What Is Sin? The Essence and Root of All Sinning – Part 2

Taken from a message given at a conference in 2015:  John Piper 

Provided in Two Parts:  Today, Part 2

What Is the Deepest Root of Sin? 

A Definition of Sin 

So my definition of sinning is: Sinning is any feeling or thought or speech or action that comes from a heart that does not treasure God over all other things. And the bottom of sin, the root of all sinning, is such a heart — a heart that prefers anything above God, a heart that does not treasure God over all other persons and all other things. Or, as I once tried to express it in a message years ago. What is sin? Sin is: 

The glory of God not honored. 

The holiness of God not reverenced. 

The greatness of God not admired. 

The power of God not praised. 

The truth of God not sought. 

The wisdom of God not esteemed. 

The beauty of God not treasured. 

The goodness of God not savored. 

The faithfulness of God not trusted. 

The promises of God not believed. 

The commandments of God not obeyed. 

The justice of God not respected. 

The wrath of God not feared. 

The grace of God not cherished. 

The presence of God not prized. 

The person of God not loved. 

Why is it that people can become emotionally and morally indignant over poverty and exploitation and prejudice and abortion and the infractions of religious liberty and the manifold injustices of man against man, and yet feel little, or no, remorse or indignation or outrage that God is disregarded, disbelieved, disobeyed, dishonored, and thus belittled, by millions and millions of people in the world? And the answer is: sin. And that is the ultimate outrage of the universe. 

Once Paul has made clear what the essence or root of sin is in Romans 1–3, he now makes clear in the following chapters the magnitude of its power in us. He speaks of sin reigning like a king in death (5:21), holding dominion like a Lord (6:14), enslaving like a slavemaster (6:6, 16f, 20), to whom we have been sold (7:14), as a force that produces other sins (7:8), as a power that seizes the law and kills (7:11), as a hostile occupying tenant that dwells in us (7:17, 20), and a law that takes us captive (7:23). And this powerful presence in us, defines us until we are born again. 

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). And Paul adds, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18). What we are apart from new birth, new creation by the Spirit of God because Christ, is the embodiment of resistance to God. Romans 8:7, “The mind of flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Because it doesn’t want to. We disapprove of God as supreme treasure. We prefer other things. 

So you may lay to rest forever the notion that your sin is mainly what you do or don’t do. It’s not mainly what you do. It is mainly who you are—until you are a new creature in Christ. And even then, for us who are born of God, it is an ever-present, indwelling enemy to be put to death every day by the Spirit (Romans 8:13). 

Before Christ, sin is not an alien power. Sin is our preference for anything over God. Sin is our disapproval of God. Sin is our exchange of his glory for substitutes. Sin is our suppression of the truth of God. Sin is our heart’s hostility to God. It is who we are to the bottom of our hearts. Until Christ. 

So can such sinners do good works — build hospitals, keep the speed limit, negotiate peace, heal diseases, feed the poor, pay a fair wage? And of course the answer from one angle is yes. 

Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval. (Romans 13:3

So what did Westerholm mean when he said “human beings are incapable of doing [good works]” (p. 32)? Was he just wrong? 

(Reference to Stephen Westerholm’s book, Justification Reconsidered

No. Because there is another angle from which to look. Another biblical angle. 

The other angle starts in Romans 3:1012, “None is righteous, no, not one; . . . no one does good, not even one.” From this angle, without Christ we cannot do good. The writer to the Hebrews puts it like this: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). And Paul puts it like this: “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). 

In other words, the reason some deeds of unbelievers are called “good” in the New Testament is because in the ordinary use of language we sometimes describe deeds according to ordinary human standards. Committing adultery is bad. Not committing adultery is good. 

But there is another angle. If not committing adultery comes from a heart that has no love for God and treasures many things more than God, then that act of chastity is not an expression of love to God. It’s not a way of expressing his value. And so it is a dishonor to God. He is neglected, ignored, not a decisive factor, and in that sense the fruit of that heart is not good. Westerholm put it like this: “Where God is not honored, something basic is awry, spoiling even what would otherwise be good” (48). 

