The Imperative-Indicative Balance

Brian Chapell: Right application of Scripture necessitates Herman Ridderbos’s famous insight into Paul’s theology. Every imperative of Scripture (what we are to do for God) rests on the indicative (who we are in our relationship with God), and the order is not reversible (Acts 16:14–16; Col. 3:1–5; 1 John 5:1–5).[i] The human instinct with every non-Christian religion reverses the order, teaching that who we are before God is based on what we do for God. Thus, any preaching that is distinctively Christian must keep listeners from confusing, or inverting, our “who” and our “do.” What Christians do is based on who we are in Christ. We obey because God has loved us and united us to himself by his Son; we are not united to God, nor do we make him love us, because we have obeyed him. Our obedience is a response to his love, not a purchase of it. We keep this indicative-imperative relationship clear, not by when we happen to mention each element in a sermon, but by making sure

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Greatest Good of the Gospel

John Piper: What was the most loving thing Jesus could do for us? What was the endpoint, the highest good, of the gospel? Redemption? Forgiveness? Justification? Reconciliation? Sanctification? Adoption? Are not all of these great wonders simply means to something greater? Something final? Something that Jesus asked his Father to give us? “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me” (John 17:24). The Christian gospel is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” because its final aim is that we would see and savor and show the glory of Christ. For this is none other than the glory of God. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). When the light of the gospel shines in our hearts, it is “the light of

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Why Do Christians Need to Hear the Gospel Every Day?

Cameron Smart: Some people believe that the gospel is only useful for evangelism—a message only unbelievers need to hear. Yet the Bible teaches that followers of Jesus need to continue hearing the gospel even after they are born again. Christians should meditate on the gospel every day in their personal Bible reading, and pastors should preach the gospel in every sermon. We regularly need to hear about the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, as well as the call to repent of our sins and turn to Jesus in faith. Here are eight reasons we need to hear gospel truths each and every day: To evoke praise and thanks to God. God our Father is the one who should be in the news headlines each day. Rather than taking his incredible saving works on our behalf for granted, we should daily meditate on what he has done in Christ and offer up to him the worship and thanksgiving of

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10 Things You Should Know about the Gospel

By Sam Storms: As much as we hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ one would think that everyone is on the same page when it comes to defining this word. Sadly, that is not the case. So just what is the gospel? How might we define it? Here are ten things to keep in mind. (1) The “gospel” is the gloriously great good news of what our triune God has graciously done in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to satisfy his own wrath against us and to secure the forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness for all who trust in him by faith alone. Christ fulfilled, on our behalf, the perfectly obedient life under God’s law that we should have lived, but never could. He died, in our place, the death that we deserved to suffer but now never will. And by his rising from the dead he secures for those who believe the promise

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Preach the Gospel . . . and the Law

By Eric Beach: Over the last decade, the term “gospel centered” has grown in popularity among parishioners, pastors, and publishers. While I commend many of the gospel-centered resources available today, some purveyors of a “gospel-centered” message unintentionally end up neglecting the entirety of the Bible’s teaching on both the law and the gospel. From the earliest days of the Protestant Reformation, the magisterial reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin recognized that Scripture contains both the law of God (his commands) and the gospel of God (his promises of salvation). They, and many of their heirs, saw this paradigm as important for understanding and applying Scripture rightly. As a result, the Lutheran and Reformed traditions understood the vital importance of teaching the law and the gospel to both non-Christians and Christians. Today, teachers who emphasize the gospel and functionally deemphasize the law can generate a number of unintended pastoral problems. TEACH CHRISTIANS HOW TO OBEY First, “gospel centered” preaching that functionally excludes “law

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How Important is the Gospel?

Sam Storms: Many have reached a saturation point when it comes to the notion of gospel centrality. “Enough already,” they cry, with more than a little exasperation. I understand this reaction. We who identify as evangelicals are good at taking what is otherwise a fully biblical term or concept and beating it into the ground or pounding it into the heads of our people. So, yes, it’s possible for us to grow justifiably weary of certain terminology. After years of watching “gospel-centered” be used as an adjective to describe everything from children’s ministry to a Wednesday night pot-luck dinner to global missions, I pray that we not lose sight of how indescribably important the gospel actually is. So I thought it might be helpful if we simply let Scripture address the matter. This post, therefore, is designed for those of you who, in your understandable frustration with what has often become a mindless and repetitive use of the language of gospel-centrality,

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Perhaps the most important reason we struggle with personal evangelism

