospel. Those are two different things. We’ve studied this, haven’t we in this class, kingdom gospel versus personal gospel? What is the kingdom gospel? It was preached by John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, the 12 [apostles] and the 70. What was their message? John the Baptist, “‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”’ Matthew 3:2. Jesus Christ, ’Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Then Jesus in Matthew [Matthew] 10:5-7 sent out the 12. ”These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.“ Is that the gospel we’re preaching today? Well, if that’s true, we’re disobeying it because this was only for Israel. And what was the message? “…preach, saying “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It’s what John preached. It’s what Jesus preached. It’s what the 12 preached.
In fact, over in Matthew 15:24, Jesus makes this statement: “But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”’ I mean, is that something we would showcase at a missions conference; Christ for the Nations conference? No, because this is talking about the kingdom gospel for Israel. And then Jesus sent out the 70. Same message, Luke 10:9, ”…‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
So what is all of this? This is what’s called the kingdom gospel. And what is that? If the nation of Israel had enthroned the King of God’s choosing, in this case, Jesus Christ, what would have come to the world through Israel? The Kingdom, and the nation of Israel had a unique opportunity to receive that blessing because in the first century, Jesus was present. All they had to do was enthrone Christ and the Millennial Kingdom would have come.
So this is what is called in Matthew 4:23, the gospel of the kingdom. Now, by the time you get to the end of Matthew’s Gospel, the Great Commission, what does Jesus say? Matthew 28:19. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” Oh, my goodness, something changed. I mean, that’s really different than Matthew 15:24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.‘“ So what changed by the end of Matthew 10 but before you get to Matthew 28? Matthew 12 changed everything.
You all agree that Matthew 12 is between Matthew 10 and Matthew 28? Matthew 12:24, the Pharisees attributed Christ’s miracles to Beelzebub or Satan. The moment they did that is the moment the offer of the kingdom was taken off the table.
Here’s sort of an outline or a structure of Matthew’s gospel. Most people agree that the turning point in Matthew’s gospel is Matthew 12, because that’s where the nation went too far in rejecting the offer of the kingdom, so that offer was postponed. And it will not be announced again until the Great Tribulation period after the church is removed from the earth.
So the gospel of the kingdom is never mentioned again in Matthew’s Gospel until Jesus talks about the 70th week of Daniel. When He talks about the 70th week of Daniel after the church is removed, then he says, “This gospel of the kingdom, [which was the exact same one that was preached in early Matthew], …shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.“
So when we go around and evangelize today, do we tell people ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand?’ No. The kingdom gospel was for first century Israel. It will be for tribulation period Israel. But it’s not in effect today.
So what gospel are we preaching? We are not preaching the gospel of the kingdom. We are preaching the personal gospel of salvation. It’s codified in early form in Acts 16:30,31, where the Philippian jailer asked life’s most important question: “…what must I do to be saved?’ He’s not asking, ‘What does Israel have to do to get Rome off her back?’ That would be answered in the kingdom gospel, right? Here he’s asking, ‘What must I do to be saved? What do I have to do to go to heaven?’ And what did Paul and Silas say? ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.‘ It doesn’t say that, does it? It says, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,...” He’s not preaching kingdom gospel here. He’s preaching personal gospel. And he’s doing that in Philippi, isn’t he? If Paul’s teaching the kingdom gospel in Philippi, he’s disobeying Christ because Christ said the kingdom gospel is only for Israel. The fact that he’s preaching it in Philippi shows you that what Paul’s preaching in the book of Acts is not the kingdom gospel, it’s the personal gospel of salvation. So I put together this chart [See Slide on Kingdom Gospel vs. Personal Gospel], and we’ve looked at this before in this class, but let’s kind of review it.
What is the difference between the kingdom gospel and the personal gospel? In terms of biblical examples, the kingdom gospel is found in those early Matthew passages. The personal gospel is found in Acts 16:30-31. It probably gets its fullest treatment in
1 Corinthians 15:1-4, ‘Christ crucified for the sins of the world, resurrected according to the Scriptures, believe on Him for salvation.’
▪️Who is the target audience for the kingdom gospel? Israel.
▪️Who is the target audience for the personal gospel? All nations.
▪️What type of salvation is offered in the kingdom gospel? National. This is how Israel can be restored to her place over the nations with Rome removed.
▪️What is offered in the personal gospel? Personal and individual salvation.
