John MacArthur is the senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, CA, is a radio teacher on the program Grace to You, and is well-known for his landmark book promoting "Lordship Salvation" called The Gospel According to Jesus. While MacArthur at times affirms orthodox-sounding positions regarding the Trinity and Christ, unfortunately he denies the orthodox doctrines by teaching heretical doctrines. The following is a sample of quotes where he teaches these heresies (all quotes taken from the official gty.org website; all emphasis except italics is added unless noted otherwise).
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Denial of Divine Simplicity (Partialism/Tritheism)
Blasphemy of the Name of Jesus
Separation of the Father from the Son
The Christian doctrine of divine simplicity, as affirmed by numerous creeds and confessions throughout the centuries, refers to the fact that God is uncomposed/un-compound and is an absolutely simple being without body, or parts, or passions. God is not a complex being and the three persons are not three "parts" of God; He is one undivided, indivisible, incomposite infinite spirit, immutable/changeless and timeless (eternally existing outside of time). Each of the three persons is the entirety of the divine being. To deny this historic Christian doctrine is to teach the heresy of partialism (which is essentially a form of tritheism [three gods]). For some good information on the heresy of partialism see this webpage (the last two answers).
"And we find that eternal life comes to those who believe. And what is it that they believe? They believe in the true knowledge of Jesus Christ. They believe that Jesus is the true God. They believe in His deity. They believe therefore that He is a part of the Godhead. They believe that He is equal to the Father." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-286/resting-in-the-assurance-of-our-salvation)
"He was restored to limitless intimacy with God as the perfect God-man which He remains forever and ever and ever. And when you see Him -- and you will see Him -- you will see what John saw in Revelation chapter 5, when he saw coming out of the throne a Lamb as though it had been -- what? -- slain.You will see what Thomas saw, the nail prints in His hand and the nail prints in His feet and the scar in His side because He is the eternal Theanthropos restored to the fullness of trinitarian essence in its full measure. He never ceased to be part of the Trinity but restored back to the full intimacy of all that that means and yet restored back in a way that He had never been before as the Theanthropos, the God-man." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-143/the-importance-of-the-ascension)
Colossians 2:9 says that "in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form"--this has always been true, even from the moment of the Incarnation until now--not "part" of "the Godhead" and no "restoration" required! To teach that Jesus is only "part" of God is to deny what the historic Shield of the Trinity affirms: God is the Son.
Also, in orthodox Trinitarian theology, to say that God is one in essence means that He is actually one essence--He is one substance, He is one simple being. So it is completely heretical to claim that Jesus was "restored to the fullness of trinitarian essence"--He is the fullness of trinitarian essence, eternally and immutably!
"He sends His own Son into the world. Jesus is a part of the Trinity, comes into the world, and dies in your place." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/GTY66/the-certainty-of-gods-existence)
"So, there are images of God that draw on the feminine side, but God is clearly the one in ultimate and final authority and is always presented, in all parts of the Trinity, in a male form. And any effort otherwise is simply a twisting of Scripture based on an agenda which is usually -- well, always a feminist agenda to overturn male leadership." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/GTY116/hotbutton-questions-about-the-bible-and-christian-life)
"Here in Genesis 1 the expression suggests both communion and consultation among the members of the Trinity. 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness' (Genesis 1:26). It also signifies perfect agreement and a clear purpose. It is, as a matter of fact, a crucial step toward the fulfillment of a promise made 'before time began' (Titus 1:2, NKJV)--a promise made in eternity past among the Members of the Trinity." (https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B200708/the-triune-god-of-creation)
"Jesus Himself prayed to the Father (cf. Matthew 6:9), taught that His will was distinct from His Father's (Matthew 26:39), promised that He would ask the Father to send the Spirit (John 14:16), and asked the Father to glorify Him (John 17:5). These actions would not make sense unless the Father and the Son were two distinct Persons." (https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A215/our-triune-god)
The orthodox Christian understanding of the Trinity is that God has one will, not two (or three) wills. The above quote makes it clear that he is teaching that there are at least two divine wills (and not just Christ having both a human will and the divine will, which is what Matthew 26:39 is actually referring to!), especially since his article is about the Trinity and not the hypostatic union (the two natures of the one person of Christ). And again, God does not have "parts" or "members"--He is one simple being.
"The simplest way to comprehend the Trinity is to read the Bible from the beginning to the end. The word for God in Genesis 1 is 'Elohim.' It is plural. The im ending on a noun in Hebrew is like s in English. The opening words of Genesis could be translated, 'In the beginning, Gods.' The word-form of the noun is plural, and yet the reference is to a singular being." (https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B200304)
"You notice they're in all parts of the Trinity? They're in God, they're in Christ, they're in the Holy Spirit." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/1317A/the-ideal-church)
"I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever. Who is the other helper? Who's going to take My place? [...] And the Father cares about you, and the Father's going to give you someone to take My place, and that someone is going to be the Holy Spirit, and He is the Spirit of truth. [...] And the Father will send Him in My name. We agree on this; we work together; we're one. [...] In chapter 14 He said, 'The Father would send.' Here he says, 'I will send.' Because they're in perfect agreement, they act together. 'He is the Spirit of truth whom I will send from the Father. He proceeds from the Father.' In other words, He is part of the Trinity. He is of the same nature as God. [...] What I want for you is what the Father wants for you, that's why the Father is sending the Holy Spirit to take My place, and it's even better. [...] He doesn't say it'll happen like in some passive form. 'I will do it. I'm going to be working for you through the Holy Spirit. The Father's working for you through the Holy Spirit. The whole of the Trinity is on your side providing everything you could ever need.'" (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-73/powerful-promises)
The Holy Spirit does not replace Jesus, or "take [His] place" as MacArthur asserts three times in this quote! They are one and the same being, and wherever the Spirit is, there is the Son also. The Son is in the Spirit and the Spirit is in the Son (the doctrine of perichoresis), and God is one simple being (without parts) who exists as three distinct but not separate persons. Jesus never teaches that "someone [is going] to take [His] place" (see John 14:18, John 14:20, and John 14:23).
