Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is)

Al Mohler: One of the most amazing statements by the Apostle Paul is his indictment of the Galatian Christians for abandoning the Gospel. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel,” Paul declared. As he stated so emphatically, the Galatians had failed in the crucial test of discerning the authentic Gospel from its counterfeits. His words could not be more clear: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, he is to be accursed!” [Gal. 1:6-7] This warning from the Apostle Paul, expressed in the language of the Apostle’s shock and grief, is addressed not only to the church in Galatia,

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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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The Gospel-Shaped Pastor

Jared Wilson: Pastors are a motley bunch of souls. We represent different personalities and tribes, different methodologies and styles, not to mention denominations, traditions, and theologies. But I’ve learned over the years that there is something many of us all have in common—a profound sense of insecurity for which the only antidote is the gospel. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to compare one’s ministry to that of another pastor, or give in to the need to impress others and be liked. The only remedy for these ministry idolatries and all others is the gospel because it announces, among many things, we are justified, accepted, loved, and satisfied by God in Christ. Until pastors discover and embrace their identity in Christ—which is accomplished by Christ and received by faith, not works—they will keep trying to find their identity in their position, their preaching, their persona, and their programs. While every pastor would affirm the gospel’s centrality to their ministry,

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10 Things You Should Know about the Gospel

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 of

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Why the Gospel Requires Undivided Attention

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Heed the Gospel The gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of the book of Hebrews, calls upon the world to give earnest heed to what it has to say. The world is not merely to give it a quick glance or read a casual article about it or have an occasional discussion about it or on special days or occasions listen to what the church has to say. Earnest heed means undivided attention. There is a very good illustration of this in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts where we read about the apostle Paul preaching the gospel for the first time in Europe. A woman named Lydia heard Paul’s witness, “whose heart the Lord opened, [so] that she attended unto [heeded] the things which were spoken of [by] Paul” (Acts 16:14). She paid attention or considered or studied; she did not just sit and listen and then go away and forget it all. She paid

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The One Genuine Cure for Legalism and Antinomianism

Sinclair Ferguson: Antinomianism takes various forms. People do not always fit neatly into our categorizations, nor do they necessarily hold all the logical implications of their presuppositions. Here we are using “antinomianism” in the theological sense: rejecting the obligatory (“binding on the conscience”) nature of the Decalogue for those who are in Christ. Antinomianism, it was widely assumed in the eighteenth century, is essentially a failure to understand and appreciate the place of the law of God in the Christian life. But just as there is more to legalism than first meets the eye, the same is true of antinomianism. Opposites Attract? Perhaps the greatest misstep in thinking about antinomianism is to think of it simpliciter as the opposite of legalism. It would be an interesting experiment for a budding doctoral student in psychology to create a word-association test for Christians. It might include: Old Testament: Anticipated answer → New Testament Sin: Anticipated answer → Grace David: Anticipated answer → Goliath Jerusalem: Anticipated answer → Babylon Antinomianism: Anticipated answer → ?

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The Mystery of the Gospel

Al Mohler: The essential content of Christian preaching, Paul says, is the mystery of the gospel. He writes that the preaching of the Word of God is seen in “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints” (Col. 1:26). A mystery? All around Asia Minor and the ancient world at this time, there were mystery religions and mystery cults, and there were some who thought, especially from the Roman perspective, that Christianity was just another one of them. After all, it had its mystery. And Paul said, “Guilty as charged.” Yet this is not a mystery of esoteric knowledge. This is not a gnosticism of elitist intellectuals. No, this is a mystery that was hidden by God until it could be publicly revealed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, in His death, burial, and resurrection. This is a mystery! There is something deeply mysterious about Christian preaching, both in

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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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When Should Doctrine Divide?

Gavin Ortlund: For various reasons I’ve been thinking about how Christians should relate to each other around secondary doctrines. What partnerships and alliances are appropriate among Christians of different denominations, networks, or tribes? What kind of feelings and practices should characterize our attitude to those in the body of Christ with whom we have significant theological disagreements? What does it look like to handle—with integrity and transparency—personal differences of conviction that may arise with your church, boss, or institution? These kinds of questions have been a significant part of my own denominational and theological journey over the last decade, and it is a practical issue that will always be with us. So I thought it might be helpful to share two convictions that have been brewing in me while I’ve struggled my way through it all. At the broadest level I see two opposite dangers: doctrinal minimalism and doctrinal separatism. Danger #1: Doctrinal Minimalism The overall trajectory of our culture seems

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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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Build Your Life on the Mercies of God

John Piper: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. My aim in this message is that you would be encouraged by God and enabled by his Spirit to build your life on the mercies of God revealed in Jesus Christ. There are two parts to this aim: that you would build your life on something, and that you would build it on the mercies of God revealed in Christ. I see those two things in the first half of verse 1 of Romans 12. It says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God.” 1. Build Your Life on Something

