Anticipating Easter in the Old Testament

Davy Ellison: Imagine you live in first-century Jerusalem. A year has passed since the Messiah left an empty grave in his wake. Shortly after, you heard Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost, and you repented, believed, were baptized, and joined the church (Acts 2:41). Today, you look forward to gathering with fellow members of “the Way” (Acts 9:2). What passage of Scripture do you think would be preached to mark the occasion? If I had the pastor’s ear, I might have encouraged him to trace the theme of resurrection through the pages of the Hebrew Bible—the Scriptures of the earliest Christians. Let me offer a five-part homiletical outline. 1. Resurrection Power The first port of call is the Bible’s beginning: creation. Resurrection, after all, is predicated on a God who has the power to resurrect. And God showed resurrection-like power when he spoke the world into being. Throughout Genesis 1, God speaks—and heaven, light, sky, land, living creatures, and humanity come into

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One of the Most Overlooked Arguments for the Resurrection

Michael J. Kruger: Well, soon it will be Easter. That wonderful time of the year when we remember (and celebrate) the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. But, not all will be celebrating. There are many that find Easter to be a senseless holiday—apart from, perhaps, the joys of Sunday brunch or chocolate eggs. After all, it is argued, we all know that people don’t rise from the dead. And there are no reasons to think it happened in the case of Jesus of Nazareth. In response to such skepticism, apologists have been making their best arguments for the resurrection.  There’s the empty tomb. There’s the fact that women were the first eyewitnesses which was unlikely to be invented. And there’s the larger appearance to the 500 witnesses. But, of course, each of these claims has been contested. As for the empty tomb, scholars have argued that standard Roman practice was to put crucified criminals in a common grave, not

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Jesus, the Bread of Life

Jared C. Wilson: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). John 6 details a fascinating episode in the ministry of Jesus. It is a long chapter and a complex one, beginning with the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. As with all miracles, we are meant to see them as pointers to the signified, Christ himself and his kingdom. Like the parables, the miracles are windows into the life of the in-breaking kingdom of God. But many wanted Jesus to be their performing magician, like a trained miracle monkey or some such blasphemy. The Pharisees often sought signs from him this way, as later did Herod (Luke 23:8). The average Joes of Jesus’ day were rather a mixed bag. It is difficult to know if even all he physically healed were born again. Certainly many were gifted faith and therefore had the eyes to

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Should the Church Really Be Always Reforming?

Kevin DeYoung: The Church doesn’t get everything right. Anyone who knows church history will admit that Christians have been wrong before, and they will be wrong again. And yet, to confess our interpretive imperfection is not to open the door to every interpretive innovation. Change is not always good and drifting with the winds of the world is always bad. Whenever there is a push to alter the church’s historic understanding of the faith — regarding sexuality or biblical authority or the historicity of Adam and Eve or whatever — you are bound to hear someone appeal to the Reformation slogan semper reformanda. We are told that the Spirit reveals new truths for a new day, that Jesus is pouring old wine into new wineskins, that the church must be “always reforming.” While it’s true that we all see through a glass dimly and must be open to changing our minds, the Latin phrase semper reformanda was not about reforming the church’s confessions

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5 Reasons to Love Repentance

Will Anderson: The imperative—“Repent!”—assaults modern sensibilities like nails on a chalkboard. Repentance is often dismissed as the sadistic mantra of self-loathers; or worse, dreaded as a pistol drawn in pulpits to scare sinners into submission. But repentance—the act of turning from sin and toward God—pervades the biblical story as a life preserver for God’s people, not a cruel waterboarding tactic. Strikingly, Jesus’s main message is summarized in the Gospels as: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32). If repentance is so central in Jesus’s teaching, why is it so peripheral (or nonexistent) in ours? Repentance, Where Art Thou? Different tribes give different responses. Progressives tend to deny repentance altogether, rejecting it as fundamentalist fodder. I recently met with a local progressive church leader who feels this way, and during our charitable yet lively conversation, she remarked: “I never address sin from the pulpit. I don’t think it’s helpful to tell people how bad they are all the time.” While

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How to Help Those Who Believe the Prosperity Gospel

By Sean DeMars Explain the True Gospel How do we help our family members, friends, coworkers, or even fellow church members who are swept up in the prosperity gospel? Here are a few simple ideas as you prayerfully engage their error. The most important way to help is to teach them a right understanding of the gospel. According to Scripture, the gospel says we were dead in sin (Eph. 2:1), separated from God, and destined for his holy wrath (Isa. 59:2). But even when we were dead in our sins, God loved us and sent his Son to die for us (Rom. 5:8). Through Jesus’s death and resurrection, God has reconciled us to himself (2 Cor. 5:18). The benefits of Christ’s work are applied to us personally when we recognize this message to be true and respond by repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ alone, joyfully recognizing Jesus’s lordship over our lives (Mark 1:15; Rom. 10:9; 1 John 5:3). This

