John MacArthur was recently interviewed by Ben Shaprio, the founder of The Daily Wire, an online conservative news site, and host of the wildly popular podcast, The Ben Shapiro Show. One of the additional programs he has added to his podcast line up is a Sunday interview with a leading thinker, or writer, or even celebrity. For instance, he has interviewed Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame, radio talk show host Dennis Prager, and even atheist Sam Harris (who is terribly overrated, but that’s a post for another time).
Shapiro’s Sunday visitors are conservative for the most part, but they are not particularly religious. John, as far as I can remember, is the first solid, Bible-believing Christian Ben has interviewed. As soon as I learned it was happening, I knew John would take the opportunity to preach the Gospel to his massive listening audience. Ben has millions of young folks who follow him, many who more than likely had never heard of John until this interview. I also knew there would be those who would hate the fact that John is appearing on a political podcast hosted by a Jew. One of my twitter pals tweeted how the “Christian police” will say John has discredited himself because he did an interview with an unbeliever.
While I am sure there are those individuals saying that, I haven’t run across them yet. I was surprised, however, by the unexpected push back he received from those in Reformed circles. They were bothered that John stated that he and Ben have the same God. The offending remarks appear around the 1 hour and 1 minute mark. See HERE for the exact comments. The response from my friends is that Jews and Christians do not worship the same God and this was an example of John’s Dispensationalism showing (whatever that means) and passages like John 8:41-42 were tossed out as proof texts.
I personally think it is nit-picking semantic trifles over John’s comments, and it is certainly not worthy of a Brannon Howse level flame throwing war on social media, but I wanted to offer a couple of thoughts.
What John said
First, if you listen to John’s specific comments again, he doesn’t focus on Jews and Christians worshiping the same God, but he says Jews and Christians have the same God. I think there is a difference. He then goes on to explain what he means by pointing out that the God of the NT is the same God as the OT. YHWH is not the same as Allah or the god of any other false religion, because He is the self-revealed God who alone is uniquely holy.
We should all at least agree on that fact. That the Jews have in mind the God revealed in the OT when they perform their religious services. Jews are not worshiping an abstract version of Baal, or Vishnu, or any other kind of pagan god, but it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that is the focus of their devotion.
Now does that mean they are worshiping Him in Spirit and in Truth? Well no, of course not. Hebrews 1:1-3 tells us that God has revealed to us His Son, Jesus Christ and it is now through Him that we come to truly worship the Father. The never-ending sacrifices of Levitical system have ended and to demonstrate that He no longer is approached by the use of sacrifices, God destroyed the temple in 70 AD.
That doesn’t mean now that Jews are trying to worship some different god altogether. It means that they worship Him falsely and their worship is truly vain.
What about John 8:41-42?
Secondly, what about John 8:41-42? When Jesus tells the Jews that they are of their father the devil, is he saying they worship the devil? Well of course not. Certainly not in the sense that they have in mind a big, goat-headed demon god rather than YHWH of the OT. Jesus’s words are primarily aimed at the Pharisees who were challenging his authority. It is similar language Jesus had for them in Matthew 23, or that he had for Peter when he told him “Get Behind me Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). They had created elaborate, legalistic rules that they imposed upon the people and in doing so, kept them from worshiping God and recognizing their Messiah who stood in front of them. Are they of the devil? In that sense, yes, they are, because they are deceivers, willfully blinding others to the truth.
In Acts 21, Paul heeds the counsel of the Jerusalem apostles and partakes in a purification ceremony at the temple, (Acts 21:26). Part of the ceremony was offering a sacrifice. If the Jews no longer have the same God as the one revealed in the OT, to whom did Paul offer that sacrifice? Paul certainly believed the Jews still worshiped the same God he worshiped, but now through the finished work of Christ.
Why does this even matter?
Why is this even worth discussing? Other than the fact that I am obsessed with theological precision with my thoughts and words, I believe there is a larger apologetic and evangelistic consideration. The main point of contact Christians have with God-oriented and Torah serious Jews is the same God who is revealed in the OT for both Jews and Christians. I have had maybe a handful of opportunities with evangelizing Jews in my home. During all of those times, the OT was the focus of our discussion and what God prophesied about the Messiah. While I acknowledge that those individuals did not worship God rightly, they clearly had an understanding of the true God revealed in the OT. They knew He was holy and they needed to obey His laws in order to be right before Him.
Paul tells us in Romans 11:25 that a partial hardening has come upon Israel. That hardening benefits the Gentiles (that’s pretty much all of us) as the Gospel now extends around the world. Still, God has his Jews named among His elect and as we engage them with the Gospel, I believe it places unnecessary road blocks in the conversation by insisting they worship a false god, when the focus should be directing them from the OT Sciptures to the full revelation of Jesus Christ, their true Messiah.
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