Defending the gospel in the right spirit

Ray Ortlund: When you must step forward and defend the gospel against poisonous teachers, defend it with all the grace that inheres within the gospel itself.  We must do the Lord’s work the Lord’s way. It is not enough for us to identify a misleading voice, and then just do or say whatever feels right. As Jonathan Edwards warned us, “There is nothing that belongs to Christian experience more liable to a corrupt mixture than zeal.” Peter illustrates the folly of misplaced zeal. When the enemies of Jesus attacked, the apostle rose up in defense. His heart was doubtless in the right place. But what did he actually do? He drew his sword, proving not how brave he was but only how foolish (John 18:10–11). Francis Schaeffer used to say that, after debating with a liberal theologian, he hoped the liberal would walk away with two equally clear impressions: one, Francis Schaeffer really disagreed with him; two, Francis Schaeffer really cared about

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A Gospeled Church

Jared Wilson: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus. — Romans 15:5 The gospel cannot puff us up. It cannot make us prideful. It cannot make us selfish. It cannot make us arrogant. It cannot make us rude. It cannot make us gossipy. It cannot make us accusers. So the more we press into the gospel, the more the gospel takes over our hearts and the spaces we bring our hearts to, and it stands to reason, the less we would see those things antithetical to it. You cannot grow in holiness and holier-than-thou-ness at the same time. So a church that makes its main thing the gospel, and when faced with sin in its ranks doesn’t simply crack the whip of the law but says “remember the gospel,” should gradually be seeing grace coming to bear. It works out this way individually. The most

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Do All Paths Lead to God?

Sam Storms: If there is anything clear in God’s Word it is that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. This is not a popular assertion, as it strikes many as arrogant and exclusivistic. But there it is in John 14:6 – “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the “way” to God precisely because he alone embodies and tells the “truth” about who God is and what is needed to be reconciled to him. He alone embodies the true and consummate revelation of the Father. When Jesus says that reconciliation to the Father comes only “through me” we must define what he means in light of the broader context of John’s gospel. And everywhere in John we are told over and over again that you must believe in Jesus. You must trust him alone. You must look to his work on the cross

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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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The Gospel Kind of Christ-Centeredness

Jared Wilson: 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 . . . — 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 To be gospel-centered is to be Christ-centered. But as it pertains to the pursuit of holiness and obedience to God’s commands we may opt more often for the terminology “gospel-centered,” because without more qualifications, “Christ-centered obedience” can be misconstrued to imply simply taking Jesus as a moral example. Jesus is our moral example, of course, but the power for enduring, joyful obedience comes not from trying to be like him, but in first believing that he has become like us, that he has died in our place, risen as our resurrection firstfruits, ascended to intercede for us, and seated to

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What Is the Gospel?

  Greg Gilbert: A Message from God What exactly do Christians mean when they talk about the “gospel of Jesus Christ”? Since the word “gospel” means “good news,” when Christians talk about the gospel, they’re simply telling the good news about Jesus! It’s a message from God saying, “Good news! Here is how you can be saved from my judgment!” That’s an announcement you can’t afford to ignore. Why Is the Gospel Good News? So, what is the good news about Jesus Christ? Since the earliest Christians announced the good news about Jesus, it has been organized around these questions: Who made us, and to whom are we accountable? What is our problem? What is God’s solution to our problem? How can I be included in his solution? Christians through the centuries since Christ have answered those questions with the same truth from the Bible. We are accountable to God. Our problem is our sin against him. God’s solution is

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You Know You’re Really Preaching the Gospel When…

Dave Harvey: When two pastors meet for the first time, the same question always comes up: How big is your church? And I get it. How else is a pastor supposed to determine if he’s a success or failure? Pastoral ministry isn’t like sports, in which even the most obscure statistics (average yards per carry on third downs after 3:00 PM) are quantified and assigned value. Ministry isn’t like business either, with a bottom line that is either distinctly red or distinctly black. Ministry isn’t like manufacturing, which is often boiled down to the how many you sold and how much you made on each sale. No, ministry is much more nebulous. Earthly equations for determining a pastor’s success or failure are much more difficult to come by. Because of it’s nebulous nature, some pastors desperately try to find some measurement or number that will help them determine if they are successful. They want to be assured they are doing

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Your Testimony Isn’t About You

