So that there will be no doubt, I believe John MacArthur has taken the right direction with his Strange Fire Conference. As that conference related to exposing Charismaticism and continuationism, it was superb. It could do much to help those needing clarity on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Do not, however, take this as an endorsement of Grace to You, Grace Community Church, and John MacArthur. They haven't done what is necessary to prove they are themselves ready even to deal with Charismatics in the biblical way. They are heading the right direction though. I hope they get there.
I didn't see it, but John MacArthur preached one of the final sermons, Strange Fire --- A Call to Respond (which has a transcript here). At the end, after bullet pointing the problems of the Charismatic movement, MacArthur gets into what the title is about, the response, and he does this by surfing quickly through the pastoral epistles. I'm happy about everything that MacArthur actually wrote.
From 1 Timothy 6, MacArthur says that the fight that he's fighting with the conference is guarding the truth, taking that from v. 20. From 2 Timothy, he says that Paul is challenging Timothy not to be afraid from proclaiming the truth, not to coward from that. He moves from there to v. 13 of chapter one to retaining and guarding sound words, because he had seen those who had abandoned the faith. The next point MacArthur picks out is 2 Timothy 2 with the passing down from generation to generation, four generations -- it's something historical, not creative.
MacArthur parks a moment on 2 Timothy 2:20 with the vessels unto honor and unto dishonor. He goes on to say that this means cleanse yourself from unbiblical things. OK. Really? It's good to cleanse yourself from unbiblical things. But is that what it is to "purge himself from these"? As MacArthur moves to 2 Timothy 3-4, he says it is about preaching the Word to the end. That's good.
With complete certainty, from a positive standpoint, we've got to hold to the truth and preach the truth. That is positively how someone guards the truth. You guard it by proclaiming, by not backing down from preaching it no matter what the cost. Despite parking briefly at 1 Timothy 6 and 2 Timothy 2, MacArthur misses an obvious point regarding "guarding the truth." You don't guard the truth, just by preaching it and proclaiming it. You guard it by separating from the teachers of error, those who practice error. You separate from characteristic violators of the truth.
John MacArthur doesn't give this obvious response in the pastoral epistles. That's mainly where the fight is, is with the separation. Think about it. In 1 Timothy 1, at the end, Paul delivers Hymenaeus and Alexander unto Satan. He is separating and exemplifying separation to Timothy. In 1 Timothy 6:5, Paul says to purge yourself from the people he describes in the first part of that chapter. From 2 Timothy 2, MacArthur says that Paul is teaching to cleanse from unbiblical things. Is that what Paul says? No! The vessels unto dishonor are people. To be a vessel unto honor, you must purge yourself from people who are the vessels unto dishonor. From 2 Timothy 3:5, speaking of those having only a form of godliness, "from such turn away." Of course, in Titus 3, Paul speaks of separation from heretics, to reject them after the second admonition.
I listened to Phil Johnson's conversation with the Charismatic Michael Brown. I felt sorry for him. He talks about saying hello to his friends Sam Storms and Adrian Warnock, both Charismatics. The lack of teaching on separation results in these awkward, uncomfortable situations. Johnson has a conference. They write books. He calls on Michael Brown to repudiate certain people among the Charismatics. So he gets some of these men to repudiate the worst examples among the Charismatics. Then what? Is Johnson now fine with the Charismatics? No. They should just separate from the Charismatics. If it is what they say it is, they should separate from it. You don't guard the truth by just proclaiming it, by having a conference, by repudiating people verbally. You mark them, but you also need to avoid them.
By not separating from these men, MacArthur and Johnson leave themselves and their followers open to the error. People who believe like these men know that they won't be separated from. They can still be involved with the professed gateway to Charismaticism, the music. I call on these men to practice separation, to obey the pastoral epistles, to teach their whole counsel.