The Benefits of Preaching through Books of the Bible

Paul Alexander: There is a widespread assumption in many churches that preaching through books of the Bible is not enough to sustain a pulpit ministry over the long haul. Granted, there is a place for the occasional topical sermon that draws on multiple passages of Scripture. But as a steady diet for sheep and shepherds alike, the benefits of consecutive, expositional preaching through books of the Bible are too many to ignore; maybe too many to count. Here are nine.  It honors God (2 Timothy 3:15–17).  We consider it a mark of respect when others listen to what we’ve said, from beginning to end. It’s a mark of disrespect when others tune in late, tune out early, cut us off, or take our words out of context. How much more does God deserve our attention to every word he says? Context, storyline, structure, and typology matter if we want to honor God by understanding his words. All Scripture—all of it—is

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Why “Abba” Does Not Mean “Daddy”

Justin Taylor: We are sometimes told that the Aramaic word Abba in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6 indicates that we are to address God the Father as “Daddy” as an expression of  reverential relational intimacy. The New Testament scholar Murray Harris—who has been called one of the great Greek minds of our day—talks about why this is not true. The following is an excerpt from his book Navigating Tough Texts: A Guide to Problem Passages in the New Testament: It is true that in the Jewish Talmud and other Jewish documents we find statements such as “When a child experiences the taste of wheat (i.e., when it is weaned), it learns to say ’abbā and ’immā” (Berakot 40a in the Babylonian Talmud) (= our “dada” and “mama”). However, even if the term abba began as a childish babbling sound (and this is far from clear), at the time of Jesus it was a regular adult word meaning “Father” or “my Father” (as terms of address) or “the Father” or “my Father” (as terms

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Three principles of the Christian life

Sam Storms: One of my spiritual and theological mentors was Russ McKnight. Not many will have heard of that name, but Russ’s influence on me and numerous others, including a dozen or more men now in full time ministry, was monumental. Russ was a layman who served as an Elder at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. I first met Russ in 1969 on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. Russ was teaching a Bible study on Romans every Saturday morning in the Student Union building. Russ was the first man who taught me about the doctrines of sovereign grace, or what is more commonly known as Calvinism. I was a thoroughly convinced Arminian at the time, and Russ’s love, patience, and remarkable gift at unpacking the truths of the Bible eventually led to my embracing the doctrines of grace. Russ sold his business in the late 1970’s and moved to Dallas where he studied for his master’s degree

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Providence and the Counterintuitive Wonders of God

Sam Storms: It’s only one word, Providence, but it is indescribably rich and complex and challenging and comforting. It is also the title to John Piper’s most recent book (Crossway, 2020, 751pp.). Piper defines providence as God’s “purposeful sovereignty.” In other words, it is more than mere sovereignty. It is more than power or oversight. It is the way in which God directly and intentionally brings about his ultimate aim of glorifying himself. One of the things that you will read from John is his emphasis on what he calls “counterintuitive wonders” (14). These wonders of how God governs the world “are not illogical or contradictory, but they are different from our usual ways of seeing the world – so different that our first reaction is often to say, ‘That can’t be.’ But the ‘can’t’ is in our minds, not in reality” (14). Right from the start of this massive and important work, Piper encourages his readers to “let the word of

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Following the Faithful

John MacArthur: Nobody wants to be led off a cliff. But that’s a very real possibility for anyone who follows the wrong leaders. Jesus said as much concerning the religious leaders of His time on earth: “They are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14). Following unfit leaders is a sure road to ruin.  Nowhere is that more apparent than in the church. Scan the evangelical landscape for all the proof you need of the severe damage that unqualified and untrustworthy leaders can do to their congregations. Biblical discernment is nonnegotiable—it is an essential quality for church leaders and critical for those of us who sit under their teaching. Believers need to follow and emulate those who demonstrate godly discernment, and carefully avoid the leadership of people who are themselves “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians

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Is the Reformation Over?

R.C. Sproul: There have been several observations rendered on this subject by those I would call “erstwhile evangelicals.” One of them wrote, “Luther was right in the sixteenth century, but the question of justification is not an issue now.” A second self-confessed evangelical made a comment in a press conference I attended that “the sixteenth-century Reformation debate over justification by faith alone was a tempest in a teapot.” Still another noted European theologian has argued in print that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is no longer a significant issue in the church. We are faced with a host of people who are defined as Protestants but who have evidently forgotten altogether what it is they are protesting. Contrary to some of these contemporary assessments of the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, we recall a different perspective by the sixteenth-century magisterial Reformers. Luther made his famous comment that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is

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How Do I Know That God Is for Me?

Sinclair Ferguson: God has promised to work everything together for the good of His people. If God is for us, it follows that, ultimately, nothing can stand against us. That is logical. Otherwise, God would not be God. If something could rise up against God and overcome Him, that other thing would be God. God would then prove to be a false god—no God at all. But on the contrary Paul is saying that in the last analysis, nothing can be against us if God is for us. But this raises the million-dollar question: “Is God for me?” Perhaps even more pointed is the personal question: “How do I know that God is for me?” Well, do you know that? How do you know? Satan is very insistent about this—indeed, he has been insistent on this question from the beginning. He asked it in the Garden of Eden. In fact, his first recorded words are an assault on God’s gracious character (will we never

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Do You Love the Church?

