I was surprised to find out after I read this book how controversial it had been when first published. The copy I have read is the revised version, lacking the controversial paragraph which purportedly implies works-based salvation. Honestly, I strongly believe that if it was this one paragraph that caused the controversy, the people who first picked up on it failed to read the book in its entirety. John MacArthur‘s Hard to Believe is so filled with Gospel truth that the simple work of cross-referencing from chapter to chapter would show that his book teaches anything but works-based salvation.
MacArthur focuses a great deal on the truth from Jesus that “wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Understanding that our world really isn’t 1/3 Christian and that Jesus wasn’t pulling some cheap marketing ploy here to get more people saved will help us recognize the reality that, while the Gospel is simple and the acceptance of it can be easy, salvation itself is straight up hard to believe. This is why Jesus went on to speak of false prophets and fruit (v.15-20), and this is why John MacArthur saw the logical need to write so much on works! Can works save me? No. Should works show I’m saved? Absolutely and necessarily yes!
It will be terrifyingly sad to watch Christ cast so many “believers” out at the judgment, those who say the “Lord, Lord!” (v.21-23). Whether in their lives they performed the works without believing, or whether they claimed to believe but never evidenced it with good fruit (remember, this is Jesus talking), Jesus will have to turn many surprised souls away on that day. Hard to believe? Yes. Reality, absolutely.
How oddly common it is for one who writes hard truths to be berated by the mainstream. But could it be that the mainstream hasn’t yet found the narrow way themselves?