Philippians 2:12-13 – The Most Important NT Text on the Christian Life and Sanctification

Sam Storms: When it comes to our understanding and experience of Christian sanctification, I can’t think of a more important biblical text than Philippians 2:12-13. Here is what Paul wrote: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). Paul’s point is that we work out the Christian life, or act in obedience to the Word of God, only because God has already been at work within, performing a miracle in our lives. At the heart of Paul’s argument is the fact that when it comes to the Christian life, God is always antecedent. He comes first. He acts before we act. We only act because he has already acted. God works in us in advance of our working for

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The Kingdom of God in 8 Words

Jeremy Treat: The number-one thing Jesus talked about is the kingdom of God. It’s everywhere in the Gospels and impossible to miss. But if the theme of the kingdom is so significant, then we need to make sure we know what it means. A good starting place is to have a solid working definition. Here’s one: The kingdom is God’s reign through God’s people over God’s place. That’s the message of the kingdom in eight words. Now let’s break down each aspect to begin plumbing the depths. God’s Reign The kingdom is first and foremost a statement about God. God is king, and he is coming asking to set right what our sin made wrong. The phrase “kingdom of God” could just as easily be translated “reign of God” or “kingship of God.” The message of the kingdom is about God’s royal power directed by his self-giving love. Claiming that the kingdom of God is primarily about God may seem obvious, but many today use “kingdom”

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What Is Discernment?

Sinclair Ferguson: Someone I know recently expressed an opinion that surprised and in some ways disappointed me. I said to myself, “I thought he would have more discernment than that.” The experience caused me to reflect on the importance of discernment and the lack of it in our world. We know that people often do not see issues clearly and are easily misled because they do not think biblically. But, sadly, one cannot help reflecting on how true this is of the church community, too. Most of us doubtless want to distance ourselves from what might be regarded as “the lunatic fringe” of contemporary Christianity. We are on our guard against being led astray by false teachers. But there is more to discernment than this. True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the

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The Whole Bible in 12 Verses

Andrew Wilson: If you had to summarise Scripture in 12 verses, which would you choose? Here are mine: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). “So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:17–18). “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house

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You’re Insignificant for God’s Glory

  John MacArthur: Convinced of His Own Unworthiness Alongside Paul’s confidence in God’s sovereignty, he was kept faithful by a powerful conviction that he himself was nothing (1 Cor. 3:7; 2 Cor. 12:11). Paul did not have an exalted view of himself. He spoke of himself as the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15); “the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9); and “the very least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8). Here in 2 Corinthians he writes, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). Paul pictures himself as a cheap container holding a priceless treasure. What is the treasure? It is “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). That’s a reference to the gospel. Paul was entrusted with it and called to proclaim it, and he saw it as

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How Is Ministry Going?

Darryl Dash: “How’s ministry going?” I confess I never know how to answer this question. I sometimes offer the response I once heard: “Reasonably well, all things considered.” If I had the time to explain, I think I’d offer a three-part answer: it’s hard, joyous, and difficult to measure. Ministry Is Hard I’m preaching through 2 Corinthians right now. A group of super-apostles invaded the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 11:5). They were powerful, impressive, and successful. Paul confronts the Corinthians with the truth: ministry is rarely impressive. It’s hard. It’s supposed to be. “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself,” Paul writes (2 Corinthians 1:8). “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians

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10 Things You Should Know about Spiritual Adoption

Sam Storms: As glorious and wonderful as is the physical birth of a new-born baby, it pales in comparison with the spiritual re-birth of a person and the new life in Jesus Christ that they receive by God’s mercy and grace. I don’t mean to downplay the beauty of physical birth. It is truly a miracle and puts on display God’s creativity and power. But the second birth, being born again, as the NT describes it, is greater still. Physical birth only gives us physical life. Being born again gives us eternal life as the children of God. So let’s look at ten things we all should know about what it means to be an adopted child of God. (1) Although we should be careful when we compare the goodness of God’s gifts, I believe that spiritual adoption is near the top of the list. This isn’t in the least to slight justification or forgiveness or the indwelling presence of

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The Hill We All Must Die On – Four Questions to Ask About Atonement

Stephen Wellum: The doctrine of penal substitution is under attack today — and that’s an understatement. From voices outside of evangelical theology to those within, the historic Reformation view of the cross is claimed to be a “modern” invention from the cultural West. Others criticize the doctrine as sanctioning violence, privileging divine retributive justice over God’s love, condoning a form of divine child abuse, reducing Scripture’s polychrome presentation of the cross to a lifeless monochrome, being too “legal” in orientation, and so on. All of these charges are not new. All of them have been argued since the end of the 16th century, and all of them are false. Yet such charges reflect the corrosive effects of false ideas on theology and a failure to account for how the Bible, on its own terms, interprets the cross. Given the limitations of this article, I cannot fully respond to these charges. Instead, I will briefly state four truths that unpack the

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Are You REALLY Interpreting the Bible Literally?