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J. I. Packer on the Surprise Blessing of Trials

Jeremy Linneman: I remember where I was when I read these words by the late theologian J. I. Packer: “A certain type of ministry of the gospel is cruel. It doesn’t mean to be, but it is.” What is the cruel sort of ministry Packer had in mind? His answer would haunt me. I was going through a particularly hard season of depression and had been suffering from chronic illness. It was a season of trial and discouragement that had lasted far too long—or so I thought. I’d prayed. I’d talked with wise counselors. I’d prayed more. But this difficult season was unrelenting, and my spirit wasn’t lifting. Then my friend recommended Packer’s Knowing God. I’d read it before, but he pointed me to a chapter late in the book called “These Inward Trials.” I reopened the classic, found the chapter, and began to read. That very night, my whole mindset toward pain and suffering began to change. (Some lessons can’t be

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Knowing God – A Reader’s Guide to a Christian Classic

Article by Sam Storms: Theocentricity is a big and imposing word that simply means “God-centered.” To be theocentric means that God himself is the core of all you believe, and the governing, gravitational force of all you do. And in my judgment, no one in recent memory more readily embodied this perspective on life more than the late J.I. Packer (1926–2020), especially in his classic work, Knowing God. James Inell Packer is justifiably known for much. His rigorous, thoroughly biblical articulation of penal substitutionary atonement, his unwavering defense of biblical inerrancy, and his penetrating insights into the contribution of the Puritans are just a few of the many qualities for which he is remembered. But when he himself was asked, “What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment than anything else?” he did not hesitate to answer: the knowledge of God (33). Pigmy Christianity Packer had little patience for those who would speak of the Christian

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God’s Sovereignty and Glory

Derek Thomas: God is sovereign in creation, providence, redemption, and judgment. That is a central assertion of Christian belief and especially in Reformed theology. God is King and Lord of all. To put this another way: nothing happens without God’s willing it to happen, willing it to happen before it happens, and willing it to happen in the way that it happens. Put this way, it seems to say something that is expressly Reformed in doctrine. But at its heart, it is saying nothing different from the assertion of the Nicene Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” To say that God is sovereign is to express His almightiness in every area. God is sovereign in creation. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Apart from God, there was nothing. And then there was something: matter, space, time, energy. And these came into being ex nihilo—out of nothing. The will to create was entirely

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The bride of Christ and the hope of the world

Why Christians must love the church By Kevin DeYoung: Not many of us are suffering from overexposure to optimism and hope. In her famous Sonnet 43, Elizabeth Barrett Browning asked, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” In today’s world of doomscrolling and digital overload, we are trained to ask a different question, “How have you failed me? Let me count the ways.” It’s not hard to be angry at our politicians, frustrated with our elites, and disappointed in the church. In fact, it’s hard not to count the ways that leaders and institutions have let us down. Just think about the top news stories from the past twelve months: the election and its aftermath, the handling of the pandemic, and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. No matter what you think should have happened in each case, no one would mistake these events for encouraging moments in our national mood and psyche. And then there is the church. I can’t

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What is “Progressive” Christianity?

Michael J. Kruger: One of the benefits of studying church history is that you realize that Solomon was right: “There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9). This proverb has certainly been proven true when it comes to different “versions” of Christianity that have popped up throughout the life of the church. In every generation it seems there’s a new group that comes along insisting that their new and improved Christianity beats all predecessors hands down. But, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that this new version isn’t new at all. It’s simply a microwaved version of some other alternate brand of Christianity that the church has faced (and rejected) before. This is not to suggest, of course, that the modern church has no room for change or growth. Just like individuals need sanctification, so does the institutional church. Christ wants to purify his bride, and so we should expect that, this side of glory, there will always be

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How Did the Cross Disarm the Devil?

John Piper: Colossians 2:15 tells us our Savior Jesus Christ ‘disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them.’ Great text! But what is here meant by ‘disarmed’? Was there something they were wielding then that they do not wield now? If so, what is the weapon Paul speaks of here in this text?” I love this question because I love the glorious truth, not only of Colossians 2:15, but the way verses 13 and 14 prepare for it and put a massive foundation under it. So let’s read the whole unit, and then I’ll give a couple answers to the question, In what sense did the death of Christ strip Satan and his demons of their weapons? Here are the verses: You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him [Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses [how?] by canceling the record of debt that

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What Is the Difference between Union and Communion with Christ?