Jordan Monson: We live in an age of narcissism. It is the era of self-actualization, the relentless race to perfect the self. Time magazine reported in 2013 that “Narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their twenties as for the generation that’s now 65 or older. . . . 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.” As the West has become more narcissistic, so have the people in our churches. We see it on social media. We hear it over coffee. We see it when young people break away from living and breathing social groups to snap a selfie. We also see it in our evangelism. A decade or two ago our evangelism still pointed outward. We spoke of the existence of God, objective truth, and the historical reliability of the resurrection. Now, swaths of churches have moved on to leading with personal testimonies. This contextualization isn’t

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The Gospel Past and The Gospel Future Make Your Gospel Present

Jared Wilson: The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi: “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!” (Malachi 1:1-5) There is past tense and then future tense. There is “I have loved you” and there is “Your own eyes shall see . . .” God through Malachi is addressing a half-hearted, spiritually

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What Does “Simul Justus et Peccator” Mean?

In this excerpt from his teaching series, “Luther and the Reformation,” Dr. R.C. Sproul shares the very heart of the gospel as he explains Martin Luther’s latin phrase, “Simul Justus et Peccator.” R.C. Sproul: Perhaps the formula that Luther used that is most famous and most telling at this point is his formula simul justus et peccator. And if any formula summarizes and captures the essence of the Reformation view, it is this little formula. Simul is the word from which we get the English word simultaneously. Or, it means ‘at the same time.’ Justus is the Latin word for just or righteous. And you all know what et is. Et the past tense of the verb ‘to eat.’ Have you et your dinner? No, you know that’s not what that means. You remember in the death scene of Caesar after he’s been stabbed by Brutus he says, “Et tu, Brute?” Then fall Caesar. And you too Brutus? It simply means and. Peccator

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D. A. Carson on the Power of the Gospel

D.A. Carson: We tend to overlook how often the gospel of Christ crucified is described as “power.” Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, he declares, “because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Writing to the Corinthians, Paul insists that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). He takes painstaking care not to corrupt the gospel with cheap tricks like manipulative rhetoric, what he dismissively sets aside as “words of human wisdom”—“lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1:17). The “incomparably great power” that is working in those who believe is tied to the exercise of God’s mighty strength when He raised Jesus from the dead (Eph 1:19–20). There is superb irony in all this, of course. When Jesus was executed in the first century, the cross

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What Does the Word “Gospel” Mean in the New Testament?

R.C. Sproul: The gospel is the possession of Jesus, but, even more, Jesus is the heart of the content of the gospel. We use it so glibly in the church today. Preachers say they preach the gospel, but if we listen to them preach Sunday after Sunday, we hear very little gospel in what they are preaching. The term gospel has become a nickname for preaching anything rather than something with definitive content. The word for “gospel” is the word euangelion. It has that prefix eu-, which comes into English in a variety of words. We talk about euphonics or euphonious music, which refers to something that sounds good. We talk about a eulogy, which is a good word pronounced about someone at his funeral service. The prefix eu- refers to something good or pleasant. The word angelos or angelion is the word for “message.” Angels are messengers, and an angelos is one who delivers a message. This word euangelion, which means

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Call yourself a Christian? Start talking about Jesus Christ

Ed Stetzer: “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words,” Saint Francis of Assisi is supposed to have said. The aphorism, often quoted, expresses a well-meaning viewpoint of many Christians today. They are concerned that we’ve been too loud, demanding and angry. Now, they say, we need to show the gospel by our lives. It’s a good sentiment, and I certainly agree that we need to demonstrate the gospel change in our lives by caring for others. But there are two problems with the Assisi quote. First, he never said it. Second, it’s really bad theology. You see, using that statement is a bit like saying, “Feed the hungry at all times; if necessary, use food.” For Christians, the gospel is good news — it’s what the word literally means. For evangelicals, our name speaks of the commitment to evangelism that defines us. The good news needs to be told. Yet, Christians, evangelicals included, seem to love evangelism, as

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Your Sin Is Not What You Think

This is an adapted excerpt from John Piper’s book Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power (The Good Book Company, 2016), posted at The Gospel Coalition. The human heart hates a vacuum. We never merely leave God because we value him little; we always exchange God for what we value more. We see this in Romans 1:22–23: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images.” They became fools. This is the ultimate foolishness. This is the most foundational meaning of sin: exchanging the glory of the immortal God for substitutes—anything we value more than God. We look at the Creator and then exchange him for something he created. My Definition of Sin Underneath all the misuses of money, sex, and power is this sinful heart-condition—this depravity. My definition of sin is this: any feeling or thought or action that comes from a heart that does not treasure God over all

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We must distinguish!