Stephen Altrogge: Interpreting the Bible literally can be a good thing. It probably means that you want to know exactly what God says and obey his words. It means you don’t want to play Bible roulette with which verses you obey. It means you’re willing to obey all the commands of the Bible, even the painful ones. It means you’re in less danger of drifting into the post-modernism, the Bible is Jello interpretations. But, interpreting the Bible literally can also get you into a lot of trouble. Harold Camping thought he was interpreting the Bible literally, which in turn led him to mispredict the end of the world…twice. Pinstripe wearing, silk handkerchief mopping, prosperity preaching pastors think they’re interpreting the Bible literally, which leads them to teach that God never wills illness. Heck, the hellfire, hate-throwing folks at Westboro Baptist Church probably think they are interpreting the Bible literally. Today there is a total solar eclipse. There are definitely some

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What the Gospel Is

Denny Burk: Evangelicals sometimes have ways of speaking and communicating that actually leave out crucial aspects of the gospel. Perhaps the following scenario will be familiar to you. A parent comes to me and says, “Pastor, my 8-year old child wants to meet with you about getting baptized.” We agree to meet, I sit down with the parent and with the child, and I say, “Johnny, why do you want to get baptized?” He replies, “Because I don’t want to go to hell.” I clarify, “Yes, but Johnny, getting baptized doesn’t save you. You have to accept Jesus into your heart in order to be saved.” Johnny askes, “How do I do that?” I reply, “All you have to do is ask Him to forgive you of your sins, and then ask Him to come into your heart.” And so we kneel and pray, and Johnny asks Jesus to forgive him of his sins and to come and live in his heart. We make arrangements for his baptism on the very next

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The False Gospel of Expressive Individualism

David Qaoud There’s a newish gospel in town. Or at least some make it out to be. Have you heard of it? It’s called expressive individualism. What is Expressive Individualism? To be sure, expressive individualism has been around for a while. But it seems to be more popular today than ever before. Borrowing from the work of Charles Taylor, James K.A. Smith speaks about expressive individualism when he writes, “Emerging from the Romantic expressionism of the late eighteenth century, it is an understanding ‘that each one of us has his/her own way of realizing our humanity,’ and that we are called to live that out (‘express’ it) rather than conform to modes imposed by others (especially institutions).” To say it another way, expressive individualism believes that each and every single person has the right to feel, believe, and think about themselves however they so choose. But even more, after you discover yourself (if you like the phrase), you’re free to express yourself. In

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5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel

David W. Jones: More than a century ago, speaking to the then-largest congregation in all Christendom, Charles Spurgeon said, “I believe that it is anti-Christian and unholy for any Christian to live with the object of accumulating wealth. You will say, ‘Are we not to strive all we can to get all the money we can?’ You may do so. I cannot doubt but what, in so doing, you may do service to the cause of God. But what I said was that to live with the object of accumulating wealth is anti-Christian.” Over the years, however, the message being preached in some of the largest churches in the world has changed—indeed, a new gospel is being taught to many congregations today. This message has been ascribed many name, such as the “name it and claim it” gospel, the “blab it and grab it” gospel, the “health and wealth” gospel, the “prosperity gospel,” and “positive confession theology.” No matter what name is used, the essence

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How the Old Testament Prepares Us for the Third Day

Justin Dillehay: When I was a church teen in the 1990s, one of hottest new Christian bands was Third Day. The name seemed like a riff on the mainstream band Third Eye Blind, but we all know where it really came from. According to Paul’s gospel, Christ was “raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” This is “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3–5). We all know that Christ rose on the third day. But we probably aren’t as familiar with the latter half of Paul’s statement, namely, that Christ was “raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4). This wasn’t just something that happened in history; it was also prophesied in the Old Testament. Jesus himself says the same thing in Luke 24:46: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” Which raises the question, where? Where is it written that Christ would

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What makes ‘Good Friday’ good?

