The Crux of Christianity

Mark Thompson: At the heart of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ and the great salvation he has won for us. Christians are not satisfied with a vague and nebulous notion of God or a utopian vision for the human race. We also reject the reduction of our faith to a set of rules or a pattern of moral behaviour. The Christian faith is much more particular than that. It is centred on God’s rescue mission, a mission that makes very clear what God is like and what are his plans for us. This means that at the heart of everything we believe is a particular person and a particular set of events: the person of Jesus Christ and the work he came to do. We know what God is like and we know what God intends for us because Jesus has come and made this clear. Jesus himself went to great lengths to make his disciples aware of why

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10 Things You Should Know about the Cross

Patrick Schreiner: 1. The cross is a Trinitarian event. The Christian faith is distinctively Trinitarian and cross-shaped. Therefore, the cross must reveal the Trinity. God the Father sent the Son to save the world, the Son submitted to the Father’s will, and the Spirit applies the work of redemption to Jesus followers. Redemption is predestined by the Father (Eph 1:3–6), accomplished by the Son (Eph 1:7–10), and applied by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13–14). God did not withhold the Son, and the Son surrendered to the Father. Yet the Father is not sacrificing the Son. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit all possess a single will. The sacrifice, while uniquely the Son’s work, is also the will of the three persons. 2. The cross is the center of the story of the Scripture. A Bible without a cross is a Bible without a climax, a Bible without an ending, a Bible without a solution. The spiral of sin that began

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What is “the gospel of the kingdom”?

9Marks: It’s very popular these days to talk about “the gospel of the kingdom.” Many people claim that when Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) he was preaching a message about the overthrow of evil government powers, the transformation of society, and the lifting up of the poor. All kinds of revolutionaries can get behind these ideas. But is that what the Bible means when it speaks about the gospel of the kingdom? Not exactly. When Philip the evangelist preached “the good news about the kingdom of God,” men and women believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12). This “gospel of the kingdom” called them to turn from their sin, trust in Jesus Christ and begin a new life, symbolized by baptism. On the other hand, when Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God coming near (Mk. 1:15), he is referring to something truly revolutionary. He means that with his own coming to earth, God’s saving rule and

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The Binding of Satan

Douglas F. Kelly: Revelation 20 is the only place in the Bible that speaks of “the millennium”—the thousand-year reign of the triumphant Christ on earth. Nowhere else does Holy Scripture mention this word, so it is necessary to look at related teachings elsewhere in Scripture to understand what it means in Revelation. A sound principle of biblical interpretation (used from ancient times by Augustine, Tychonius, and other early Christian writers) is that one interprets the few mentions of a word or concept in light of the many, and the symbolic in light of the plain. It would be contrary to a clear understanding of the Scriptures to make the many fit into the one, or the plain into the symbolic. Therefore, we should understand what Revelation 20, a highly symbolic book, says about the millennium in light of the very large number of other biblical passages that tell us more plainly (and less symbolically) what occurs between Christ’s resurrection and

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The Aesthetic Beauty of the Gospel

Mark Mattes: To be human is to be captivated by someone or something, and this is no less true for Christians. We sing “Fairest Lord Jesus” because Jesus has captivated our hearts. We experience the gospel as beautiful—that God would reach out to rebels to forgive them, embrace them, and return them to his care. But seldom do we explore how this gospel is beautiful. Luther wouldn’t seem to be a go-to thinker for a theology of beauty. He’s known for his ferocious and desperate wrestling with God and conscience. Beauty, by contrast, conveys a sense of tranquility, delight, and pleasure. These words hardly seem compatible with the storms Luther faced. But there’s another side to Luther. He had a deep appreciation for music and the visual arts. He played the lute, sang tenor, composed hymns, and was good friends with the Wittenberg painter Lucas Cranach. (He also inspired Bach.) This appreciation was undergirded by his conviction that the gospel is intrinsically beautiful. Beautiful Cross Luther’s theology

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Binding the Strong Man

Jesus ‘Bound the Strong Man’ and What That Means for You by Brandon D. Crowe: All Christians acknowledge that the Gospels are vital for discipleship today. But interpreting and applying the Gospels can be difficult since they’re about things that happened a long time ago—“back then.” What difference do these ancient events make for our daily lives? The Gospels are relevant because they showcase the victory that Jesus Christ, through his lifelong obedience, won on our behalf. The victory he won back then has cosmic and personal consequences that affect us right now. To demonstrate such relevance, let’s turn to a difficult parable of Jesus: the binding of the strong man, as found in Mark 3:22–30. Although this passage can be a head-scratcher, it’s best understood as a parable explaining Jesus’s mission. In Mark 3 Jesus’s mission is under attack. After announcing the coming of God’s kingdom (Mark 1:14–15), he begins to heal the sick, cast out demons, teach with authority, call disciples, and even forgive

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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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What Do Expiation and Propitiation Mean?

