John MacArthur Can Learn From Chuck Smith

Two California megachurch pastors. Two men who love the Lord and the Word of God. Two men who have faithfully proclaimed the Gospel message and the Scriptures. One of them is now in heaven, while the other continues to make disciples here on earth.

As the memorial service for Pastor Chuck Smith is set to take place on Sunday, it seems like a good time to look back at something John MacArthur said about Pastor Chuck and the work of the Holy Spirit. This is especially relevant given all that is being written about MacArthur's recent Strange Fire conference.

MacArthur stated in 1991, "I know many charismatics who are committed, consistent, honorable believers devoted to the Word of God. Many Pentecostals are godly people; numerous charismatic churches and individual Pentecostal charismatic believers reject many of the errors which I have highlighted in this series....I am not attempting to color all these people the same color. Within the Pentecostal charismatic movement there is everything from evangelical orthodoxy all the way over to rank heresy."

MacArthur continued, "One of the pamphlets that first alerted me to the terrible, terrible teaching in the health wealth movement was written by Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel, a straight forward critique of charismatic extremism. There are many like him who have taken their stand and I thank God for their courage and their desire to be biblical."

Pastor Chuck exhibited tremendous biblical discernment throughout his ministry. He understood the necessity of relying upon both the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Men like John MacArthur have learned much from Chuck Smith over the years. At the same time, Chuck Smith was able to learn from John MacArthur. Neither man has been a perfect Bible teacher, but then what pastor is perfect in his teaching and theological system? Only the Word of God is perfect.

While Pastor Chuck was a strong proponent of the work of the Holy Spirit, he also recognized some abuses in Pentecostal and charismatic circles. Even though John MacArthur is a Calvinist, he and Pastor Chuck have far more in common with one another than areas of disagreement. They both have given decades of service as faithful shepherds in the body of Christ.

The perception today is that MacArthur has gone beyond what he stated about charismatics back in 1991. The perception is that MacArthur is now lumping all charismatics together. But the good news is that it's not too late for MacArthur to once again gain fresh insights from Pastor Chuck's ministry. This man's teaching and example will continue to influence generations for Christ, even though he is now with the Lord in heaven.

Many of us in the Christian church believe that if John MacArthur were to adopt (or re-adopt) an approach to the Holy Spirit similar to that of Chuck Smith, he would be standing on firmer biblical ground than he is perceived to be standing on today as it relates to charismatics and Pentecostals. This is about more than just the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It also has a lot to do with the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the broader Christian life.

Billy Graham, by the way, wrote a beautiful book about the Holy Spirit in 1978. That book would be another excellent resource for John MacArthur to go back and review. One of these days Billy will be joining Chuck Smith in heaven, and awaiting the day when John MacArthur and all believers will enter paradise.

The joy and wisdom with which Chuck Smith carried out his Christ-centered ministry of the Word was evidence of a powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit upon his life. Many of us, including John MacArthur, will continue to benefit from Pastor Chuck's approach as we too seek to rightly balance our emphasis on the Word of God with our emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit.

That faithful balance is Chuck Smith's legacy. And the spiritual blessings worked by the Holy Spirit were obviously accomplished solely by the power of God, and exclusively for the glory of Christ.

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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