The Role of the Old Testament Law in Galatians

Tom Schreiner: Communicating the role that the law played in God’s overall plan of salvation was one of the New Testament church’s biggest challenges. As Jews accepted that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, they struggled to understand how to bring their Jewish roots into this new reality. The Christian who had come out of Judaism had to reconcile their understanding of what the law actually accomplished and how it worked. In their understanding, the law purified them and made them righteous. Was that true? If not, why were they given the law? In his online course on Galatians, Thomas R. Schreiner explains Paul’s take on the law from Galatians 3:19–20. The following post is taken from Schreiner’s course. Why was the law given? “Then why was the law given? It was added on account of transgressions”—Galatians 3:19a–b If the law is not the primary covenant but is subordinate to the Abrahamic covenant, and if eschatological salvation is obtained through the

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The Right Kind of Prosperity Gospel

J.D. Greear: I recently took a trip with my family to Zion National Park (which is amazing, by the way). To get into the park, you pass through a long tunnel. The tour guide told my kids that if they held their breath the whole way, they would get a wish. That night, one of our kids—who was apparently feeling rather spiritual—said, “You know what I wished for? That God would use me in his global mission.” Not to be outdone, another kid piped up, “Well, I wished that God would let me be a NICU nurse helping kids in poor countries.” Finally, my youngest jumped in, saying, “I wished for a dog.” (That would have been me as a kid.) So What’s the Right Answer? Most of us have dreamed of what we would ask for if we ever got a free wish. Of course, we know the usual rules: You can’t make anyone fall in love with you;

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God’s Big Picture

Leadership Resources have released God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible by Vaughan Roberts. This is a free video study tool that walks through each of the nine units of the book. An ideal resource for churches and any Christian wanting to dig deeper in understanding the Bible’s overarching story. Summary of God’s Big Picture Video Study: UNIT 1: THE PATTERN OF THE KINGDOM The Bible isn’t just a random collection of books but one connected story and it is vital to understand it in that context. This first video explains that the Bible has one author: God, one subject: Jesus Christ and one overarching theme: God’s plan to save the world through his son Jesus Christ. We begin to look at this unfolding story in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, which sets up the pattern of God’s kingdom that we will trace through the rest of the units. We see that in God’s perfect created order, God’s People, Adam and

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How Do You Get a Revival?

Jared Wilson: It is not a miracle, or dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means–as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means. There may be a miracle among its antecedent causes, or there may not. The apostles employed miracles, simply as a means by which they arrested attention to their message, and established its Divine authority. But the miracle was not the revival. The miracle was one thing; the revival that followed it was quite another thing. The revivals in the apostles’ days were connected with miracles, but they were not miracles. I said that a revival is the result of the right use of the appropriate means. Those are the words of Charles Finney from his Lectures on Revivals of Religion. I say that Finney is dead wrong. Dangerously wrong. But Finney’s words here serve as the philosophical precursor to countless

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What the Joseph Story Is Really About

Samuel Emadi: Moses gives Joseph more time in Genesis than he does any other character—a striking fact given the significance of Genesis’s other main characters: Adam, Noah, and the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This prominence is even more striking considering the apparent insignificance of Joseph in the rest of Scripture. What then do we make of the Joseph story? Why is it so prominent in Genesis? Many Christians fail to notice how Joseph’s story contributes to the Genesis narrative and to redemptive history in general. Within Reformed circles, preachers often use Joseph merely to illustrate how divine sovereignty and human responsibility intersect, focusing almost exclusively on Genesis 50:20: “What you meant for evil God meant for good.” Certainly, we are meant to read Joseph’s life in light of this verse. God’s sovereignty is a major theme in Genesis 37–50, and Joseph himself intends for us to interpret his life in light of God’s providence (cf. Gen. 45:1–9). But reducing the story to an illustration

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12 Pastoral Commitments

Kevin DeYoung: I love Paul’s description of pastoral ministry in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12. I find in these verses 12 commitments I need to make as a pastor. 1. I will not shrink back from suffering for the gospel (v. 2). We will carry a cross, just as we call others to do the same. 2. I will preach boldly (v. 2). We will be clear in the face of fear. 3. I will not deceive (v. 3). No ulterior motives, no tricks, no gimmicks. Just plain old truth. 4. I will work to please God, not men (v. 4). The most important audience is up there, not out there. 5. I will not flatter (v. 5). Encourage, yes. Point out evidences of grace, I hope so. But no backslapping to get what we want. 6. I will not be greedy for selfish gain (v. 6). We are not in this for the money. 7. I will not seek my own glory (v. 6). It’s not about me. 8. I will be gentle like a mother (v.

