Category Archives: The Gospel

Dinosaurs Tend To Recognize Boomerangs

betty-portrait-paintedJohn MacArthur dared to say that the real answer to social injustice is proclaiming the Gospel. His statement has apparently enraged proponents of the Social Justice Movement, who seem to want white evangelicals to display perpetual penance for the racist sins of our ancestors. His insistence on maintaining a Gospel focus negates their agenda, necessitating that they depict him as a dinosaur who is woefully out of touch with how the Spirit wants to move today.

The reaction reminds me of my attitude toward my grandmother (and toward most adults)  during the social upheaval of the 60s and 70s. As far as I was concerned, Gran had absolutely no concept Continue reading

Who Is The Whoever?

Whoever BelievesAnybody raised in even a nominal Christian environment can recite John 3:16 effortlessly.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

What a wonderfully concise presentation of the Gospel!

Sometimes, however, Christians use this verse in isolation from its context to substantiate the doctrine of free will. So, while my article today can’t possibly offer a complete argument against free will, Continue reading

What Makes You So Great?

When you attend high school reunions, weddings, funerals or other social events, people invariably ask about your accomplishments. Who did  you marry?  What career did you choose?  Where are you sending your kids for college? Where do you spend vacations?

And don’t you love answering that your husband is a prestigious man? Or that your employer absolutely depends on you? Or that your kids each chose well-known universities and consistently make the dean’s list? Or that you’ve been abroad just recently and happen to have pictures on your iPhone.

We love boasting about ourselves!

But as Christians, we should boast only in Jesus Christ and what He has done to save wretches like us. His love should both puzzle us and fill us with overwhelming joy! If we must boast, let us boast in what He has done for us.

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Nature Just Begins The Story

Marin County California has such beautiful areas to enjoy natural creation! From the beaches edging Point Reyes National Seashore to the breathtaking views from the summit of Mount Tamalpias, the splendor of God’s creation reflects His glory.

Downtown Boston has areas of natural beauty as well in its cultivated gardens and lazy Harbor Walk. The Public Garden and Rose Kennedy Greenway boast ever changing varieties of flowers, while points along the harbor draw the eye to the vastness and strength of the ocean.

All these wonders proclaim the greatness of God. Yet nature only begins to tell the story. As we approach the Gospel, and as we anticipate Christ’s return and the new heavens and new earth of His kingdom, we better grasp an understanding of how absolutely magnificent He truly is!

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According To Scripture: Study #7 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Last Monday, as you’ll recall, this study of 1 Corinthians 15 took us through a rather dismal passage as the apostle Paul listed implications of a Christianity without belief in the doctrine of resurrection. Happily, today we turn a corner with the joyful proclamation that resurrection is guaranteed because Christ indeed has risen!  Let’s look at the passage we’ll study for the next two or three weeks, and then we can dig into verses 20-22 in detail.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. ~~1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (ESV)

Verse 20 vanquishes all the hopelessness of verses 12-19. Praise the Lord, Christ is really risen from the dead! As we saw in verses 5-8, Paul had appealed to multiple instances of eyewitness testimony, which would easily establish Christ’s resurrection as legal fact. With this legal fact, Paul now assures the Corinthians that they haven’t believed in vain after all.

Since Christ has risen, He is the firstfruits of those who have died as believers. Paul’s use of the term firstfruits may refer back to the offering of firstfruits, which occurred the day after the sabbath (Leviticus 23:10-11). As you’ll recall, Jesus rose on the day after the Passover sabbath, indicating Paul’s view of Jesus as our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). At least, that’s how one of the commentators I consulted understood the reference; do you think it applies, or is he stretching it? I can’t decide.

I definitely agree with another commentator that firstfruits indicate that farmers will have a harvest. Paul uses this term as his final refutation of the idea that the dead aren’t raised. As Jesus Christ rose from the dead, so His resurrection guarantees that He will raise us! See John 14:19, where Christ explicitly makes the connection between His resurrection and ours.

The term also reminds us that, although Elisha and Jesus caused others to rise from the dead, those resurrections were temporary, and the people raised did not receive glorified bodies. Jesus, therefore, is the first to experience glorified humanity, and is the first to never die again. His resurrected body assures believers of our future state.

Paul explains, beginning in verse 21, that Christ is a firstfruit because He is a Man, just as we are. Thus Paul can trace how humanity inherited sin through Adam (Genesis 2:17) and redeemed humanity inherits resurrection through Christ (John 11:25). Alluding to Romans 5:12, Paul states that death came by a man. To put it plainly, Adam’s sin of disobedience in the garden condemned all humanity to suffer physical death. One solidarity man altered all of human history, robbing us of the immortality that God created us to experience.

Yet a second Man, Christ Jesus, reversed the consequences of Adam’s sin through His atoning death on the cross and, as Paul emphasizes here, His resurrection. His resurrection assures believers that He will raise us up to live eternally with Him. Paul details this principle in Romans 5:12-19.

Although I have neither time nor space to delve into Romans 5 at this particular moment, I appreciate Paul’s elaboration on this point in verse 22. Here, he reminds the Corinthian Christians that God pronounced Adam’s death sentence in Genesis 3:19. This death sentence extends to all humanity.

Barnes wisely brings up the probability that people could misuse this verse as a proof-text for universal salvation. He therefore clarifies that, although all will experience physical resurrection at the return of Christ, only the elect will be raised to salvation (John 5:28-29). The Believers Bible Commentary, however, offers a slightly different nuance by emphasizing the phrase “in Christ,” indicating that believers will receive eternal life because we are “in Christ.” Either way, this verse certainly doesn’t contradict the overall Biblical teaching that God restricts salvation to those who believe in Jesus Christ.

These three verses give us a beginning grasp on the practical significance of Christ’s resurrection. Gals, this significance gets so ignored in the present evangelical culture, so we desperately need to study this foundational Christian doctrine. Consequently, I really urge you to take advantage of my Comments Section or The Outspoken TULIP Facebook Page to ask questions and/or add insights in regard to this Bible Study. I  look forward to continuing next Monday.

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A Break From Internet Squabbles

The evangelical world, and indeed the world at large, has been engulfed in all sorts of controversies and internet squabbles these past few months, and I see no sign that the arguing will ease up. Some of the matters are, admittedly, silly and trivial. Others, however, call Scripture’s authority into question, and therefore Christians absolutely must take an uncompromising stand.

But all too often even the legitimately necessary controversies can inadvertently distract us from the beautiful Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even in attempting to serve God, we often forget to marvel at Who He is and what He’s done for us. Worse, we forget that everything is for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to Him.

Praise God for hymn writers who faithfully draw our attention back that Gospel, and in doing so remind us of our wonderful Savior. The hymn I selected to feature today turns my attention away from all the disputes and back to Him. Perhaps it will give you the same refreshing outlook.

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According To Scripture: Study #6 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

You might think that the four verses we’ll be studying today in 1 Corinthians 15 are pretty straightforward, and in a sense you’d be right. I began working through the passage last Tuesday, and found it amazing that Paul packed so much meaning into these  seemingly simple remarks.  So let’s look at the entire passage for context, and then dive into verses 16-19.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. ~~1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (ESV)

Did you notice that verse 16 pretty much repeats verse 14? Paul’s not getting forgetful in his old age. Rather, he uses repetition to enforce his argument, and maybe so that the Corinthian Christians would really get the point. Repetition is an effective teaching device, especially when a teacher needs to drive home an important fact. 2 Peter 1:13 tells us, for example, that the apostle Peter valued repetition in his ministry. What could possibly be more important than Christ’s resurrection?

Regarding this verse, the Believer’s Bible Commentary says: “If resurrection is an utter impossibility, then there can be no exception to it. On the other hand, if resurrection had taken place once, for instance in the case of Christ, then it can no longer be thought of as an impossibility.” Thus Paul repeats his statement, challenging the Corinthians to use their reasoning skills to conclude that Christ’s resurrection implies a general resurrection.

The pivotal point of Paul’s argument appears in verse 17, as he stresses that our justification comes through Christ’s death and resurrection. He has consistently preached this as the Gospel throughout his ministry (Romans 4:25). The other apostles also preached this message in Acts 5:30-31.

The shed blood of Jesus indeed atones for sin, but Christ’s resurrection shows that God accepted His sacrifice (Romans 1:4 with Romans 4:25). So without Christ’s resurrection, the Corinthians would have believed the Gospel for nothing, and consequently would still bear the weight of their sins. Since Christ’s resurrection is the evidence that God confers justification on believers, a lack of resurrection would signify that justification never took place. Denial of the resurrection robs Christians of hope.

In verse 18, Paul adds emotional intensity to his case for general resurrection by bringing up believers who have already “fallen asleep.” The euphemism for death, fallen asleep, itself affirms the resurrection. Sleep implies eventually waking up, does it not? So Paul deliberately borrows from Jesus (John 11:11) in describing the death of believers. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 elaborates on this point, again tying the hope of believers’ resurrection to the resurrection of Christ.

Paul strengthens his case by reminding them of other Christians who have passed away. If bodily resurrection doesn’t happen, why assume that there would be any sort of conscious existence after death? In essence, without His resurrection, those people died apart from salvation.

Verse 19 offers the final, if not the most haunting, consequence of no resurrection. If Christ hasn’t been raised, and we won’t be raised, we have forsaken worldly pleasures for nothing. Furthermore, we’ve suffered persecution for the Gospel with no hope of a heavenly reward, which is pretty absurd. Sacrificing lives of pleasure in this life, when we can’t anticipate eternal life, only makes following the Lord ridiculous.

Some commentators suggest that Paul means the apostles are “people most to be pitied” because of the particularly high level of suffering they endured for the sake of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). And no one disagrees that they suffered in greater degree than most other Christians. Grammatically, however, in this passage Paul never mentions the apostles as an antecedent to the word “we,” making it more likely that he means Christians in general should be pitied if there is no resurrection.

Jesus taught that believers should expect persecution for the Gospel, as seen in Scriptures such as Matthew 24:9 and John 16:2. But without faith that we will receive a reward in eternity, we lack any motivation for undergoing that level of persecution and self-denial. Therefore all Christians should be pitied for putting ourselves in hard circumstances if we won’t derive any benefit.

Paul’s words don’t necessarily mean that the Christian life is joyless. Rather, he here wants to emphasize that we make sacrifices that unbelievers find incomprehensible precisely because of our faith that we will follow Christ in resurrection. If, however, there is no resurrection, we’ve placed our hope in an illusion. People should pity us as fools!

As we’ve seen, embracing the doctrine of resurrection is essential to Christianity as a whole. Thankfully, as we will see in verse 20 next week, Christ indeed has risen from the dead, giving us hope of eternal life! Between now and next Monday, then, join me in rejoicing over our glorious hope.

I look forward to your questions, insights and even your disagreements (as long as you can substantiate those disagreements with Scripture) in the Comments Section or on The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook page.

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