Sam Storms: The 13th reason why we stink at evangelism is simply that people don’t actually know what the gospel is, or if they do know it, they struggle to articulate it in face-to-face conversations with unbelievers. Feeling ill-equipped to explain the gospel, they look for ways to avoid interaction with non-Christians. So what is the gospel? I was greatly helped by Tim Keller in answering this question, as he identified one of the major mistakes people make in thinking of the gospel. He explained how most Christians live in an “if / then” relationship with God. If I do what is right, then God will love me. If I give extra money to missions, then God will provide me with a raise at work. If I avoid sinful habits, then I will be spared suffering and humiliation, etc. It’s a conditional relationship that is based on the principle of merit. The gospel calls us to live in a “because /

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When you proclaim the gospel, use words

THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN CHANGED AND SHAPED BY THE GOSPEL CANNOT HELP BUT SPEAK AND SHARE THE GOSPEL Paul Akin: The emphasis on good conduct and “witness without a word,” in 1 Peter might lead some to assume that verbal witness was not a priority for Peter and the witness of early Christians in Asia Minor. On the contrary, Peter, the apostle who preached the gospel to thousands on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), demonstrates in his first letter that verbal proclamation of the gospel is central to Christian witness and mission in the world. Tom Schreiner writes, “The declaration of God’s praises includes both worship and evangelism, spreading the good news of God’s saving wonders to all peoples.” It is imperative for Christians around the world to rightly understand not only the missional nature of their identity and lifestyle, but also the critical gospel message that they must explain while living in the midst of a non-Christian world.

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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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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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Does Hebrews 6 Teach that We Should Move On from the Gospel?

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,and of instruction about washings,[a] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. — Hebrews 6:1-2 Jared Wilson: Doesn’t the author of Hebrews tell us to move on from elementary gospel truths (6:1-2)? This may seem like an odd question, but it is one I get occasionally whenever I stump hard for constantly returning to the centrality of Christ’s finished work for both the lost and the found. I remember several years ago a fairly prominent evangelical scholar citing this passage in his criticism of me on this very point. Just yesterday I was reminded again by a critic online of the alleged “graduation” from the gospel encouraged by Hebrews 6. And yet, the apostle Paul tells us in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15 that the gospel is of first importance.

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Can you be a Christian and Deny the Trinity?

John MacArthur: A Mormon asked me this question a number of years ago, and through the years, I’ve asked a number of people this question, and I wanted to get your opinion. Can you become a Christian if you deny the Trinity? Answer: I would answer, “No.” If you don’t believe in the Trinity, then you don’t understand who God is. You may say the word “God” but you don’t understand His nature. Second, you couldn’t possibly understand who Christ is — that He is God in human flesh. The Incarnation of Christ is an essential component of the biblical gospel, as John 1:1-14 and many other biblical passages make clear. To deny the Trinity is to deny the Incarnation. And to deny the Incarnation is to wrongly understand the true gospel. In saying that, I realize that such an answer is going to not only impact people that you may have witnessed to (like Mormons), but it also applies to some

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Evangelism Must Explain What’s Wrong with the World

Becky Pippert: People around us today often scoff at the notion of sin. Our world has new names for what ails us: poor self-esteem, neurosis, addiction, anxiety, psychological wounding, and so forth. It isn’t that these issues aren’t a reality; it’s that such analysis doesn’t go deep enough to reveal the root cause. Yet for all the protest that sin is an old-fashioned, outdated concept, nearly everyone agrees that something has gone terribly wrong and must be made right. We see the wrong in world wars, racism, genocides, terrorism, human trafficking, exploitation of children—and in our own personal battles evidenced in broken relationships, anger, addictions, and on and on. What happened that caused our planet to go from paradise to our present brokenness? And how can this explanation be good news for our unbelieving neighbors? First Rebellion In Genesis 3, we discover that, though Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, they rejected God’s rule and chose to be

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10 things you should know about the most famous verse in the Bible

Sam Storms: The most famous verse in the Bible, at least among Christians, is John 3:16. But do we really understand what it means? Here are ten things to keep in mind as you reflect on it. (1) Are the words of John 3:16 the words of Jesus or John the Apostle? Probably the latter. John 3:10-15 are clearly the words of Jesus in his conversation with Nicodemus, but it appears that John himself is reflecting on the significance of Jesus’ death in the verses that follow. (2) What is the focus of the word translated “so”? Is John here merely describing the manner in which God loved the world? Is he telling us that it was in this particular way that God’s love was made manifest? Or could he also be emphasizing the intensity of the divine love, as if to say, God loved the world “this much”? The answer is probably a bit of both. God’s love was so great and so magnanimous