R.C. Sproul: When we talk about the vicarious aspect of the atonement, two rather technical words come up again and again: expiation and propitiation. These words spark all kinds of arguments about which one should be used to translate a particular Greek word, and some versions of the Bible will use one of these words and some will use the other one. I’m often asked to explain the difference between propitiation and expiation. The difficulty is that even though these words are in the Bible, we don’t use them as part of our day-to-day vocabulary, so we aren’t sure exactly what they are communicating in Scripture. We lack reference points in relation to these words. Expiation and Propitiation Let’s think about what these words mean, then, beginning with the word expiation. The prefix ex means “out of” or “from,” so expiation has to do with removing something or taking something away. In biblical terms, it has to do with taking away guilt

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The Crucifixion and Old Testament Prophecy

R.C. Sproul: If we look at the intricacy of the drama of the events of Jesus’ crucifixion, we see that some amazing things took place so that Old Testament prophetic utterances were fulfilled to the minutest detail. In the first instance, the Old Testament said that the Messiah would be delivered to the Gentiles (“dogs” or “congregation of the wicked”) for judgment (Ps. 22:16). It just so happened in the course of history that Jesus was put on trial during a time of Roman occupation of Palestine. The Romans allowed a certain amount of home rule by their conquered vassals, but they did not permit the death penalty to be imposed by the local rulers, so the Jews did not have the authority to put Christ to death. The only thing they could do was to meet in council and take Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, asking him to carry out the execution. So Jesus was delivered from

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What’s so ‘good’ about Good Friday?

Bruce Ashford: On a dark Friday two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. Powerful members of the religious, political, and military communities colluded to strip him naked, mock him publicly, and crucify him. Yet two millennia later, Christians—who believe that Jesus is the Son of God—celebrate that dark day by calling it Good Friday. Why on earth would Christians refer to this day as “good” Friday? It’s called Good Friday because even while powerful men were conspiring to kill the Son of God, God himself was acting to save the world from itself, once and for all. Even while the world’s authorities were conspiring to perpetrate history’s greatest evil, God was working to bring about history’s greatest good. It didn’t have to be this way. After all, God created the world as his good kingdom in which humans could flourish, and in which they would never have to experience evil. Yet, the very first couple, Adam and Eve,

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N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began: A Few Reflections

By Dane Ortlund: This week I read Wright’s new book on the crucifixion, The Day the Revolution Began. I’m not a Wright-hater. I owe him a lot. Some of his writings have been instrumental for my own development in understanding the Bible. At least one article of mine spawned from ideas he gave me while listening to him lecture. There are several points of his–such as the notion of a continuing exile in the first-century Jewish mindset, or Jesus as true Israel, or the Israel typology underlying Romans 5-8, or his understanding of our final future (what he calls the after-after-life), or his approach to the relationship between history and theology–where I agree with him against his conservative North American critics. And on top of that I like him as a person. But this book is just awful. I pretty much agree with Mike Horton’s review though I thought he was too easy on the book. I’d like to add

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3 motivations to hate sin

Erik Raymond: In counseling, parenting, and my own personal pursuit of godliness I have found that hating sin is an easily overlooked but never overstated priority. Sin brings consequences. Often these consequences are painful. It is a real temptation for us to hate the consequences and never get around to hating the sin. Don’t get me wrong, we should hate how sin hurts ourselves and others. But we can’t leave it there. Until sin is actually hated for its odious and repulsive character we will not make true progress in godliness. We may make progress in morality but not holiness; for this requires a godly hatred of sin. So here are three reasons why you should hate sin. In thinking upon these, may they provoke a holy hatred of all that opposes the reign of God in our lives. 1. BECAUSE IT OPPOSES GOD’S WORD The Word of God is good. It reflects God’s character, teaching us what holiness is

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Done before Do

By Bryan Chapell, author of Unlimited Grace: The Heart Chemistry That Frees from Sin and Fuels the Christian Life. Getting the Order Right When you see the message of grace unfolding in the Bible a pattern emerges. God is gracious to us, and then expects us to respond. It is never the other way around—we respond in obedience and then somehow God decides to be gracious to us. There is always this order of the “who” and the “do”. We are loved; we are the children of God. Therefore we respond in what we do. God never says, “You obey me and then I’ll love you.” He is always saying, “Because I have loved you, because I have claimed you, you are mine. Now walk in my ways.” This is the pattern of the ten commandments themselves. There are certainly many things we’re told to do in the ten commandments. But before God tells us to do anything he says,

