Presuming Carnal Knowledge Is Godly
Was the apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh a betrayal by the Corinthians, as John MacArthur surmises? No, it wasn’t; so why is John projecting his personal opinions on the Bible and teaching them as the Word of God? He does so because he doesn’t have the Spirit of God, yet presumes to lead others by his carnal knowledge and interpretations. John doesn’t know the Lord Jesus Christ or understand His ways. He therefore can ‘t lead others into God’s Kingdom.
We received this webpage on John MacArthur’s site after we discussed, with a site reader, the messenger of Satan sent to buffet the apostle Paul. Victor responds to John MacArthur’s text:
John MacArthur: “Open your Bible, if you will, to 2 Corinthians chapter 12, back to this most notable, most wonderful, most rich portion of Scripture that we began last Sunday. We’ve entitled this section, ‘Power in weakness,’ 2 Corinthians 12:5 to 10, ‘Power in Weakness.’”
This passage may be the most notable, wonderful, and rich portion of Scripture to John MacArthur, but there are many passages that are every bit as great, rich, and wonderful to many people. These do not stand out in themselves above all others by any means. It is only John’s opinion – more on that later as to why.
John MacArthur: “As we learned last time, life is painful. Some years ago a rabbi wrote a book called When Bad Things Happen To Good People. And he asked the question, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people.’ A better question is, ‘Why do bad things happen to everybody?’ Because that’s how it is in life. Fallen people in a fallen world have to deal with difficulty.”
There are more specific answers as to why “bad things happen to good people” and why “bad things happen to ‘everybody’.” Read The Purpose of Evil, The Sons of Correction, and God Heals Today, His Way for a partial, yet much more specific, explanation as to why men suffer, be they believers or otherwise.
John MacArthur: “We talked about the fact that life is painful and it’s painful in many ways on many fronts. But we also suggested that the greatest pain that we feel is that inflicted on us by other people. And the closer they are to us and the more we love them, the greater their ability to inflict pain on us. And we’re made for relationships by God. We’re made to enter in to intimate relationships and therefore we have a high degree of vulnerability.”
It’s true that we can be hurt by those with whom we have the closest ties. As it says:
“Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalms 41:9 ESV).
King David wrote those words, experiencing the reality of them through Ahithophel, his trusted counselor, who turned on David and joined David’s son Absalom, who rebelled against David (2 Samuel 15). Those words were also prophetic (spoken by the Spirit of God through David) of a future event concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, fulfilled when Judas, one of His disciples, betrayed Him.
John MacArthur: “That is precisely where we find the apostle Paul when he wrote 2 Corinthians, he is hurt and he is hurt profoundly and he is hurt deeply, deeply enough to describe himself in chapter 7 of this epistle as depressed.”
Paul wasn’t depressed as the world knows depression. True, he was grieved, even indignant (not in a worldly or fleshly way), but he wasn’t depressed. Paul had overcome himself by the Spirit of the Lord within him long before God sent him as an apostle to the Corinthians.
Think about it. Paul (when known as Saul of Tarsus) was abandoned by his family and closest companions when Christ appeared to him. Those who loved him suddenly hated him without cause. In Christ, he loved for the first time in his life those from whom the Lord was separating him, while they, without Christ, fully demonstrated their human hatred for him for the first time in their lives. That’s painful, but not depressing by any means, even though Paul was just a babe in Christ.
Such a division happened to me, and it happens to all those who are called to true faith, to all those apprehended by Jesus Christ, taking up the cross to follow Him.
Later, as a believer, people turned against me in a much worse way than what Paul experienced with the Corinthians, before I had come to victory and rest in the Lord. Was I depressed? I would definitely say, “No.” Sad? Hurt? Angry? Yes, some of the time, but not in the sense of defeat or carnal vulnerability, not at all. God was with me and comforted me through the entire process, which lasted 3 ½ years.
How much more would God comfort and strengthen Paul at a time in his anointed ministry, one who had already overcome?
John MacArthur: “I really believe that it was the…it was the point of Paul’s deepest, personal disappointment. It was his deepest personal pain. He was being betrayed by the Corinthian church where he had spent nearly two years in which he loved so dearly.
He was being betrayed by them because they had fallen under the influence of false teachers who had lied about Paul and taught a false gospel and other lies and these Corinthians had betrayed Paul, turned from him, were beginning to embrace the false teachers and Paul was crushed.”
