Idolatry and Judgment

by Mike Ratliff

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17 ESV)

The response to the article I wrote before I left to go visit my son in Washington, D.C. was very eye opening. Even though I was staying in a hotel in Georgetown with an Internet connection, I was not in any position to ably respond to your reactions to Little Children Keep Yourselves From Idols. In response to this, I did quite a bit of soul searching, reflection, meditation, and self-examination through those six days while on the road. I could tell from some responses that I was not the only one who had certain favorite Christian leaders elevated up on pedestals of idolatry. 

I contacted some of those close to the minister in question. Their responses were thorough and revealed exactly what I had suspected, that the charges were baseless, however, the points of contention remained. Yes they explained them to me so that I understood what was being referred to in the charges, but their remained a gap that left me questioning. I was contacted by the one making the original charges after I posted Rebuking Repentance and Restoration, which left me questioning how it all tied together. Then I received a phone call from my friend Ken Silva.

He tied it all together for me. The original charges were that John MacArthur was not really a Christian based upon an excerpt from an interview done about 20 years ago. The second part of the charges was that Grace Community Church was fostering Purpose Driven Church methods and was part of the same Church Growth movement as Willow Creek and Saddleback Valley. My contact at GTY explained the who, what, when, where, why and how of all of this and it soon was made plain that these charges were ludicrous. Also, the charges that John MacArthur was not really a Christian because he could not remember the exact date and time of his salvation were shown to be just as ridiculous based upon later testimonies. No problem there. However, there was still the testimony of one person who claimed he had witnessed these post-modern conspiratorial things going on at Grace Community Church. Was he witnessing apostasy or was he misinterpreting what he was seeing?

Ken and I discussed this and it became very clear to me that what we were seeing was that John MacArthur is simply that last bastion of Evangelical superstars. This group’s foundation is either crumbling or is at least rotten to the core. GTY is still doing well and is a very well run business and it does serve those who are fed by the Biblical wisdom of John MacArthur. I listen to him on GTY via podcast nearly every day as I also do with R.C. Sproul. What these decriers are seeing and misinterpreting is the fact that this is a very large enterprise and like any of us who have networked in this world with other Christians, we do not all agree on all aspects of Christianity. We have some “friends,” in other words, that would hold to very different religious conviction than some of our other friends. This is what happens when we network like this. I have experienced it and I can only imagine what this is like for someone like John MacArthur. He probably does have friends and associates who hold to things that you and I would probably have huge problem with in this battle for the truth. The more we network the bigger the variety becomes.

Right now, at least in the evangelical circles of which I am a part, two men are the subjects of idolatry by those who follow them. John MacArthur is one and the other would probably be Paul Washer. You may be able to think of others. In any case, I have been extremely blessed by the ministries of both of these men. However, we err in a large way if we elevate them up on pedestals in acts of idolatry. I have done this so I know of what I speak.  If you read Little Children Keep Yourself From Idols then you witnessed my own grief over this. We are not to make idols of any man, no matter how godly or how well he feeds us from God’s Word. He is still just a man who is saved by grace alone just like us.

Many of us are certain that the Church is in the midst of judgment as Peter stated in 1 Peter 4:17. When God does this, spiritual blindness becomes manifest in those guilty of not pursuing purity in their devotion and true worship of our Lord. Fiery trials come upon the Body of Christ as tests from God.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV)

I doubt that the fiery trials we are in the midst of right now are anywhere close to being over. No, I think they will only increase as God purifies His Church before our Lord’s return. What we must do is what Peter exhorts in v19.

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:19 ESV)

This means that we do not entrust our souls to mere men, but to God alone. As we do this and suffer at the hands of those being used to judge the Church then we must devote ourselves to seeking the Lord’s will in all things as we obey Him in being the true and devout Christians we are all called to be.

Soli Deo Gloria!












12 thoughts on “Idolatry and Judgment

  1. Mike,

    It’s funny that the focal point of this entire discussion ended up being John MacArthur. I recently listened to a podcast from Phil Johnson about this very subject. Phil said that GCC gets an average of one letter a month regarding this misunderstanding.

    Apparently what Dr. MacArthur was addressing in the interview was the idea that some magical, mystical physical property in Christ’s blood made it sufficient for the atonement of sins rather than Christ’s death. I believe it stems from a misinterpretation of 1 John 1:7: “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

    This has made realize that I too elevate Dr. MacArthur to a place he shouldn’t be. I know that his teaching and ministry has been instrumental in growing my faith, but he is nevertheless a fellow brother in Christ, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ – a sinner restored by grace.


  2. We look to Jesus Christ first of all. As far as idolatry?.. Thank the Lord for the men who still preach the gospel in full and have been given this gift from the Almighty! How many are left today? How many will rise up after them? There is a big difference in making a man the objective of worship; which is idolatry, than having joy in hearing Biblical truth! Take heed in the difference.

    We rejoice over men who are bold in Jesus. We hear the Lord speak through them. Proclaimation of repentant faith in Jesus. That is not idolatry but delighting in what Jesus has to say. In fact, if one searches why there is delight, they will find it is solid scripture they are hearing! The Word of God!

    I think these sources; many who orginate in apostate schools such as Biola and Talbot need to be exposed for their lies.

    “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Eph. 5:11

    These are the wolves spoken of in scripture. They pass through this life with a spirituality that is not from above.
    They mingle alongside the brethren twisting and perverting and pointing fingers. Their souls are of the dark. They desire to stir up controversy and wrath. 2 Pet. 2:1

    The “compromisers” are those who forsake what is Biblical. Their authorities are themselves. UH.. “Spue”!

    For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 2 Cor. 11:13

    Look at the fruit! Is there fruit? No.. self righteous, plank-eyed condemnation.

    MacArthur and Washer are bold in Jesus and I thank the Lord for using these servants. They produce fruit.. so much fruit that it irritates the evil ones.

    I will continue prayers for these men and others as such who are persecuted for Jesus. May He reward them one day greatly.

    ‘and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Rev 20:10


  3. I’m relieved, Mike. And I agree wholeheartedly with Denise’s words.

    We are seeing a deep and dark persecution of those who would stand on and preach the Truth of The Word of God.

    It saddens me to see Godly preachers maligned. We must not put them on pedastals, however, we thank our Lord for them as they preach the pure Word of God to a lost world!

    Continue to defend the faith, Mike, and thank you for setting an example for the rest of us who are trying to be faithful to God.


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