▪️The portrayal of Christ. What is portrayed of Christ in the kingdom gospel? He is the national Savior and King of the nation.
▪️What is portrayed of Christ in the personal gospel? He’s our personal Savior.
▪️Kingdom expectancy. In the kingdom gospel, the kingdom was imminent because the King was present. That’s why they keep saying ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ It’s within reach. But when the personal gospel is proclaimed to the last sinner, there’s no kingdom expectation at all. Paul, to the Philippian jailer, didn’t say, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
▪️The Kingdom Gospel: its contribution to God’s program is the appearing of the kingdom. It sets out the conditions through which the kingdom will come to the earth.
▪️The contribution as far as God’s program is concerned, related to the personal gospel has got nothing to do with the kingdom. It has to do with the building of His church.
▪️The Scriptural foundation for the kingdom gospel is the Mosaic covenant, because that’s where Deuteronomy 17:15 says that Israel is responsible to enthrone the king of God’s own choosing.
▪️The scriptural foundation for the personal gospel really goes all the way back to Genesis 3:15 where there’s going to come a Redeemer through the lineage of the woman.
▪️When is the kingdom gospel preached? Early Gospels and Tribulation period.
▪️When is the personal gospel preached? Right now in the Church Age? It’s what’s been preached for 2000 years.
▪️Do we preach the Kingdom Gospel today? What do you think? No. Do we preach the personal gospel today? Yes.
▪️Is the Kingdom Gospel available today? No.
▪️Is the personal gospel available today? Yes
Now we have these books in our Bible called the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Three of them are called Synoptics. Syn is a Greek word meaning same. You know what optics means, right? Look. Same look. Matthew, Mark and Luke are called Synoptics. They have the same look. They follow the basic plot structure. You know, they start off with Jesus and His birth, and then it talks about His Nazareth upbringing, and then it gets into His ministry, and then it finally goes to the Passion Week and His resurrection, etc.. So they all — Matthew, Mark and Luke follow that same plot.
They’re called Synoptics.
Does John’s gospel follow that plot? It does not. So it’s not one of the synoptics. So if you want to find a development of the kingdom gospel, what which gospel should you read? The Synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke.
If you want to find an exposition of the personal gospel, which gospel should you read? The gospel of John. We have information in the gospels about Christ’s death on the cross, His atonement, His resurrection, His ascension, the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins. Are those things prominent in the Kingdom Gospel? No, they’re not. In fact, you go through Matthew’s gospel, you don’t even figure out that Jesus is going to die for the sins of the whole world until late, probably around Matthew 16, around verse 21 or so, you finally get the first hint that he’s actually going to die on the cross for the sins of the world because Matthew is early on developing the kingdom gospel, and he doesn’t early on, spend any time that I know of, talking about all of these things, about the personal gospel that we today, in our time period, value. The Cross, the atonement, the resurrection, the Ascension, the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins—those aren’t prominent in the Kingdom Gospel. But are they prominent in the personal gospel? Absolutely. So do you see the difference between the two? Kingdom gospel. Personal gospel. All of these verses here: Genesis 15:6, ‘Abraham believed the Lord; and it was credited him for righteousness.’
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Acts 16:30-31 “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
Are these proclamations of the kingdom gospel or the personal gospel? Clearly, these are proclamations of the personal gospel.
And I like to use quotes of some of the sages from the past because some of the things I’m communicating you may have never heard before. No one may have ever pointed out to you the difference between the kingdom gospel and the personal gospel. And you might think that I’m up here making things up. Has that thought ever crossed anybody’s mind? What I am teaching used to be taught standard in virtually every Bible church. Lewis Sperry Chafer has a lengthy quote here. I’ll let you read most of that on your own. But he writes, “…This good news to that nation [Israel] was the gospel of the kingdom,’... [You know, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’] …and should in no wise be confused with the gospel of saving grace.”
Charles Ryrie says “Even the New Testament uses the word gospel to mean various types of good news...” I mean, every time you see the word gospel in the Bible, it’s not referring to how to get to heaven.
