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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15


Another Look at MacArthur

and the Blood of Christ

E. L. Bynum


Is is possible that John MacArthur, the popular pastor and radio speaker, is not sound in doctrine on the blood of Christ? It is not only possible, but it is certain that his views are at variance with the Word of God. In the August 1986 issue of the Plains Baptist Challenger we published an article examining those views. Other publications have also exposed his unscriptural views on the blood of Christ.


Since that time, MacArthur has written a number of letters trying to justify his doctrine. Several copies of these letters have been mailed to us by our readers. I have also received a letter from MacArthur, addressed directly to me. After reading these letters a number of times, I am more convinced than ever that his views are contrary to Scripture.


MacArthur's Teaching On The Blood

 

In the August article, I quoted from the April 1986 issue of Faith For The Family published by Bob Jones University. For the benefit of new readers, I shall quote the entire article from Faith For The Family.


"John MacArthur, in 1976, said in an article entitled, 'Not His Bleeding But His Dying:' "It was His death that was efficacious...not His blood...Christ did not bleed to death. The shedding of blood has nothing to do with bleeding...it simply means death...violent sacrificial death...Nothing in His human blood saves...it is not His blood that I love...it is Him. It is not His bleeding that saved me, but His dying.' I wonder what MacArthur does with Hebrews 9:22, 'without the shedding of blood is no remission.' and I John 1:7, 'the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin'? MacArthur's position is heresy. - Editor"


That issue of Faith For The Family lists Bob Jones as Editor. We are indebted to Bob Jones for bringing MacArthur's doctrine to light. I agree with him when he said "MacArthur's position is heresy."


Has MacArthur Been Misrepresented?


In a letter dated August 29, 1986, MacArthur said, "I am convinced that most of the confusion could have been avoided had the magazine (Faith For The Family) used my comments in their full context." I would imagine that Bob Jones did indeed have his comments in full, when he wrote the above statement. I know for certain that I did have his full comments before I wrote the article for the August PBC. His full comments in no way clear him of the false doctrine that he expounds.


Some pastors and editors now say that they are convinced that MacArthur is sound on the blood of Christ. Frankly, I wonder if these people have examined his doctrine, or if they have been by his rhetoric. After reading his letters, in spite of his rewording and rephrasing some of his doctrine, it still adds up to the same thing. The man simply has peculiar and unscriptural views concerning the blood of Christ. Undoubtedly, he is an expressive writer and speaker, with great powers of persuasion.


The original comments under discussion were published by MacArthur in 1976. He entitled it "Not His Bleeding But His Dying." It begins with a letter which said, "Dear John, I would like to ask you about your recent statements concerning the 'blood of Christ.' Could you take a moment to explain to me what you meant more clearly? Thank you, A Learning Member." Apparently, the "Learning Member" was troubled by some of the things MacArthur had said. The rest of the page contains MacArthur's answer in fairly small print, and among other things, it contains the quotes that were printed in Faith For The Family. I do not find that those remarks were taken out of context, nor do they misrepresent what MacArthur said.


MacArthur's Recent Letter


In his Sept. 25th letter to me, he begins by saying, "Dear Pastor Bynum: Recently, I became aware of the syllabus being distributed by Rev. D.A. Waite regarding what he believes to be my position on the precious blood of my Saviour.


" I have to tell you that I have been misrepresented, slandered, falsely accused, and lied about in regard to this issue. Of course I believe Jesus Christ shed His blood in sacrificial death for the sins of the world - no one could read the Scripture and believe otherwise. I have preached and written on the virtues of Christ's 'shed blood' for years"


I am just wondering who "misrepresented, slandered, falsely accused, and lied" about this man's views. I certainly cannot find where Bob Jones did this. I certainly did not do so in my August article. After reading what I wrote, I wouldn't change any of it, if anything I would make it stronger. I did not have Waite's syllabus at the time I wrote my article, but since then I have examined a copy, and I do not find where D.A. Waite misrepresented him either. MacArthur's whole problem is that his unscriptural views have been put into print, and he has not found any way to extricate himself. His problem could be easily solved if he would only admit his error, repent of it, and simply state what the Bible says about the blood of Christ and affirm his belief of the same.


