Pastor John MacArthur serves as the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, a role he has held since 1969.
Grace Community Church is non-denominational, and while they share many theological tenets with certain Christian denominations, they do not officially align with any specific one. However, MacArthur’s teaching strongly resonates with Reformed and Baptist traditions.
How is MacArthur’s church Baptist? How is it Reformed? What doctrines does it share with each of those traditions? Learn the answers to these questions, and see the comparison charts below to learn more.
5 Doctrines Grace Community Church Shares with Baptists
Although non-denominational, MacArthur shares several beliefs and practices commonly associated with the Baptist tradition. Here are five ways in which this is reflected:
Believer’s Baptism: Grace Community Church practices believer’s baptism, a hallmark of the Baptist tradition. This means that baptism is reserved for those who have made a personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ, signifying their identification with His death, burial, and resurrection.
|Believer’s Baptism||Infant Baptism|
|Definition||Baptism that takes place after a person has made a personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ.||Baptism of infants or young children, usually performed in the context of their being born into a Christian family.|
|Commonly Practiced By||Baptists, Anabaptists, Pentecostals, most Evangelical and nondenominational churches.||Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and some mainline Protestant churches like Lutherans and Presbyterians.|
|Scriptural Support||Often cite passages like Acts 2:38 and Acts 8:12, where baptism follows belief in Jesus.||Often cite passages like Acts 16:15, 33 where whole households (potentially including infants) were baptized, and Colossians 2:11-12, comparing baptism to Old Testament circumcision.|
|Symbolism||Symbolizes the believer’s identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and their personal commitment to follow Him.||Symbolizes the grace of God extended to the person, marking them as part of the Christian community, often linked to the covenant promises of God.|
|Mode of Baptism||Generally by immersion, symbolizing dying with Christ and rising to new life.||Varies; can be by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.|
|Age of Baptism||Usually teenagers or adults, after they’ve made a personal decision to follow Jesus.||Infants or young children.|
Congregational Governance: The church values the autonomy and self-governance of the local church, a characteristic often found in Baptist churches. Each congregation has the right to make its own decisions under the guidance of its elders.
Authority of Scripture: Like Baptists, the church strongly upholds the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, affirming that the Bible is the final and supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
Justification by Faith Alone: The church teaches that salvation comes through faith alone in Jesus Christ, a doctrine central to Baptist theology. It affirms that no amount of good works can earn salvation, but it is a gift of God’s grace through faith.
|Justification by Faith Alone||Justification by Faith Plus Works|
|Definition||The belief that faith in Jesus Christ alone is enough to declare a person righteous before God.||The belief that both faith in Jesus Christ and the performance of good works are necessary for a person to be declared righteous before God.|
|Commonly Held By||Most prominently by Protestant denominations, like Lutherans and Reformed churches, following Martin Luther’s teachings during the Protestant Reformation.||Many Christian traditions, notably the Roman Catholic Church and some Orthodox churches.|
|Scriptural Support||Often cite passages like Romans 3:28, Romans 4:5, and Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasizing faith as the means to justification.||Often cite passages like James 2:24 and Matthew 25:31-46, emphasizing the role of works as evidence of faith.|
|Views on Grace||Believes grace through faith is the sole means of justification, making salvation entirely an act of God’s free gift.||Views grace as essential for salvation but asserts that an individual’s cooperation through good works is necessary to respond to and maintain that grace.|
|Implications for Christian Living||Good works are seen as the evidence and fruit of genuine faith, not the basis of justification. They’re encouraged as a response to God’s grace.||Good works are seen as a necessary response to God’s grace and part of the process of salvation. Living a morally upright life is a crucial aspect of the Christian journey.|
Priesthood of All Believers: Another common thread between Grace Community Church and Baptist theology is the belief in the priesthood of all believers. This affirms that all believers have direct access to God and are responsible for their own relationship with Him.
5 Ways MacArthur’s Church Aligns with the Reformed Tradition
Grace Community Church is a non-denominational church, but many of its teachings align closely with the Reformed tradition. Here are five key ways this is evident:
Sovereignty of God: A cornerstone of Reformed theology is the belief in the absolute sovereignty of God over all aspects of life, including salvation. Grace Community Church affirms this belief, emphasizing God’s initiative and control in the process of salvation.
Justification by Faith Alone: Reformed theology asserts that humans are justified – declared righteous before God – through faith alone in Jesus Christ. Grace Community Church upholds this doctrine, teaching that salvation is entirely a work of God’s grace, received through faith.
Biblical Inerrancy: Reformed churches traditionally uphold the authority and inerrancy of the Bible, viewing it as the infallible Word of God. Similarly, Grace Community Church holds a high view of Scripture, treating it as the ultimate authority for faith and practice.
Sure, let’s compare and contrast the doctrine of biblical inerrancy with the opposite viewpoint, often characterized as a more liberal or progressive understanding of biblical authority:
|Definition||The belief that the Bible, in its original manuscripts, is without error in all matters it addresses, whether it’s history, science, morality, or theology.||The belief that the Bible, while inspired by God, reflects the cultural and historical contexts of its human authors and, therefore, may contain errors or contradictions.|
|Commonly Held By||Many conservative Protestant denominations, including Southern Baptists, many Evangelical churches, and some Reformed groups.||Often held by more liberal or progressive Christian groups, including some mainline Protestant denominations and individuals.|
|Scriptural Support||Often cite passages like 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21, asserting that all scripture is inspired and therefore wholly trustworthy.||Often emphasize the human element in the production of the Bible, pointing to perceived discrepancies or cultural biases as evidence of its non-inerrant nature.|
|Views on Divine Inspiration||Believes that divine inspiration preserved the biblical authors from all errors, resulting in a text that is fully reliable.||Maintains that divine inspiration does not necessarily prevent errors, as the Bible also reflects the authors’ human limitations and historical contexts.|
|Implications for Interpretation||Supports a more literal interpretation of the Bible, often relying on historical-grammatical methods of exegesis.||Encourages the use of historical-critical methods and might incorporate modern insights from fields like archaeology, sociology, or literary theory in biblical interpretation.|
Preaching and Teaching: The Reformed tradition places a strong emphasis on the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Pastor John MacArthur is known for his expository preaching, a method that involves in-depth explanation and application of the Bible, aligning with this emphasis.
Cessationism: Though not universally held among all Reformed churches, Pastor MacArthur’s view of cessationism – the belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased – finds resonance within segments of the Reformed tradition.
Absolutely. Let’s compare the doctrine of cessationism with its contrasting view, which is often referred to as continuationism:
|Definition||The belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy, healing, and speaking in tongues, ceased with the apostolic age.||The belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit are ongoing and available to believers today.|
|Commonly Held By||Many Reformed churches, some Baptists, and other Protestant groups.||Many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, as well as some within the broader Evangelical movement.|
|Scriptural Support||Often cite passages like 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 and Ephesians 2:20, arguing that miraculous gifts were foundational and temporary.||Refer to passages like 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and Acts 2:17-18, contending that the gifts of the Spirit are available to all believers across time.|
|Views on Miracles||Believes miracles were primarily to authenticate the message and ministry of the apostles, and hence, have ceased in the post-apostolic church.||Believes miracles continue as a normal part of the Christian experience, demonstrating God’s power and love.|
|Implications for Christian Practice||Tends to emphasize the authority and sufficiency of Scripture in Christian life and practice, as opposed to charismatic experiences.||Often encourages believers to seek and exercise spiritual gifts for the edification of the church and for outreach.|