What this calls for is a radical God-centeredness in the way you think about everything. If God is not central and supreme. If his honor and glory are not uppermost in your affections, then God-ignoring kindness, God-ignoring, truth-telling, God-ignoring generosity will not be seen by you as evil. You won’t have a category for that. That only makes sense if God’s glory is the all-defining, all-pervasive good in the universe. 

Paul had to undergo a massive reorientation of his mind when he was converted — a reorientation concerning God and sin and most everything else. He said in Philippians 3:6-8 that before he was a Christ he was “blameless in the law.” That included many good deeds, and the avoidance of much evil. And after he became a Christian, he said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. . . . and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). In other words, unless all those good deeds come from faith in Christ, they are refuse and loss. That was his new orientation. 

The reason Paul says that “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23) is that faith is a receiving of God in Christ as our Savior, and Lord, and supreme Treasure. Which means that actions which don’t come from faith, don’t come from treasuring God over all things. And that’s what sin is — not treasuring God above all things, preferring anything more than God. 

Grace Becomes Sweeter 

So there I am sitting in my chair in Knoxville, Tennessee last summer, realizing as never before the horrible and glorious truth that the reason my justification, my right standing with God, cannot be founded on 99.99% grace and .01% good works is that there are no truly good works in those who are not yet justified. They don’t exist, and have never existed since the fall. The question for the unbeliever is not, Can you do enough good works to outweigh your bad works? The question is, can you do one good work and contribute that as part of the basis of your acceptance with God? And the answer is no. “No one does good. Not even one” (Romans 3:12). 

For all of us, this should be a weighty moment of realization. And justification by grace alone through faith alone on the basis of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone has never been more sweet. I pray that will be true for you.  (End)

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently What Is Saving Faith? 

What Is Sin? The Essence and Root of All Sinning – Part 1

Taken from a message given at a conference in 2015:  John Piper 

Provided in Two Parts:  Today, Part 1

What Is the Deepest Root of Sin? 

So what I want to do in this message is mainly answer the question biblically: What is sin? What is the essence and root of all sinning

Let’s go for deepest root immediately. I want to find out if we humans are so sinful that apart from the grace of God in Christ we cannot do any good works at all. It’s a pressing question, because you know that you call much of what unbelievers do “good” — build hospitals, keep the speed limit, negotiate peace, heal diseases, feed the poor, pay a fair wage, and on and on. And the Bible itself says that ordinary people without reference to their faith can do good works. 

Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval. (Romans 13:3

The most penetrating and extensive treatment of sin in the Bible is Romans 1–3. And even when the word isn’t used, we know that is what Paul is dealing with because when he comes to summarize it he says, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin” (Romans 3:9). And he leaves no doubt about his conclusion in the next verse: “None is righteous, no, not one” (verse 10) and in verse 12, “No one does good, not even one.” 

So we back up then to Romans 1 in search of the essence of sin. By essence I mean: What’s at the bottom of it? What makes all sinful actions sinful? What is wrong with us at our core that gives rise to so many different kinds of evil? 

You might say: Why do you even think that way? Why don’t you just assume that sin is what we do? Why do you go beneath the doing to a root or a condition or a so-called depravity? 

The reason I go beneath our doings to a root of depravity is because Paul does. And he does so not incidentally but vigorously and forcefully. Paul sees that the essence or the root all sinning is a presence, a force, in us, part of who we are, called sin. For example, in Roman 7:8 he says, “Sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.” 

Now everyone agrees that covetousness is a sin. “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17). It’s a sin in the heart. A heart-sin that might produce outward sinning like stealing. But notice, Paul says, “Sin produced covetousness.” Well, covetousness is sin. Right. And so there is a sin beneath sin that produces sin. That’s what I want to see. I want to know at the root what is wrong with me. What is at the bottom of all my evils? And all the evils in the world? 

