Having recently talked about Ray Comfort and Jesse Johnson’s emphasis on the use of the law in evangelism, that John MacArthur made an official statement about the issue is fortunate.
Here is what John wrote to Ray for the purpose of public posting:
For the record, we have no problem using the Ten Commandments as a mirror to show people their sin. We agree with Living Waters that the Decalogue is a summary of the moral content of God’s law. The law’s moral principles reflect the unchanging character of God, so they are eternal, universally applicable, and by definition unchanging. Given those facts, surely it is appropriate to use the Decalogue as Jesus and the apostle Paul often did – to confront sinners with their sin.
Furthermore, we’re grateful for the way you have trained and encouraged so many people to do hands-on evangelism. You deserve a lot of credit for stirring the consciences of countless young believers and motivating them to share the gospel boldly. In no way would we ever want to discourage that.
We continue to believe that it is critically important for people training in the Living Waters method to 1) strengthen the gospel content of their presentation so as to be equal to the law, 2) see the law as not simply Ten Commandments, but much more as Scripture reveals, 3) To place particular emphasis on passages such as John 8:24 where Jesus says they would die in their sins for refusal to acknowledge Him. This is the greatest sin that goes beyond the Ten Commandments in its condemnation extending to every sinner.
I am grateful for your eagerness to enrich the people you train in these ways.
Yours for the Master,
Pastor MacArthur presents a fair a helpful evaluation of recent events. I especially appreciated his affirmation of the abiding moral expression of God’s law in the decalogue. He writes, “We agree with Living Waters that the Decalogue is a summary of the moral content of God’s law,” and goes on to explain, “The law’s moral principles reflect the unchanging character of God, so they are eternal, universally applicable, and by definition unchanging.” Since God’s law is an expression of his moral character, it’s by definition eternal. The decalogue incapsulates Yahweh’s character (though there are discontinuities; we aren’t under the sabbath, etc.).
I think it’s also important to understand MacArthur’s encouragement to Way of the Master evangelists. He first points to a greater emphasis on the Gospel. He does this to encourage a balance between law and Gospel in Way of the Master style evangelism. Second he points to the fact that law does not equal the ten commandments, “but much more as Scripture reveals.”
Finally, Macarthur points out that Jesus’ evangelism focuses on belief in him. In John 8:24 (which MacArthur cites), Jesus says that unless people believe that “I Am” they will die in their sins. Thus, unbelief rather than belief is why people die in their sins. I think this balances out the idea that people will be judged on the last day by their obedience to the Ten Commandments rather than for their belief in Jesus.