I don’t see the Corinthians betraying Paul so much as being deceived and wandering away during their absence from Paul’s doctrine and spiritual nurturing. If they had betrayed Paul, they would have continued on their way, for that is the nature of betrayal – it comes of evil intent. The saints at Corinth went into error, Paul rebuked them, and promised that, if necessary, he would return with a rod and deal with those who were in error and those who caused it.
“What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and the spirit of meekness?” (1 Corinthians 4:21 MKJV)
Paul wasn’t hurt or depressed or despairing; he was indignant and determined to correct the situation. He was never without hope for them or resentful of them. He always loved them as his spiritual children in Christ. He wrote the Corinthians in that same letter:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV).
John MacArthur: “In fact, he describes this in verse 7 of our text in these words, ‘There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me.’ And I told you last time that this assault by the false teachers on the Corinthian church which resulted in their betrayal of Paul is here described as a ‘thorn in the flesh.’”
The thorn in the flesh had nothing to do with the error of the Corinthians. Here’s Paul description of the source of the thorn and its purpose:
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV
(7) So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.
(8) Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
(9) But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(10) For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
What did this thorn in the flesh have to do with the Corinthians or their error? Nothing at all. John MacArthur presumes and errs.
John MacArthur: “He further describes it as a messenger of Satan. The messenger is the word angelos in the Greek, it means angel, and an angel from Satan is a demon and so he’s telling us here that this terrible, terrible betrayal by the Corinthians, this defection from the true gospel and the truth that he had taught them, this was all being orchestrated by a demon. Demon-inspired false teachers had come into that church and perpetrated this terrible, terrible mutiny.”
Anyone reading the entire first letter to the Corinthians will be hard pressed to find evidence for John MacArthur’s speculations. The unbelief, error, and disobedience of the Corinthians had nothing to do with Paul’s thorn in the flesh, the messenger from Satan, which God Himself refused to remove.
Tell me, dear reader: Would God be unwilling to remove betrayal and departure from the True Gospel? Would God consign men to Hell to torment His servant, whom He sent to deliver them? Is that not an altogether deranged notion? And if Paul was depressed by no fault of his own and could be relieved of it, would God refuse him and say it was necessary?
John MacArthur: “And the effect of it was to buffet me, he said, and that’s the word torment. Paul was personally tormented by the problems in the Corinthian church. Because he loved God so much he didn’t want to see God dishonored, because he loved the gospel so much he didn’t want to see it misunderstood, because he loved the church so much he didn’t want to see it torn up and divided, because he loved those people so much he didn’t want to see them fall victim to lying false teachers.”
Paul wasn’t tormented because God was dishonored or because the Gospel was misunderstood. If he was, then Jesus must have been sent a messenger from Satan, because He was often grieved by the hardness of heart of His disciples, upbraiding them for their unbelief. But Jesus said of those same who grieved Him:
“My Father Who gave them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:29 MKJV).
The Lord walked in the victory and peace of God, as did Paul, who was crucified with Him and lived by His Spirit.
Paul cared for his spiritual children, laboring in birth until Christ was formed in them. Even his enemies couldn’t rob him of the peace and Spirit of the Lord, according to the Words of Jesus:
Luke 6:22-23 MKJV
(22) Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall cut you off, and when they shall reproach you and shall cast out your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.
(23) Rejoice in that day and leap for joy. For behold, your reward is great in Heaven. For so their fathers did according to these things to the prophets.
By the Spirit, Paul knew and understood these things. By the Spirit, we know and understand these things and experience them on an ongoing basis.
At the start of this letter, I wrote, “It is only John’s opinion – more on that later as to why.” So why doesn’t John MacArthur know and understand these things? Why does he teach them?
The answer is simple enough. While John is a strong, intelligent, educated, trained man in the Scriptures and his ministry, his is a ministry in the spirit of the flesh and of this world. As Paul wrote in that same letter to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 2:14-16 MKJV
(14) But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
(15) But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged by no one.
(16) For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
John MacArthur doesn’t have the Spirit of God. He has never been born again. How can one without the Spirit instruct in the things of God? He can’t, neither has God sent him to represent Him.
John sounds like he’s been hurt by betrayal. It sounds as though some have turned on him, and he’s bitter about the event. May the Lord deliver him one day from his torment.
