Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture – What It Does and Doesn’t Mean

John Piper: My biographical message at the pastors’ conference this year was on Athanasius who was born in A. D. 298. So I spent a good bit of time studying the doctrinal disputes of the fourth century. The main dispute was over the deity of Christ. Arius (and the Arians) said that the Son of God was a creature and did not always exist. Athanasius defended the eternal deity of the Son and helped win that battle with the wording of the Council of Nicaea: “We believe in . . . the Son of God . . . of the essence of the Father, God of God, and Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” One surprising fact that I did not expect to find was that the heretics protested most loudly over the non-scriptural language of the orthodox creed. They pointed out that the phrases, “of one essence

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What We Need to Learn from the Early Church

Tim Keller: Many say that Christians who maintain the historic, traditional doctrines are behind the times, are too exclusive, and are “on the wrong side of history.” Two recent books that cast doubt on this view are from historian and biblical scholar Larry Hurtado: Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World and Why on Earth Did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries?. The earliest Christians were widely ridiculed, especially by cultural elites, were excluded from circles of influence and business, and were often persecuted and put to death. Hurtado says Roman authorities were uniquely hostile to them, compared to other religious groups. Why? It was expected that people would have their own gods, but that they’d be willing to show honor to all other gods as well. Nearly every home, every city, every professional guild—including the empire itself—each had its own gods. You couldn’t even go to a meal in a large home or to a public event without being expected to

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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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The Vine, the Branches, and Christian Perseverance

Sam Storms: A lot of people struggle with John 15:1-11 and our Lord’s teaching on the vine and the branches. This week I’ve been looking at the question of the relationship between professed faith in Christ and consistent obedience to his commands. This passage speaks directly to the issue. Let’s look closely at it. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart

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Living in Light of Jesus’ Return

Jason K. Allen: “There are two days in my calendar: this day and that day,” quipped Martin Luther in reference to Christ’s second coming. We have come a long way since Luther’s statement, with most believers erring dramatically in one of two directions. Second coming sensationalists are the most egregious, and widely lamented, offenders. They predict the timing of Jesus’ return; but, of course, they do so in vain. Jesus stated no man knows the day or hour of his return. The most infamous prognosticator in recent years has been Harold Camping, who on multiple occasions has predicted the specific date of Jesus’ return, thus embarrassing himself—and the name of Christ—before a watching world. As irresponsible as Camping and his ilk are, one can argue the greater danger facing the church is not hyper-expectancy about Jesus’ return, but a slumbering church that acts as though Jesus isn’t returning at all. This seems especially to be the case [today]. Twenty years

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Give Up on Your Own Self-Righteousness

By Paul David Tripp. Adapted from New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional: TWO VERY DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO SIN Since sin is deeper than bad behavior, trying to do better isn’t a solution. Only grace that changes the heart can rescue us. There is a difference between a person in whom disappointment leads to self-reformation and someone in whom grief leads to heartfelt confession. I think that we often confuse the two. The first person believes in personal strength and the possibility of self-rescue, while the second has given up on his own righteousness and cries out for the help of another. One gets up in the morning and tells himself that he’ll do better today, but the other starts the day with a plea for grace. One targets a change in behavior, and the other confesses to a wandering heart. One assesses that he has the power for personal change, while the other knows that he needs to be given

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God Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far

Tony Reinke: John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace” is the most famous New Year’s Day hymn in church history, first unveiled to his rural congregation on January 1, 1773. The entire hymn is closely modeled after 1 Chronicles 17, a chapter that speaks of King David’s past, present, and future. Newton does the same, reflecting on past grace, present grace, and the hope of future grace. It was a fitting way to bring in the New Year, and it was his annual pattern. At the start of every year, Newton set aside a day to reflect on life. He was at one time a hardened sailor in the slave trade. He was broken and humbled and redeemed. And he was aware of the ongoing grace upholding his life. And his future was completely in the hands of God’s mercy, too. Like David, Newton saw grace in 3D — past, present, and future. New Year’s was a special time of reflection and

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4 Christian Principles For Making New Year’s Resolutions