"A time is coming when the last enemy--death--will be abolished; when Christ, the King of the universe, will take His rightful throne and reign supreme because all enemies will be in subjection under His feet. [...] What that text suggests is that when the love gift of redeemed humanity has been given to Jesus Christ, He will take them and give it, along with Himself, back to the Father as a reciprocal expression of the same infinite love. Then (without divesting Himself of humanity or His role as our great High Priest) He takes His former place in the Godhead, to reign in His former, full, and glorious place at the Father's right hand--'so that God may be all in all.'" (Italics in original. https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170719/election-and-christ)
So it sounds like he is saying that right now Jesus has still not taken "His former place in the Godhead" yet and that He still does not currently "reign in His former, full, and glorious place at the Father's right hand." Whatever this means, it is heretical, since Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9) and eternally, immutably reigns as the one and only sovereign God of the universe. Also, "sitting at the right hand" is a function of His physical human nature, so to ascribe that to preincarnate reality would be corporealistic/polytheistic heresy.
"He preexisted everything that exists. That puts Him into eternity. That puts Him into the Godhead." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-94/the-lords-greatest-prayer-part-2
"I do really want to start a Holy Spirit movement and a movement to worship Him in all His glory for His divine nature and His divine work. And as we said on Wednesday, the Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead most involved in our lives and at the same time, least honored. The Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead most involved in our lives on a constant, non-stop basis and least honored." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/SC12-4/restoring-worship-of-the-holy-spirit)
It is completely heretical to say that there is one "member" of "the Godhead" that is "most involved" in our lives! There is one God, and the Son is in the Spirit and the Father is in the Spirit (the doctrine of perichoresis). And Jesus said in John 14 that He and the Father would indwell us. Jesus says in John 5:19 that "whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." The acts/works of the three persons are one. Also, a "member" means a "part" and God has no parts.
"That phrase means far more than merely that the Word existed with God; it '[gives] the picture of two personal beings facing one another and engaging in intelligent discourse' (W. Robert Cook, The Theology of John [Chicago: Moody, 1979], 49). From all eternity Jesus, as the second person of the trinity, was 'with the Father [pros ton patera]' (1 John 1:2) in deep, intimate fellowship." ("from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on John 1." Brackets in original. https://www.gty.org/library/bibleqnas-library/QA0138/why-does-john-refer-to-jesus-as-the-word)
God does not consist of two (or three) 'personal beings' engaging in 'intimate fellowship.' God is one simple being.
"Satan's argument, based on Israel's sinfulness, was that God should break His covenant promises [...]. In response, the Angel of the Lord (the preincarnate Christ) defended Israel by deferring to God the Father and asking Him to rebuke Satan (cf. 1 John 2:1). And the Father honored the preincarnate Son. Instead of breaking His covenant with His chosen people, God reaffirmed His commitment to Israel's future justification, promising to forgive Israel's sin and clothe her with garments of righteousness (Zech. 3:3-5)." ("from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Jude 9." (https://www.gty.org/library/bibleqnas-library/QA0132/angelic-conflict)
Zechariah 3 is not referring to some separate preincarnate God "deferring to God the Father"! The Young's Literal Translation of Zechariah 3:2 actually says: "And Jehovah saith unto the Adversary: 'Jehovah doth push against thee, O Adversary, Yea, push against thee doth Jehovah, Who is fixing on Jerusalem, Is not this a brand delivered from fire?'" Quite different than "the preincarnate Christ" "deferring" to the Father!
"In that culture, a dignitary's adult son was deemed equal in stature and privilege with his father. The same deference demanded by a king was afforded to his adult son. The son was, after all, of the very same essence as his father, heir to all the father's rights and privileges--and therefore equal in every significant regard. So when Jesus was called 'Son of God,' it was understood categorically by all as a title of deity, making Him equal with God and (more significantly) of the same essence as the Father. That is precisely why the Jewish leaders regarded the title 'Son of God' as high blasphemy." (https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A235/reexamining-the-eternal-sonship-of-christ)
When orthodox Christianity confesses that Jesus Christ is "of the very same essence" as the Father, it does not merely mean like an adult son is of the same essence as his dad! It means that God is one essence/substance/being (simple and without parts). The Son of God is the identical essence/being of the Father, and not, as MacArthur seems to suggest, merely like two human beings are of the same essence!
"Colossians 1:15 reminds us, 'He is the image' -- literally the replica, the duplicate of the invisible God.' 1 Timothy chapter 3 and verse 16 tells us that He who was revealed in the flesh was vindicated in the Spirit, beheld by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, and taken up to glory. It was He -- God -- who was revealed in the flesh. And eventually, after that fleshly time was over, was gathered back into the glory which He had from eternity past with the Father in His presence." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-205/the-inside-story-of-the-incarnation)
No, Jesus is not a "replica" or "duplicate" of God! There is only one God. And that last sentence is a denial of timelessness, saying that what had happened from "eternity past" could change. Jesus is not just in the Father's "presence," He is in the Father and the Father is in Him (the doctrine of perichoresis; see John 14:9-11), and this was not interrupted while Jesus was on earth! If the Son left the Father's presence, then that makes two separate gods. Also, notice that MacArthur says "after that fleshly time was over"--actually, Jesus is still in the flesh! To say otherwise is antichrist heresy, according to 1 John 4:1-3.
"He is fully God, and yet He is with God. The members of the Trinity are fully God and yet separate persons." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-6/the-first-testimony-concerning-jesus-part-2)
"Thus the rendering 'God was the Word' is invalid, because 'the Word,' not 'God,' is the subject. It would also be theologically incorrect, because it would equate the Father ('God' whom the Word was with in the preceding clause) with the Word, thus denying that the two are separate persons. [...] Confusion about the deity of Christ is inexcusable, because the biblical teaching regarding it is clear and unmistakable." ("from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on John 1." https://www.gty.org/library/bibleqnas-library/QA0138/why-does-john-refer-to-jesus-as-the-word)
It is a denial of the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity to teach that the persons are separate. The three persons are distinct but not separate. According to MacArthur's own words, confusion on this is inexcusable, especially for someone who sets himself up as an authority on the Bible.
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Here are just a few examples of a digustingly blasphemous teaching that MacArthur has been teaching for decades:
"And then verse 9 says God gave Him a name, 'He bestowed on Him a name which is above every name.' Some people think that's the name Jesus. That's not it. The name Jesus is just like the name Joseph. The name Jesus is just a name. That's not the name above every name. The name above every name is Lord, sovereign. And He gave Him a name which is above every name, that name is Lord and Lord of lords. He sat Him on the throne. Verse 10 says that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow - at the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus, not Jesus but kurios, Lord.