However, I also see MacArthur suffering the traits of his mentor. John MacArthur believes John Calvin’s doctrine (read The Fruit of Cain Multiplied: The Murderer John Calvin). MacArthur and Calvin believe God deliberately predestined multitudes, likely the vast majority of mankind, to eternal torment.
Yes, you heard that right. They believe that before God even created man, He planned to torment souls forever and ever. They would have no choice in the matter. They would live out their terms on earth and go to everlasting torment, in which they would suffer constant unspeakable horrors and never be destroyed, redeemed, or put out of their intense misery.
Others, far less in number, the chosen few, God would select to live with Him in bliss for all eternity. These have no choice, either. No matter how wicked and ungodly their lives might be on earth, their destiny was certain.
John MacArthur believes in the doctrine of a liar and murderer, a venerated blasphemer called a “reformer” and “great theologian.” MacArthur trusts in the Scripture interpretations and doctrines of a man who personally, with great relish, condemned true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ to slow, agonizing death at the burning stake of green faggots, simply because they believed the truth and tried to reason with Calvin about his error (Servetus was one such martyr). Being true believers, these saints didn’t persecute Calvin, but he, a certain devil, persecuted them (read The Persecutors and Persecuted). That fact in itself tells the good from the evil.
John Calvin was demonic. Those who believe and follow him do so only because they themselves don’t have the Spirit of God. They could only believe such horrific lies if deceived. So how shall John MacArthur understand the Scriptures and the heart and spirit of our beloved brother in Christ, the apostle Paul? There’s no way.
I could go through the remainder of MacArthur’s sermon we’ve discussed and point out so much more error, but know I’ve said enough for those with a heart of truth and some understanding and discernment. Need I say more? If so, let me know, and Lord willing, we’ll see what we can do for you.
I’ve also examined MacArthur’s Doctrinal Statement and could point out so much more claptrap – blatant lies that altogether contradict the Scriptures he presumes to preach. For example, it is stated, concerning sanctification:
“In this respect, we teach that every saved person is involved in a daily conflict—the new creation in Christ doing battle against the flesh—but adequate provision is made for victory through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The struggle nevertheless stays with the believer all through this earthly life and is never completely ended. All claims to the eradication of sin in this life are unscriptural. Eradication of sin is not possible, but the Holy Spirit does provide for victory over sin (Galatians 5:16 25; Ephesians 4:22 24; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 3:9 10; 1 Peter 1:14 16; 1 John 3:5 9).”
So the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13), Jesus says, “Go and sin no more,” and, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” but you can’t do as He says? The apostle John says:
1 John 3:8-10 MKJV
(8) He who practices sin is of the Devil, for the Devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed, that He might undo the works of the Devil.
(9) Everyone who has been born of God does not commit sin, because His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
(10) In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the Devil: everyone not practicing righteousness is not of God, also he who does not love his brother.
MacArthur even gives verse nine as a defense of his doctrine. The problem is there is no acknowledgment of the truth of God’s perfect work and complete deliverance from the power of sin in this world. It is unbelief. His speech tells us he doesn’t understand the things of the Spirit.
While Christian John says there’s no place for sinning, with His wonderful grace granted to deliver from all sin, Calvin John and MacArthur John say otherwise. Whom shall you believe, God or men? The apostle Paul, a man the two lesser Johns can’t understand with their carnal minds, gives the answer:
“Let it not be! But let God be true, and every man a liar; as it is written, ‘That You might be justified in Your sayings, and will overcome when You are judged’” (Romans 3:4 MKJV).
MacArthur says, “Eradication of sin is not possible, but the Holy Spirit does provide for victory over sin.” What kind of victory is that? He says that sin is overcome when we don’t sin, but sin still prevails over us? Calvinists mislead people with diabolical doctrines.
God has shown us the way He has made for us and that is to be without sin by the power of His life, even as He was the Pattern Son on earth. Will He, then, lead us to an “almost there” state in this world and not be the Omega of our salvation? Says who? Says those who have never known the Lord, that’s who. They’ve never known the right way, the impossible way, which only God can make known and apply to those He calls and chooses and makes faithful. Amen!
John MacArthur is yet another false teacher, a Calvinist disciple, who is impressive and quite capable of deceiving many simple and unstable souls. Our part is to shine the light and warn all of prevailing error, illuminating their path and steering them clear of the pitfalls in their spiritual pilgrimage.