Sam Storms: If you plan on being in Oklahoma City on Friday, April 18, I want to invite you to join us for our traditional “Good Friday” service at 6:30 p.m. in our auditorium. I would also encourage you to invite friends and family members who may not know Jesus and his saving love. This will be a wonderful time for them to hear a short and pointed presentation of the gospel. So, why do we speak of the Friday when Jesus was brutalized and crucified as good? It would almost seem as if there could hardly be a day that is worse! In one sense, you are correct. Jesus was unjustly tried, lied about, scourged, and sadistically crucified. But in a far more ultimate sense this was immeasurably good. It was good for two reasons. First, the crucifixion of Jesus, as horrible and unjust as it was, fulfilled God’s plan. Peter declared this in Acts 4:27-28 by reminding us that, in crucifying

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Salvation by Propitiation

Kevin DeYoung: There are many biblical ways to describe Christian salvation. Salvation can be understood ritually as a sacrifice, as the expiation of guilt through the death of Christ on the cross. Salvation can be understood commercially as redemption, as a payment made through the blood of Christ for the debt we owe because of sin. Salvation can be understood relationally as reconciliation, as the coming together of estranged parties by means of Christ’s at-one-ment. Salvation can be understood legally as justification, as the declaration that sins have been forgiven and that the sinner stands blameless before God because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. There is, of course, more that can be said about salvation. But each description above captures something important about the nature of Christ’s saving work. And each description holds together because the death of Christ is—not over and above these images, but inherent and essential to these images—a propitiation. Propitiation is used in the New Testament to describe the pacifying, placating, or appeasing of God’s wrath. The easiest

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What Is the Gospel?

W. Robert Godfrey: Many Christians, churches, and organizations regularly use the word gospel to describe their convictions. Theological controversies have occurred and do occur over the meaning of the gospel and who preaches it faithfully. What does that familiar word gospel mean? The best way to answer that question is to turn to the Bible. In the Greek New Testament, the noun euangelion (“gospel”) appears just over seventy times. Since, in one sense, the whole New Testament is about the gospel, we might have expected the word to have been used more frequently. Even more surprisingly, its use varies greatly among the authors of the New Testament books. Paul uses the word more than three times as often as all the other authors combined. Most of the other uses are found in Matthew and Mark, with very few, if any, in Luke, John, Peter, and James. The word gospel most simply means “good news.” The word is not unique to the Christian message, but it was also used in the

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Pastors Are Special

Jared Wilson: 4 REASONS PASTORAL WORK IS DIFFERENT (AND WHAT YOU AND I SHOULD DO ABOUT IT) I’ve been a pastor and I’ve not been a pastor, and I have to tell you, pastors are special. There is nothing quite like pastoral work, and I’ve discovered it is sometimes difficult to communicate that effectively to congregations. If you’ve never been a pastor, you may even suspect all the anxious, recent talk about pastoral stress and burnout and the like is overblown. We’ve all heard the jokes about how pastors only work one day a week. There are also plenty of us who have served under or otherwise been led by manipulative, lazy, or even abusive pastors, giving us even more cause to raise an eyebrow about any posture toward ministers other than “keeping them honest.” There are certainly too many unqualified men in the pastoral ranks. But I’m convinced the vast majority of pastors are good and faithful men doing their imperfect

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The Prosperity Gospel: A Global Epidemic

Costi W. Hinn: Prosperity is a hot topic in the church. Does God care if a pastor drives a nice car or lives in a nice home? Does God command that all who follow Him take a vow of poverty and starve their families in a protest of earthly comfort? Bible teachers sell millions of books and accumulate mass amounts of wealth, are they in the same league as other wealthy preachers? Some will have deep convictions about attaining any measure of wealth, while others will be content use their wealth to give back to their church. Some will use their wealth to fund a child’s college tuition, or even scholarship a seminary student. Others will invest their wealth with the goal of giving even more away in the future. Stewardship comes in all shapes and sizes but one thing doesn’t—God’s ability to weigh a man’s heart and motives. It is a man’s heart that God is most interested in

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Christ Our Ransom

Jared Wilson: Like many others, I have been moved over the last several years to repeatedly reassert the biblical emphasis on Christ’s propitiating work on the cross in what is typically called the “penal substitution” view of the atonement—for instance, devoting an entire chapter to it as the “sharp edge of the atonement” in my book Gospel Deeps and another whole chapter defending it from recent critiques in a forthcoming book (2020) with Thomas Nelson. But penal substitution is of course not the whole of the atonement. The gospel is more multifaceted than that, and one of the least considered facets is Christ as our ransom. Psalm 49 establishes a dilemma of direst condition: Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice . . .  (49:7-8) The condition of man since the fall is one of bondage to sin and corruption from death. Having

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