Monday, June 29, 2009

MacArthur on the Greatest Benefit of Christianity, and a Comment

This selection is by John MacArthur, from the sermon Jesus' Authority to Forgive Sin, originally preached on May 10, 2009. In the downloadable audio file, this clip is from 0:44 to 04:31. I offer a short comment afterwards.
What is the most distinctive benefit that Christianity has to offer the world? I suppose there would be a lot of suggested answers. There are some people who think the great legacy of Christianity is a kind of morality, a kind of ethical approach to life. There are others who think that the great legacy of Christianity is that it provides a certain kind of love and sacrificial affection for people, social responsibility. Others think that it provides a kind of tranquility in life that they call "peace." There are some who think that what Christianity really offers people is fulfillment in life or a sense of satisfaction or purpose. Summing it all up, there are folks who think that Christianity's greatest benefit is to provide people a measure of religious happiness.

Well, I would agree with you that there is contained in the pages of Scripture a moral standard, an ethical standard. I agree with you that Christians are marked by love, peace, and happiness. I agree that Christians express social responsibility based upon a higher motivation than any other people. And there is amazing purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction in Christianity.

But none of those is the great benefit of Christianity. Those are simply by-products of the great benefit. There is one great benefit that the Christian gospel offers that transcends all other benefits, and leads to all other benefits. It is a benefit, frankly, that corresponds directly to man's greatest need. And that is where Christianity marks itself out from all other religions on the planet: it alone addresses man's greatest need. There are religions that offer ethics and morality and social responsibility, family values, a measure of love and peace, somewhat a measure of fulfillment, satisfaction, maybe even a certain level of happiness.

But what is man's greatest need? The greatest need of man, simply put, is to escape the wrath of God poured out on sinners eternally in hell. Only Christianity, only the Christian gospel offers the benefit that meets that need. Only through the Christian gospel can anyone escape the wrath of God poured on on sinners eternally in hell.


The greatest need of every soul is divine forgiveness of all sin. And the greatest benefit of Christianity, then, is the provision of that complete forgiveness.

As you could imagine, it struck me that MacArthur started commenting on the greatest benefit that Christianity has to offer the world in view of the name of this blog. So my ears perked up and I listened with great interest as he talked about what he understood this greatest benefit to be.

And I agree with him, with a word of qualification.

MacArthur is looking at this issue from the negative standpoint. I don't mean negative like, "Oh quit being so negative!" I mean negative as in he states the greatest need of the world to be the escape of something. "The greatest need of every soul is not-X."

But I prefer to frame the question positively, because I think that it is in that light that the fullness of the glory of God's saving purpose is seen. So, why is the greatest need of every soul to escape hell? Because, ultimately speaking, the greatest need of every soul is to know God.

The provision of forgiveness then is indeed the great benefit of Christianity. But let us not forget that forgiveness is the means and not the end. Forgiveness of sin is the means by which I, sinner that I am, am to stand in the presence of my God and not be incinerated by His holiness. But He is the end of that forgiveness.

So indeed, forgiveness of sins is the greatest benefit that Christianity has to offer the world. And that is because it is by the forgiveness of sin that I am ushered into the presence of God, where there is fullness of joy, the God in whose right hand are pleasures forever.

I have set the LORD continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
- Psalm 16:8-11 -

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