R.C. Sproul: Paul gives great attention to ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church, in his letter to the Ephesians. In fact, we could say Ephesians answers this question: What is the church? In Ephesians 2:19–22, the chief metaphor Paul uses is that of a building—the household of God. Christians are part of the household in the sense that they have been adopted into the family of God, which is another image that Scripture uses to describe the church. But here the accent is not so much on the family of the household as it is on the house of the household: “[We] are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (vv. 19–20a). Paul says the foundation of this building called the church is made up of the prophets and the Apostles, that is, the Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles. Why? It’s because the prophets and Apostles

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His Nearness to Us, Our Dearness to Him

Sam Storms: One of the more precious passages in all of Scripture to me is Psalm 16:11. Here David speaks of the presence of God and the inimitable pleasure and power that flood the soul of those who experience it. Knowing this ought to instill in us a ravenous hunger for intimacy with God. What surprises many is to discover the immense practical benefit of such desire. I first saw this in something said by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews. In the opening verses of chapter thirteen we are exhorted to love each other (v. 1), to be hospitable (v. 2), to be compassionate to the oppressed and needy (v. 3), to pursue sexual purity both inside and outside of marriage (v. 4), and perhaps most difficult of all, not to love money but to be content (v. 5). A formidable task indeed! How can God possibly expect such behavior from people as self-absorbed as we? The answer,

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What Does It Mean that Jesus Is Prophet, Priest, and King?

Jonty Rhodes: The Full Canvas We’ve all been there, whether as a preacher or listener. The drama of the story of Daniel in the lions’ den builds throughout the sermon. The conviction of sin as you walk through the Ten Commandments grows almost overwhelming. The depths of emotion expressed by the psalmist as he cries out for deliverance stirs and unsettles your soul. Where are we going? Will we leave inspired by the courage of Daniel, crushed by the law of God, disturbed by the misery of the psalm? But no—here it comes. Sound the klaxon: it’s time for “The Jesus bit.” We all knew it was coming. We knew we had to get there. Every bit as surprising as Tuesday following Monday, the final five minutes of the sermon remind us again of the penal-substitutionary death of Jesus. I’ve heard hundreds of sermons like this and preached nearly as many. And, frankly, thank God for each and every one

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Spurgeon on the eternal security of the believer

Sam Storms: Few theological issues are as fraught with as much controversy and rancor as that of the security of the believer in Jesus Christ. I continue to marvel at how energetic people are on both sides of this issue when it comes to defending their cherished view. Without delving into the subject in exegetical detail, I would like to cite the words of Charles Spurgeon. His zeal for the truth of eternal security is deserving of our careful and prayerful consideration. “If one dear saint of God had perished, so might all; if one of the covenant ones be lost, so may all be; and then there is no gospel promise true, but the Bible is a lie, and there is nothing in it worthy my acceptance. I will be an infidel at once when I can believe that a saint of God can ever fall finally. If God hath loved me once, then He will love me forever.

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Whatever Christ Commands He Gives

Matt Bradner: “Matt, would you grab the rest of the groceries from the trunk of the car?” The familiar words fell on me with greater irritation than normal because I was immersed in my favorite childhood hobby, sorting through my collection of sports cards. What I initially interpreted as a demand (and interruption!), however, was actually an expression of my father’s love for me, because his request was an invitation in disguise. After delaying for far too long, I finally dropped the cards and made my way to the trunk, expecting to find eggs, lettuce, and cereal. When I finally fulfilled my duty, I realized that I had been duped — in the best way possible. Sitting in the trunk was an unopened box of 1986 Fleer Basketball cards. This may not seem significant to you, but my adolescent brain instantly knew that I was moments away from adding a Michael Jordan rookie card to my collection. I grabbed the

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Justification by Faith, its Heritage, its Necessity, and its Attackers

J.I. Packer: Martin Luther described the doctrine of justification by faith as articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ—the article of faith that decides whether the church is standing or falling. By this he meant that when this doctrine is understood, believed, and preached, as it was in New Testament times, the church stands in the grace of God and is alive; but where it is neglected, overlaid, or denied, as it was in mediaeval Catholicism, the church falls from grace and its life drains away, leaving it in a state of darkness and death. The reason why the Reformation happened, and Protestant churches came into being, was that Luther and his fellow Reformers believed that Papal Rome had apostatised from the gospel so completely in this respect that no faithful Christian could with a good conscience continue within her ranks. Justification by faith has traditionally, and rightly, been regarded as one of the two basic and controlling principles of Reformation theology.