"At the name given to Jesus, the name Lord, every knee bows." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-280/the-humility-and-exaltation-of-christ)
"'And He bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.' Some have suggested that's the name Jesus; it isn't. The name of Jesus is the name of His incarnation; that's not a name above every name. The name Jesus was the name of lots of folks, and it still is lots of folks. There are people in the Hispanic world today called Jesús or Jesus. It's not the name above every name. The name above every name is Lord. That means Sovereign, Ruler. 'That at the name which was given to Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.'" (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-143/the-importance-of-the-ascension)
In these quotes MacArthur blasphemes the name of Jesus, saying that it's just a name like any other name, and even misquotes Philippians 2:10 which actually says "at the name of Jesus" not "at the name which was given to Jesus"! How blasphemous to say that Jesus is not the name above all names! Peter, "filled with the Holy Spirit," said that "by the name of Jesus Christ...by this name this man stands here before you in good health...there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." "And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know;" (Acts 4:10-12, Acts 3:16 NASB95) And Acts 19:13 explicitly states that "the name of the Lord Jesus" = the name "Jesus" not "Lord": "But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, 'I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.'" Yes JESUS is the name above every name, and what utter blasphemy to deny it!!!!
"So, what you have in the ascension is Christ going back, being exalted, being given the name Lord." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-143/the-importance-of-the-ascension)
"But in the end, because He was a faithful servant, 'He was given a name above every name.' The name is Lord -- Lord of the universe, Lord of all Lords." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-205/the-inside-story-of-the-incarnation)
It is also blasphemy to say that Jesus was ever "given" the name "Lord"! He is the LORD!!! And He always has been the Lord of the universe! Also, the word kurios ("Lord") is the Greek translation of the Hebrew YHWH (the name of God) in the Old Testament--Jesus is YHWH!
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The kenotic heresy is the teaching that the "kenosis" (emptying) of Philippians 2 means that Jesus Christ relinquished some aspect(s) of His deity or the exercise of His divine attributes at the Incarnation. This is a denial of the timelessness and immutability of God. In the Incarnation, the person of the Son simply assumed a human nature, while His divine nature remained changeless and timeless (two natures but one person, the hypostatic union; in other words, "emptying" by "assuming" not by any subtraction). His divine nature/attributes did not change in any way whatsoever, and remained outside of time, immutable and indivisible, and fully operational. And there is only one divine nature. MacArthur's kenosis heresy is a rejection of the ancient Confession of Chalcedon.
"Think about it this way; would you rather live during the time of Jesus' humiliation, or would you rather live during the time of His exaltation? To put it another way, would you rather live with Him during the time of His limitation or live with Him during the time when there was no limitation. Would you rather live with Jesus when He could be somewhere, or would you rather live with Jesus when He could be everywhere? Would you rather live with Jesus when He was with you, or would you rather live with Jesus when He was in you?" (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-143/the-importance-of-the-ascension)
This statement is clearly talking about Jesus' divine nature since He is not omnipresent in His human nature. So he is teaching that Jesus was not omnipresent while He was on earth--this is kenotic heresy. There are way too many heretical statements in that sermon to be able to quote them all here, but here are a few more brief statements (as well as several more later) and the context can be checked at the link:
"He was willing to let go of that equality and to put limitations on Himself, self-imposed restrictions in -- listen carefully -- in the exercise of His attributes. [...] He came into this world, limited Himself to this sphere. He set aside His prerogatives as God and limited Himself to the Father's will and the Spirit's power. He limited Himself [to] a physical, human body... [...] Now, even after His resurrection, He was still under limitations. Between His resurrection and His ascension, that period of time, He was still under limitations. He was still confined to this world. He had not yet entered again into the glory which He had fully with the Father before the world began. But after His ascension, He went back to the full glory that He had known before He came. [...] And so, when He went back to heaven, He didn't go back as He came. He came as distinctive spirit; He went back as distinctive spirit and distinctive man. [...] And so, Jesus Christ finished the work and went back to the intimacy of communion with the Father." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-143/the-importance-of-the-ascension)
The Son never lost "intimacy" with the Father, He never "let go" of "equality," He never "restricted" the exercise of His divine attributes, He never "limited" Himself only to this sphere or only to a physical human body, He never "set aside" His own divine will (there is only one divine will) or His own power (there is only one divine power). And He never left heaven in His divine spirit. His divine nature did not change or "leave" at all, ever. All of this is absolute heresy. As Augustine put it: "He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven." He is the infinite and immutable God. If He is God and He left God, then that makes two gods.
"What's he talking about? [...] I'm leaving, but I'll be back. And I'll be back in the form of the Holy Spirit who is called in Romans 8:9 the very Spirit of Christ. [...] Better that Jesus leaves, because when Jesus leaves, the Spirit comes. 'And when the Spirit comes' -- John 15:26 -- 'He will bear witness of Me.' He'll bring Me right back to you. He'll speak of Me. He'll show you My person. He'll show you My power. He'll point to Me." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-143/the-importance-of-the-ascension)
Here he makes it sound like Jesus, even though His supposed "limitations" have been removed, still does not actually indwell us Himself but only that the (separate) Spirit indwells us and "brings" Jesus by pointing to Him.
"You see, from the very beginning, what did Satan want to do? He wanted to dethrone God. Right? 'I will; I will; I will; I will; I will,' he says. 'I want to be like God; I want to take the throne; I want to be the sovereign.' God threw him out of heaven. So, he lost that battle.
"Next he engages himself in fighting Christ. Read Revelation chapter 12. He goes after the male child, right? Why? Because He knows that Christ is the Sovereign Ruler. Christ rules equally with God; Christ will be exalted to the position of authority. So, he wants to dominate Christ. He is in a power struggle with Christ. People are just pawns in that power struggle. We're not really the object of Satan's efforts; we're just pawns along the way. He's really wanting to dethrone Christ. So, he goes through all of that effort." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-143/the-importance-of-the-ascension)
For those who are familiar with the "Great Controversy" teaching in Seventh-day Adventism, does this sound familiar at all? Revelation 12 refers to Satan, through Herod, wanting to kill the baby Jesus.* It has nothing to do with him trying to "dethrone Christ." And Christ is God and He never needed to be "exalted to the position of authority"! And Satan has never been "in a power struggle with Christ"--how blasphemous! It's almost as if he reads SDA prophet Ellen G. White...or is influenced by the same spirit as her!