Let’s go to Romans 1 and start with verse 18, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness (adikian) suppress the truth.” Here mankind in general is described as “ungodly and unrighteous.” John says in 1 John 5:17, “All unrighteousness (adikia) is sin.” So we are talking about sin here. And Paul choses to talk about it first in terms of ungodliness and unrighteousness. 

And the first thing he says about it is that is that it causes people to suppress the truth. Sin repels the light of truth and runs to the darkness of falsehood. Jesus said that we are guilty sinners not because we are victims of the darkness but because we are lovers of the darkness. John 3:19, “Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light.” So sin by nature inclines and empowers us to suppress the truth. 

What truth particularly does sin hate? The next verse tells us. Romans 1:19. The reason we know that men suppress the truth is “Because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” Knowledge of God is repulsive to sin. So, Paul says, when this knowledge is suppressed, we have no excuse. Why? Verses 20–21: “So they are without excuse. For [because] although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give thanks to him.” 

So the root of suppressing the knowledge of God is the desire to avoid glorifying and thanking God. Sin does not love to glorify God. Sin does not love to thank God. Sin hates glorifying God and thanking God. That’s what “ungodly” meant in verse 18. In “ungodliness and unrighteousness,” he said, we suppress the truth — namely, the truth that God is infinitely worthy of glory and thanks from our hearts. Sin hates that and therefore suppresses that truth. 

But sin is not just a hater. Sin is a lover. When the hated truth is suppressed, the loved lie is embraced. This is described over and over in the rest of chapter 1. Look at verse 22–23: “Claiming to be wise, they (that is, those who suppress the truth and have darkened hearts) have became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images.” They don’t just bury truth; they embrace alternative lovers. There’s no vacuum. When the real God is rejected, images are embraced. They “exchanged the glory of God for images.” Sin hates the real God and loves his God-substituting images. 

Is this the root of sinning? And if there ever was an age devoted to images, it is our age. We spend most of our leisure time looking at images. Watch how Paul describes now the relationship between this exchange, this suppressing of true God and this embracing of replacement gods—the relationship between that, and the outpouring of sinning in the world. 

Verse 24: “Therefore [because of this exchange in verse 23] God gave them up in the lusts [desires] of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.” Because of the exchange of verse 23, God goes hands off and godlessness and unrighteousness of the human heart goes unrestrained into sinning. 

And lest we missed the connection between verses 23 and 24 (the root of suppressing God and the shoot of impurity of life), he states it again in the connection between verse 24 and 25. 

Why did “the desires of their hearts run to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies” (verse 24)? Verse 25: “Because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” The impurities of active sinning have a root. And the root is this: Sin hates the truth of God, suppresses it, and exchanges it for what sin loves and worships. Sin loves to worship and serve the creature not the Creator. That’s the root of sinning. 

And just in case we missed it in the connection between verse 23 and 24 and in case we missed it in the connection between verse 24 and 25 Paul shows it again in the connection between verse 25 and 26. Verse 26: “For this reason” — for what reason? For the reason of verse 25, because we exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature — for this reason (now continue in verse 26), “God gave them up to dishonorable passions.” The flood of dishonorable passions in the world, with all their behaviors, has root. And the root is that sin hates the truth about God and worships, serves, loves God-substitutes. 

