The Mystery of the Gospel

Al Mohler: The essential content of Christian preaching, Paul says, is the mystery of the gospel. He writes that the preaching of the Word of God is seen in “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints” (Col. 1:26). A mystery? All around Asia Minor and the ancient world at this time, there were mystery religions and mystery cults, and there were some who thought, especially from the Roman perspective, that Christianity was just another one of them. After all, it had its mystery. And Paul said, “Guilty as charged.” Yet this is not a mystery of esoteric knowledge. This is not a gnosticism of elitist intellectuals. No, this is a mystery that was hidden by God until it could be publicly revealed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, in His death, burial, and resurrection. This is a mystery! There is something deeply mysterious about Christian preaching, both in

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The Urgency of Preaching

Al Mohler: And how will they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14 Has preaching fallen on hard times? An open debate is now being waged over the character and centrality of preaching in the church. At stake is nothing less than the integrity of Christian worship and proclamation. How did this happen? Given the central place of preaching in the New Testament church, it would seem that the priority of biblical preaching should be uncontested. After all, as John A. Broadus–one of Southern Seminary’s founding faculty–famously remarked, “Preaching is characteristic of Christianity. No other religion has made the regular and frequent assembling of groups of people, to hear religious instruction and exhortation, an integral part of Christian worship.” Yet, numerous influential voices within evangelicalism suggest that the age of the expository sermon is now past. In its place, some contemporary preachers now substitute messages intentionally designed to reach secular or superficial congregations–messages which avoid preaching a biblical text, and thus

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Of First Importance: The Priority of the Cross and the Empty Tomb

Al Mohler: The Christian faith is not a mere collection of doctrines — a bag of truths. Christianity is a comprehensive truth claim that encompasses every aspect of revealed doctrine, but is centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, as the apostolic preaching makes clear, the gospel is the priority. The Apostle Paul affirms this priority when he writes to the Christians in Corinth. In the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul sets out his case: Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the

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‘The Shack’ & the missing art of evangelical discernment

Al Mohler: The publishing world sees very few books reach blockbuster status, but William Paul Young’s “The Shack” has now exceeded even that. The book, originally self-published by Young and two friends, has now sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into over thirty languages. It is now one of the best-selling paperback books of all time, and its readers are enthusiastic. According to Young, the book was originally written for his own children. In essence, it can be described as a narrative theodicy — an attempt to answer the question of evil and the character of God by means of a story. In this story, the main character is grieving the brutal kidnapping and murder of his 7-year-old daughter when he receives what turns out to be a summons from God to meet him in the very shack where the man’s daughter had been murdered. In the shack, “Mack” meets the divine Trinity as “Papa,” an

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Must Christians Believe in the Virgin Birth?

  Al Mohler: With December 25 fast approaching, the secular media are sure to turn their interest once again to the virgin birth. Every Christmas, weekly news magazines and various editorialists engage in a collective gasp that so many Americans could believe such an unscientific, supernatural doctrine. For some, the belief that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin is nothing less than evidence of intellectual dimness. One writer for the New York Times put the lament plainly: “The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time.” Does belief in the virgin birth make Christians “less intellectual?” Are we saddled with an untenable doctrine? Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth, or is the doctrine an essential component of the Gospel revealed to us in Scripture? The doctrine of the virgin birth was among the first to be questioned and then rejected after the rise of historical criticism and the

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Questioning God

  We cannot remain faithful and question God’s own faithfulness. His love for those who are in Christ is beyond question. His character is a constant and his love never fails. He is not loving and gracious toward believers at one moment, only to turn into a malevolent deity the next. He never changes. In this light, it would be sin to question whether God really loves us, or if He is really faithful to his promises. This is not the questioning worthy of a believer, but of an unbeliever. — Albert Mohler “Is it Legitimate to Question God?” (HT: Of First Importance)

Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think it Is)

Albert Mohler: One of the most amazing statements by the Apostle Paul is his indictment of the Galatian Christians for abandoning the Gospel. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel,” Paul declared. As he stated so emphatically, the Galatians had failed in the crucial test of discerning the authentic Gospel from its counterfeits. His words could not be more clear: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, he is to be accursed!” [Gal. 1:6-7] This warning from the Apostle Paul, expressed in the language of the Apostle’s shock and grief, is addressed not only to the church in Galatia,

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Intellectual Discipleship? Faithful Thinking for Faithful Living

Albert Mohler: The biblical master narrative serves as a framework for the cognitive principles that allow the formation of an authentically Christian worldview. Many Christians rush to develop what they will call a “Christian worldview” by arranging isolated Christian truths, doctrines, and convictions in order to create formulas for Christian thinking. No doubt, this is a better approach than is found among so many believers who have very little concern for Christian thinking at all; but it is not enough. A robust and rich model of Christian thinking—the quality of thinking that culminates in a God-centered worldview—requires that we see all truth as interconnected. Ultimately, the systematic wholeness of truth can be traced to the fact that God is himself the author of all truth. Christianity is not a set of doctrines in the sense that a mechanic operates with a set of tools. Instead, Christianity is a comprehensive worldview and way of life that grows out of Christian reflection on the

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Must Christians Believe in the Virgin Birth?