In his letter he refutes some of the heretical doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church on the blood. He also denounces several other heretical views, that personally I have never heard of in over 30 years in the ministry. He leaves the impression that someone is teaching that Christ only needed to bleed a little, and not to die, in order to save sinners. Just who is teaching such heresy, MacArthur never does say. Most likely this is a straw man erected in the brain of MacArthur.


He asks,"How could the red and white corpuscles be literally applied to believers in salvation? To our physical bodies? Could it be otherwise with literal blood? Will MacArthur ever tell us just who is teaching such nonsense? I doubt if he ever will. His third question seems to imply that those who believe that the literal blood of Christ saves, are teaching that the red and white corpuscles are applied to believers. Surely he can do better than that. He vainly tries to smear those who believe in the power of the blood with the Catholic heresy of transubstantiation.


Some Good Things He SEEMS To Say


"Of course I believe Jesus Christ shed His blood in sacrificial death for the sins of the world.." "I affirm that the New Covenant was ratified by Christ's blood; that the blood of Christ is precious; and that Christ shed His blood in dying for our sins." This may sound well and good, but what MacArthur giveth in one place, he taketh away in another. One should be extremely careful in examining any statement he makes in regard to the shedding of blood. Why is that? It is simply because MacArthur by his other statements, has already revealed that he means something else when he speaks of the shedding of blood.


1. HIS STRANGE VIEWS ON THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD


In his 1976 article he said, "The shedding of blood has nothing to do with bleeding..it simply means death...violent sacrificial death." John 19:34 gives some interesting insights. The reference is literally to 'blood-clots and serum.' The soldier piercing His chest cavity with a spear demonstrated that Jesus had not bled to death. His blood was still in His veins and arteries after physical death."


No one that I know claims that Jesus bled to death. This is a smokescreen without a doubt. We maintain that Christ did indeed shed his blood and that He also died. According to MacArthur's own words, he does not believe that Christ literally shed His blood, but that the Scriptures which speak of such a thing, are merely referring to His death. The Bible says, "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34). According to MacArthur this is not so, but rather 'blood-clots and serum' came out. This may be the idea of MacArthur and some modern medical man, but I will just believe what the Bible says. All this is suppose to be a part of his evidence that Christ did not shed His blood.


He repeats this error in his Sept. 25th letter, where he says, "The shedding of His blood was the visible manifestation of His life being poured out in sacrifice, and Scripture consistently uses the term 'shedding of blood' as a metonym for atoning death." (Emphasis ours). It is incredible that he continues to rephrase the same error. Webster says that a "metonym" is, "a word used in metonymy, as a substitute for another." So there you have it, when MacArthur speaks of the "shedding of blood," he is really speaking about the death of Christ. Shades of Karl Barth - for this is the method of neo-orthodoxy.


What Does "Shedding Of Blood" Mean?


It is not too difficult to discover what shed and shedding means in the Bible. The word translated shed in the O.T. is also translated many times as "pour out" or "poured out." See Lev. 17:11,13. It is used of the pouring out of the blood. "The priest...shall pour all the blood of the bulllock at the bottom of the altar.." (Lev. 4:7) See Lev. 4:18,25,30,34; Deut. 12:16,24; 15:23, and many other O.T. scriptures. William Wilson in his O.T. Word Studies says that it means "to pour out." In I Kings 18:28 the same word is used where it reads "till the blood gushed out."


The Lord tells us, "without shedding of blood is no remission." (Heb. 9:22) "Shedding of blood" is translated from one word, and Strong says that word comes from two Greek words. One is "haima" which is the Greek word for blood, and the other is "ekcheo" which is the Greek word for shed or to pour out. Strong says of "haimatekchusia," the word found in Heb. 9:22, that it means "an effusion of blood - shedding of blood." Now as for the word that is translated "shed," "pour out," "gush out," etc., how can anyone deny that it means simply that.


