There were several talks among those who were in the Charismatic movement regarding Dr. MacArthur and his ministry, Grace To You. Pastors and leaders were telling their congregations, “Stay away from that Baptist.” I couldn’t help, but wonder why people didn’t like him, and what did he do that was so overtly offensive to the people I had considered to be so dear to me.
Now at the time, I wasn’t truly born again (or at least the Holy Spirit had not made it known to me that I was indeed saved). I had prayed the sinner’s prayer many times so that God could “get off my back”, but I don’t believe that it did any kind of good. So, as a curious individual, I decided to do some research. During my research, I came across a man by the name of Mark Driscoll who had a refuting argument for an idea called cessationism. Now, up until then I had never even heard of this word. Little did I know that cessationism would challenge everything I had believed in up until that point.
I had been someone who grew up in the Charismatic church, so I was a person who could “speak in tongues” even before I was born-again or filled with the Spirit. I had always seen contradictions, but it was just easier to go with the flow and believe everything made sense. That is why I took the word of a foul-mouthed, proud, and relatable man like Mark Driscoll to believe that I was supposed to stay away from Dr. MacArthur, and from his highly controversial book Strange Fire.
Even when I believe I truly converted to Christ, and the Holy Spirit had made me into a new creation, I was still holding to continuationist (and maybe even Charismatic) views. I listened to Jesus Culture, Bethel, and Gateway Worship, as well as all kinds of Charismatic preachers, but I was still a believer (and I was even a Calvinist too) However, that all changed when I discovered a sermon that didn’t have the name of the preacher called An Appeal to Charismatic Friends.
While watching this sermon video, I saw an old man who had a genuine heart and preached like I had never heard anyone preach before. He was calling out Charismatics to abandon the movement and instead to follow the Scriptures. After that, I discovered a sermon that was preached by my modern hero of the faith, Dr. Steven Lawson, which was entitled Calvin’s Critique of Charismatic Calvinists. Both of these sermons had truly changed my life, and I had to say that had it not been for Dr. John MacArthur, there wouldn’t be a great revival of the doctrine of cessationism within me.
I have met countless believers who were brought out of the Charismatic movement into sound worship, biblical teaching, and spiritual discernment. They came from all different backgrounds ranging from Reformed continuationist churches to Oneness Pentecostal “churches” (if you can even call it that). However, when I asked these cessationists what had inspired them to take on the doctrine of cassationism from a biblical standpoint, they would always point back to either Charismatic Chaos or Strange Fire, both of which are books and sermons that were preached by Dr. John MacArthur.
The truth of the matter is simple: Dr. John MacArthur has called back the attention of the Evangelical church to reconsider modern practices which have been inaccurately attributed to the work of the Spirit. With his books on the Charismatic movement, and his biblical reasons for denying it, he has been one of the few pastors who have shed light into the darkness of several hearts of Evangelicals. Dr. MacArthur, unlike many cessationists that I have met, is not basing his theology on what he doesn’t like, but rather what according to the Scriptures. He was refreshing to hear because it’s not always when a cessationist is able to give biblical arguments for the doctrine of cessationism.
Cessationism is nowhere near the importance of Calvinism, yes, but it can’t be ignored that people are being saved out of heretical movements such as Oneness Pentecostals, New Apostolic Reformation, and Word of Faith because of the preaching of Dr. MacArthur. Whether it is one of his books that critique the understanding of spiritual phenomena among many churches today or whether it is one of many sermons preached at the Strange Fire conference, Dr. MacArthur’s legacy will live on as not only being the individual who has inspired young pastors to preach expositionally, but also inspire people to hold a biblical view of cessationism.
Dr. MacArthur has brought people back to the minds of the Puritans, Reformers, and great theologians of the past which have always held to the Scriptures concerning what views to hold. Though some might see this as something that is not even close to being a good accomplishment, I believe that it is amazing that Dr. MacArthur moves past the unsound criticism and is being led in His ministry to bring the light of the gospel to every individual. He has helped me to see the Scriptures through the Scriptures, and to make sure that I understood what the texts on the gifts of the Holy Spirit really mean.
I hope that Dr. MacArthur’s legacy will inspire more Reformed Christians to take on the challenge of reviving the well guarded doctrine of cessationism. Maybe, with any providence, we’ll get a chance to have a Strange Fire Mk. II. before Dr. MacArthur see the Lord in the Kingdom.
Soli Deo Gloria.