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You Have Need of Endurance

Jon Bloom: A few months ago, I met a friend for breakfast. When I asked him how he was doing, he answered, “I’m enduring.” If his response doesn’t sound remarkable, it’s only because you don’t know the howling spiritual storm that had raged in his soul over the past year, and the relentless questions and doubts that pressed on him. He was wrestling “spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12) in a fierce, disorienting fight for faith (1 Timothy 6:12), all while faithfully leading a young, growing family, helping to (bi-vocationally) lead a young, growing church, and helping to (vocationally) lead a young, growing, increasingly visible ministry. And on top of that were the taxing stresses of normal life. Few knew the fortitude this season required of him. He was enduring, and it was remarkable. When we observe those like my friend enduring such a difficult struggle, we often feel the merciful impulse to try to relieve their anguish. This can be

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The 5 Movements in Isaiah

Davy Ellison: I hate being lost. Few things are more frustrating for me than meandering through an unfamiliar city, or hopelessly searching for an elusive item in the supermarket. I confess I’m not pleasant to be around in such moments. Yet lost is exactly how I feel every time I come to Isaiah. As I begin reading, the same thoughts seize my attention: I will soon be lost; totally disoriented; Isaiah feels too big; there is no immediately discernible structure. Perhaps you share this experience. Somewhere in the middle of Isaiah 24, you begin to reel at the winding path that has brought you there and the unknown path that awaits you. Perhaps a map would be useful. Let me offer some help by mapping five movements in Isaiah’s prophecy. These movements can aid us in finding our bearings in this mammoth book. As you’ll see, the movements are centered on one of Isaiah’s favorite descriptions of God: “the Holy One of Israel.”

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We Need Both Rules and Relationship with God

Jen Wilkin: Perhaps you have heard the statement “Christianity isn’t about rules, it’s about relationship.” It is an idea that has enjoyed popularity in recent decades, as evangelistic messages increasingly emphasized a personal relationship with God, one made possible through the grace that forgives our sins against God’s law. In many ways, this evangelistic approach seeks to solve the PR problem I have noted. It trades the grumpy Old Testament God of the law for the compassionate New Testament God of grace. Thus, law and grace have come to be pitted against one another as enemies, when in fact, they are friends. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New have been placed in opposition, when in fact, they are one and the same. God does not change. His justice and compassion have always coexisted, and so have his law and his grace. Herein lies our forgetfulness. Rather than seeing the sin of lawlessness as the

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How to Count It All as Loss

John Piper: What does it mean to count everything as loss for the sake of Christ? What does it mean to renounce all that we have for Christ’s sake? Paul said he does this. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). And a few verses later he said, “Brothers, join in imitating me” (Philippians 3:17). So this is commanded of all believers. Basic Christianity This is what it means to be a Christian. It is not advanced discipleship; it is basic Christianity. This is confirmed in Jesus’s words, “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Renouncing all we have is the same as “counting everything as loss.” This is what happens in conversion. You can’t be a disciple without it. Jesus said this. He describes this conversion in a parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a

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Hermeneutics: Knowing and Living the Text

By David E. Briones: I teach biblical hermeneutics—how to study the Bible—at Reformation Bible College. I enjoy teaching all of the subjects assigned to me, but hermeneutics is certainly one of my favorites. I especially enjoy the first couple of class sessions. We spend significant time thinking about what constitutes a good and faithful hermeneutical method—a good, explicitly Christian way of interpreting Scripture. To set the context for that discussion, I read a quote to the class that comes from Augustine’s On Christian Teaching: “So anyone who thinks that he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them” (27). This quote challenges every interpreter of Scripture—professor and student alike—not only to know the text but also (and especially) to live out the text. Putting the text into practice is absolutely essential to knowing Scripture truly. A person successfully attains knowledge

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Whose Commandments Are These? – The Ten Words and the New Covenant

Tom Schreiner: If most Christians were asked if they should keep the Ten Commandments, they would answer, “Of course!” Fundamentally, that answer is correct and reflects the wisdom of the ages, the wisdom that has been passed on from the early church to our own day. And yet the question is more complex than it appears at first glance. As the subtitle of this article implies, the Ten Commandments (literally the “Ten Words” in Hebrew) must be understood in light of the covenant in which they were given. The Ten Commandments must be read in context, and that means they must be read in a covenantal context. God’s Covenants with His People The Ten Commandments were given to Israel on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1–17), when Yahweh instituted a covenant with the people of Israel after delivering them from Egypt. These commands were repeated again in Deuteronomy 5 before they were about to enter the Promised Land. The Ten Words were given

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The First and Most Broken Commandment

Sinclair Ferguson: John Newton — of “Amazing Grace” fame — once shrewdly wrote to a correspondent that a misunderstanding of the law of God lies at the root of most mistakes in the Christian life. Many of the spiritual masters have agreed with him. That explains why as much as 30–40 percent of the Reformed catechisms are devoted to an exposition of the Ten Commandments. What did they understand that we fail to grasp? Much. And hearing the law through their ears will help us greatly as we consider the first commandment of the Ten: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Sinai’s Background We can sketch a Reformed understanding of the law under six headings: The law is rooted in the covenant-making and covenant-keeping character of Yahweh. It is prefaced by the words “I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:2). It is a summons to reflect his moral glory. The law was given in the

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