The Truth About the Lordship of Christ by John MacArthur
It is my presumption that I was not the intended audience for this volume in the Truth About trilogy of books. Each page presents a nugget of truth with a single text that is meant to support the idea. For a new Christian, it would serve as an excellent primer. Perhaps for the more mature Christian, the book would be useful as a reminder of once-grasped ideas. For me, it was a disappointment.
Closing the last page left me wondering if Dr. MacArthur had reviewed the galleys before sending it to print. The book offers nothing new as it is constructed from material already published in a number of his other books. I believe it is this packaging that makes the book such a difficult read. There is a lack of coherence between the thoughts. What the reader is presented with is a proof-text (in whichever translation best coheres to MacArthur’s doctrine) and a handful of paragraphs in support.
The small thought units by themselves are excellent, as I would expect from Dr. MacArthur. He is unabashed in his Hyper-Calvinism and it is on full display in the introductory pages of the book. Though it may be unintentional, the inconsistencies of this theological system are on full display as it does not lend itself to a sound-bite format.
The Truth About the Lordship of Christ should be put into the hands of young Christians, if only to generate questions for conversation. The small, tightly focused sections offer just enough information for someone new to following Christ to begin the process. As the Spirit develops greater interest, Dr. MacArthur’s full-length works are waiting in the wings.
I am grateful to Thomas Nelson who provided this book for review.
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:13-14)
Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16)
In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and you joy will be complete. (John 16:23-24)
Evangelicals have made a habit of concluding all prayers with some form of the phrase “in Jesus name” with only a vague notion of why they do so. In many cases, it has taken on the veneer of a magical incantation, as if by including these words the prayer is guaranteed to be fulfilled. Kind of an abracadabra for Christians.
A person’s name is how we know them. Our family and friends are not disembodied beings that we know by their features; the big one, the red haired one. We know them by their names and associate all that they are to us in that name. Say the name of your wife or husband. Not only do you see his or her face in your mind but you get the full sense of your love for that person. You feel exactly what they mean to you.
So it is with the name of Jesus. He’s not just a man. He is Lord. His name represents all that that means to us. Praying in His name says two things. One, we are His representatives, serving Him and what we do carries the full force of His Lordship. Second, when asking for what we need to accomplish His will, we ask in the full force and credit of our Lord. What we ask to fulfill His will is not denied. The empowerment we desire to fulfill His will is not denied.
To reach out to God in praise is natural to most Christians. On some level, each of us is grateful for the sacrifice and salvation afforded us by the Creator of all and we find joy in proclaiming this gratitude in words of positive affirmation. We understand that praising God for His greatness, telling Him how wonderful He is is much different than the same interaction on a human level. God’s arrogance is not fed by our praise; our proper relationship to Him is. A common feature that we encounter in the psalms are words of praise, directly addressing God by crying out the magnitude of His awesome nature. Another feature that is more jarring to modern ears are the words that emphasize the fundamental nature of God, His absolute holiness.
You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.
The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors. (vv 4 – 6)
How often do your prayers, personal or corporate, remind God of His holiness? The psalmist throws a wide net in these two verses that unsettles. “All who do wrong” are hated, lies bring abhorrence. To meditate on these statements brings nearly all of us to the realization that we can easily find ourselves falling into these wide, wide categories. Does the God we praise also hate us? The answer is found in next verses.
But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. (v7)
Only by the mercy of the One we praise can we approach the holy throne. The psalms contrast the people of mercy, God’s people, and those who choose against Him, His enemies. The contrast is less an ‘us and them’ statement as it is a recognition that we are sustained purely by the mercy that God offers. The line between the loved and unloved is very thin indeed. Praise Him.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (vv 11-12)
In a Judges cycle that has definitely taken an unexpected turn for the worse, we catch a glimmer of hope.
The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.”
But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.”
At the inappropriate request, Gideon flashes his devotion to the Covenant. “The Lord will rule over you!” The tribes had pledged their absolute allegiance to Yahweh as their king at the base of Mt. Sinai and this near history should not have been lost on the people raising this cry. Certainly, it must have at least crossed someone’s mind that to take Gideon and his sons as a dynasty would have broken their covenant agreement?
Gideon does, and emphatically demonstrates his loyalty to the agreement. This catches our eye so quickly after he has acted impetuously out of his own anger in Succoth and Pineil. For a man with such respect for the covenant and Yahweh’s lordship, he did not hesitate to act in vengeance of his own volition. Maybe the reason this catches our interest is that it all sounds so familiar. We’ve been there. We recognize the struggle to make our actions match our theology. It’s harder than it looks.