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The Perils of Preaching an Implications-Free Gospel

Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. — Galatians 2:10 Jared Wilson: One of the strangest developments of late in the ongoing scrums over the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of “social justice” is the shifts in understanding by various evangelical tribes and movements of the distinctions and connections between law and gospel. “Just preach the gospel” has become a frequent rebuke heard from camps who are concerned about the muddling of gospel and works. To be clear and fair, not everyone concerned about emphases on social justice agrees with the alleged antidote of “just preaching the gospel,” but this imperative has been leveled enough — and from some places of influence — that it has gained a fair amount of traction. Also to be fair, the muddling of gospel and works is always a threat to real Christianity, and nobody is immune. We must take care not to confuse any works, be they works we call “social justice”

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How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?

D.A. Carson: (1) By doing evangelism. I know numerous groups that claim to be engaging in “holistic” ministry because they are helping the poor in Chicago or because they are digging wells in the Sahel, even though few if any of the workers have taken the time to explain to anyone who Jesus is and what he has done to reconcile us to God. Their ministry isn’t holistic; it’s halfistic, or quarteristic. (2) By being careful not to malign believers of an earlier generation. The popular buzz is that evangelicals before this generation focused all their energies on proclamation and little or nothing on deeds of mercy. Doubtless one can find sad examples of such reductionism, but the sweeping condescension toward our evangelical forbears is neither true nor kind. To take but one example: The mission SIM has emphasized evangelism, church planting, and building indigenous churches for a century—yet without talking volubly of holistic ministry it built, and still operates,

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Beware Theological Dangers on Both Left and Right

Tom Schreiner: Paul charges Timothy to “guard the good deposit” (2 Tim. 1:14), which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re to remain vigilant in guarding the gospel because both the Scriptures and also church history remind us that many have swerved from the truth. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that upholding the truth and the purity of the gospel has been a challenge from the beginning. We aren’t facing anything new in our day, and we have the promise that the church of Jesus Christ will triumph over “the gates of Hades” (Matt. 16:18). In this article I want to briefly consider threats to the gospel—from the left and from the right. Dangers from the Left Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders is the only speech in Acts addressed to Christians (Acts 20:17–35), and it’s significant that it’s addressed to leaders, to the elders and overseers in the church (Acts 20:17, 28). Paul warns them in

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Evangelism Starts With God

David Qaoud: One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in evangelism is telling people the good news without telling them the bad news. No wonder I’m met with blank stares or “That’s nice for you, but not for me.” When we don’t tell unbelievers about sin and wrath, they often think grace is irrelevant. They don’t see their need for a Savior. I know I’m not alone. Myself, I suspect I don’t like sharing the bad news because of fear of man. I don’t want to offend people or bring up words like hell and wrath and sin because then the conversation may get weird. I don’t like awkward moments. I want to seem cool. I want to win people to Christ simply by telling people only about Christ and avoiding all the difficult parts. DEFINING EVANGELISM But true evangelism requires more. As it’s been said, evangelism is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with an unbeliever with the aim

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Two Reasons the Trinity Matters

Justin Dillehay: How much does the Trinity matter to you? If you found out tomorrow that God is actually only one person instead of three, would your relationship with God feel any different? Would it require a drastic overhaul in the way you think or witness or pray? How much does the Trinity matter to you personally? How much does the Trinity matter to your church? If you found out tomorrow that your beloved youth pastor had become a staunch modalist—he now insists the Father, Son, and Spirit are actually one person in three manifestations instead of three distinct persons—would your church excommunicate him? Or would that seem like splitting hairs? Is the Athanasian Creed really right to say, “Whoever wishes to be saved must think thus of the Trinity. And whoever rejects this faith will perish everlastingly”? Or is that the overstatement of the millennium? Judging by the church’s historic creeds, Christians used to think the Trinity is really important. Judging

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The Message of the Bible

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: We are all aware of problems in this world. Everyone knows what it is to be weary, to be disappointed, and to struggle. And we have a feeling that we were not meant for this. We are all searching for some solution to the problems of life. The question is, why are you unhappy? Why do things go wrong? Why is there illness and sickness? Why should there be death? Those are the questions with which the Bible deals. The Bible talks to you about your unhappiness. Some insist that the Bible, far from being practical, is really very remote from life. But nothing in the world is as practical as the teaching of the Bible. In order to answer questions about you, the Bible starts in the most extraordinary way: “In the beginning God…” It starts with God. Before I begin to ask any questions about myself and my problems, I ought to ask questions like

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