*(Unless MacArthur is referring to verse 7 regarding Michael vs. Satan and then he is even more Adventist in his theology!)
"And so, the ascension is a monumental moment in the life of Christ, at least equal to the birth, the death, and the resurrection of Christ because He ascends to the exalted Lordship which the Father grants to the one who has perfectly accomplished the work of redemption. And so, His return is not just a return to intimacy with God; it's a return to sovereign exaltation as King and Lord and Ruler." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-143/the-importance-of-the-ascension)
He never needed to "return" to any of that. What blasphemy. He never ceased being the sovereign King and Lord!
"The ascension signals all of this. What an event. It indicates our Lord is exalted to a role of sovereignty. It indicates that He goes back to the intimacy that He had with the Father, and all the limitations fall off. It indicates that he sends the Holy Spirit, that He begins to prepare our eternal home, that He takes over the headship of His church, that He defeats Satan, passes evangelism and ministry to His followers, begins the blessed work of intercession and stands ready to return and gather His people into the glories of eternal heaven." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-143/the-importance-of-the-ascension)
Again, Jesus never needed to be "exalted" to a "role" of sovereignty that He had supposedly lost at the incarnation! He never stopped being the one true Sovereign God of the universe! And these statements cannot be explained away by saying that he's merely referring to Christ's human nature, since he's talking about Him regaining what He had supposedly "emptied" Himself of when becoming human. And if becoming human necessitated Him "limiting" His deity, then what changed at the ascension in his human nature to allow "all the limitations [to] fall off"?
"First of all, God abandoned a sovereign position. The second person of the Trinity - God, the second person of the Trinity, abandoned a sovereign position. Verse 6 says, 'Although He existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself.'
"That's the first point. When the Lord came into this world, He abandoned a sovereign position." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-205/the-inside-story-of-the-incarnation)
How can God abandon a sovereign position? What nonsensical heresy! "Sovereign" is not a "role" or "position" that He has, it's who He is! He cannot "abandon" who He is, despite what MacArthur claims! And he repeats this heresy a total of 9 times in the same sermon:
"First of all, God abandoned a sovereign position. The second person of the Trinity - God, the second person of the Trinity, abandoned a sovereign position. [...] When the Lord came into this world, He abandoned a sovereign position. [...] So, first of all, as I gave you the first point, He abandoned a sovereign position. [...] Secondly, not only did He abandon a sovereign position, [...] You think about how He abandoned the sovereign position [...] Thirdly, He not only abandoned the sovereign position, [...] Laid aside His privileges as God; abandoned the sovereign position, [...] It was the Lord of Heaven abandoning a sovereign position, [...]" (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-205/the-inside-story-of-the-incarnation)
Absolutely astounding heresy! It's so astounding you've gotta listen to it for yourself in this audio montage clip.
"Jesus (in John 17) talks in His prayer to the Father (verse 5) about the glory that He had before the world began when He was pros ton theon, on equal level with God. Something, as I said, in Philippians he says He did not hold onto but gave up for the sake of incarnation." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-2/jesus-the-divine-word)
No, He did not "give up" His equality with God. That is not what Philippians 2 says. And equality with God doesn't just mean "on equal level with God" but that He actually is God. So it would be impossible for it to be something that He could give up! This is simply anti-Trinitarian heresy.
"He came down. How far down? He didn't come from being the king of heaven to being a king of earth or a king of Israel. He will eventually be the King of kings and the King of Israel, but for this occasion in His incarnation, He came to be a slave. He took off the robes of majesty and put on the apron of a slave." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-354)
He will "eventually" be the King of kings??!! And He never stopped "being the King of heaven"!
"He wants them to understand that being handed over to the care of the Father is better for them because Christ in His incarnation had certain limits. He was limited physically. Although He was with them for that three years, He wasn't always in their immediate presence, but He would be after He left." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-73/powerful-promises)
Actually, He still is "in His incarnation"--He did not de-incarnate Himself. And yes, He actually was "always in their immediate presence" (see Matthew 18:20). He never gave up His omnipresence and there were no "limits" that changed after His ascension.
"The incarnation, then, begins with unselfishness. It begins with Jesus being willing to let go of the glory that He had with the Father before the world began, which is the way He expresses it in His prayer in John 17. When it's almost over He says, 'I want to come back and I want to have the glory I had with you before this all began.'" (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-280/the-humility-and-exaltation-of-christ)
"Of what did He empty Himself? Well, the New Testament lays it out for us. He remained fully God but, for example, John 17:4, He said, 'Father, give me back the glory I had with you before the world began.' He emptied Himself of His glory, His divine glory." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-354)
When he says John 17:4, he actually means verse 5. But once again, he simply misquotes Scripture and makes up words for his false "Jesus." The real Jesus does not say "give me back the glory"--He never lost His glory! When He says, "glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was" (John 17:5 NASB95), He is not saying He had lost, or had given up, that glory! The phrase "had...before the world was" is a phrase that means "before time"--it is simply talking about the glory that He has outside of time, which He never stopped having (and He is talking about now being glorified inside time, at the Cross and in His resurrection)! The word "had" is simply a corresponding tense to "before the world," but it is referring to timelessness and thus means "have eternally" (present tense outside of time, the I AM). It doesn't mean "had" as in "used to have but no longer have." This is a terrible distortion of Scripture! Also, the context in John 17:24 makes this clear: "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." Again, "before the foundation of the world" refers to "before time"/in timelessness. Nobody would dare claim that the Father used to love the Son but no longer did! It is a love outside of time, and so is the glory. And assuming a human nature inside time does not subtract glory from His divine nature outside time.
"[...] 'He emptied Himself.' That's what the Greek means. That's where we get the idea of kenosis. And the verb actually means to pour out until it's all gone, to empty it, to dump it all out.
"[...] He remained fully God, but He stripped Himself; He emptied Himself; He poured out until it was all gone.
"And what was it that He poured out? Well, first of all, John 17:4 indicates that He poured out His glory. [...]" (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-205/the-inside-story-of-the-incarnation)
What utter blasphemy! He claims that Jesus "poured out" His eternal divine glory "until it was all gone"! No! Nothing about His eternal, timeless, immutable divine glory changed at all! And He most certainly did not "dump it all out"! John 1:14 says: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." And John 2:11 says: "This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him." I beg you, dear reader, believe God's Word and not the evil words of a false teacher who "preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached" (2 Corinthians 11:4)!
