Great encouragement comes from reading about the lives of great men and women of the Christian faith. Ian Murray is truly a master biographer and paints a moving portrait of a great man, preacher, author, and leader. The subject of Murray’s biography is John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California.
MacArthur’s numerous roles and responsibilities include being a husband, father, pastor, author, bible teacher, seminary and college president. Murray traces the preaching heritage of MacArthur’s family and highlights his subject’s dramatic calling into ministry following a painful car accident.
After attending Talbot theological seminary, Macarthur began his pastorate in 1969 at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Over forty-seven years later, a ministry of tremendous reach and influence has emerged from this pastor, preacher, author, conference speaker, and seminary president.
With perhaps much surprise to the reader, the foundation of Macarthur’s ministry is simple and summed up well in his own words, “When I started in ministry, I committed myself to expository preaching, just explaining the Bible, because I knew that there was nothing I could say that was anywhere near as important as what God had to say. The real goal of ministry has always been to keep my own opinions out of it as much as possible. I never want to be guilty of giving people the illusion that they have heard from God when in fact they have only heard from me. When I step into the pulpit, the expectation is that I’m a messenger of God. I speak on His behalf, not my own.”
From this statement, over four hundred books and study guides have been written including MacArthur’s first best-selling book The Gospel According to Jesus. In addition, MacArthurs’s New Testament Commentary series and Study Bible are a wealth of biblical truth based on the pastor’s extensive study and ministry.
Murray’s biographies have included great men of the faith such as Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Pink, and Jonathan Edwards. Including McArthur in this long line of godly men seems only fitting. Murray does an excellent job of not only informing you about the life and ministry of his subject, but also providing an intimate portrait into his life. Using personal interviews with John, his family, staff, and a plethora of written materials, Murray weaves a comprehensive picture of the Californian pastor from the beginning of his life until the present. I truly look forward to reading more biographies by Murray, and recommend this book to any pastor, leader, or layperson. I also look forward to continuing to read through the increasing compendium of John MacArthur’s works.
I believe Paul’s charge to Timothy rightly sums up the focus of MacArthur’s ministry, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). His commitment to rightly interpreting and explaining the Scriptures stands as an encouragement and rallying cry for Christian minister’s everywhere to do the same. May we speak as messengers on behalf of God, and not as messengers on behalf of our own interpretation of what God has said.