And, please forgive Paul, if you think he is overdoing it — I said he probes vigorously and forcefully down into the root of depravity beneath our sinning. But he does it here one more time — for a fourth time (not only the connection between verse 23 and 24, and 24 and 25, and 25 and 26) but now look at verse 28. “And since (or “just as”) they did not see fit [or did not approve, edokimasan] to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” 

“They did not see fit to acknowledge God,” is, I think, a bland translation that would be more forcefully rendered, “They did not approve to have God in their knowledge.” The truth of God comes to them from every direction and they feel, “I don’t approve of you! I don’t want you. I don’t like you. I will not let you in as part of my knowledge.” And then comes the connection that we have seen four times now: So, “God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” 

Notice two crucial terms: because they prefer lies to truth (verse 25) and images to God (verse 23), therefore God hands them over to “a debased mind.” Another good translation of debased would be depraved. So if you are ever wondering: Where does that idea of human depravity come from, here is one answer. Without redeeming grace through Jesus Christ, we are handed over to a mental depravity that does not want God. 

And the second crucial term to notice in verse 28 is “to do what ought not to be done.” “God gave them up to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done.” This depravity that does not want God does things that ought not to be done. In other words the root of sinful action is a sinful nature. And the bottom of the sinfulness of the sinful nature is: We don’t like the true and living God. We suppress truth that leads to him. We exchange his glory for images. We disapprove of having him in our knowledge. We have a deep, unshakeable, compelling preference for other things rather than God. That is the bottom. 

So, when we get to the end of Paul’s analysis and indictment of our condition and he starts to turn to the great work of God to save us from our sin and from his wrath against our sin, we are not surprised that we would sum it up with these words in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The word for “fall short” is literally “lack” (husterountai). What does this mean? 

Well, if you come short of something you lack it. You don’t have it. But you can lack, or come short of, or not have, something in more than one way. So here we come short of or lack the glory of God. Does that mean: Come short of being glorious with the glory of God? Or does it mean come short of having God’s glory as our supreme treasure — our highest perspective? 

Now we know from Romans 8:17 that if we have the glory of God as our supreme treasure, we will be glorified with the glory of God. But what is meant here? What’s the focus of Romans 3:23? And my answer is: He means that all have sinned, that is all have come short of embracing God as our supreme treasure. And the reason I think that’s what he means is because that is what he has said at least four times leading to this conclusion. 

Romans 1:18, we suppress the truth about God. Romans 1:21, we don’t glorify him or thank him. Romans 1:23, we exchange his glory for images. Romans 1:25, we exchange the truth about God for a lie. We worship — we stand in awe of what God made, not God. Romans 1:28, we disapprove of having the true God in our knowledge. We don’t want him. We prefer others things and other persons more than God. He is not our supreme treasure. We have come short of this: knowing, cherishing, prizing, loving, treasuring God above all things. That is the essence of our sinful condition and that is the root of all sinful action. This is the bottom.   (Continued, Conclusion, Part 2 tomorrow).

Why Dead Men Must Die – Part 2

Friends:   My pastor and friend, suggested it would be helpful to further clarify one point in ‘yesterday’s’ post related to “the second way we die.”  The first is that we were crucified with Christ – positionally.  The ‘second’ is that we have to learn to ‘reckon ourselves dead to sin’.  We have to mortify the flesh.  We have to claim the reality of what Christ did positionally.  (Romans chapter 6).   

The premise of this week’s post and study is this:  We can’t pursue the kind of life God calls us to live if we don’t know what happened to us when became a Christian. There’s a great deal of emphasis today, it seems to me, on what has happened for us in the cross, namely that our sins are forgiven, and that we are accepted, and that we are loved, and that we have eternal life. But there doesn’t seem to me to be as much emphasis on what has happened to us in becoming Christians, what happened to us because of the cross. 

And it’s precisely this — what happened to us, what changed in us — that Paul emphasizes as the key to how we are to pursue holiness and love and righteousness and all the fruit of the Holy Spirit. So here is a further emphasis and clarification from John Piper’s study. 

Who died, and who came to life, when we became Christians?  

And Paul describes who died in at least four ways. First, he says, “I died.” Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lived.” So I died. Number two, he says our old self died. Roman 6:6: “We know that our old self was crucified with him.” Third, he says that our flesh died. Galatians 2:24: “Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh.” Fourth, he says the body of flesh. Now that’s a reference back to what we just saw in Colossians 2:11, the body of flesh. He says that in being buried with Christ, we have put off the body of flesh. 