"He also gave up His favorable relationship with God to the degree that on the cross He had to say, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' Repeatedly it tells us, particularly in the gospel of John, that He gave up the independent exercise of His attributes. He makes the statement, on a number of occasions, that He only did what the Father told Him to do. He only did what the Father showed Him to do, and He also said that if you say anything against My ministry, you're blaspheming the Holy Spirit - Matthew chapter 12. Now, blaspheming the Holy Spirit, because He submitted Himself to the work of the Spirit. So, He literally submitted Himself. He set aside the independent, free exercise of all His attributes. He didn't lose His attributes -- none of them. He didn't cease to be God [of] very God, but He set aside the independent exercise of those attributes and yielded to the will of the Father and the power of the Spirit in His incarnation. He was still God, but He restricted the use of His rights and privileges and powers voluntarily.
"John Milton said, 'That glorious form, that light insufferable/He laid aside, and here with us to be/Forsook the courts of everlasting day/And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.' And that's exactly what he did." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-205/the-inside-story-of-the-incarnation)
"Second Corinthians 8:9 says, 'He who was rich became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich,' 2 Corinthians 8:9. He gave up heavenly riches and became poor. It doesn't mean poor in the economic sense -- earthly, monetary sense -- it means He was impoverished of all of the wealth of heaven and is reduced to a man with very little, who has nowhere to lay His head." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/81-60/the-unparalleled-humility-of-jesus)
"He gave up His honor, gave up His riches. Second Corinthians 8:9 says He was rich, but for our sakes He became poor. It doesn't mean He was earthly poor, it means He divested Himself of all the treasures of heaven and came down and lived in a humble village and ate with the rest of the people in His family and walked the dusty streets and lived divested of incomprehensible, limitless heavenly treasures. He even gave up the independent exercise of His own will. He said, 'I came not to do my will but the will of Him that sent me,' John 6. He said, 'I only do what the Father tells me to do. I only do what the Father says. I only do what I see the Father do. I do what pleases my Father.'" (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-354)
"He also gave up His independent exercise of authority. He said, 'I will do only that which the Father shows Me. My meat is to do the Father's will. What the Father says I will do. What I see the Father I will do." In other words, He gave up His independent exercise of divine authority. He gave up His very special relationship to God. He gave up His riches. He gave up His honor. He gave up His glory. He emptied all of those things out, and yet He continued to be God. It wasn't that He lost any of His divine attributes, it is that He chose not to use them; that He gave up the prerogative, or the privilege, of using them. Was He still God? Yes, that's who He was." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/2003/the-incarnation-of-the-triune-god)
He never "divested" Himself of "heavenly riches"; He was still in Heaven even while on earth (John 3:13). And again, there are not two or more divine "wills," and there are not two or more divine "powers." The power of the Spirit is the power of the Son.
And the "quote" from John 5 is completely distorted. In John 5:19, Jesus says: "Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." He is not saying that He is "limiting" Himself during His time on earth; He is speaking of eternity/timelessness. He is speaking of His eternal generation, being eternally begotten of the Father. It is clear that Jesus is referring to His deity in the John 5 passage, because according to the context it is an explanation to the Jews who wanted to kill Him "because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God" (verse 18). And then verse 19 starts out with: "Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them,"--so He is explaining His deity to them in light of His previous claims that made them angry--He is not speaking of some supposed "limiting" of His deity but of His equality with God! It seems He is speaking about things in "eternity" (meaning outside of time/timelessness). In other words, since the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, He says that "the Son can do nothing of Himself." This actually is not separating Himself from the Father or limiting His own divine authority (which would be an impossibility since He is the almighty God), rather it must be true if there is only one God. If God is one God, then the Son cannot be doing anything "apart from" the Father--so in one sense He never has "independent exercise of authority" in that He is never "independent" of the Father but rather is eternally generated of the Father, while in another sense He always has "independent exercise of authority" because He is the only true God (so it's not something that He "gave up"!). But remember, since God is outside time, these things that Jesus describes in verses 19 and beyond are not things that are happening in time or temporal sequence, but rather in eternity/timelessness. In fact, verse 26 only makes sense within the understanding of the eternal generation of the Son. Jesus says in verse 26: "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself;" He doesn't just say that the Son also has life in Himself, but that the Father "gave to the Son also to have life in Himself." And yet we know that Jesus is eternal and that He is God Himself and, from this very verse, that He has life in Himself "just as the Father has life in Himself"! So, the only way that this makes sense is that He is speaking of eternal generation.
Also, God cannot "choose" to "not use" His eternal, immutable attributes--His attributes are not even "parts" of Himself (remember, divine simplicity!), but rather they are who He is! For example, if He was no longer omnipresent then He was not God.
"So He gave up His own personal authority, His own independent exercise of that authority. He gave up the use of His omniscience. He said, 'I don't even know when the second coming is going to happen. No one knows but the Father, not even the Son of man.' He gave up the use of His omnipotence. He could have called a legion of angels to defend Him, but He did not do that." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-354)
"What did He empty Himself of? Well Scripture is clear on that. These are the things that the Scripture says. First, His heavenly glory, His heavenly glory. Can you imagine the eternal Son of God, the Creator of the entire universe, with full omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, and immutability, setting aside those attributes that belong to His heavenly glory to be confined to a body?
"In John 17, as our Lord comes to the end of His time on earth, He says, 'I glorified you on the earth,' John 17:4, 'having accomplished the work which You gave Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.' That tells us He gave up His glory, He veiled His glory. His glory was still there because in Luke 9:32 on the Mount of Transfiguration, He pulled back His flesh and demonstrated His glory. And you remember the three disciples who were there fell over like dead men in the presence of that divine glory. You could say it this way: His glory was veiled in human form. That in itself is a staggering reality, that the omnipresent God became confined to one body. That's where His glory was veiled.
"Secondly, He yielded authority to the Father, He yielded authority to the Father. All through the gospel of John, 'I only do what the Father tells Me. I do the Father's will. Not My will, but Yours be done.' And it says in Hebrews 5:8, 'He learned obedience.' Wow. Never in all eternity had He the need to be obedient. He learned obedience by submitting to the authority of the Father. So here He gives up the full expression and manifestation of His omnipresent, omnipotent, immutable glory, and He yields in submission and obedience to the authority of the Father. [...]