Burk Parsons: It seems that every new year, we are caught up in a whirlwind of well-intentioned resolutions. With premeditated bursts of enthusiasm, those closest to us begin to take part in peculiar, and sometimes public activities that even cause neighborhood children to look puzzled. We find ourselves bearing witness to surprising edicts and seemingly self-conscious new year’s manifestos whereupon we are summoned to behold what sweeping changes may come—resolutions for impending dispositions, impossible diets, and impenetrable fortresses of discipline. The skeptical observer may inquire: “Is all this fervor really necessary?” Moreover, the cynical reader may ask: “Is it even appropriate to make resolutions? After all, shouldn’t we at all times and all seasons seek to live wisely, obediently, and biblically?” Some may even go so far as to argue that resolutions themselves are not biblical based on the fact that the Word of God itself provides us with a complete and authoritative compilation of God’s resolutions for His people. To manufacture

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Experiencing Gospel Transformation

From Robert W. Yarbrough’s notes, in the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible: The Law and the Gospel Having corrected mistaken impressions about the law and how the gospel relates to it (Rom. 6–7), Paul explains how there is “now no condemnation” for believers “in Christ Jesus” (v. 1). Christians are “set free” from sin’s guilt and power by the work of the Holy Spirit as he imparts spiritual life (v. 2). Neither the law nor human obedience could confer this life. Only the Son by his coming could, and did (v. 3). By Christ’s finished work, what the law calls for—living in harmony with God and his will—can actually take place through the work of God’s Spirit (v. 4). But we all face a stark either/or: either we are oriented toward “the flesh” (the human inclination to sin), which leads to death; or the Spirit reorients us, so that our present possession and final destiny are “life and peace” (vv. 5–6). Without

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Yes and Amen in Christ

Kevin DeYoung: God has promised us everything in Christ. Abraham knew the Lord as a promise-maker, Moses knew him as a promise-keeper, but we know the one in whom all the promises are yes and Amen. In Christ, there is now no condemnation for us (Rom. 8:1) In Christ we did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:16) In Christ the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed (Rom. 8:18). In Christ we know that he who did not spare his own son, but freely gave him up for us all, will also with him freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32). In Christ there is nothing in all creation—neither life nor death, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any

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10 Things You Should Know about the Incarnation

By Stephen J. Wellum, author of God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ: 1. The person or active subject of the incarnation is the eternal Son. John 1:14 is clear: “The Word became flesh.” In other words, it was the Son from eternity who became incarnate, not the divine nature. The Son, who is in eternal relation to the Father and Spirit, willingly humbled himself and chose to assume a human nature in obedience to his Father and for our salvation (Phil. 2:6-8). 2. As the eternal Son, the second person of the triune Godhead, he is the full image and expression of the Father and is thus fully God. Along with the Father and Spirit, the Son fully and equally shares the divine nature. As the image and exact correspondence of the Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3), the Son is fully God. All of God’s perfections and attributes are his since Christ is God the Son (Col. 2:9). As

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Why All Christians Should Care about Systematic Theology

    From God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology by Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum. What Is Systematic Theology? Biblical theology provides the basis for understanding how texts in one part of the Bible relate to all other texts, according to God’s intention, which is discovered through human authors but ultimately at the canonical level. In the end, biblical theology is the attempt to think through the “whole counsel of God,” and it provides the basis and underpinning for all theologizing. If this is what biblical theology is, then what is systematic theology? As with “biblical theology,” there are various ideas as to what “systematic theology” is. It is not necessary to delve into all of these diverse views; rather, we will simply state how we conceive of the discipline. For our purposes, we will employ the definition given by John Frame: systematic theology is “the application of God’s Word by persons to all areas

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When a dragon tried to eat Jesus: the nativity story we don’t talk about

Chad Bird: I’m still searching for a Christmas card with a red dragon in the nativity, lurking amidst the cows and lambs, waiting to devour the baby in the manger. None of the Gospels mention this unwelcome visitor to Bethlehem, but the Apocalypse does. John paints a seven-headed, ten-horned red dragon onto the peaceful Christmas canvas. You can read all about it in Revelation 12. It’s the nativity story we don’t talk about. A dragon trying to eat our Lord. The red dragon was standing “before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” Clearly, more was going on at Christmas than drinking eggnog and kissing under the mistletoe. Or even peace on earth. Hark the herald angels sing, a dragon waits to eat our king. SILENT NIGHT, VIOLENT

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Could Christ Have Sinned?