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5 reasons to embrace unconditional election

John Piper: I use the word embrace because unconditional election is not just true, but precious. Of course, it can’t be precious if it’s not true. So that’s the biggest reason we embrace it. But let’s start with a definition: Unconditional election is God’s free choice before creation, not based on foreseen faith, to which traitors he will grant faith and repentance, pardoning them and adopting them into his everlasting family of joy. 1. We embrace unconditional election because it is true. All my objections to unconditional election collapsed when I could no longer explain away Romans 9. The chapter begins with Paul’s readiness to be cursed and cut off from Christ for his unbelieving Jewish kinsmen (Romans 9:3). This implies that some Jews are perishing. And that raises the question of God’s promise to the Jews. Had it failed? Paul answers, “It is not as though the word of God has failed” (Romans 9:6). Why not? Because “not all

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5 Things Every Christian Must Know About the Transgender Debate

Andrew T. Walker: The transgender debate is becoming all-encompassing. Issues such as education, law, government, entertainment all fall in the crosshairs of the transgender debate, and our culture moves with such speed that working out how to respond seems overwhelming, if not impossible. So here are five essential things for Christians to keep in mind as we think about and speak about transgenderism. Disagreeing with transgenderism does not mean denying the pain of gender dysphoria. There’s an enormous difference between the political aspects of the culture war surrounding transgenderism and the reality that there are precious persons who have genuine struggles with gender dysphoria — a condition where a person senses that their gender identity (how they feel about being male or female) may not align with their biological sex and experiences emotional distress as a result. While we resist the attempt being made at a cultural and legal level to view gender as a matter of choice, we must

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The Cure for a Superficial Faith

    Sam Storms: I’ve been a subscriber to World magazine for as long as I can remember. Some have referred to it as the Christian version of Time magazine. Actually, it’s a lot better than Time ever was and not simply because it is faith-based. But I’m not here to praise World. I’m here to draw attention to two things that I noted in its most recent, August 5, 2017, issue. In an article on the church in China titled “More Growing Pains, More Great Gains,” June Cheng reports on the struggles of believers in that communist country. This article is a follow-up on an earlier piece in which she profiled three groups of Christians “working to help mature the burgeoning Chinese church” (43). One of those on whom she focused is a pastor from Singapore “whose online sermons led to church plants throughout China” (43). When Cheng last saw this man, Joseph Su (whose name has been changed for safety reasons), he was actively involved

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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 gracious

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The Bad News of the Kingdom

Michael Lawrence: What Is the Good News? Biblical Theology’s Answer Let’s consider how both biblical theology and systematic theology are important and relate to each other when we try to answer the most basic of ministry questions: What is the gospel? What is the good news that the Bible reveals to us? When biblical theology comes to this question, it lays out the grand sweep of God’s actions in history. That sweep might be described as the movement from Creation ➜ Fall ➜ Redemption ➜ New Creation. Notice that this outline follows the narrative of Scripture itself. It explains what God is doing across redemptive history as that history moves from the garden of Eden to the new heavens and new earth. The Good News of the Kingdom Biblical theology also talks about the gospel in terms of the kingdom of God. George Eldon Ladd has forever changed the way all of us think about this kingdom.[1] As Ladd observed,

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Passive Christianity Is Dead Christianity

Jon Bloom: What do you want? What do you desire? What is your ambition? Do you really want to know? Look at your behavior. You do what you want. This is a devastatingly simple psychology of motivation. But it’s what the Bible teaches: James: Faith without works is dead. Don’t tell me you have faith if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (James 2:17–18) John: Love without deeds is dead. Don’t tell me you love if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (1 John 3:17–18) Paul: Grace without holiness is dead. Don’t tell me you revel in God’s grace if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (Romans 6:12–14) Jesus: Discipleship without obedience is dead. Don’t tell me I’m your Lord if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (Matthew 7:21) We may say what sounds orthodox, but we do what we really believe. We may

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Why We Must Understand the Covenants to Understand the Bible

Tom Schreiner: The Backbone of the Bible’s Storyline The covenants are crucial, as Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum have argued, because they are the backbone of the storyline of the Bible. The Bible isn’t a random collection of laws, moral principles, and stories. It is a story that goes somewhere; it is the story of redemption, the story of God’s kingdom. And the story unfolds and advances through the covenants God made with his people. If we don’t understand the covenants, we will not and cannot understand the Bible because we won’t understand how the story fits together. The best way to see this is by quickly surveying the covenants in the Scriptures. The Creation Covenant God created the world and human beings, showing he is the sovereign ruler of all. He created Adam and Eve as priest-kings, as those made in his image, to rule the world for God. They were to extend God’s rule over the entire earth.

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How Can I Forgive Myself?