"Our Lord yielded up the manifestation of His heavenly glory and was confined to a body. Our Lord yielded up His authority and learned obedience. He also gave up prerogatives as God. He could have, He says, if He wanted to called a legion of angels to deliver Him, Matthew 24. He didn't do that. He gave up then the right to use His omnipotence, His powers." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/81-60/the-unparalleled-humility-of-jesus)
Not only are these statements blasphemous, they are completely illogical. How can the Son "set aside" His "immutability"? That is oxymoronic! Immutable means "unable to be changed"--so how did He change his unchangeableness or mutate his immutability? Utter nonsense! He did not "set aside" His attributes! And the fact that He did not call a legion of angels (Jesus actually said "more than twelve legions") does not mean that He gave up to the right to use His omnipotence! Does the fact that the Father did not send a legion of angels mean that the Father gave up His right to use His omnipotence? Nonsense! Again, God cannot "choose" to "not use" His attributes--His attributes are not even "parts" of Himself (remember, divine simplicity!), but rather they are who He is! And the Father and the Holy Spirit do not have some "other" omniscience or omnipresence or omnipotence than the Son's omniscience or omnipresence or omnipotence, that they are able to still use if the Son "sets aside" His! So none of this is trinitarian teaching in the least--it is actually tritheism. And Jesus did not give up the use of His omniscience either--the Bible plainly says that even while on earth He knew "all things" (see John 2:24-25, John 16:30, John 21:17). Likewise, He was omnipresent even while on earth (see John 1:45-51, John 14:10-11, Matthew 18:20). To say that He "set aside" His "omnipresence" is to deny the Trinity. It is a denial of perichoresis (the mutual indwelling of the three persons) and it is a denial of divine simplicity. God is omnipresent and since He is one simple Being, then all of the following must be true:
Wherever the Father is, there is the Son and the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Son is, there is the Father and the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there is the Father and the Son.*
(*This paragraph is adapted from content at Theopedia.com (Eternal generation of the Son), and is under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. More information on this license is available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)
It is also blasphemous false teaching to say that Jesus "yielded up His authority"! Luke 4:36 says: "And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, 'What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.'" And Jesus says in Mark 2:10: "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"! And in John 17:1-2 Jesus said: "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life." That sure doesn't sound like He had "yielded up His authority"! And again this "giving" by the Father is outside of time/eternal.
"He set aside the prerogative of omniscience on occasion, and then other times He knew what was in the heart of man because He was omniscient. He self-limited His omniscience. He self-limited His omnipotence, His great power. If He wanted to, He could have called a legion of angels to rescue Him from the crucifixion, right? But He didn't do that. It was not that He ceased to be God, it was that He set aside the prerogatives of deity. In heaven, He was rich, but for our sakes, He became poor. He divested Himself of the riches of heaven.
"He divested Himself of the constant company of holy angels and came down where He was constantly beset by demons. He even came all the way down to endure an unfavorable relationship with the Father when all He had ever known was an eternal and divine love. That's why He cried, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' Yet in all the things that He set aside, He was always God." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-280/the-humility-and-exaltation-of-christ)
Here we see once again the same oxymoronic heresies. If He set aside these things, He could not be God. God cannot "self-limit" His omniscience or His omnipotence (not even "on occasion"). He did not "endure an unfavorable relationship with the Father." And He did not "divest" Himself of anything, including "the constant company of holy angels." Again, nothing changed in heaven, and Jesus did not "leave" heaven or divest Himself of anything. Again, all of this shows MacArthur's tritheism, as there must have still been some other God in heaven who did not "divest" Himself of these things or "self-limit" His attributes. The fact is that Jesus was still the sovereign God of the universe, who is outside of space and time and is unchangeable. And Jesus was not "constantly beset by demons"--demons were constantly beset by Jesus! Has this man never read the gospels? What a weak, non-almighty "Jesus" MacArthur portrays; nowhere is such heresy found in Scripture!
"Secondly, not only did He abandon a sovereign position, He accepted a servant's place. He accepted a servant's place. Verse 7 says, 'Having emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant' -- and here's morphe again. He didn't just look like a servant, He really became one. His essential being in humanity, His essential being even as God was to be a servant. At the moment that He divested Himself of the robes of majesty, at the moment that He set His crown down and walked out of the throne room, He donned the apron of a servant." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-205/the-inside-story-of-the-incarnation)
This is pure fiction. The Son never "divested Himself of the robes of majesty" and never "walked out of the throne room" (implying He left the throne to some other god to rule the universe)! Also, it is heresy to suggest that "His essential being even as God" changed in any way. He is the immutable, timeless almighty God.
As Leo the Great (circa AD 460) stated, in summarizing the Incarnation: "What He was, He remained, and what He was not, He assumed." And as Athanasius said in the 4th century: "The Savior is as simply God as if he were not man, and as plainly man as if he were not God."
MacArthur's theology/christology is by no means in accordance with the ancient Confession of Chalcedon or the Athanasian Creed.
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The following excerpt is from a Q&A between John MacArthur and Phil Johnson (who, according to Grace Community Church's website, is the executive director of Grace to You, is an ordained elder and pastor at GCC, and edits most of MacArthur's books):
"PHIL [JOHNSON]: All right, here's another question that came to us in several forms, and so I'll paraphrase it for you. It's one that comes up a lot. In the context of Christ's death at Calvary, what does it mean for the Father to forsake the Son at the cross? Does this mean there was some kind of temporary separation of the Trinity?
"JOHN [MACARTHUR]: Well, that is a mystery of all mysteries. I'm in the middle, right now, of trying to understand that. There are some very thoughtful ways to approach that. [...]
"It may well be that on the cross Jesus experienced an infinite hell in the darkness, that it is the darkness of divine wrath felt infinitely, and that perhaps it is when the darkness ends that Jesus then says, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' Maybe it is at that moment, having felt the fury of God's wrath for those three hours, maybe then God moved away, and Jesus is now feeling the total absence of God. I mean who knows precisely? But it seems to me that He endured an infinite hell for all for whom He died, and that that infinite hell manifest the full presence of God in His wrath so that it was after that that God is not there for maybe a moment.