Strong says that it means "to pour," or to "gush (pour) out." Berry and Thayer says that it means "to pour out." On the basis of that, how in the word could John MacArthur say, "The shedding of blood has nothing to do with bleeding..it simply means death...violent sacrificial death?" (Emphasis ours). This writer is completely mystified as to where he gets his information. It is not to be found in the Bible, nor in the lexicons and word studies, so where does it come from?


In his 1976 article, MacArthur said, "His shed blood represents His sacrificial physical and spiritual death for us." No, his shed blood represents His shed blood. It is wrong to try to teach that blood means death. A careful reading of his statements makes it clear that he does not really believe that Christ shed His blood.


II. MACARTHUR'S ERROR ON THE SAVING POWER OF CHRIST'S BLOOD


In our view, the most grievous and deadly part of MacArthur's false doctrine is his outright denial of the saving power of the blood of Christ.


We must remember that MacArthur's 1976 article was not written to a Catholic, or a cult member, but to a "Dear Learning Member." Whether it was to a member of his own church we do not know, but it was to someone who signed their name, "A Learning Member." Now let us see what he writes to that learning member.


MacArthur Vs. The Word Of God "It was His death that was efficacious..not His blood." (Emphasis ours throughout article. The three dots were placed there by MacArthur's and does not represent something that we have left out.) "Nothing in His human blood saves." Not only has MacArthur not repudiated his 1976 statement, but he repeats something very similar to it, in his August 29, 1986 letter, when he said, "The blood of Christ is precious - but as precious as it is, His physical blood could not save."


It is incredible that a veteran pastor and Bible teacher would make such unbelievable statements. To cleverly cloud the issue, he brings in "His human blood," and "His physical blood." Why bring in such words as "human" and "physical"? Why not just use the terminology of the Bible.


Contrary to what MacArthur's says, the Bible does place strong emphasis on the saving cleansing power of the blood of Christ.


His blood was shed for the remission of sins. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, He took the cup which contained the fruit or juice of the vine and said, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26:28). Of course, the fruit of the vine did not turn into the blood of Christ, but it symbolized something that was real, and that was the blood of Christ. Christ's blood was shed for the remission of sins.


We have been purchased by His blood. When Paul was speaking to the elders of the Church at Ephesus, he told them "to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28).


Redemption and remission of sins cannot be apart from FAITH IN HIS BLOOD." (Rom. 3:24,25).  We are justified by His blood. "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." (Rom. 5:9). We gladly affirm that "Christ died for us" as we are told in v.8, but by so doing we will never, never play down the value of His blood. The Bible places great emphasis on both the death of Christ, and the shed blood of Christ. Why should anyone try to play down either His death, or His shed blood??


We have redemption through His blood."In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin, according to the riches of his grace." (Eph. 1:7) "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Col. 1:14). There is no redemption for the sinner, and there is no forgiveness of sins apart from the shed blood of Christ.


We have peace through His blood. "And having made peace through the blood of his cross." (Col. 1:20)


We are made nigh by the blood of Christ.(See Eph. 2:12).


By His own blood He entered into the holy place."Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.(Heb. 9:12) On the day of atonement, the high priest took the blood of a bullock into the holy place and sprinkled it on the mercy seat for his own sins. Then he took the blood of a goat into that same place and sprinkled it on the mercy seat for the sins of the people. (See Lev. 16). Jesus did not do that. He entered into the holy place in heaven, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood. It was done once, not every year, or perpetually!


Our sins are purged, and remitted by the blood of Christ."Without shedding of blood is no remission." (Heb. 9:22).


We are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Peter, by divine inspiration tells us that we are "redeemed..with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (I Pet. 1:18,19) .


Our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ. "The blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin." (I John 1:7).


