My Dad and I have said for years that John MacArthur has never preached a bad sermon. It might not be the best sermon you have ever heard on a given topic or passage, but it will still be sound and clear.
MacArthur is a preaching machine. I have no idea how many thousands or tens of thousands of sermons he has preached in his lifetime, but I know the ones I have heard have almost always helped me in some way.
What makes MacArthur a good preacher? If I assigned 10 people to answer that question, you might get a variety of perspectives because he is that well-rounded as a preacher.
I began listening to MacArthur as a young teenage Christian in the 1990’s. I have following his preaching ministry ever since, listened to many of his expositions of books of the Bible, attending a plethora of chapels where he has spoken, listened to him at national conferences, and sat under his teaching ministry at Grace Church when I lived in CA as a student and then as a young child when my Dad was attending seminary.
I will attempt to answer my own question, from my own experience of hearing him teach and being a listener in the audience. What makes Macarthur a good preacher and what is worth emulating for all of us who aspire to be effective when we preach God’s Word?
First, good preaching is not the pursuit of saying what you want to say but what God has already said. This is vintage MacArthur. I don’t believe I have ever heard MacArthur eisegete Scripture. He never imposes his ideas on the text, but regularly lets the text speak for itself. He almost to annoyance, refuses to label himself even in theological systems, because he is fearful that the Bible will not be the central focus. MacArthur will preach what the text says, and if there is label to assign at that point, fine. But he never imposes an outward idea or system on interpreting Scripture.
Second, good preaching comes from a man of character. Why else would the qualifications for elder (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9) be mostly about character? Godly character will produce sound preaching because sound preaching comes from men and women who understand what it means to love and follow God’s Word. MacArthur is surprisingly personable if you ever get the chance to speak with him. He remembers people he met decades ago. He takes an interest in those who listen to his preaching, supports his ministry, etc. Too many mega-church pastors have lost their ministries due to a variety of doctrinal or moral compromises. Not MacArthur. He has 50+ years of faithful godly living that has earned him the right to be heard in his sermons.
Third, good preaching exalts Christ. You will be challenged to find a preacher in church history who has preached more sermons on Jesus Christ than MacArthur. Even his writing ministry seems to be especially focused on the person and work of Jesus Christ: Abiding in Christ, Christ’s Kingdom Commission, Experiencing the Passion of Christ, First Love, Follow Me, God in the Manger, God’s Gift of Christmas, Good News, The Gospel According to the Apostles, The Gospel According to God, The Gospel According to Jesus, The Gospel According to Paul, Hard to Believe, I Believe in Jesus, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, Miracle of Christmas, The Murder of Jesus, One Perfect Life, Our Sufficiency in Christ, The Second Coming, and Why One Way.