"And what does that mean? Well, He was there in the fullness of His presence in judgment. Up to that point, He'd always been there in the fullness of His presence in fellowship. But for a moment, He was not there, either in judgment or in fellowship. What that means? I think it's a real separation which our Lord experienced, but it's not the dissolution of the Trinity.
"PHIL: Would you say it's a separation between God the Father and Christ in His humanity, but not really a breach in the ontological Trinity?
"JOHN: No, there can be no breach in the Trinity. The Trinity is eternal life. It's essentially eternal life. It's eternal nature that can never be breached. Yeah, it's --
"PHIL: A mystery.
"JOHN: It is a mystery, but it is, as you put it -- it is a breach between God and the man Jesus, and Jesus in His incarnate humanity. There's no way to understand it other than to realize that in some real way, Jesus experienced the sense of God's absence. He had always known His presence in righteous fellowship, and then He knew His presence, I think, in the judgment of the darkness. And then He's gone. The judgment ends. Infinite judgment has been exhausted, and the comfort hasn't come yet. And then He says, in the sense of absence, 'Into Your hands I commit my spirit' - I have nowhere else to go but to trust Myself to You, even though there's a sense in which I can't sense -- I can't feel Your presence." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/GTY116/hotbutton-questions-about-the-bible-and-christian-life)
So here, Phil Johnson provides the idea for MacArthur that Jesus' human nature was separated from the Father. And if there was no separation in the Trinity (which MacArthur seems to go along with here but denies elsewhere as we'll see below), and since the divine nature of the Father is the divine nature of the Son, then that means that the human nature of Jesus was separated from the divine nature of the Son, which is the old gnostic heresy that the Christ spirit fled the man Jesus on the cross. This separates the divine and human natures of Jesus into two separate persons, which is the ancient heresy of Nestorianism. This destroys the hypostatic union. And if only a man died for us on the cross, then we are hopelessly lost. God Himself had to die a human physical death for us; the death of a mere man abandoned by God would not be enough. Also, when Jesus committed His spirit into the Father's hands, it was not in the sense of trusting with a blind faith amidst the supposed "total absence of God"--He knew all things and He knew that He was going to raise Himself from the dead three days later! Oh and by the way, He knew that He Himself is God!
"The following is an excerpt from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Matthew 27.
"[...] A second miracle occurred at about the ninth hour, or three o'clock in the afternoon, through an inexplicable event that might be called sovereign departure, as somehow God was separated from God.
"In this unique and strange miracle, Jesus was crying out in anguish because of the separation He now experienced from His heavenly Father for the first and only time in all of eternity. It is the only time of which we have record that Jesus did not address God as Father. Because the Son had taken sin upon Himself, the Father turned His back. That mystery is so great and imponderable that it is not surprising that Martin Luther is said to have gone into seclusion for a long time trying to understand it and came away as confused as when he began. In some way and by some means, in the secrets of divine sovereignty and omnipotence, the God-Man was separated from God for a brief time at Calvary, as the furious wrath of the Father was poured out on the sinless Son, who in matchless grace became sin for those who believe in Him.
"Habakkuk declared of God, 'Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor' (Hab. 1:13). God turned His back when Jesus was on the cross because He could not look upon sin, even-or perhaps especially-in His own Son. Just as Jesus loudly lamented, God the Father had indeed forsaken Him.
"Jesus did not die as a martyr to a righteous cause or simply as an innocent man wrongly accused and condemned. Nor, as some suggest, did He die as a heroic gesture against man's inhumanity to man. The Father could have looked favorably on such selfless deaths as those. But because Jesus died as a substitute sacrifice for the sins of the world, the righteous heavenly Father had to judge Him fully according to that sin.
"The Father forsook the Son because the Son took upon Himself 'our transgressions, ... our iniquities' (Isa. 53:5). [...]
"Jesus Christ not only bore man's sin but actually became sin on man's behalf, in order that those who believe in Him might be saved from the penalty of their sin. [...]
"When Christ was forsaken by the Father, their separation was not one of nature, essence, or substance. Christ did not in any sense or degree cease to exist as God or as a member of the Trinity. He did not cease to be the Son, any more than a child who sins severely against his human father ceases to be his child. But Jesus did for a while cease to know the intimacy of fellowship with His heavenly Father, just as a disobedient child ceases for a while to have intimate, normal, loving fellowship with his human father.
"By the incarnation itself there already had been a partial separation. Because Jesus had been separated from His divine glory and from face-to-face communication with the Father, refusing to hold on to those divine privileges for His own sake (Phil 2:6), He prayed to the Father in the presence of His disciples, 'Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was' (John 17:5). At the cross His separation from the Father became immeasurably more profound than the humbling incarnation during the thirty-three years of His earthly life." (https://www.gty.org/library/bibleqnas-library/QA0231/why-did-jesus-cry-my-god-my-god-why-have-you-forsaken-me)
There is so much heresy to unpack here from MacArthur's New Testament commentary. First of all, to say that "God was separated from God" is both heretical and nonsensical (and he calls it a "miracle"!!). Jesus, in sacrificing Himself for us, was "abandoned" to physical suffering, but that does not mean that there was a spiritual separation. (For more on Matthew 27:46, see this page. Other resources which may be helpful include this article by Bob Passantino, this article by Jared Hood (although point #5 is erroneous), and collections of comments from the church fathers here and here.)
Also, when MacArthur says "for the first and only time in all of eternity," that makes it clear that he is speaking of Jesus being separated from the Father in His divine nature, and once again seems to confuse time with timelessness (eternity). Even if it is only a separation of "fellowship" and not "essence," the teaching is still tritheistic. And to say that "God turned His back" on Jesus "because He could not look upon sin" is to deny what Psalm 22 actually says in verse 24, that God did not hide His face from Him: "Nor has He hidden His face from him;" (NASB95). Yes, the Father could indeed "look favorably on" Jesus' death, despite MacArthur's claim to the contrary! Also, how can the Son look upon sin? Did the Son separate from the Son? And how can the Holy Spirit look upon sin? Did the Holy Spirit also separate from the Son? Why didn't the Son have to turn His back on the Son? This teaching makes it sound like only the Father has wrath against sin, that the Son doesn't, and the Holy Spirit is just ignored completely as if He doesn't exist!
Jesus is clear that the Father did not leave Him: "Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me." (John 16:32 NASB95) And 2 Corinthians 5:19 says that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them" (NASB95).