Now putting those four ways of saying it together, here’s what I conclude. In so far as I am identified with my flesh and in so far as my body is the instrument of my flesh, I died and my body died because my flesh died. Now, what does that mean? 

What Is My Flesh? 

What is my flesh? And here’s Paul’s answer to that question in Romans 8:7: “The mind of the flesh is hostile to God for it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh” — that is in the control and sway of this thing called flesh — “cannot please God.” So the flesh is not synonymous with the body. The flesh is my old self in its hostility to God. It’s insubordination to God. It’s inability to submit to God and please God — that’s my flesh. That’s what died when I became a Christian. God killed my hostility to God. God killed my insubordination to God. 

God killed my inability to submit to God and my inability to please God. He killed me in that sense. And in the place of that old self of hostility and insubordination and inability, God created a new self. He calls it a new creation in 2 Corinthians 5 and in Ephesians 2:10. And what are the traits of this new creation, this new self that came into being when I was united to Christ and died and rose with him? Galatians 2:19–20 give a beautiful answer that says I died to the law so that I might live to God: 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and here comes the key phrase I think, the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. 

So three ways Paul describes his new self as a Christian. First, he’s alive to God. God is real to him, precious, beautiful, desirable. He isn’t hostile to God anymore, he admires God, he loves God, he trusts God, he’s alive to God. Second, his new self lives by faith in the Son of God. So he’s no longer insubordinate and self-sufficient and self-exalting, he trusts the son of God like a little child. He submits and depends upon the mercy of God in Christ. He’s a believer, that’s what came alive. A believer came alive. And third, another way to say it is that Christ himself lives in us. I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me. 

The new self of the Christian is the God-loving, son-of-God-trusting, Christ-inhabited self. That’s the new creation that came into being when I rose with Christ. 

Be What You Are 

Now, we should be asking how this reality, not possibility, reality, these things really happen to us, we don’t make them happen, they really happen to us, how that relates, to our battle with sin. And the answer is that this way of understanding ourselves is the way we do battle with sin. Paul didn’t say, “Oh, since this glorious death and resurrection has happened to you, there’s no more battle of a sin.” 

He said this new reality of life from the dead and this old reality which has died with Christ is precisely the way we fight sin in our lives. For example, Colossians 2:20, he says, “If with Christ, you died to the legalistic elemental principles of dos and don’ts — do not taste, do not touch, do not handle. . . .” And he’s explaining the false religion there. If you died to those, why are you submitting to such regulations? You’re dead to those. Don’t submit to them, be who you are. 

Then later in chapter 3, he said, “You have died. So put to death what is earthly in you, immorality, impurity, passion.” So Paul did not say because you have died, there’s no battle. He said, “Because you have died, reckon yourselves dead,” Romans 6:11. Reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. In the other words, be what you are.  

“Reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. In the other words, be what you are.” 

Cleanse Out the Old Leaven 

It may sound paradoxical, but it is a profound and glorious truth. God has made us what we are. In Christ, we are new creatures. We don’t make ourselves new creatures; we are new creatures. We act the miracle that he performed. He performed the miracle, we act it out. 

Listen to first Corinthians 5:7: “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump of dough as you really are unleavened.” That just captures everything right in one verse. You are unleavened, so get the leaven out. I just love it. 

So, I say to all of us, don’t let your death with Christ in your new life in Christ cause you to shrink back from making war on your sin as though that conflict should not be happening. Rather, let your death with Christ and your newness in Christ be the happy, confident ground where you take your stand and put to death the sin that remains. 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently What Is Saving Faith? 