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What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

John Piper’s reply to a letter from a 12-year-old about heaven and hell: You asked what happens to people who live far away from the gospel and have never heard about Jesus and die without faith in him. Here is what I think the Bible teaches. God always punishes people because of what they know and fail to believe. In other words, no one will be condemned for not believing in Jesus who has never heard of Jesus. Does that mean that people will be saved and go to heaven if they have never heard of Jesus? No, that is not what God tells us in the Bible. The main passage in the Bible that talks about this is Romans 1:18–23. Here is what it says. Then I’ll make a comment or two. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be

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Getting to the Very Core of Pastoral Ministry

Dave Harvey: Imagine that you want to purchase a new, sturdy, handcrafted kitchen table, assembled from the finest pieces of oak. You happen to live near an Amish community, and you know that the Amish have a well-earned reputation for fine furniture that endures the test of time. So you find an Amish carpenter – we’ll call him “Ezekiel” – and you arrange to meet Ezekiel at his shop. But when you arrive, you notice something very strange: there is not a single scrap of wood in the entire shop. There are tools scattered everywhere but not a single piece of wood to be seen. Ezekiel emerges from the back of the shop and greets you with a firm handshake. “This may be a silly question,” you say, “but where is the wood?” “Oh, I don’t use wood. I’m a wood-less carpenter,” he says. You leave the shop, confused. What kind of carpenter doesn’t use wood? Wood is at the

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Confusing the Gospel with the Fruit of the Gospel

Graeme Goldsworthy: It cannot be stressed too much that to confuse the gospel with certain important things that go hand in hand with it is to invite theological, hermeneutical and spiritual confusion.  Such ingredients of preaching and teaching that we might want to link with the gospel would include the need for the gospel (sin and judgment), the means of receiving the benefits of the gospel (faith and repentance), the results or fruit of the gospel (regeneration, conversion, sanctification, glorification) and the results of rejecting it (wrath, judgment, hell).  These, however we define and proclaim them, are not in themselves the gospel. if something is not what God did in and through the historical Jesus two thousand years ago, it is not the gospel. Thus Christians cannot ‘live the gospel’, as they are often exhorted to do.  They can only believe it, proclaim it and seek to live consistently with it.  Only Jesus lived (and died) the gospel.  It is

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Why There Is No Righteousness Like Christian Righteousness

This Crossway post is adapted from Galatians by Martin Luther. Many Kinds of Righteousness St. Paul sets about establishing the doctrine of faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness. His purpose is that we may understand exactly the nature of Christian righteousness and its difference from all other kinds of righteousness, for there are various sorts of righteousness. There is a political or civil righteousness, which emperors, princes of the world, philosophers, and lawyers deal with. There is also a ceremonial righteousness, which human traditions teach. This righteousness may be taught without danger by parents and schoolteachers because they do not attribute to it any power to satisfy for sin, to please God, or to deserve grace; but they teach such ceremonies as are necessary simply for the correction of manners and certain observations concerning this life. Besides these, there is another righteousness, called the righteousness of the law or of the Ten Commandments, which Moses teaches. We too

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7 Gospel Promises To Embrace Today

Paul Tripp: You may have heard me say this before, but it’s worth repeating again: I’m deeply persuaded that many Christians, myself included, have a big gap in the middle of our gospel theology. Let me break it down and then apply it in a fresh way: I think we have a strong understanding of the theology of gospel past – meaning, we trust deeply in the historical sacrifice of Jesus which paid the penalty for our sins. I also think that we have a strong understanding of the theology of gospel future – meaning, we trust eagerly in the eternal promise of heaven that’s coming. But there’s something missing in the middle. We either don’t understand, or fail to embrace, the theology of the “now-ism” of the gospel. In other words, we don’t take full advantage of all the benefits of the work of Christ today. In this post, I want to briefly outline 7 gospel promises that are

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Three Reasons to Include a Concise Summary of the Gospel in Every Sermon

Timothy Raymond: Among conservative evangelicals, there’s a longstanding, friendly debate over whether or not every sermon should include a concise summary of the gospel message. By this I’m not talking about the use of a gospel-centered hermeneutic which connects every passage of Scripture to the person and work of Jesus, say, the approach to Bible interpretation taught by Graeme Goldsworthy or Edmund Clowney. Instead, I’m talking about inserting, somewhere in your sermon, hopefully in a natural way that connects to the rest of the message, a short explanation of the main truths about who Jesus is and what he has done (in perhaps 2-6 minutes), along with an exhortation to repent and believe. While this approach is admittedly not followed by every conservative, evangelical preacher, perhaps the best-known proponent and model of including a gospel summary in (nearly) every sermon is Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. For a wonderful example of what I’m talking about, consider

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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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