You have to contextually differentiate between is this to Israel and her kingdom, or is this the personal gospel? So Ryrie says, “Even the New Testament uses the word gospel to mean various types of good news…” And he goes on and says, “…In fact, their hope for the establishment of the promised rule of the Messiah in His kingdom on this earth, and in the kingdom that would exalt the Jewish people and free them from the rule of Rome under which they lived. But the rule of heaven did not arrive during Jesus’ lifetime because the people refused to repent and meet the spiritual conditions for the kingdom. Most only wanted a political deliverance [from Rome] without having to meet any personal requirements for change of life. So the kingdom did not arrive because the people would not prepare properly for it.”
Ryrie is saying to look at what is necessary for the kingdom to come. And look at what is necessary for an individual to be saved. What is necessary for a country to do for the kingdom to come is different, particularly a country under the Mosaic law, versus what is necessary for an individual lost sinner to be saved. And you should never mix those two together, because if you take those two things and you jam them together, what are you preaching to the unsaved? Lordship Salvation, or a works-oriented gospel.
So you might be listening to me thinking it’s just a bunch of pie in the sky academic gibberish. But this is fundamental for any Christian to understand because it relates to what message you’re giving to the unsaved. See that?
So John MacArthur, and this is my problem with him; this is why I’m not a big promoter of the writings of John MacArthur. ‘Hey, everybody, get the MacArthur study Bible. Everybody get John MacArthur’s books.’ Because John MacArthur won’t draw basic distinctions like this, and because he won’t draw basic distinctions like this, he merges two things that God keeps separate. You see that? And if you do that, you’re not going to have the right message to the unsaved.
Concerning the offer of the kingdom, John MacArthur, in one of his sermons, says this: “Listen, the Jews were looking for a political kingdom, but Jesus never offered one...“ [And I’m thinking, ‘Is Matthew 10:5-7, not in his Bible? Is Matthew 15:24 where Jesus said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ not in his Bible’]?
And so George Zeller of Middletown Bible Church, [they have a wonderful website; I would encourage you to take advantage of it] writes this concerning these distinctions that John MacArthur is not making. “MacArthur also runs counter to traditional dispensationalism in his understanding of ‘the gospel of the kingdom’… He sees this phrase as simply meaning that Jesus was preaching salvation. Dispensationalists understand this as a reference to that preaching which takes place when the Messianic kingdom is ‘at hand’ which was true during the days of John the Baptist and Christ, and will also be true in the closing years of this [present] age (Matthew 24:14). Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that the gospel of the kingdom is being preached during this church age.”
So he’s criticizing MacArthur for not making this basic distinction. John MacArthur calls himself a leaky dispensationalist. And he calls himself that, I think Brother Jim found this quote in one of his transcripts where he started reading the reformed theologians, and those sort of became like hero worship to him.
Here’s another quote of his in a recent interview where he calls himself a leaky dispensationalist, and he says to some reformed theologians, “…I was much more one of you than I was one of them.”
Here is a quote from John MacArthur where he accuses dispensationalists in writing. It is on page 221 of his book, The Gospel According to the Apostles, as being a mongrel species. “Frankly, some mongrel species of dispensationalism…” [Now, who would that be? That would be Sugar Land Bible Church], [which he defined as the Dispensationalism of Ryrie, Chafer, and others] ought to die,” he says, and I will be happy to join the cortege.” Wow.
Here’s another quote from John MacArthur, where he says, “Who are the defenders of [what we call free grace dispensationalism?” … [He is complaining],… “Nearly all of them stand in the tradition that has its roots in the teaching of Lewis Sperry Chafer…”
So what am I trying to get at? What I’m trying to get at is what MacArthur is actually attacking here with his whole presentation of Lordship Salvation is he’s attacking the dispensational distinctives. He’s attacking traditional dispensationalism. And if you do that and you damage Ryrie’s structure, the sine qua non, you’re going to take church and kingdom and merge them. You take church and kingdom and merge them together, Lordship Salvation grows up in its place.
You’re going to take the preaching of Jesus and John the Baptist in early Matthew concerning the kingdom, and you’re going to merge it with the personal gospel of salvation, and you’re going to end up preaching a false gospel. You see that?
So my only point tonight was really not so much to do an exposé of Lordship Salvation, but it was to show you that [if] you start to confuse the church with the kingdom, then Lordship Salvation is one of the nine heresies that grow up in that sort of soil.
So I hope I made a little bit of sense tonight. And that takes us to the end of our series. Can you believe it—84 lessons. And anyway, I hope you all enjoyed it. I probably had more fun than you guys did. But anyway, let’s stop. And if you’ve got to collect your kids or take off, this would be a good time.