Brother *George Zeller has been on staff at the Middletown Bible Church (MBC) for 33 years. He currently serves as Assistant Pastor. He is probably best known for the MBC web site which he administers. The MBC site contains thousands of pages of study notes on numerous areas of Bible theology, nearly all of which are written by Brother Zeller. His written refutations of John MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation and The Troubling Teachings of Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the GES are among the most balanced and profound you will find anywhere.
The article I am highlighting below is reprinted by permission from Brother Zeller. Can God Given Faith be Defective is a sub-section from John MacArthur’s Position on the Lordship of Christ, which is a comprehensive review of some of the most disturbing aspects of MacArthur’s Lordship interpretation of the Gospel. In that article you will find chapters such as: Contradictory Teachings and What Must a Sinner do to be Saved?
Can God-Given Faith be Defective?
John MacArthur teaches that the God-given faith of a believer cannot be defective:
“Scripture teaches that salvation is all God’s work. Those who believe are saved utterly apart from any effort on their own (Titus 3:5). Even faith is a gift of God, not a work of man (Eph. 2:1-5, 8). Real faith therefore cannot be defective or short-lived but endures forever (Phil. 1:6; cf. Heb. 11).” (An Introduction to Lordship Salvation by John MacArthur, from Grace Community Church’s The Distinctives of Lordship Salvation).
MacArthur’s reasoning is as follows: Faith is a gift of God. If God gives it, then it must be perfect. How could God give an imperfect gift? And if God’s gift is perfect, then it cannot be defective. The main problem with this view is that it contradicts many passages of Scripture which show that the faith of believers can, at times, be defective.
When Peter denied the Lord three times in a moment of weakness, he certainly had a lapse of faith. His faith was defective. Because of our Lord’s intercessory ministry, Peter was assured that his faith would not ultimately fail: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32). On this one occasion Peter’s faith failed and was defective, but thanks to the faithfulness of Christ, his faith would not ultimately fail. Another example of Peter’s faith being defective is found in Galatians 2:11-14 when Paul had to strongly rebuke Peter because he was not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel.
Other passages indicate that the faith of believers can, at times, fail. How many times did our Lord say to His disciples who believed on Him, “O ye of little faith?” The faith of Thomas was defective when he refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. The apostles recognized that their faith was not everything it should be when they said to Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5).
But the biggest proof that the faith of believers can be defective is seen by each one of us when we think about our own walk with the Lord and how many times we failed to trust Him as we should have. If faith is God’s perfect gift which can never be defective, then why would a believer ever sin? MacArthur believes that “Christians can and do sin, sometimes horribly” (same document), but how could this be true if the faith of Christians is not defective. Doesn’t every sin in some way involve some failure of faith?
MacArthur’s teaching that the faith of believers cannot be defective fails the test of Scripture. The reason any of us persevere to the end is not due to our great faith, but due to the great faithfulness of our Saviour who is “able to keep [us] from falling, and to present [us] faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). Amen!
*Pastor Zeller earned his Master of Divinity degree at the Grace Theological Seminary sitting under men such as John C. Whitcomb, Ivan French and James Boyer.
Pastor Zeller was once in membership of the IFCA. In 1996 Zeller, as well as most men in New England, resigned his IFCA membership because of the flap over MacArthur’s eternal Sonship position. A view MacArthur subsequently acknowledged was wrong and he repented of it. Please view Why the Middletown Bible Church Left the IFCA for details.
The eternal Sonship issue has not been the only controversy MacArthur introduced into the IFCA. See my two part series: The IFCA Statement on: The Nature of Saving Faith and Insights from the IFCA Interview with John MacArthur