Albert Mohler: With December 25 fast approaching, the secular media are sure to turn their interest once again to the virgin birth. Every Christmas, weekly news magazines and various editorialists engage in a collective gasp that so many Americans could believe such an unscientific, supernatural doctrine. For some, the belief that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin is nothing less than evidence of intellectual dimness. One writer for the New York Times put the lament plainly: “The faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time.” Does belief in the virgin birth make Christians “less intellectual?” Are we saddled with an untenable doctrine? Can a true Christian deny the virgin birth, or is the doctrine an essential component of the Gospel revealed to us in Scripture? The doctrine of the virgin birth was among the first to be questioned and then rejected after the rise of historical criticism and the undermining of biblical

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Preaching with Authority: Three Characteristics of Expository Preaching

Al Mohler: Authentic expository preaching is marked by three distinct characteristics: authority, reverence, and centrality. Expository preaching is authoritative because it stands upon the very authority of the Bible as the word of God. Such preaching requires and reinforces a sense of reverent expectation on the part of God’s people. Finally, expository preaching demands the central place in Christian worship and is respected as the event through which the living God speaks to his people. A keen analysis of our contemporary age comes from sociologist Richard Sennett of New York University. Sennett notes that in times past a major anxiety of most persons was loss of governing authority. Now, the tables have been turned, and modern persons are anxious about any authority over them: “We have come to fear the influence of authority as a threat to our liberties, in the family and in society at large.” If previous generations feared the absence of authority, today we see “a fear

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Confessional Integrity and the Stewardship of Words

Albert Mohler: In the beginning was the Word. Christians rightly cherish the declaration that our Savior, the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, is first known as the Word — the one whom the Father has sent to communicate and to accomplish our redemption. We are saved because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Believers are then assigned the task of telling others about the salvation that Christ has brought, and this requires the use of words. We tell the story of Jesus by deploying words, and we cannot tell the story without them. Our testimony, our teaching, and our theology all require the use of words. Words are essential to our worship, our preaching, our singing, and our spiritual conversation. In other words, words are essential to the Christian faith and central in the lives of believers. As Martin Luther rightly observed, the church house is to be a “mouth house” where words, not images or dramatic

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Of First Importance: The Cross and Resurrection at the Centre

Al Mohler: The Christian faith is not a mere collection of doctrines — a bag of truths. Christianity is a comprehensive truth claim that encompasses every aspect of revealed doctrine, but is centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, as the apostolic preaching makes clear, the gospel is the priority. The Apostle Paul affirms this priority when he writes to the Christians in Corinth. In the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul sets out his case: Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that

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Let’s Get Our Theological Priorities Straight

Luke Stamps: Get your priorities straight. This is true in the realm of Christian doctrine, just as it is anywhere else in life. Doctrinal prioritization has a strong pedigree. Jesus himself placed priority on the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). The apostle Paul placed priority on the gospel proclamation of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection—the message he considered to be “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). And so all theologians must prioritize. Certain doctrines have greater significance than others for the whole of Christian theology. The deity of Christ is more consequential for the Christian faith than the timing of the millennium. The latter is still important, but it is not “of first importance,” to borrow the apostle’s phrase. But how do we get our doctrinal priorities straight? How do we know when to place special priority on a particular doctrine and when to avoid overstating the significance of another? Several years ago Albert

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When the Lights Go Out: The Death of a Denomination

This is an interesting piece from Al Mohler: Adrian Hamilton is concerned that the Church of England “will not survive my children’s lifetime and quite possibly not even my own.” Writing in The Independent [London], Hamilton writes of a Church of England that remains established as the national church, but is no longer established in the hearts of the nation. You can read the whole article here. Here’s Mohler’s concluding remarks: As valid as the institutional question of establishment may be, the more important factor in this pattern of decline is theological. Churches and denominations decline when they lose or forfeit their passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for the Bible as the enduring, authoritative, and totally truthful Word of God. If life and death are no longer understood to hang in the balance, there is little reason for the British people to worry about anything related to Christianity. If a church is not passionate about seeing sinners come

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Why Doctrine Matters

By Al Mohler (July 27th 2004): The 20th century witnessed an increasingly energetic revolt against doctrine. A denial of specific formulations of classical Christian doctrine has been evident in some quarters, while others have rejected the very notion of doctrine itself. Doctrine has even fallen on hard times even among those who call themselves evangelicals. Some evangelical historians now argue that the defining principles of evangelical identity are not specifically theological–at least beyond the most general affirmations. If true, that judgment would be a disgrace to any people of God. As it is, however, evangelicals have a proud doctrinal heritage and have historically given careful attention to confessions of faith and doctrinal issues. Doctrine is, quite literally, the teaching of the church–what the church understands to be the substance of its faith. It is no substitute for personal experience. Evangelical Christians have given clear witness to the necessity of personal faith in Jesus Christ, but that personal faith is based

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Must one believe in the Virgin Birth to be a Christian?

Al Mohler: Must one believe in the Virgin Birth to be a Christian? This is not a hard question to answer. It is conceivable that someone might come to Christ and trust Christ as Savior without yet learning that the Bible teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. A new believer is not yet aware of the full structure of Christian truth. The real question is this: Can a Christian, once aware of the Bible’s teaching, reject the Virgin Birth? The answer must be no. Read the entire article HERE.

How Will They Hear Without a Preacher?

By Al Mohler. Preaching has fallen on hard times. So suggests a report out of Durham University’s College of Preachers. The British university’s CODEC research center, which aims to explore “the interfaces between the Bible, the digital environment and contemporary culture,” conducted the study to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the College of Preachers. The report is not very encouraging. As Ruth Gledhill of The Times [London] reports, “Sermons, history shows, can be among the most revolutionary forms of human speech. From John Calvin to Billy Graham, preaching has had the power to topple princes, to set nation against nation, to inspire campaigners to change the world and impel people to begin life anew.” Indeed, preaching is the central act of Christian worship, but its great aim reaches far above merely changing the world. The preaching of the Word of God is the chief means by which God conforms Christians to the image of Christ. Rightly understood, true Christian preaching is

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