Also, MacArthur says that sin was "in His own Son" and that He "not only bore man's sin but actually became sin"! This seems to suggest that our sin was actually "infused" into Jesus and that He actually became sin. That would be blasphemous. 2 Corinthians 5:21 teaches that our sins were imputed (credited) to Him and He paid the penalty for them, but He did not actually become sin, just as we do not actually become the righteousness of God (His righteousness is imputed/credited to us).
Lastly, we have his heretical statements that there was a "partial separation" between the Son and the Father at the incarnation. No, He was never "separated from His divine glory and from face-to-face communication with the Father"! (See the above section on Kenosis Heresy for a discussion of John 17:5.)
"Here's the second miracle. I call it the miracle of sovereign departure. It is a miracle, you see. It's a miracle in reverse, in a sense. It's a strange kind of miracle, but it's a miracle in the sense that it is a supernatural inexplicable event that is beyond the capacity of human understanding, for God is separated from God. God the Father turns His back on God the Son. It is said that Martin Luther went into seclusion to try to understand this mystery and came out more confused than when he began. I understand that. God is separated from God. And Jesus in the climax of the sin bearing, at the close of the three hours of the fury of God being poured out at its maximum capacity, cries out about the fact that He is separated from God. What does that say? What does that tell us?
"Well if we go back to Habakkuk chapter 1 and read verse 13, it says this about God. 'Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look upon iniquity.' God turned His back because He can't look on -- what? -- sin. Now what does that tell us about the cross? That tells us that Jesus became -- what? -- sin for us. That is the testimony of the Father. By turning His back on Christ, He comments on what was happening. If this was the death of a loving martyr, if this was the death of a good man, an innocent person who had a good cause, if this was some kind of philanthropic or some kind of gracious act or some kind of benevolent human demonstration of commitment, then God should have looked on it with favor. But when God turned His back on it, God was turning His back because there's one thing God can't bring before His face and that is sin. And so the commentary in that is that Christ was bearing our sin.
"We don't need to go to the epistles to find that out. That's right there. It's right there. After all, didn't Isaiah 53 say He would be delivered for our transgressions? Doesn't Romans 25 say He's delivered -- 4:25 say He's delivered for our offenses? Doesn't 1 Corinthians 15:3 say He died for our sins? First Peter 2:24, 'Who in His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree?' First Peter 3:18, who offered Himself suffering for sin, the just for the unjust? I mean, doesn't the Scripture clearly tell us in 1 John 4:10 that God sent His Son to be the atonement for our sins? Doesn't Galatians 3:13 say He was made a curse for us? And 2 Corinthians 5:21, He was made sin for us who knew no sin? Christ didn't just bear sin, He became sin. He was its personification. But that's why He came. He said that in Matthew 20:28, 'I'm come not to be served by to serve and to give My life a ransom for many.' And that's why God turned His back because God can't look on sin. When Jesus screamed, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,' the answer is because God cannot look upon sin.
"Now when Christ first came into the world, there was a certain separation because He said to be equal with God, Philippians 2, is not something to hold on to. Which means that when He became incarnate, He let go of some of that equality. So there was some separation in His incarnation and He also prayed, 'Lord, restore Me to the glory I had with You before the world began,' John 17:5, which means there was something missing. And now there is an even more profound separation, not just the separation of incarnation but the separation of utter sinfulness. And the fact that God turns His back on Jesus Christ and He cries out those words that David said He would cry in Psalm 22:1, 'My God, My God, why have You abandon Me,' indicates that this is a sin situation and God is turning His back on what He will always turn His back on and that is sin." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/2397/gods-miraculous-commentary-on-the-cross)
Actually, Jesus' death was a "gracious act" and God did look upon it with favor! This sermon has much of the same heresy we just saw from his commentary. And, even though he says in the sermon that "He never became a sinner," he once again makes it sound like Jesus "didn't just bear sin" and have our sins imputed to Him, but that He actually became sin, that He was the "personification" of sin, and that He had "utter sinfulness." That would be heresy. And once again he misquotes John 17:5, as he usually does. Jesus says nothing about being "restored" to a glory He supposedly no longer had. He is speaking of timelessness and His eternal glory which is immutable and never changes and cannot change. No, He most certainly did not "let go of some of that equality" when He became incarnate! No, there was never "something missing"--"For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him," "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Colossians 1:19, Colossians 2:9 NASB95)! Does that sound like "there was something missing"?! What utter heresy and blasphemy!
MacArthur says over and over that God turned His back and could not look upon Christ. What does that even mean? Did God miss the most important event in history? How was He able to accept His sacrifice if He didn't even witness it? All of this is nonsense. Ephesians 5:2 says that "Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." God most certainly did look upon His death with favor!
And again, God cannot be separated from God, or else you have two gods. It's that simple.
"But I think the thing He gave up most that was so amazing was He gave up His relationship to His Father, because on the cross He said, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' John 1:29, He was identified as the Lamb of God, God's chosen sacrifice. Second Corinthians 5:21, 'God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.' He did not give up His deity, but He confined His heavenly glory to a human body, and thus He gave up the glory that was His." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/81-60/the-unparalleled-humility-of-jesus)
Again, if He "gave up" His glory and "confined His heavenly glory to a human body" then that means there is more than one divine glory. He is separating (and as we saw, he even admits he's teaching there was a "separation" at the incarnation!) the Father from the Son, and the Father's heavenly glory from the Son's heavenly glory. And he says, "He gave up His relationship to His Father." This is separating the Trinity into parts (partialism), and is polytheism.
"Fourthly, He gave up His favorable relation to the Father. And He did that only in a moment of time, when He died on the cross and said, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' But He lived with the anxiety of coming to that point through all His life." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/2003/the-incarnation-of-the-triune-god)
No, He did not live with anxiety His whole life about being separated from His Father. That really does sound like what people accuse Christians of teaching: divine child abuse! What blasphemous nonsense!
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Of course, none of this should come as too much of a surprise, since MacArthur also teaches the false gospel of "Lordship Salvation," which teaches that we are saved by committing the sin of Ananias and Sapphira (lying to God, by making a "total commitment" to "give all," knowing that it's a promise we will inevitably fail to live up to). Here is a short video clip of the late Bible teacher Dr. J. Vernon McGee exposing "Lordship Salvation" heresy:
Also see this helpful answer from GotQuestions.org: What are the steps to salvation?