Chris Watson Lee wants to help us talk about our disagreements over ‘secondary issues.’ The nature of the disagreement should affect the way in which we deal with it. Christians have disagreed with one another since the earliest days of the church (Philippians 1:27); this side of eternity, there are always going to be disagreements and differences. But how should we engage with theological differences? In the words of a Reformed scholastic like Francis Turretin, “we must distinguish” between different kinds of disagreement. The nature of the disagreement will (or at least should) affect the way in which we deal with it. This is not a new insight: you might be familiar with the old maxim, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” It reminds us that before rushing in to debate our disagreements, we must check ourselves – aiming for a humble attitude, dependence on the Lord, and love for others (Ephesians 4:1-16) Distinguishing Disagreements We

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Antinomianism Is Not the Antidote for Legalism

  Tony Reinke: We can rejoice that Sinclair Ferguson succumbed to years of pressure to turn his three (now somewhat famous) Marrow Controversy lectures into a book, and the book is done and launches soon from Crossway under the title, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance — Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. [Download the original audio files here: part 1, part 2, part 3.] Yes, this old Scottish theological debate matters, and Ferguson’s three lectures proved life changing for me. I doubt I will ever forget the place I was walking when I first heard Ferguson explain why antinomianism is not the antidote for legalism, and why legalism is not the antidote for antinomianism. One deadly poison cannot cure another deadly poison, but each poison calls for the counterpoison of grace. Here’s how he says it in the new book (pages 151–170): Perhaps the greatest misstep in thinking about antinomianism is to think of it simply as

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Why It’s Dangerous to Misrepresent the Gospel

  This post is adapted from Church in Hard Places: How the Local Church Brings Life to the Poor and Needy by Mez McConnell and Mike McKinley. Crossway: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough Between my time church planting in Brazil and my work now in Edinburgh in one of Scotland’s most deprived housing schemes—a mixture of social housing and low-income homeowners—I have been on the receiving end of a lot of short-term missions teams. And while I appreciate the help, I have noticed over the years that a lot of well-meaning, Jesus-loving groups from the United Kingdom and United States will show up with their paintbrushes and hammers, but with no understanding of the gospel message they think they’ve come to proclaim. Many young people speak as if the good news is all about them and their sense of self-worth. They may grasp elements such as the love of Jesus or the fact that he died on the cross, but

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Gospel Power for a Secular Age

  By Christopher Morgan and Greg Cochran: The gospel has been, is, and will always be powerful in every culture—including our secular age. Through the gospel, God still turns antagonists into his chil­dren. And through the gospel, he still forms communities who display and communicate the realities of his grace. Indeed, this gospel-powered transformation will lead in time to a life of attractive holiness and compelling love. Gospel Power The gospel was at work in Paul’s diverse first-century context, and the gospel is at work in our multiple 21st-century con­texts. But Paul makes clear that the gospel is more than historical data about Jesus. Even if all accept every fact—that Jesus lived, died, was raised, and appeared to a wide range of valid eyewitnesses—that alone would not mean all believe the gospel in the full scriptural sense of that term. Thus, Paul’s listing of the historical facts of Christ’s death in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5 includes the small but significant phrase, “for our sins.” The inclusion of “for our sins”

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What is the Gospel?

  Burk Parsons? The great nineteenth-century Princeton theologian Charles Hodge said, “The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.” The gospel is absolutely fundamental to everything we believe. It is at the very core of who we are as Christians. However, many professing Christians struggle to answer the question: What is the gospel? When I teach, I am astounded by how many of my students are unable to provide a biblically accurate explanation of what the gospel is, and, what’s more, what the gospel is not. If we don’t know what the gospel is, we are of all people the most to be pitied—for we not only can’t proclaim the gospel in evangelism so that sinners might be saved, but we in fact may not be saved ourselves. In our day, there are countless counterfeit gospels, both inside and outside the church.

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How Church Squabbles Hinder Gospel Work

Erik Raymond: Imagine the scene with me. It’s the first century in the city of Philippi. The church is abuzz because the expected correspondence from the Apostle Paul is said to have arrived. Everyone presses into the room that they meet in for prayer, preaching and the Lord’s Table. One of the elders begins reading it and they are all encouraged that the opening words indicate the fondness of the apostle not just for the elders and deacons but also all of the church. He continues to read of Paul’s joy and longing for them. He talks about the centrality of the gospel and the necessity of humility. Everyone is encouraged and strengthened. Then the record skips. As the letter is nearly its close we read this: “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2) Paul just called out two women by name and told them to agree in the Lord (literally be of

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