In the introduction of his sermon, MacArthur was, what I would characterize as, apologetic to the audience for preaching on "separation," as if merely using the word could trigger them. He said that he had been thinking about preaching this sermon for a year. It's always possible and a rare exception, but evangelicals don't preach or write on separation, even though its taught in almost every book of the Bible. I will comment on MacArthur's sermon, but what caused or motivated him to preach on separation at the Shepherd's Conference?
What got MacArthur's attention was at least two things. The underlying problem was the corruption of the gospel by means of the social gospel. MacArthur explained his concern. When the social gospel came on the scene in the 1920s, it ruined churches and Christian institutions through its perversion of the gospel. Later, he said, in the 1960s evangelicalism rejected liberation theology, another name or form of the social gospel. Now evangelicalism is not repudiating social justice, which is a later iteration or relabeling of liberation theology and the social gospel.
MacArthur said that evangelicalism has accepted social justice because of pragmatism. Between the 1960s and now, pragmatism took over evangelicalism. Evangelicals embraced social justice for perceived success and to ward away the alienation of the world. I understand what he's saying, because I've witnessed this personally close-up in recent days.
A second aspect, spoken by MacArthur is the ensuing destruction wrought in evangelicalism. It divided friends. It devastated churches in institutions. He mentioned the Southern Baptist Convention as an example.
I could not help but think of the pragmatism of John MacArthur. His supporters and other evangelicals laugh at this. The social justice proponents will scorn MacArthur and MacArthur and his advocates do the same with separatists. I'm not going to explain again all the ways that MacArthur compromised and compromises with the world to keep his audience.
MacArthur called the Jesus' movement of Lonnie Frisbee a true revival. The immodest dress, worldly music, worldly entertainment, and lack of ecclesiastical separation all mark pragmatism. Relying on naturalistic, rationalistic secular, unbelieving textual criticism to modify the Bible fits within the description of an unequal yoke in the very context of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
I shared the youtube of MacArthur's sermon, because from a sheer exegetical standpoint, he gives the passage a good treatment. He used the outline of past, present, and future. The past looked at Old Testament revelation of separation and how Israel lost because it didn't obey God's command to separate. The present looked at the first half of the text and the future the eschatological hope for separatists. The world has no future, so why yoke with such a sinking failure. For what he said, I didn't disagree with MacArthur's interpretation.
In the end, MacArthur said nothing about applying 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 (read A Pure Church). Sure, it teaches separation. He got that right. How does a church practice that passage? What does it require? He said nothing. This itself is a form of pragmatism. That isn't good preaching either.
Why do evangelicals ignore ecclesiastical separation? Besides the pragmatism, they do it because of their wrong view of the church. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:25 "that there should be no schism in the body." If the true church is all believers, like MacArthur teaches, how can the church separate? It would disobey 1 Corinthians 12:25. With the massive amount of teaching on separation in the Bible, it's practice is ignored to keep unity between all believers. The only true view of the church must harmonize what scripture teaches on unity and separation.
The teaching and preaching of MacArthur will not preserve the gospel. Evangelicals will need to do more than preach a sermon on separation. They need to repent for not separating and then begin applying those passages on separation, unlike what MacArthur has done or does.