We are washed from our sins by His blood. "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." (Rev. 1:15). MacArthur says that "washed" should be "delivered." We don't buy that, but even if it were so, we would still be "delivered from our sins in this own blood."


We are redeemed to God by His blood. (See Rev. 5:9)


Tribulation saints will wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb. (See Rev. 7:14).


Will You Believe MacArthur, Or The Bible?


In light of the above Scriptures, as well as many others, I am amazed that any man would have the audacity to say, "It was His death that was efficacious...not His blood." Who is he to say, "Nothing in His human blood saves?"


III. MACARTHUR AND THE O. T. SACRIFICES


In our view, he makes some misleading statements about the O.T. sacrifices. While much that he says is true, there is a deadly danger in the implications of some of his remarks. He writes the following in his Sept. 25th, 1986 letter:


"Bloodshed was God's design for all Old Testament sacrifices. They were bled to death rather than clubbed or burnt. God designed that sacrificial death was to occur with blood loss as a vivid manifestation of life.('the life of the flesh is in the blood') being poured out. Nevertheless, those who were too poor to bring animals for sacrifices were allowed to bring one-tenth of an ephah (about two quarts) of fine flour instead (Lev. 5:11). Their sins were covered just as surely as the sins of those who could afford to offer a lamb, goat, turtledove, or pigeon (Lev. 5:6-7). That is because the sacrifice was entirely symbolic anyway."


In this paragraph MacArthur has chosen a passage of Scripture that he believes will help his cause. The offerings that were required in the first six chapters of Leviticus varied. Of course all of these offerings pointed to Christ and typified His life and work. The offerings of Leviticus 2 were made of flour, oil, and frankincense. The fine flour typifies the evenness, balance, and purity of His person. No blood sacrifice is required in this chapter. An animal for a blood sacrifice was required in chapters 1,3,4 and 6. MacArthur is correct in saying that in chapter 5, the poor could bring an offering of fine flour. We venture to say that the fine flour did not typify the blood of Christ, but it did symbolize other aspects of His life and death.


How Does This Affect The Other Sacrifices?


It affects them not at all. Cain could bring nothing but a lamb. Nothing else would be acceptable to God. Not the fruit of the field, and not fine flour would suffice. (See Gen. 4). Could Noah offer fine flour on the altar? No! He had to offer the clean beasts and clean fowls. (See Gen. 8:20). On the Passover night down in Egypt, could the Israelites have offered fine flour instead of a lamb? Could they have dusted fine flour on the door posts? No, they could not! It had to be a lamb. If death was the only issue, then they could have hung the head or the hooves of the lamb on the door posts. Yes, the lamb must die, but the shed blood had to be sprinkled on the door posts in order to save the firstborn.(See Ex. 12)


On the day of atonement, could the high priest have taken fine flour and sprinkled it on the mercy seat? No, he had to take the blood of the bullock for his own sins, and the blood of the goat for the sins of the people, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat. So for MacArthur to take the one instance from the Old Testament where the poor could take an offering of fine flour rather than a blood sacrifice, is in my view, very misleading. In all other instances it did make a difference whether there was a blood sacrifice made or not.


Beating Around The Mulberry Bush


MacArthur is a very, very articulate man. He knows the English language well, and is able to express himself as well as anyone we have ever heard. It is very strange that he has to be beat around and around the mulberry bush in page after page, and still be unable to make himself perfectly clear. Why is this?


It is because he has peculiar and unscriptural views of the blood of Christ. After reading his letters on the blood, I have the distinct impression that they are blurred by fog and smog. If he ever decides to come out from behind his smokescreen, none of us will have any difficulty in understanding what he believes about the blood. He could settle this problem very easily, by simply repudiating his heretical statements about the blood of Christ. He could then simply take the fundamental approach of accepting what the Bible says about the saving power of the blood of Christ. It is clear, it is simple, and only someone who has something to hide, will fog the issue by using strange terms about the precious blood of Christ.