H.B. Charles: The most faithful response to this question is to reject it as an illegitimate question. The biblical teaching about forgiveness can be summarized in two main ideas: God forgives sinners freely, completely, and sacrificially. Ultimately, divine forgiveness is paid for by the cross of Christ. Christians must forgive those who wrong us, as God has forgiven us for the sake of Christ. That’s it. Sermon over. There is not third point. God has forgiven us and we must forgive others. Period. There are more than 125 direct references to forgiveness in the Bible. But the Bible does not teach that we should forgive ourselves. It does not explain how to forgive ourselves. It does not say anything about forgiving ourselves whatsoever. God is just, holy, and righteous. We are not. We are sinners who cannot do anything to win the approval of God. We cannot reach up to God. But God has reach down to us through the

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10 Things You Should Know about the Biblical Covenants

Tom Schreiner (author of Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World) 1. Covenants are the backbone of the biblical story. Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum have argued that the covenants advance the storyline of the Bible in their book Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants, and they are on target. If one understands how the covenants function in the Bible, one will have a good grasp of how the Bible fits together. If we see the big picture in Scripture, we will do a better job of interpreting the details, and the covenant plays a fundamental role in seeing the big picture. 2. Covenant can be defined as follows: a covenant is a chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other. A covenant should be distinguished from a contract because it is a personal relationship which people voluntarily enter. The definition of covenant here is rather broad, but that is because there are many

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Entertainment and Worship

Joe Thorn: In every church and every generation of Christians, there is the potential to lose our focus on the things that are most important (Heb. 2:1). We must constantly remind ourselves and re-center our churches lest we find ourselves trusting in something other than the gospel of God and the Word of God. One of the more dangerous drifts happening in our local churches today is within our corporate worship. In many churches there is a de-emphasis on the means of grace (Scripture, prayer, and the sacraments or ordinances), and a reliance on entertainment. Some try to balance the two in the name of reaching more people with the gospel, but there is an inescapable danger in overvaluing entertainment and implementing it in corporate worship. This is not a new phenomenon. The nineteenth-century pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the

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The Inaugurated Kingdom Empowers Missional Living

Jon Nagle: I’ll always remember two of the most incredible moments of my life. The days that my wife and I discovered she was pregnant with our two boys were breath-taking experiences. With our firstborn, I was sitting in the bedroom of our first apartment; and with our second-born, I was sitting in the master bedroom of our current house. In both instances, my wife decided to sneak away into the bathroom to take a pregnancy test without telling me. And in both instances she exited the bathroom to surprise me with that infamous blue plus-sign. Tears of joy flowed, and the same life-altering thought that struck me the first time—”Wow, I’m a father!”—also struck me the second time, “Wow, I’m a father … again!” Indeed, in those very moments, though there were still many months of pregnancy and growth ahead of us, I was already a father. And although my newborn sons were yet to be seen in their

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Seven ways delighting in God benefits us

Ray Ortlund: Richard Baxter, in A Christian Directory (Ligonier, 1990), page 140, lists seven benefits of looking by faith to the Lord, as to no other, for our deepest delight. Updating the language a little: 1. Delight in God will prove that we know him and love him and that we are prepared for his kingdom, for all who delight in him shall enjoy him. 2. Prosperity, that is, the small addition of earthly things, will not easily corrupt us or transport us. 3. Adversity, that is, the withholding of earthly delights, will not excessively grieve us or easily deject us. 4. We will receive more profit from a sermon or book or conversation that we delight in than other people, who don’t delight in them, will receive from many such opportunities. 5. All our service will be sweet to ourselves and acceptable to God; if we delight in him, he certainly delights in us. 6. We will have a continual feast

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12 Signs of Genuine Repentance

Jared Wilson: I have sinned against you. I have apologized. But how do you know if I mean it? How do you know when someone is repentant? In his helpful little book Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman offers some guidance: A few verses before Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18 about church discipline, he provides us with help for determining whether an individual is characteristically repentant: would the person be willing to cut off a hand or tear out an eye rather than repeat the sin (Matt. 18:8-9)? That is to say, is he or she willing to do whatever it takes to fight against the sin? Repenting people, typically, are zealous about casting off their sin. That’s what God’s Spirit does inside of them. When this happens, one can expect to see a willingness to accept outside counsel. A willingness to inconvenience their schedules. A willingness to confess embarrassing things. A willingness to make financial sacrifices or lose friends or end relationships.

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Why We Dare Not Seek God without Christ

Mark Jones: Too Much for Us We believe that thou art a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. —Anselm, Proslogion Whoever has seen God and has understood what he saw, has seen nothing. —Maximus the Confessor, In Epistula Dionysii The majesty of God is too high to be scaled up to by mortals, who creep like worms on the earth. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion The true and living God is too much for us to bear, to handle, to conceive, to adore, to know, to trust, to understand, and to worship. The Incomprehensible One is simply too much for us in every conceivable way. Christ the Mediator However, that the Son became flesh makes our human nature appear lovely to God. But he also makes God appear lovely to us.1 Take away Christ, the God-man, and we are reprehensible to God and he to us. But in Christ, God is well pleased with us and

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