Stephen J. Wellum: Could Christ Have Been Tempted? And If So, Could He Have Sinned? A crucial theological question in Christology is, could Jesus have sinned? This question is not easy to answer, and as such, it requires careful reflection, given the variety of issues involved. Historically, classical Christology has argued that our Lord Jesus Christ experienced temptation like us, yet he faced it as one who was unable to sin, hence the affirmation of the impeccability of Christ (non posse peccare). The minority report, on the other hand, is that Jesus experienced temptation and that, although he never sinned, he was able to do so, hence the assertion of Christ’s peccability (osse non peccare). Both viewpoints admit that, in wrestling with the question, one must do justice to the following biblical truths: (1) Jesus never actually sinned. Scripture is clear on this point, so the issue is whether Jesus could have sinned, not whether he actually did. (2) Jesus

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10 Things You Should Know about Christmas

By Andreas J. Köstenberger, author of The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation. 1. Jesus is the reason for the season. The primary purpose for observing Christmas is remembering Jesus’s birth. At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’s birthday, not the little drummer boy or Santa Claus! 2. Jesus preexisted with God in the beginning before the world began. Jesus’s birth as a baby in a Bethlehem manger doesn’t mark the beginning of his existence. Rather, as John’s Gospel teaches explicitly (John 1:1, 14) and the other Gospels imply, Jesus took on human flesh in addition to existing eternally as part of the Godhead. 3. Jesus’s birth was the culmination of centuries of messianic expectations. Jesus’s coming occurred in fulfillment of messianic expectations including his birthplace, virgin birth, and other details surrounding his advent. Later, during his earthly ministry and particularly in his death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled many more messianic patterns and predictions. 4. We should distinguish

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The Irrepressible Christ of Christmas

Sam Storms: There was a time when the glitz and tinsel of Christmas used to bother me. But no more. It bothered me, then, because it seemed at times as if Jesus had become lost in all the hoopla of the holiday season. I was fearful that the secularism and sophistication of society had somehow obscured Christ right out of Christmas. But I’ve come to realize that it can’t be done. I’m not bothered by the trinkets of Christmas anymore because I’ve come to realize that no matter what anyone does or what a court may decree, the irrepressible Christ will be there. Even in the stores and shopping malls where crass commercialism is so rampant, Jesus is there. Although the Salvation Army may be banned from certain stores, his name is yet on the lips of adoring shoppers. The intercom in the department stores broadcasts for all to hear, strains of “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the

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Between the Advents

Duke Revard: For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. – Isaiah 9:6 Six and Seven year-olds massacred in Newtown, CT. Others randomly shot in a mall in Oregon. Dozens of other headlines highlight less spectacular bloodshed in your hometown newspaper. It appears there is no end in sight. Random wickedness and brokenness are also your problem in your otherwise safe pocket of the world. Evil is local and apparently sustainable. It seems to be everywhere and affecting everything. Though the topic

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The Gift of Eternal Life: Knowing God

Sam Storms: In the opening words of his prayer to the Father in John 17, Jesus defines for us the essence of eternal life. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Sometimes I get the feeling that such texts as this were written distinctively and intentionally for our day and time. Of course, they are written for all God’s people in every age, but it is hard to think of a more immediately relevant statement to what we are facing today than what we find in v. 3. In a day when many are insisting that Allah, the alleged ‘god’ of Islam, is one and the same with the God and Father of Jesus Christ, this text is a ringing denunciation of that claim. Notice first that Jesus says the Father is “the only true God.” And this “Father” is explicitly said on countless occasions

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Seven breathtaking privileges of being a child of God

Tim Keller: Feeling weary today? Distant from God? Anxious? Uncertain? In this article Tim Keller warms our hearts with seven breathtaking privileges of being a child of God set out by Paul in Romans 8:14-17: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” 1. Security We are not to fear, but enjoy sonship (v 15a). An employee or a servant basically obeys out of fear of punishment, loss of job, etc. But a child-parent relationship is not characterized by a fear of losing the

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How God Became a Man – What Jesus Did for Thirty Years

David Mathis: It is striking how little we know about most of Jesus’s life on earth. Between the events surrounding his celebrated birth and the beginning of his public ministry when he was “about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23), very few details have survived. Given the influence and impact of his life, humanly speaking, we might find it surprising that so little about his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood is available — especially with the interest his followers, who worshiped him as God, took in his life. That is, unless, divinely speaking, this is precisely how God would have it. After the birth story, the first Gospel tells us about the visit from magi, pagan astrologers from the east (Matthew 2:1–12), the family’s flight to Egypt for haven (Matthew 2:13–18), and their eventual return upon the death of Herod (Matthew 2:19–23). Matthew then jumps immediately to the forerunning ministry of John the Baptist, and Jesus as a full-grown adult

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