Salvation isn’t the result of an intellectual exercise. It comes from a life lived in obedience and service to Christ as revealed in the Scripture; it’s the fruit of actions, not intentions.I think Phelps is right in the substance of his concerns on this portion of the quote. If one were to suggest that this statement proves something about MacArthur's true beliefs that's contrary to everything else he's ever taught would be ridiculous. But these words, taken at face value, don't teach a biblical understanding of how we receive salvation.
For what it's worth, I do agree with MacArthur that salvation is not easy and it will cost you your life. If we need to talk about some biblical texts on that point, we can do it another time, but that's not the thrust of this post (and it won't be the subject of debate in the comment thread).
Here's the point. I did a little research and found that Tim Challies raised the same question in his review of the book. Challies actually a little research of his own and discovered an explanation from Phil Johnson, MacArthur's editor. Read all about it here.
And for what it's worth, it seems to me that Grace to You/John MacArthur/Phil Johnson should release a public explanation and clarification. If it already exists, I'd love to know that.