Sam Storms: An important distinction that a lot of Christians misunderstand is between the eternal union we have with God and the experiential communion that we have on a daily basis. By eternal union, I mean the fact that we are in Christ and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8). Scripture gives us all these potential threats. We think Well, if I don’t respond well to this or if I don’t say the right thing in this current context, I’m going to be cut off from Christ eternally. No. Once we are in Jesus by faith, we are in an eternal bond, union, covenant relationship that cannot be broken, cannot be undermined, cannot be shattered—even in the midst of our sin. But, on the other hand, we have what I call experiential communion. The word experiential is to be contrasted with eternal. Eternal happens all the time. It’s unchangeable, unbreakable. Experiential is what

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What Does a Committed Church Member Look Like?

Thabiti Anyabwile: The Essence of Membership Is Committed Love Our Lord Jesus specified one defining mark for his disciples. Of course, there are many marks of true discipleship, but one mark is singled out as signifying to the watching world that we belong to Christ: A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35) The mark of Christian discipleship is love—love of the kind that Jesus exercised toward his followers, love visible enough that men will recognize it as belonging to those people who follow Jesus. Not surprisingly, then, a healthy Christian is one who is committed to expressing this kind of love toward other Christians. And the best place for Christians to love this way is in the assembly of God’s people called the

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The Necessity of Sound Doctrine

Dustin Benge: In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul is principally concerned with unity in the body of Christ—how the church functions as one unit for the mission and purpose to which she has been called. Paul identifies this “one body” (Eph. 4:4) as those who: Walk “worthy” of their calling (Eph. 4:1). Bear “with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). “Maintain the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3). Equip others “for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12). Build “up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). “Attain to the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:13). Speak “the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). These splendid features identify the body of Christ and distinguish all mature believers. Maturity is essential in achieving the purpose and call of the church. How do we produce mature believers? Sound doctrine In an age when doctrine is marginalized and disdained, Paul reminds us that biblical, sound doctrine is the golden chain linked to all the characteristics listed above.

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An Historic Faith

R.C. Sproul: “Once upon a time . . .” These words signal the beginning of a fairy tale, a story of make believe, not an account of sober history. Unlike beginning with the words “once upon a time,” the Bible begins with the words, “In the beginning God….” This statement, at the front end of the entire Bible, introduces the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Old Testament, and it sets the stage for God’s activity in linear history. From the opening chapters of Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation, the entire dynamic of redemption takes place within the broader setting of real space and time, of concrete history. The historical character of Judeo-Christianity is what markedly distinguishes it from all forms of mythology. A myth finds its value in its moral or spiritual application, while its historical reality remains insignificant. Fairy tales can help our mood swings, but they do little to give us

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Are the Five Solas Still Important for the Church Today?

Gabriel Fluhrer The five solas (Latin for “alone”) of the Reformation—Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone—are indispensable for the church in any era. They will always be relevant because they summarize the biblical gospel, which is the church’s lifeblood in every age. They are particularly significant today because even professing evangelicals, to say nothing of the culture around us, are being tempted to abandon the gospel. Therefore, the church must recognize the dire need of not only defending the five solas but also celebrating them. The five solas are important for us today for at least three reasons. First, they set apart the true gospel from every other religion, worldview, or philosophy. Every day, the world calls out its siren song of spiritual compromise. Satan loves to negotiate the nonnegotiables of biblical truth. He whispers the lie that we don’t need to have strong convictions about the Bible as our only standard of truth or hold firm to

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3 Things God Will Never Do with Your Sin

Sam Storms: God’s Way of Dealing with Sin vs. Our Way Consider for a moment how we “deal” with others. We keep fresh in our minds their injustices toward us. We nurture the memory of their faults and failings. We never let them forget what they did and we often make sure others are mindful of it as well. We seek every opportunity, often secretly and surreptitiously, to make them pay for their transgressions. We hold it in our hearts and over their heads and persuade ourselves that it’s only fair that they be treated this way. 1. God “Does Not Deal with Us According to Our Sins” Our good and gracious God, on the other hand, “does not deal with us according to our sins” (Ps. 103:10). Our sins do not constitute the rule or standard or plumb line according to which God makes his decisions on how to treat us. He does not recall or bring to the

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What Does It Mean to Weep with Those Who Weep?

Kevin DeYoung: Romans 12:15 is a divine command and a vital aspect of Christian maturity. As God’s holy people (Rom. 12:1), Christians are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. In recent years, the second half of the verse in particular has been emphasized as a key component in caring for victims, in listening to the stories of the oppressed, and in showing compassion to the hurting. These emphases are right and proper. Oftentimes the first thing we must do with sufferers is simply come alongside them, acknowledge their pain, express our condolences, and assure them of our love and prayers. Many of us can testify firsthand that when we look back at seasons of intense grief, we don’t remember the exact words people shared, but we do remember the people who showed up and sat with us in our tears. I love what Romans 12:15 teaches about Christian compassion and pastoral care. The verse is a needed

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