John MacArthur has returned to the pulpit at Grace Community Church after about a month-long absence that began in the midst of an alleged COVID-19 outbreak at the church. The 81-year-old pastor apparently is recovering from an illness, but did not specify the nature of that illness.
At the beginning of the service Sunday, MacArthur greeted the congregation. After struggling to clear his throat and catch his breath, MacArthur pointed to his chest and said, “It’s in there still, so, you’re going to get it, later this morning.”
MacArthur Greets His Congregation at the Beginning of Sunday’s Service:
MacArthur had last preached at Grace on December 20. That same day, The Roys Report published accounts that some staff and members at Grace had COVID but were being pressured by the church not to report their illness to health officials.
Two-and-half weeks ago, a Master’s Seminary student and member of Grace died after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Since December 20, MacArthur had not been seen and was believed to be ill. A few days prior to last Sunday’s service, several people posted pictures on social media showing MacArthur teaching a class at The Master’s Seminary.
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The church has not responded to repeated questions about MacArthur’s health. When MacArthur did not preach as scheduled on previous Sundays, staff merely said that MacArthur was “resting” and preparing for the upcoming Shepherd’s Conference March 3-5.
MacArthur on Sunday did not address why he had been absent. Before preaching, he simply stated, “It’s a little bit rare for me to go several weeks without preaching. It’s a little bit painful because I love to minister the Word of God.”
MacArthur downplayed concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump, whom MacArthur had staunchly supported. MacArthur said that despite these events, God had been exalted at Grace in services the previous week.
“And if you were kind of tuning in to watch Grace Church last week, you would have said, ‘What election?'” MacArthur said to applause. “What’s going on politically? What pandemic? What virus?’ Christ is all in all. Amen?”
MacArthur’s sermon Sunday was atypical. Instead of preaching verse-by-verse through the Scriptures, he reflected on the past year, saying what Grace had experienced in 2020 was similar to being “at war.”
“We’ve been under a massive assault,” MacArthur said, and referred to the church’s ongoing battle with authorities about meeting indoors for worship. (Los Angeles County recently reversed its ban on indoor worship, provided churches follow social distancing protocols.)
MacArthur also took aim at the media and “ungodly bloggers.”
“ABC tried to discredit us. CNN tried to discredit us. The LA Times has tried numerous times to discredit us. Ungodly bloggers tried to discredit us,” MacArthur said. “They’ve said terrible things about us, lies, misrepresentations, inaccuracies. And they’ve all, really, if they’re honest, had to retract everything because it’s just amazing how the Lord has protected us, isn’t it? Hey, we’re here! Sorry world. You’re there. And I’m still here.”
At the same time, MacArthur later in his message referred positively to work the media has done over the past year, exposing pastors who are “charlatans.”
“It was very hard to call people to faithfulness when you could be so corrupt and so successful in Christian religion. That was the battle,” MacArthur said. “Now, I think there’s a sifting and a shifting. First of all, phonies are going to have a tough time hiding with the internet.”
“We’re seeing one after another after another after another—dead ones and alive ones—this dead apologist had a deviant sex life. This cool dude, rock-n-roll pastor was immoral with multiple women for years and years. . . . But liars and frauds and false teachers and con men and all of that have been very, very successful—massively. The media exposed, people have turned that into a fortune.”
MacArthur also discussed religious freedom—a right Grace repeatedly complained had been infringed upon by governing authorities over the past year.
Yet, MacArthur stated, “I don’t even support religious freedom. Religious freedom is what sends people to hell. To say, ‘I support religious freedom’ is to say I support idolatry! It’s to say I support lies! I support hell! I support the kingdom of darkness! You can’t say that! No Christian with half a brain would say, ‘We support religious freedom!’ We support the truth.”
MacArthur ended the sermon by telling congregants that the persecution the church has experienced will likely get worse. Despite this, MacArthur said he’s excited about the future.
“I don’t know how you think this is going to go in the future, but I couldn’t be more thrilled,” MacArthur said. “I mean the clarity now is wonderful, absolutely wonderful.”
MacArthur’s Full Sermon Sermon on Sunday: