Why You Should Read the Bible Every Day

I was talking with a friend recently about how I’d been spending a lot of time reading books about the Bible, but less time reading the Bible itself. The spaces between my personal reflections on Scripture were growing wider. I still felt like I was growing and learning, but deep down I knew I was missing something.

Our conversation turned to my parents, who have been incredible, faithful examples of what it means to follow Jesus all my life—but they rarely read the Bible. For my parents, years of task-oriented, check-the-box dedication to Bible study left them with a bitter taste in their mouths. Reading the Bible and memorizing its verses had been impressed upon them so strongly that they could no longer read the Bible without also recalling the negative reinforcement and guilt that often accompanies regimented Bible-reading groups. Both of my parents have preferred to learn and grow by reading someone else’s reflections on Scripture rather than diving into it themselves.

They were spiritually scarred by their perspective of Bible study.

I grew up thinking, “But that’s still no excuse.” Yet, as I found myself encountering similar methodologies for Bible study, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this going to wear me out too?” My parents were once just as enthusiastic about Bible study as I was.

The church has more Bible study plans, methods, groups, and techniques than we know what to do with. But here’s the thing: these methods help you create discipline to do something you should want to doIf you don’t see the purpose behind the methods, you’ll burn out. On their own, Bible reading plans and verse memorization techniques are overwhelming—they take time and effort, and can leave you feeling guilty for missing a day, a week, or a meeting.

What’s the point of Bible study plans?

Starting a Bible reading plan is like starting a new diet.

Changing your diet takes discipline. Even if it’s something you really want for yourself, it’s easy to slip up and forget about it. If you let bad habits keep footholds in your life, you’ll fail before you start, and you’ll never create the healthy new habits you want.

Bible reading plan

 

The Bible is one of our greatest sources of spiritual food. But sometimes we still fill up on junk food. Blogs, social media, news, TV shows, books, and games. These things aren’t bad in themselves, but when they’re the only sources of perspective, information, and insight you consume, something is missing.

When you have a sodium deficiency, your body craves salty foods. You might not even notice that you’re craving salty foods in particular, but your body is reacting to that deficiency by creating a desire for something that restores it.

Many non-Christians have no desire to read the Bible. They want nothing to do with it. But that doesn’t mean that as God’s creation they don’t, on some level, crave his truth, his wisdom, his love, or his perspective. I see non-Christians all the time who have no idea how closely their innermost desires parallel God’s desires for them.

A Christian, though, is much more likely to notice the source of this spiritual deficiency—we’ve already been exposed to the source of God’s wisdom, truth, and perspective. God’s Word is meant to permeate every aspect of our lives. Our knowledge of him is supposed to transform us into “the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15), but something smells fishy.

The more the spaces grow between my daily readings, the more I find myself saying things like, “That reminds me of a verse in [book of the Bible],” or, “That sounds kind of like the passage where . . .” Before I know it, I’m not just paraphrasing Scripture anymore—I’m making vague references to it, or letting other sources have a greater impact on my understanding of God’s character.

In those moments, losing sight of the value of daily Bible study is more like cutting caffeine from my diet. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but I have energy drinks all the time because they help me stay alert and focused when I need to be. Caffeine is something I’ve made a part of my regular diet for a purpose—and when I stop having it, I feel it. I don’t have the energy I used to throughout the day. I can’t focus as long. Or, worse, I get headaches.

Without your daily dose of Scripture, it’s tough to be at your best all day.

But reading your Bible isn’t just something you need to do to stay spiritually healthy. It’s not a pill you have to swallow or a chalky vitamin you have to chew. Reading the Bible is something you should do because you want to.

What if I don’t want to read the Bible?

Imagine that your parents wrote a book for you—it’s the history of your family, their marriage, your childhood, how you’ve become the person you are today, and their hopes and dreams for your future. Woven throughout the book is a clear, underlying theme: they love you very much. Maybe, just maybe, you pick up on another theme as well: you haven’t always known what was best for you, and they usually know what they’re talking about.

How do you think they would feel if you told them, “Look, at least I read a chapter today”?

How much you read and how frequently you read is not the point.

Part of my job at Faithlife lets me write reflections on Scripture or dig into biblical topics. To do that well, I need to dig into the Bible daily. But whenever I read the Bible for work, I’m reading with an agenda—I’m hunting for a verse or prowling through a passage. For Scripture to penetrate my heart and permeate my life, I have to read it just to read it, too.

Reading the Bible exposes you to the history of the creator’s relationship to creation—that includes you. If you want to know who God is, he had 40 people write a whole book about him over the course of about 1,500 years. Now all you have to do is pick a Bible up off the shelf, read the Bible online, or download the Bible on your phone.

However you read the Bible, you’re going to get the most out of it if you do it because you want to.

Don’t do it because someone is making you.

Don’t do it to show off how much you read.

Don’t memorize verses to get a cookie, a prize, or acknowledgement.

Those can all be useful motivators to help you get on the right track and create healthy spiritual habits you want to have. But don’t let those be the reasons you read the Bible.

Read the Bible because it excites you.

Read the Bible because you want to know God.

Read the Bible because it’s living and active (Hebrews 4:12).

Read the Bible because it can speak powerful truth into your life right now.

Read the Bible so that your life reveals more of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:3).

Those are reasons to open your Bible every day.

So why bother with Bible reading plans?

I lead a small group of high school freshmen boys. Every two weeks this year we’ve read a chapter of Mark and talked about it together.

Every time we meet, at least half of them say, “I didn’t have time to read it.”

One chapter. Two weeks.

Without discipline, you’ll never read the Bible regularly—no matter how badly you want to.

Daily Bible reading plansBible study techniques, and external incentives are all tools designed to help you develop discipline and make Bible study part of your regular routine.

My wife started a diet because she wanted to. At first, she knew that she wouldn’t always be able to resist the unhealthy foods she used to have whenever she felt like. A group of her coworkers started dieting too, and together, they held each other accountable. Sometimes my wife would decline cookies because she knew she would have to tell her coworkers she’d cheated on the diet. But she didn’t start the diet because of her coworkers. She started because she wanted to eat healthier. After eating healthier for a few months, the reasons why she started were enough to keep her going. She didn’t need reminders or accountability.

In the same way, those external factors that help us read the Bible regularly are not the reason why we read. But they are, hopefully, tools we can use until we’ve created healthier habits and made Bible study part of our daily lives. These tools, coupled with meaningful, personal reasons to read the Bible will help you have a far richer spiritual life.

My church recently went through a series called, “Room for Cream.” The premise was that if we want to have room for God in our lives, we couldn’t “fill our cup” until there’s no room for the good stuff. If you don’t have time to read your Bible, what do you need to remove to make time?

The conclusion was profoundly simple:

If you want room for cream in your life, put the cream in first.

If you’re trying to make Bible study a habit, start your day with it. Don’t wait until you’ve filled your day with everything else. Don’t wait until you’re too tired.

You could even read the Bible right now.

 

Passion to Read the Holy Bible yourself everyday.

Learn how to read the Bible for yourself

Want help getting started? We have a free 10 day Bible study course that can teach you some of the same strategies veteran Bible readers use all the time. See how easy it is to draw fresh insights from the Bible, and start applying it directly to your own life.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up, or contact us here and we’ll send you videos with lessons taught by professional Bible teachers.

The Eyewitness Testimony That’ll Make You Never Doubt the Resurrection Again

Christianity’s core belief is that the Son of God took on human form, died for our sins and then rose from the dead to give us eternal life. But if Jesus Christ didn’t come back to life, it undoes His claim to be the all-powerful, eternal Son of God, Savior and Messiah.  So, Christianity hangs on the Resurrection.

To believe the events around that first Easter, you pretty much have to believe that Jesus did indeed exist and that the New Testament can be trusted.

At the Impact 360 school in Pine Mountain, Georgia, Prof. Jonathan Morrow preps college-bound Christians in how to fight with the facts of their faith.

Jesus Isn’t Just in the Bible

He told CBN News, “Investigating the Resurrection is a historical question that you can do with eyes wide open; it’s not a blind faith kind of thing, like believing in the Easter Bunny or a lucky rabbit’s foot.  This is real world kind of stuff.  And you can investigate the data for it.”

Morrow added, “So when it comes to the Resurrection, we say ‘Well, how do we know Jesus existed?’ Some people even doubt that.  The fact is, we have far more sources for Jesus of Nazareth than we do for many historical figures in the first century.  We have at least 18. Twelve of those are non-Christian sources.”

There’s more evidence Jesus existed than Julius Caesar. Anyone doubt Caesar existed?

As for the Scriptures, Prof. Darrell Bock of the Dallas Theological Seminary explained that any piece of a surviving ancient work is called a manuscript. And more ancient pages or fragments of the Bible have survived by far than any other book from antiquity.

“It’s exceptional,” Bock said. “You’re talking about over 5,800 Greek manuscripts, over 8,000 Latin manuscripts. Most books that we work with in the ancient world have maybe at best a dozen manuscripts.”

Jonathan Morrow is a defender of the faith, the literal meaning of “apologist.”  But he says Christians shouldn’t just defend the faith and the Resurrection. They should embrace it and let it change their lives just like it changed the ancient world. Watch below: 

Christians: If Jesus Is Dead, So Is Your Religion

For some people, they might be ready to believe the Bible is legitimate, but they have a hard time believing Jesus Christ could have actually risen from the dead.

The problem with that, as far as Morrow is concerned, is that everything hangs on that fact.

This author of Questioning the Bible explained, “Paul made the argument in I Corinthians 15, saying ‘Look, you can test this: if the Resurrection didn’t happen, Christianity is false. Whether you believe it or not, whether you’re sincere about it, if the Resurrection didn’t happen, Christianity’s false – go to the next religion.”

If He’s Dead, Then They Lied

Some suggest that the apostles all lied in a vast conspiracy to turn the deficit of Jesus’ death into the positive of a risen Lord. But biblical apologists insist when you examine it all the way through, it’s actually easier to believe in the Resurrection than its alternatives.

Such Bible experts say that to dismiss the Resurrection, any theory you come up with to explain the historical happenings has to explain away three historical facts:

  1. That there was an empty tomb three days after Jesus’s body had been placed in it, though it had been constantly guarded by Roman soldiers;
  2. Jesus appeared to hundreds of people in numerous places for almost seven weeks after His crucifixion;
  3. And something huge did happen to suddenly and forever turn all the cowering, cowardly disciples into bold believers, proclaiming a risen Messiah they were willing to be tortured and die for.

Top biblical experts point out all the holes in these and other anti-Resurrection theories. Watch below.

Did Jesus Die, or Just Almost Die?

Still, alternative theories live on.

Some theorize that Jesus didn’t die on the cross but just went into a death-like state that fooled everyone who checked His body. Then under this theory, He awoke in the tomb, got up and walked out.  Proponents say that explains His many appearances after His supposed death.

What this doesn’t explain is how in a near-death state and with exceedingly crippling wounds, He could work His way out of tightly-wrapped, glued-on burial garments and then roll away the massively heavy stone sealed onto the tomb by the Romans.  And it doesn’t explain why He’d suddenly disappear after several weeks among His disciples, never to be seen again.  Nor does it explain how so many people saw Him ascending up into the heavens.

Oops, Wrong Tomb

Some suggest the female disciples who first found the empty tomb might have just had the wrong one, and the other disciples took advantage of that, concocting a Resurrection myth to explain the empty tomb. But surely the Jewish leaders who’d had Roman guards placed by Jesus’ burial place, and Joseph of Arimathea who owned the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid, would have quickly displayed the body and corrected the mistake if indeed the women had gone to the wrong tomb.

“If you’re going around preaching Jesus was physically raised from the dead and people knew where He was buried and knew where they could find His bones, that message wouldn’t even get off the ground,” insisted Bock, author of Truth Matters.

Not Smart to Lie Where Everyone Knows You’re Lying

Josh McDowell, author of New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, said the disciples knew this well.

“In the Resurrection, where was the hardest place in the world to convince anyone it was true if it was false?  Jerusalem, where a 15-minute walk by anyone could confirm the emptiness of the tomb,” McDowell said.”

Matthew 28 points out the Jewish leaders bribed the tomb’s guards to say they’d fallen asleep and the disciples then stole Jesus’ body. But if these guards were asleep, how would they know it was the disciples?  And how could they have slept through the disciples rolling away the huge stone that covered the entrance to the tomb, a stone some have suggested was so heavy, it may have taken more than a dozen men to push it away?

Debunking this conspiracy idea, Morrow said, “Conspiracy theories unravel very quickly because people will eventually tell what they know. And the more people who are involved, and the more people who saw the event, you multiply your chances of the story getting out. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is the Gospels, the earliest historical record we have, don’t show the tales of being doctored to say the same thing, like they got their stories straight. They had the ring of truth to them.”

Would You Die for a Lie You Made Up?

And if the disciples were making up Jesus’ Resurrection, would they have lived and died for Him and a fiction they themselves made up?

McDowell explained, “They said after He was crucified and buried, He was raised from the dead and for 40 days — not 40 hours, not four days — for 40 days, they lived with Him and walked with Him, with overwhelming proof that He’d been raised from the dead.”

McDowell concluded, “If the Resurrection was a lie, they had to know it. And if they knew it, then you’d have to say here were these men who not only died for a lie, but they knew it was a lie. I challenge you to find others in history who that’s true of. It’s not.”

Morrow added, “The earliest disciples would have known – not just believed, but would have known – that either Jesus was who He claimed to be and was actually raised from the dead or they were making this thing up. And yet history tells us that we have good reason to think they all went to their death with the exception of one for that core belief: that Jesus was raised from the dead. They didn’t recant that. Conspiracies break down under pressure.  And this conspiracy would have cost them their lives.”

What Would Cause Such Radical Transformations?

These and other experts say that in truth, it would take something as radical as Jesus’ Resurrection to completely transform the disciples like cowardly Peter, who was so scared just before the crucifixion, he swore he didn’t even know Jesus. Watch below.

But just a few weeks later Morrow pointed out Peter went from hiding away, fearful the Jewish leaders might have him killed as well, to boldly preaching salvation through Christ before a crowd of thousands, including some who sought Jesus’ death.

Morrow explained, “You see Peter with this radical transformation, going from coward to this courageous champion who’s saying ‘Look, here I stand, this is what I’m saying, this is what’s true. You crucified this guy, but this is what He offered.’ You’ve got that radical transformation right at the heart of what’s going on around that earliest Christian movement.”

From Christ-Hater to Christian Martyr

Morrow pointed out Jesus’ doubting brother James was also instantly changed.

He said, “James – the brother of Jesus —didn’t follow Jesus during His earthly ministry; thought He was crazy.”

McDowell agreed, saying, “James despised his brother. Thought He was embarrassing the family. And then Jesus appeared to him in James’ own word, and he became the leader of the church of Jerusalem.”

Morrow added, “And after the fact, James becomes an early leader in the Church, and was persecuted and eventually killed for that belief.”

And biblical apologists say it could only be a resurrected Jesus showing up forcefully and vividly two to three years later that could transform the church’s worst persecutor into its main missionary.

Greatest Murderer Turned to Greatest Missionary

“Saul of Tarsus was anything but a follower who believed in Jesus,” McDowell said. “He went from city to city casting his vote to have them imprisoned and executed. But in his own words, Christ appeared to him. Whether you believe that or not, something took.  One of the greatest murderers into one of the greatest missionaries.  A Christian-hater to a Christian-lover.”

Morrow stated,  “What in the world would flip Paul – or actually, Saul of Tarsus – to Paul, the chief proclaimer in the early Church?  He was a smart guy. He was holding the coats when people were killing the first Christians.  He was adamantly opposed to this movement. And then he became a Christian. What accounts for that?”

Short of the risen Jesus appearing to Paul, Bock believes it’s an unfathomable transformation.

As he put it, “So the main thing is just explaining how someone like a Saul who becomes Paul even exists.”

McDowell concluded, “Something happened in Paul’s life that I’ve never found any other explanation that even comes close to satisfying me intellectually except: ‘And Jesus appeared to Paul after the Resurrection.'”

Liars Wouldn’t Have Testified About the Female Disciples’ Role 

Another crucial factor that debunks the idea all these disciples were trying to sell a false Resurrection to the world: the fact that they proclaimed it was females who found the empty tomb and let the male disciples know Jesus was missing.

The first century Jews believed women were second-class citizens.  So if the disciples were lying about the resurrection, they made their story all the harder to accept by putting women at the forefront.

“Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – they all recount Jesus’ earliest women followers finding the empty tomb,” Morrow said. “In the first century, where a woman’s testimony would have been about the level just above a slave, that would not be your best foot forward.”

Bock imagined being with the disciples plotting how they’ll push a false Resurrection.

The Criterion of Embarrassment 

“‘We’re going to sell this difficult idea, and the people we’re going to get to sell it are people that the culture doesn’t believe have the right to be witnesses,'” Bock imagined them saying.

But he insisted, “You’d never make up a story that way.  This is what’s called the Criterion of Embarrassment in historical Jesus studies: that you’d never make up the story this way.  So the reason the story is this way is because it must be grounded in what happened.”

Morrow completely agreed, stating the Gospel writers testifying about the women’s role has “the ring of truth.”

Morrow said, “That would have been an embarrassing detail you would have never led with UNLESS it actually happened. And the fact that all four (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) say it happened just gives it that much stronger evidence that it actually did happen.”

Hard to Simply Dismiss 500 Eyewitnesses

Saying the disciples lied about Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t explain His post-Resurrection appearance before 500 people. The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15 suggested doubters go talk to them.

Morrow said of that, “You’ve got living history. You’ve got the people who were there to cross-check whatever message is being put out there. So, it’s not as though these things could have been invented and no one would have challenged it. You’ve got this idea that ‘there are witnesses; go investigate them.'”

He added about this call in I Corinthians to talk to witnesses, “Ancient historians loved eyewitness testimony. That’s what they all wanted. Livy, Herodotus, Tacitus, Thucydides – they all wanted eyewitness testimony to get back to the original.  And that’s what you have.”

McDowell said of such eyewitness testimony, “I put a lot of weight on this.  You see, people today say, ‘How do you know Jesus said that? How do you know He did that?’ Well, they had the same question in the New Testament times. Even more so than today because they were dying for it. And they wanted to know: ‘Is this true? Did Jesus really do this? Did He really say this?’ ”

‘Can’t Get Much Better Evidence’

McDowell pointed out, “In I John 1, how did John answer that? They said ‘How do we know this is true?’ John said , ‘What our eyes have seen, what our eyes have heard, what our hands have handled is what we’re declaring unto you.’ In other words, ‘We were eyewitnesses. We were there.’  And then with their opponents they would say, ‘You were there, too. You saw Jesus do this; you heard Him do this.’  And you can’t get much better evidence historically than that.  And we have that in the Scriptures.”

Morrow returned to how Paul pushed his readers in I Corinthians 15 to gather proof that Jesus rose from the dead: “He says, ‘It’s not a matter of wishful thinking.  Investigate this.’ That’s why he mentions the eyewitnesses. He mentioned that Jesus appeared to more than 500, and as well as His disciples, and to Paul himself and to others. Because eyewitnesses authenticated that event. And it was central to Christianity.”

Morrow concluded, “It has all the ring of truth and not the ring of that conspiracy theory where they just made this thing up to invent their own religion.”

Jonathan Morrow and Josh McDowell share more of their insights regarding eyewitness testimony below:

Could 500 People Have the Same Hallucination?

Some doubters try to do away with all the post-Resurrection appearances by saying those who thought they were seeing, talking to and touching Jesus were all hallucinating, even the 500 Paul discussed in I Corinthians.

McDowell told CBN News believing that takes more faith than simply accepting that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

The writer explained, “Here’s the key: what is a hallucination? A hallucination is an internal experience, not triggered by anything externally.  This is why no two people ever have the same hallucination. Because it’s all internal; subjective. Well, to have 500 people have the same hallucination would be 500 miracles equal to the Resurrection.”

Speaking of miracles, Morrow called on people to not dismiss them as casually as most folks do these days.

If God Exists, so Can Miracles

“When historians investigate this, in our modern mindset, there’s this idea that ‘Look, miracles are out of bounds.’ Well, why? Because if it’s at least possible that God exists, then miracles become possible,” he insisted.

But Morrow added, “We shouldn’t believe just any and every miracle. We then investigate them on a case-by-case basis. And when you look at the Resurrection evidence, it’s pretty remarkable how strong it is, and that’s why it’s at the core of Christianity. And so, I don’t think it’s intellectually credible to rule out miracles before you investigate the event, out of hand.”

Bock insisted, “The faith is very, very defendable. That’s why it’s lasted for 2,000 years.  And not only that. There’s a rationale that shows the uniqueness of what Jesus is that’s important to appreciate as well. And so all the time that’s often spent on the Resurrection makes sense because that really is the hub of the discussion.”

Morrow added, “Christians don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible says so. They believe He rose from the dead because that’s what the earliest and best historical documents show, and that’s what’s the best explanation of the data.”

Early Is Important

Just like historians put great weight on eyewitness testimony, they also give more respect to early historical writings done close to the events they discuss.

With Peter, John, and James, you have both: They’re eyewitnesses who wrote early.

“You can push the earliest core teaching of Jesus – His death, deity, and Resurrection – within months of the Resurrection. Because then it goes back to Peter, James, and John,” Morrow said. “These people were eyewitnesses, they were there, and it was early.”

Paul’s encounter with Jesus came just two or three years after Christ’s death and Resurrection, and not long after that, he interviewed Peter, James, and John.

“Then 18 years later he cross-checked himself again,” Morrow said of Paul. “In I Corinthians 15, he goes ‘Look, I met with them again and they added nothing to my gospel. We’re preaching the same exact thing.’ This is the core message. And you can trace it back to the beginning, that there was never a Christianity without that at the heart of it.”

Bock said that’s crucial knowledge for those who might instead have believed these key Christian doctrines were dreamed up much later.

He explained, “The issue that’s sometimes raised up: ‘well, these books were written many decades later. And so they reflect a theological development coming down the road.’  All that shrinks back when you look at the person of Paul.”

“He was writing within a few years of the time of Christ,” McDowell added. “And this is why for many of the scholars will give I Corinthians incredible credence: because of its closeness.”

The Resurrection Proves Jesus Was Who He Said He Was

Morrow said of Paul, “He understood why Jesus of Nazareth was different in the unique claims that He made, but that then those claims were authenticated through His Resurrection that said ‘What I said is what is real. This is who I am.'”

Morrow summed up, “These claims to forgive sins sound crazy unless you’re the Son of God, you’re the Son of Man, you’re the Messiah. And that’s who He showed Himself to be. And Paul is probably our earliest and best witness to that. And our critical scholars will grant us Paul being that eyewitness.”

McDowell spoke of evidence that can help readers believe the words of Paul and other New Testament writers, like archaeological findings.

He explained, “Right now you can almost say every single reference in the Book of Acts has already been verified through archaeology: 600 some references to kings, people, places, everything. In Luke 3, in the first three verses, there are 17 historical references. Every single one now has been confirmed by archaeology.”

‘The Evidence Is Only Getting Better’

Biblical expert Bock flat-out stated, “These books are the best-attested pieces of ancient literature we possess.”

Morrow added, “One of the fascinating things about New Testament manuscripts: We have over 5,700 Greek manuscripts alone. And more manuscripts are being discovered all the time.”

He summed up, “I think what Christians need to know is that there’s really good reason why we believe what we believe, and the evidence is only getting better. The more we discover and the more we find, the more confidence you can have that this is really true.”

By Paul Strand

Credit: CBNNEWS.COM

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What is the Gospel?

Introduction

In a day of depressing headlines and uncertainty all around us, good news is very welcome. What better news could there be than as the old hymn says: “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives?” When Christians refer to the “Gospel” they are referring to the “good news” that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin so that we might become the children of God through faith alone in Christ alone. In short, “the Gospel” is the sum total of the saving truth as God has communicated it to lost humanity as it is revealed in the person of His Son and in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. If you aren’t sure whether or not you are God’s child, you might want to read God’s Plan of Salvation before you read on in this lesson.

The Basic Meaning of the Term

The term gospel is found ninety-nine times in the NASB and ninety-two times in the NET Bible. In the Greek New Testament, gospel is the translation of the Greek noun euangelion(occurring 76 times) “good news,” and the verb euangelizo (occurring 54 times), meaning “to bring or announce good news.” Both words are derived from the noun angelos, “messenger.” In classical Greek, an euangelos was one who brought a message of victory or other political or personal news that caused joy. In addition, euangelizomai (the middle voice form of the verb) meant “to speak as a messenger of gladness, to proclaim good news.”1 Further, the noun euangelion became a technical term for the message of victory, though it was also used for a political or private message that brought joy.2

That both the noun and the verb are used so extensively in the New Testament demonstrate how it developed a distinctly Christian use and emphasis because of the glorious news announced to mankind of salvation and victory over sin and death that God offers to all people through the person and accomplished work of Jesus Christ on the cross as proven by His resurrection, ascension, and session at God’s right hand. In the New Testament these two words, euangelion and euangelizo, became technical terms for this message of good news offered to all men through faith in Christ.

The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia summarizes the gospel message this way:

The central truth of the gospel is that God has provided a way of salvation for men through the gift of His son to the world. He suffered as a sacrifice for sin, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will accept it. The gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something that must be earned by penance or by self-improvement (Jn 3:16Rom 5:8–11II Cor 5:14–19Tit 2:11–14).3

The Gospel in a Nutshell

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, the apostle Paul summarizes the most basic ingredients of the gospel message, namely, the death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of the resurrected Christ. Note the four clauses introduced by that in bold type in verses 3-5 below:

15:1 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, 15:2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 15:3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 15:4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…

These verses, which were an early Christian confession, give us the heart of the gospel and show the that the resurrection is an integral part of the gospel. Note that Paul described this as “of first importance”—a phrase that stresses priority, not time. The stress is on the centrality of these truths to the gospel message.

Actually, the central ingredient of the gospel message is a two-fold confession: (1) Christ died for our sins and (2) He was raised on the third day. The reality of these two elements can be verified by the Scriptures (cf. Ps. 16:10Isa. 53:8-10) and by such awesome historical evidence as the empty tomb and the eye witnesses. Thus, the other two elements mentioned here accomplish two important facts regarding the gospel. The fact that He was buried verified His death, and the fact that He appeared to others verified His resurrection.

Modifying Terms

While gospel is often found alone, it is very often modified by various terms that focus on a particular aspect of the gospel.

It is modified by various descriptive phrases, such as, “the gospel of God” (Mk 1:14, ASV; Rom 15:16), “the gospel of Jesus Christ,” (Mk 1:1; I Cor 9:12), “the gospel of his Son” (Rom 1:9), “the gospel of the kingdom “ (Mt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14), “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (II Cor 4:4, ASV), “the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15), “an eternal gospel” (Rev 14:6, RSV). Although distinctive aspects of the message are indicated by the various modifiers, the gospel is essentially one. Paul speaks of “another gospel” which is not an equivalent, for the gospel of God is His revelation, not the result of discovery (Gal 1:6–11).

In the New Testament, the various modifiers bring out some aspect of the gospel that is being stressed in the context and is a part of the good news of what God offers us in Christ.

(1) The gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:11 Cor. 9:12) and the gospel of His Son (Rom. 1:9). These two descriptions speak of the good news of salvation that comes through the person and work of Jesus Christ who is the very Son of God in human flesh. Again, this is a good news of deliverance from sin’s penalty, power and presence through the two advents of Christ.

(2) The gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24) emphasizes that salvation in all of its aspects is on the basis of grace rather than on some meritorious system of works.

(3) The gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14) is the good news that God will establish His kingdom on earth through the two advents of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(4) The gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15) describes how this good news of salvation in Christ brings peace in all its many aspects (peace with God, the peace of God, peace with others, and world peace) through the victory accomplished by the Savior.

(5) The eternal or everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6) expands our perspective of gospel as we normally think of it. This gospel as proclaimed by the angel has several key elements of gloriously good news that are developed in three commands and two reasons:

  • Command #1: “Fear God.” This refers to a holy reverence that recognizes the sovereign authority and power of God to deal with man in His holy wrath and thus, to bring an end to the world of sin as we now know it. To fear God is to recognize Him as the true God who can destroy the soul and not just the body as God will do with the beast of Revelation and His anti-God system.
  • Command #2: “Give Him glory.” This refers to the praise and honor that should accrue to God from mankind due to our recognition and high estimation of God as the sovereign Creator of the universe.
  • Command #3: “And worship Him who made …” The word “worship” means to show reverence or respect. This word emphasizes the external display as seen in our obedience, prayer, singing, and formal worship. The word “fear” emphasizes the reverential mental attitude behind the worship. In the Tribulation people will be forced to fear and formally acknowledge the beast and his image. In this message the angel is demanding that mankind reject the beast and formally turn to God to worship Him (cf. Rev. 14:11).
  • Reason #1:“The hour of his judgment has come” is a reference to the final judgments of the Tribulation—the bowl judgments—which are about to occur that will put an end to the system of the beast and bring the rule the Lord Jesus, the King of kings. These will conclude with the return of Christ Himself (Rev. 19) and lead to the removal of all unbelievers from the earth. The emphasis is to not delay because the time is short.
  • Reason #2: This is seen in the reference to God as the Creator in verse 7b. Here we are called to pay attention to the ageless and universal message of the creation itself. Age after age creation has called mankind to recognize God’s existence and to seek after Him (cf. Acts 17:26-27 with Psalm 19:1-6). This means people are without excuse and that, when the angel proclaims this gospel, the hour of the Creator’s judgment is about to fall (see Rom. 1:18f). Though this is the essential and primary element of the angel’s everlasting gospel, perhaps he will say more than this for from age to age a person’s capacity to reverence, glorify and worship God has come only through believing and knowing Christ (cf. John 14:6 with Acts 4:12John 4:23-24).

Popular Notions
Limit the Meaning of the Gospel

Popular notions about the term ‘gospel’ tend to limit it to the message of how one may receive eternal life through faith in Christ, but it is much broader than that. For instance, Paul says in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “the righteous by faith will live.” But by using the term “gospel” here, Paul is not

…limiting his thoughts to those central truths by which a person is given eternal life. For Paul, his gospel included such matters as justification by faith (3-5), sanctification through the Spirit (6-8), and God’s future for Israel (9-11). In fact, the gospel gathers together all the truths that are found in Romans. Therefore, we can conclude that in Rom 1:16, Paul is expressing his confidence that the truths of justification, sanctification, and even glorification provide God’s power to deliver us from enslavement and bondage to sin.

In a footnote to the above statement, Hart adds the following explanation.

Romans 16:25 demonstrates that sanctification truth (Romans 6-8) was part of Paul’s gospel”; “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel…” (italics added). In Romans, Paul is defending the gospel he preached. While the apostle preached “the gospel of His [God’s] Son” (1:9), the “gospel of God” (1:1; 15:16), and the “gospel of Christ” (1:16, MajT; 15:19), Paul also found it necessary to use the phrase “my gospel” (Rom 2:16; 16:25). Paul’s use of the term “gospel” is very broad, including all the truths about Christ in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The gospel (1:1) concerned Old Testament revelation about Christ (1:2), his Davidic lineage (1:3), the Holy Spirit’s role in the resurrection (1:4), and Paul’s apostleship to Gentiles (1:5).… It is more adequate to see Paul as using the term “gospel” in a wider scope than popular notions about the word.

Reception of the Gospel

One of the important issues about this gospel message has to do with how one receives the salvation offered in the gospel. The fact that God offers us salvation from sin’s penalty and power with the glorious promise that this will one day result in the glorious reign of Christ on earth with sin, death, and Satan as vanquished foes is glorious news to be sure. However, the fact that God offers us salvation as a free gift through faith in Christ is good news beyond description. Paul clearly links the gospel with faith in Galatians 3:6-9.

3:6 Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” 3:7 so then, understand that those who believe are the sons of Abraham. 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, “all the nations will be blessed in you.” 3:9 So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believer.

If the salvation offered to us were dependent on our merit or our ability to keep the law, it would not be good news because of our sinfulness and complete inability to keep the law or any kind of righteous principles as a means of our justification or right standing with God.

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:19-20 NASB).

16 yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified (Gal. 2:16 NASB).

Why is this element of grace such wonderful news? Because it guarantees justification with God and the reason is that justification is based on the accomplished work and merit of Jesus Christ.

4:13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 4:14 For if they become heirs by the law, faith is empty and the promise is nullified. 4:15 For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either. 4:16 For this reason it is by faith that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants—not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (Rom. 4:13-16, emphasis mine).

Warnings About
‘Another Gospel’ Which is Not a Gospel

One of the beautiful and joyful aspects of the message of salvation in Christ that makes it such good news is the element of grace (Acts 20:24). Salvation is the free gift of God to be received by faith alone in Christ alone (Rev. 21:6; 22:17Rom. 4:4-5Eph. 2:8-9Tit. 3:4-5). But the message of grace goes contrary to the heart and thinking of man who intuitively thinks in terms of merit. After all, you can’t get something for nothing—at least not if its worth anything. Man has always had a problem with grace and this is easily seen in the book of Acts. From the very early days of the church, it has faced the problem of those who wanted to add some form of works to the message of grace.

In Acts 15:1 we read these words: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Verse 5 tells us that these were men from the sect of the Pharisees who had believed. From within its own ranks (they were members of the church) a controversy broke out concerning the exact nature and content of the gospel message. Later the apostle Paul had to deal with a similar controversy in the book of Galatians. Writing regarding those who wanted to deny the gospel of grace, Paul wrote, “Now this matter arose because of the false brothers with false pretenses who slipped in unnoticed to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, to make us slaves. But we did not surrender to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you” (Gal. 2:4-5).

So, the apostle warned of those who offer a gospel of works for salvation rather than grace. We should remember, as Paul teaches us in Romans 4 and 11. If it is by grace, it is no longer by works and if by works, it is no longer by grace (see Rom. 4:3-4; 11:6). So in reality, any time someone offers a gospel of works, it is not the gospel—a message of good news. Instead it is bad news, it is false, and a terrible distortion.

1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and following a different gospel— 1:7 not that there is another gospel; but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! 1:9 As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell! 1:10 Am I now trying to gain the approval of people or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ (Gal. 1:6-10).

Therefore, if distorted by rejection of the truth that all God does for us in Christ is by grace alone through faith apart from works or by a denial of who Jesus is, then the “gospel” is a “different gospel, which is in fact, no gospel at all (Gal. 1:7).”

Conclusion

In summary, what is the gospel? It is the message of the good news of salvation, the word of truth offered to mankind by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. It is a message not only of eternal life, but one that encompasses the total plan of God to redeem people from the ravages of sin, death, Satan, and the curse that now covers the earth.

The world is blinded to the gospel by Satan who wants to keep people from seeing the glorious nature of the gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:3-4), but the Christian should never be ashamed of the gospel nor reticent to share it because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes for the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17).

Furthermore, the gospel does not come simply in words. “For our gospel did not come to you merely in words, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (in much assurance) (1 Thess. 1:5).

Of course, the gospel is a message of words since words are basic to the intelligent communication of God’s truth. As a message, the gospel is a witness to the historical work of God in the person and work of Christ for which the right words are crucial. However, this message is not merely a message of words. Words can be very eloquent, persuasive, and entertaining and they may move people emotionally and intellectually, but such can not save them and bring them into the family of God (see 1 Cor. 2:1ff). Thus, the apostle added, the gospel came “also in power.”

In contrast to mere words, the gospel came “with power.” Some would like to relate this to miraculous works as authenticating signs, but normally, the plural, “powers,” would be used if that were meant (see Matt. 13:54; 14:21 Cor. 12:10Gal. 3:5Heb. 2:4; 6:5). Others would relate it to the inward power in the messengers as a result of the filling of the Spirit, but this important characteristic is brought out by the next prepositional phrase mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, “with” or “by the Spirit.” Rather, could it not refer simply to the inherent power of the gospel as the “Word of God which is alive and powerful” (Heb. 4:12)? It is not just a message of words, but a message which is living, active, powerful and able to bring people into a saving relationship with the living God for one simple reason: It is God’s Word and it is truth. It is the true revelation of God’s activity in Jesus Christ. See also the apostle’s comment in 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

But Paul quickly adds, “and in the Holy Spirit.” This takes us to the second of the positive elements that gave these missionaries their boldness in presenting the gospel. Paul and his associates knew they were indwelt by the Spirit as their helper or enabler for ministry (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7f; Acts 1:8). The Spirit of God, as the third person of the Trinity, is called “the Spirit of Truth” because of His role in taking the truth of the Word and revealing it to men (see John 14:17; 15;26; 16:8-131 John 4:6Acts 1:81 Cor. 2:6-16). Because of the blindness and hardness of men’s heart, they are powerless to even desire, much less grasp the life-giving truth of the gospel (cf. Rom. 3:11), but by the powerful pre-salvation ministry of the Spirit who led the missionaries (see Acts 16:6-10), who prepares hearts (Acts 16:14), and who convicts and draws men to God (Rom. 2:4John 12:32; 16:8f), some will listen, grasp, and believe the gospel and experience its saving power (see also 2 Thess. 2:13).

Thus, the apostle added a third positive element concerning the gospel which they brought to the Thessalonians—“and with full conviction.” This point us to the faith and confidence of the missionaries. It was not in their looks, in their beaming personalities, in their eloquence or oratorical skill, nor in their methodology that they trusted. They preached the gospel with conviction resting in the fact they were preaching the powerful, life-giving truth of God fortified by the powerful ministry of the Spirit of God who worked both in the missionaries and in their hearers.

May we realize with Paul that the gospel is a sacred trust (1 Tim. 1:11). Thus, may we with the apostle be under divine compulsion to proclaim it (1 Cor. 9:16), and seek the prayer of others that we may carry out the task of sharing the gospel with boldness (Eph. 6:19). This will often involve us in opposition (1 Thess. 2:2) and affliction (2 Tim. 1:8), but the gospel of salvation is “the word of truth” (Eph. 1:13).

1. Colin Brown, general editor, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1976), Volume 2, 107.

2 Colin Brown, 107.

3 Charles F. Pfeiffer, Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1975), electronic media.

4 Unless otherwise note, all quotations are from the NET Bible www.bible.org.

5 Charles F. Pfeiffer, electronic media.

6 John Hart, “The Use and Abuse of Romans 10:9-10,” Journal of Grace Evangelical Society, ed. Robert N. Wilkin, Vol. 12, no. 23, Autumn (1999) : 17.

7 Hart, 17.

Used by Permission

Credit: Bible.org

Obedience: The Key That Opens All Doors

Obedience is not a positive word these days. For some it seems cold and harsh. For others it carries overtones of legalism in religion or control in other venues. Perhaps for all of us it challenges our inherent drive toward autonomy and the individualistic bent that pervades our culture. As Americans we do not want anyone telling us what to do—not even God.

But how many of us have stopped to think that our wariness of obedience may be keeping us from one of the great keys to the enjoyment of God and the transformation of our lives? Are we aware that the Bible and the saints throughout history affirm the insight of John Calvin that “all true knowledge of God is born out of obedience”?

The High Cost of Disobedience
It takes only a moment’s reflection to realize that the cost of disobedience has been high. The world as we know it is not the good world God originally created, nor do we human beings much resemble the image of God in which we were first made. Tragically that image has been shattered, and the world is filled with sin, sorrow, and suffering. The “break” began with one act of disobedience by our first parents. By a deliberate choice, rooted in pride and unbelief, they acted in defiance of God’s revealed will. And their self-centered drive for autonomy has passed down to every human being. Perhaps Woody Allen spoke for us all when he famously said, “The heart wants what it wants.”

With our own hands, we forged the chains that bind us, and we now lack the power to free ourselves from them. We want to do what we want to do and cannot escape. Our only hope lies outside ourselves, in the One who loves us and gave himself up for us.

The Blessings of Obedience
When we grasp an understanding of the blessings of obedience, we find them utterly astounding. Because of his great love, God has made a way for us to be reconciled to him and freed from our bondage to sin and self. Our predicament can be reversed if we will forsake our rebellion and return to him. And this is now possible because God has sent his only Son to rescue us. Jesus came to earth and lived a life of perfect submission and obedience to the Father’s will. The supreme expression of his obedience was submitting to the shameful, humiliating, and excruciating death of crucifixion, which was also the supreme expression of his love for the Father (John 14:31). In this act of self-sacrificing love, he “who knew no sin” became sin for us “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). His perfect obedience to God’s law as God’s loving and faithful Son can now be imputed to us, and our disobedience can be laid upon him, setting us right with God, if we choose it.

Our freedom begins when we respond to the love of God as it meets us in Jesus’ call to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). In Greek, these two verbs are in the imperative mood and thus are commands to be obeyed. They summon us to turn from the disobedience of unbelief to the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5). And the gift of faith makes this possible for us. Confident trust in Jesus and his message gives us life, turns us around, frees us, and sets in motion a great reversal in our lives.

This transforming reversal progresses as we follow Jesus Christ, who says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Following Jesus means taking steps forward in what might be called “the obedience of faith”—moving steadily away from our former areas of disobedience and back into the will of God. The power to do this comes from the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:13, 29). Though there will be times when we disobey, there is forgiveness as we repent and return to the Lord. This process of discipleship or sanctification, which restores the image of God in us, takes a lifetime and is completed only in the world to come. But we can make great progress in this world, which should be our highest priority.

The Key to Obedience
C.S. Lewis said, “Obedience is the key that opens every door.” But how do we obey without falling into legalism? Through love. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Just as Jesus’ love for the Father was expressed in his obedience, so our love for Jesus is expressed in our obedience (John 14:31; 15:9-10). Ours is not the obedience of one who seeks to justify himself before God but the obedience of one who, in grateful love, seeks to please him “who loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2; Gal. 2:20). Thus we may speak of “the obedience of love.” As with faith, the source of this love is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Sonship, who draws us to the Father’s love. And Jesus has promised his help: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16). To the one who, by the Spirit, embraces the obedience of love, Jesus goes on to say, “I will love him and manifest myself to him” (14:21), and, “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (14:23). Thus, as John Stott once said, “the test of love is obedience and the reward of love is the self-manifestation of Christ.” This promise of personal intimacy with the Father and the Son enabled by the Spirit takes us to the very heart of the trinitarian life, a life of grace that is free from law. A life in which we joyfully will to do the will of God and to please him in all things.

This is the heritage of all who have come to a living faith in Jesus Christ. If we would enjoy the fullness of this life, let us embrace the obedience of faith and love and daily seek to walk by the Holy Spirit, through whom all these blessings come (Gal. 5:16–25). And in prayerful meditation upon Jesus’ words, let us ask the Sprit to teach us and transform us more and more into his image. 

The Blessings of Obedience
When we grasp an understanding of the blessings of obedience, we find them utterly astounding. Because of his great love, God has made a way for us to be reconciled to him and freed from our bondage to sin and self. Our predicament can be reversed if we will forsake our rebellion and return to him. And this is now possible because God has sent his only Son to rescue us. Jesus came to earth and lived a life of perfect submission and obedience to the Father’s will. The supreme expression of his obedience was submitting to the shameful, humiliating, and excruciating death of crucifixion, which was also the supreme expression of his love for the Father (John 14:31). In this act of self-sacrificing love, he “who knew no sin” became sin for us “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). His perfect obedience to God’s law as God’s loving and faithful Son can now be imputed to us, and our disobedience can be laid upon him, setting us right with God, if we choose it.

Our freedom begins when we respond to the love of God as it meets us in Jesus’ call to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). In Greek, these two verbs are in the imperative mood and thus are commands to be obeyed. They summon us to turn from the disobedience of unbelief to the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5). And the gift of faith makes this possible for us. Confident trust in Jesus and his message gives us life, turns us around, frees us, and sets in motion a great reversal in our lives.

This transforming reversal progresses as we follow Jesus Christ, who says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Following Jesus means taking steps forward in what might be called “the obedience of faith”—moving steadily away from our former areas of disobedience and back into the will of God. The power to do this comes from the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:13, 29). Though there will be times when we disobey, there is forgiveness as we repent and return to the Lord. This process of discipleship or sanctification, which restores the image of God in us, takes a lifetime and is completed only in the world to come. But we can make great progress in this world, which should be our highest priority.

The Key to Obedience
C.S. Lewis said, “Obedience is the key that opens every door.” But how do we obey without falling into legalism? Through love. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Just as Jesus’ love for the Father was expressed in his obedience, so our love for Jesus is expressed in our obedience (John 14:31; 15:9-10). Ours is not the obedience of one who seeks to justify himself before God but the obedience of one who, in grateful love, seeks to please him “who loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2; Gal. 2:20). Thus we may speak of “the obedience of love.” As with faith, the source of this love is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Sonship, who draws us to the Father’s love. And Jesus has promised his help: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16). To the one who, by the Spirit, embraces the obedience of love, Jesus goes on to say, “I will love him and manifest myself to him” (14:21), and, “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (14:23). Thus, as John Stott once said, “the test of love is obedience and the reward of love is the self-manifestation of Christ.” This promise of personal intimacy with the Father and the Son enabled by the Spirit takes us to the very heart of the trinitarian life, a life of grace that is free from law. A life in which we joyfully will to do the will of God and to please him in all things.

This is the heritage of all who have come to a living faith in Jesus Christ. If we would enjoy the fullness of this life, let us embrace the obedience of faith and love and daily seek to walk by the Holy Spirit, through whom all these blessings come (Gal. 5:16–25). And in prayerful meditation upon Jesus’ words, let us ask the Sprit to teach us and transform us more and more into his image. 

Timothy Keller by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Vice President of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D. Min. Vice President of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute, has lived in the Washington, D.C. area since 1978 and served as President of the C.S. Lewis Institute from 1998 to April 2010. Prior to coming to the Institute, he served as co-pastor of Christ Our Shepherd Church and Director of The School for Urban Mission, both based in Washington, D.C. He is the author of two books and is a consultant for Church Discipleship Services, developing discipleship programs and materials to strengthen the local church. Tom earned a Master of Divinity Degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Church Alliance.

Learn What the Bible Says About Righteousness

Righteousness is the state of moral perfection required by God to enter heaven.

However, the Bible clearly states that human beings cannot achieve righteousness through their own efforts: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sightby the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” (Romans 3:20, NIV).

The law, or the Ten Commandments, shows us how far we fall short of God’s standards.

The only solution to that dilemma is God’s plan of salvation.

THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST

People receive righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. Christ, the sinless Son of God, took humanity’s sin upon himself and became the willing, perfect sacrifice, suffering the punishment mankind deserved. God the Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice, through which human beings can become justified.

In turn, believers receive righteousness from Christ. This doctrine is called imputation. Christ’s perfect righteousness is applied to imperfect humans.

The Old Testament tells us that because of the sin of Adam, we, his descendants, have inherited his sinful nature. God set up a system in Old Testament times in which people sacrificed animals to atone for their sins. The shedding of blood was required.

When Jesus entered the world, things changed. His crucifixion and resurrectionsatisfied God’s justice.

Christ’s shed blood covers our sins. No more sacrifices or works are required. The Apostle Paul explains how we receive righteousness through Christ in the book of Romans.

Salvation through this crediting of righteousness is a free gift, which is the doctrine of grace. Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus is the essence of Christianity.

No other religion offers grace. They all require some type of works on behalf of the participant.

Pronunciation: RITE chuss ness

Also Known As: uprightness, justice, blamelessness, justice.

Example: Christ’s righteousness is credited to our account and makes us holy before God.

BIBLE VERSE ABOUT RIGHTEOUSNESS

Romans 3:21-26
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

(Sources: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, edited by Stephen D. Renn; New Topical Textbook, by Rev. R.A. Torrey; Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, edited by Chad Brand, Charles Draper, and Archie England; and The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, by Merrill F.Unger.)

 

by Jack Zavada

THE DYNAMITE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

When we speak of the power of the Holy Spirit, many people–even Christians–misunderstand the meaning of power. They tend to define power as the world defines it.

In the world’s view, power conveys the ability to control people, events, and circumstances for our own advantage. In the world, power brings independence and self-sufficiency, with no need for God’s help or the assurance of others.

 

The world’s power is temporary, leaving a person always wanting more.

 While many devote their lives to achieving this goal, this type of power can never satisfy the soul or bring joy or peace. The world’s power is temporary, leaving a person always wanting more.

In describing the power of the Holy Spirit, the Bible paints quite a different picture (see Luke 24:49Acts 1:82 Corinthians 12:9). The word translated as “power” in the English Bible is the Greek word dynamis, from which we get the word dynamite. In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His disciples that before they would be able to evangelize the world, they must receive the dynamis of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit possesses a dynamite-like power that works within a believer to blast out anything that is unlike God. It is not a power that exalts one person above others. It does not manipulate or control others. Instead, the Holy Spirit uses His power to break us so that He might remake us. The more we get self out of the way and yield our will to His, the more powerfully He is able to pour Himself out through us to others, and the more powerfully He is able to transform our lives. We are merely the conduits, the channels through which God’s power moves.

The Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses of God’s love, to live in a way that pleases God, to meet fully the demands and pressures of life, and to resist temptation. The power of the Holy Spirit is the only power that is sufficient to win spiritual battles against our own selfish desires and the wiles of Satan.

Set aside some time today to ask God to free you from the desire to control others and to lead you to become a clean vessel that can be used to transmit His power. Ask Him to do the same for your spouse, your children, your coworkers, and your friends.

Prayer: Lord, teach me about the true power of Your Spirit and grant me the willingness to submit to Your power. I confess that You alone are God. Please display Your power in and through my life today. Make me a clean and willing vessel. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).

The importance of holiness

The importance of holiness

 

Christians are called ‘saints’ in the New Testament because they are expected to be ‘sanctified ones’, men and women set apart to God. In other words, they are to be holy people.

 

Let me remind you of the ground we covered in the two previous articles on holiness (ET October and November 2008). Biblical personal holiness involves two things: (a) putting sin to death in one’s life; and (b) becoming increasingly conformed to the character of Christ, who was ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners’ (Hebrews 7:26).

We are not to think of holiness in a legalistic way, as if good works or a holy life can save us or atone for sin. The brightest of saints see themselves as ‘unprofitable servants’ whose own ‘righteousnesses’ are like filthy rags in comparison to the burning holiness of God himself.

Yet, it ought to be our consistent aim not to sin. 1 John 3:9 and 1 John 1:9-10 show that the believer has indwelling sin and yet battles against it. So our practical holiness – as distinct from the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by grace – must be real, even though it is never perfect in this life.

We rely on the work of Christ alone for acceptance. We are justified by grace and not by works of righteousness (Titus 3:5). And yet Hebrews 12:14 says quite clearly that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Without question, then, personal sanctity or holiness is important, and that in several ways.

 

God’s purpose

 

Firstly, holiness is agreeable with the purpose of God. This is clear in 1 Peter 1:15-16 where Peter quotes various verses from Leviticus. Likewise, Paul writes, ‘This is the will of God, even your sanctification … for God has not called us to uncleanness but to holiness’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7). Christ reflects this in his Sermon on the Mount: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as you Father which is in heaven is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48).

So, we are to be holy because this is the will of God for his people. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4: ‘he hath chosen us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him’. Surely no one will argue that God’s purpose was to make us holy positionally but leave us unholy practically?

 

Christ’s work

 

Secondly, holiness is consistent with Christ’s work. ‘Christ … loved the church and gave himself for it that he might sanctify and cleanse it [and] present to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish’ (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Again, Paul reminds Titus that Christ ‘gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous for good works’ (2:14). It stands to reason – believers are not saved from the guilt of sin only to be left to experience its dominion!

As J. C. Ryle put it: ‘Christ is a complete Saviour. He doesn’t merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, he breaks its power’.

 

The Spirit’s ministry

 

Thirdly, holiness is consistent with the Spirit’s ministry. The Spirit of God is called the Holy Spirit and the ‘Spirit of holiness’ (Romans 1:4).  It is by the Spirit that we have new birth and the same Spirit who comes to dwell in the believer. Thus the Spirit who quickens us also sanctifies us (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2).

It is by the Spirit that the believer overcomes temptation and sin and becomes ‘a new creation in Christ Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is unquestionably the Spirit’s purpose to work holiness in the believer, enabling him to die to sin and live to God (Ephesians 5:9).

 

Faith and love

 

Fourthly, holiness bears fruit – the evidence of genuine faith and love. What is ‘fruit’ if it is not good and holy works for the Lord in the experiential and practical aspects of our lives?

Works cannot save, but (says James) they do give evidence of spiritual life within. ‘Faith without works is dead’ but true faith will show itself by fruitful works (James 2:17-26). Notice that the believer has a responsibility to practise holy living. Says Ryle, ‘The only safe evidence that we are one with Christ, and Christ in us, is holy life’.

Holiness also demonstrates our love to Christ. ‘If ye love me’, said Jesus, ‘keep my commandments… he that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me’ (John 14:15, 21, 23). Is this not motive enough for a holy life?

 

Witness

 

Fifthly, holiness is a powerful witness in the world. Of course, I am not suggesting a show of holiness. After all, holiness will embrace humility and the hypocrite will soon be exposed!

Yet if you are not holy – if your speech is not seasoned with grace and your actions are not Christlike – what encouragement to believe on Christ will those around receive? Many spurn the gospel because they see little authentic godliness in the professing church.

This is a great challenge in our day when desperately low standards and worldliness prevail within the church. ‘I believe’, says Ryle, ‘that far more is done for Christ’s kingdom by the holy living of believers than we are all aware of. It makes religion beautiful, and draws men to consider it, like a lighthouse seen afar off’.

Didn’t Jesus say his disciples are to be ‘lights in the world’? (see Matthew 5:14-16). This is not a substitute for witness by words, but our words will only avail if they are accompanied by lives devoted to God and truth.

 

Comfort

 

Sixthly, holiness is a powerful source of comfort. When believers lose their peace and assurance, or backslide, it is usually through a want of holiness, consecration, sanctification and obedience to Christ.

Paul expostulates: ‘Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin live any longer therein?’ (Romans 6:1-2). Little wonder that an unholy soul is ineffective, cold and dull in the things of the Lord. Continuing in sin will lead to troubles and distress, doubts and fears.

John also points to this aspect of personal comfort when he writes, ‘Hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments’ (1 John 2:3). And again: ‘Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts’ (that is, when we love not in word or tongue [only] but in deed and in truth; 1 John. 3:19).

Here, then is another motive to holiness – it encourages assurance and peace in our hearts before the Lord.

 

Heaven

 

Seventhly, and finally, holiness effectively prepares a soul for heaven. I often wonder how the person with no love for the Lord’s Day can have an appetite for heaven. Will not those who find sabbath rest irksome find unbearable the eternal sabbath that awaits God’s people?

If here we find heavenly pursuits unappealing, how will we enjoy heaven itself? Now, I use the sabbath to illustration a general principle. Holiness evidences a taste for heaven in respect of any command of Christ, any ordinance of the gospel, all fellowship of the saints, and so on.

To be prepared for heaven, therefore, we need holiness, for without it no man shall see the Lord. In the final judgement we shall be judged ‘each according to his works’ and the New Jerusalem, the eternal heavenly kingdom of glory, will exclude ‘anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie’ ((Revelation 20:13; 21:27).

Surely there can be no greater motive to holiness, nor clearer indication of the importance of holiness, than such considerations.

 

Applications

 

Let us conclude with some general applications:

 

1.  We must recognise the supreme importance of personal holiness. For our own good in this life; for our preparation for heaven; for our witness in the world, and for the glory of the Saviour.

2.  We must be diligent in the Word – diligent students of the Word, submissive hearers, and conscientious doers. Remember, we are sanctified through the truth (John 17:17). We will not make progress in holiness unless we apply the Word to our lives.

3.  We must work out our faith – for it is God who works in us to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). As 2 Peter 1:5-11 exhorts, add to your faith, using every right means to stimulate faith and good works. Keep the flames fanned, the lamp trimmed.

4.  We must engage in active fellowship. To live a sanctified life we need fellowship with fellow believers – we need strengthening by the ‘communion of saints’ (cf. Malachi 3:16-17; Acts 2:42-47).

5.  We must battle for our souls. We live in a spiritual cauldron, facing the world, the flesh and the devil. We shall need all the armour of God to stand in the evil day, to grow in grace and have that faith, peace and holiness that qualifies a soul to see God (Ephesians 6:10-20).

by John W. Keddie