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10 Things You Should Know about Definite Atonement

By Jonathan Gibson, coeditor of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. 1. Definite atonement is a way of speaking about the intent and nature of Christ’s death. The doctrine of definite atonement states that, in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of his sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. In a nutshell: the death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone; and not only was it intended to do that but it effectively achieved it as well. Jesus will be true to his name: he will save his people from their sins. In this regard, the adjective ‘definite’ does double duty: Christ’s death was definite in its intent—he died to save a particular people; and it was definite

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The Cross Stands at the Centre of Ministry

Darryl Dash: 1 Peter 5 is a goldmine for pastors. I’m intrigued by how Peter introduces himself: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ…” (1 Peter 5:1) Not only is Peter a fellow elder, but he’s also a witness of the sufferings of Christ. Why does Peter write about the sufferings of Christ as he begins to address elders? Two reasons. The Cross Is All We Have In the ministry of pastors, the cross is all we have. Without the cross, we have no message, no power, no confidence, and no hope. Peter heads to the cross because it’s impossible for him to imagine ministry without it. Peter heard Jesus predict his sufferings. He heard Jesus’ family call him crazy. He saw Jesus become popular, and he saw the crowds turn against him. He sat at Jesus’ last Passover meal, and he watched Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and trial.

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Jesus Died To Make Obedience Possible, Not Optional

Matt Moore: Justification—being declared righteous before God—is possible only by grace through faith. You can heap all your good deeds upon one another and climb them to heaven, but if you aren’t clothed in Christ’s righteousness, God will toss your self-righteous self right out of his presence. Our sinfulness runs too deep for any of our deeds to be purely righteous (Isaiah 64:6), and the guilt we bear for our trespasses is beyond our ability to absolve. The blood of Jesus is the only hope any of us has. Seeing all that Christ is for us and trusting in him to save us is the only means by which we can be declared blameless. Christians glory in being justified as a gift by the grace of God alone—not their own works or morality (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, in every generation there have been ignorant and unstable people that take the message of God’s grace through Christ and, as Peter wrote, “twist it

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10 Reasons Jesus Came to Die

  John Piper: 1. To destroy hostility between races. The suspicion, prejudice, and demeaning attitudes between Jews and non-Jews in Bible times were as serious as the racial, ethnic, and national hostilities today. Yet Jesus “has broken down . . . the dividing wall of hostility . . . making peace . . . through the cross” (Ephesians 2:14–16). God sent his Son into the world as the only means of saving sinners and reconciling races. 2. To give marriage its deepest meaning. God’s design was never for marriages to be miserable, yet many are. That’s what sin does . . . it makes us treat each other badly. Jesus died to change that. He knew that his suffering would make the deepest meaning of marriage plain. That’s why the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). God’s design for marriage is for a husband to love his

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My Sin, Not in Part, But the Whole

. “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought.” Caleb Brasher: This is a strange phrase. Has it ever caught your attention before? In the third stanza of “It is Well,” the hymn writer leads with this curious arrangement of words. It always struck me as odd. How can I consider my sin blissful? Eventually, I learned to look at things in their proper context. I had never connected those lines with the lines that followed: “My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!” We find this bliss by doing two things: by being honest with ourselves and seeing the depth of our depravity in our sin, and by looking to the cross and seeing the depth of God’s mercy in Christ. Seeing Our Sin Clearly As long as we aren’t that bad of sinners, we won’t need that

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For Whom Did Christ Die?

Jarvis Williams: When you hear the question, “For whom did Jesus die?” what do you think? The answer may seem obvious: for the world. After all, John 1:29 says that Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. And John 3:16 declares that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” As a result, many interpreters assert that Jesus died for the entire world, and not for a predestined number of people. But what does the term “world” mean when used in association with Jesus’s death? Does it refer to everyone without distinction or to everyone without exception? There is a difference. Everyone without distinction would mean that Jesus died for all kinds of people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation. Everyone without exception would mean that he died for every single individual person without any exception. This

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You’re ‘More than a Conquerer’—But What Does that Mean?

Justin Holcomb: Because of Jesus’s resurrection, all threats against you are tamed. Jesus conquered death, so death and evil aren’t the end of the story. You can have hope. In Revelation, one of the key themes is conquering through suffering. The number of occurrences of the verb “to conquer” illustrates this (it appears 17 times). John describes amazing promises, addressing them specifically to those who “conquer”: “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (2:7) “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (2:11) “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (2:17) “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (2:26) “The one

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