We will probably make more enemies than friends over this issue, because most people do not like controversy. But regardless of the cost, we have no intentions of backing up on this fundamental doctrine of the Word of God.


IV. FUNDAMENTAL LEADERS ARE DISTURBED ABOUT THE FALSE TEACHING ON THE BLOOD


The September/October, 1986 issue of the News Bulletin of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship of America contains two highly significant items, about the blood of Christ. While I am not a member of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, I heartily commend them for speaking out on the blood of Christ.


First, there is an outlined Bible Study entitled, "The Blood Of Christ - I Peter 1:18-19." Although it is unsigned, this excellent study takes up almost two pages. It may well have been written by Don Jasmin, their Research Secretary. In my view, it blows MacArthur's foggy position right out of the water.


Second, it contains a resolution passed by the World Congress of Fundamentalists, meeting on the campus of Bob Jones University, August 4-8, 1986. While MacArthur's name is not mentioned in the Bible Study or in the Resolution, there is no doubt in my mind as to why they are speaking out at this very time. While MacArthur is trying to make out like fundamental leaders are in agreement with him on the blood, we venture to say that there are many fundamental pastors who are deeply disturbed over his stand. We believe that there are many who want to distance themselves from the false teaching of John MacArthur.


Below we are reproducing word for word the resolution mentioned above. It is clear and plain. There is no foggy and misleading words contained in it. Any Christian can understand it, but the same cannot be said for MacArthur's views.


WORLD CONGRESS OF FUNDAMENTALISTS PASSES RESOLUTION ON THE BLOOD OF CHRIST


Meeting on the campus of Bob Jones University August 4-8 delegates at the World Congress of Fundamentalists passed numerous resolutions dealing with pertinent issues. Among those resolutions was this timely one dealing with the blood of Christ.


Regarding the Position of the World Congress of Fundamentalists on the Blood of Christ


Whereas the physical body of Christ in the Holy Scriptures means the real, literal body of God the Son incarnate; so also in the Holy Scriptures when the Blood of Christ is mentioned, it is the real, literal Blood which was poured out from that same body and which accomplished our redemption.


The Bible reveals the mysteries of our redemption. In that revelation a divine principle is revealed, illustrated, and enforced. That principle is"..Without shedding of blood is no remission"(Heb. 9:22).


Sin can only be atoned for and cleansed from the heart of the sinner by the precious Blood of God's appointed Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ must die once for all, but His death must be by literal blood-shedding; and the Blood shed becomes the all-sufficient merit by which sin's guilt-power, and ultimately its very present, are destroyed.


The Holy Scriptures nowhere separate the voluntary death of Christ from the sacrificial shedding of His sinless Blood, but rather links them inextricably in one inseparable act.


The Bible Reveals:


1. That the precious Blood is incorruptible. It cannot be anything else because of its intrinsic purity. I Peter 1:18,19: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold...But with the precious blood of Christ.."


2. That the precious blood is indestructible. It cannot be anything else because of its permanence. The Blood is eternally preserved in Heaven. Hebrews 12:24: "And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."


3. That the precious Blood is invaluable. It cannot be anything else because of its parentage. It is the Blood of God incarnate. Leviticus 17:11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood..." Acts 20:28: "...the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."


4. That the precious Blood is indispensable. It cannot be anything else because of its power. No sinner can be saved without washing in the Blood of the Lamb. Revelations 7:14: "..these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes,and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."


Therefore, this Congress:


1. Reaffirms its adherence to the Scriptural teaching on this subject;


2. Rejects every attempt either to deny the literalness of the Blood or to minimize its efficacy and the necessity of its shedding in Christ's death on the cross. Such denial is a dangerous and devilish deception;


3. Calls upon Fundamentalist preachers and God's saints everywhere to proclaim anew the saving efficacy of the shed Blood of Christ in His death on the cross, and to alert the Church in regard to all heretical teaching on this vital truth, ever remembering that we overcome the devil himself by the Blood of the Lamb. Revelation 12:11: "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony..."