Why Dead Men Must Die  

From an interview with:  John Piper, Founder/Teacher, desiringGod.org 

Dead men must die if they are to live. That’s true. That’s the clear teaching of Scripture, and there are two senses in which the dead must die in order to live. So now, if we step back and say, “Whoa, that sounds really confusing” — there are five things that need to be clarified. 

First, in what sense are all people dead apart from Christ? Second, in what sense are those dead people alive while they are dead? Because it’s clear those dead people are walking around all around us during the day. Third and fourth, what are the two ways that these dead people must die if they are to live? And then finally, fifth, what is the difference between the life we have after this double death and the life we had while we were dead? 

It all sounds very odd, I know, but those are exactly the questions that Scripture leads us to ask. 

Dead in What Sense? 

So here’s number one. First, in what sense are all people dead — all people, until God makes them alive in Christ? Here’s the way Ephesians 2:1 and 2:3 describe it: “And you were dead in trespasses and sins . . . and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” So, this is not just a few people. Deadness is what characterizes all of mankind, Paul says — all human beings. 

And here’s the way John describes our deadness before new birth: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). 

Or here’s the way Jesus talks about it: “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). And the father in the parable of the prodigal son says, “My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24). Or here’s Paul again in 1 Timothy 5:6: “She who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.” So in what sense, then, were we all dead before God made us alive in Christ? Paul has several ways of describing our deadness. 

Here’s one in Ephesians 4:18: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” So, darkness and hardness — can’t see certain reality, can’t feel certain reality. 

What couldn’t we see when we were dead? Second Corinthians 4:4 says unbelievers cannot see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” And in this darkness, this blindness and hardness, we don’t have the moral ability to gladly submit to God. Romans 8:7–8 says, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” 

So what does our original deadness mean? It means hearts hard and blind to the beauty of Christ, and therefore in revolt against the will of Christ. 

Alive in What Sense? 

Second, in what sense are those dead people — all of us before conversion — alive? Because Ephesians 2:1–3 also says they’re very, very active. Paul says this: 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked [you’re walking, dead men walking], following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once conducted ourselves [so we’re dead, conducting ourselves] in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 

So, we are very active dead people. And Romans 6:17 and 6:20 describes the dead as slaves of sin. There was no faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We sinned and sinned and sinned. So the dead were very active slaves, but nothing came from faith. 

How Do the Dead Need to Die? 

Now, here comes this double clarification, third and fourth, I said. There are two senses in which the spiritually dead need to die in order to live. First, they need to be united with Christ so that his death counts as their death. 

Romans 6:5: “If we have been united with him in a death like his . . .” 

Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ.” 

Romans 6:6: “Our old self was crucified with him.” 

So this union with Christ in his death happens through faith. When we believe in Christ, God counts his death to be our death. This means that the condemnation owing to our sins falls on Christ. And because of our union with him, we are now counted free from punishment, no condemnation for those united to Christ — that is, “in Christ” (Romans 8:1). So that old, hard, blind, rebellious, dead self is now freed from guilt. Its sins are punished, covered. Now what? 

Here’s the second sense in which the dead must die. Our old self — our old, blind, hard, rebellious nature — is replaced by a defining new nature, a new person. This is what the new birth does. This is a real transformation. Paul describes the ongoing experience of this newness like this: “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9–10). 

So, the original dead person passes through two deaths on the way to life. The hard, blind, rebellious, dead self is miraculously, graciously, freely, sovereignly — by God — united to Christ as God creates faith in the heart, so that all the punishment that dead men deserve was endured by Christ. And in that same instant, in that same act of faith, God creates a new nature in us. Which leads now to one last question. 

What Distinguishes the Living? 

What is the difference between the life of this new nature and the life we had when we were dead? Let’s let Paul answer the question, because he does it so beautifully in Galatians 2:20. There are not many verses more preciously personal in Paul’s writings than Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” And now here comes my answer to the question. What’s the new life that you have after this double death that you walked through? “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” 

So, the new nature that God created in the new birth is a nature that has faith in the Son of God. It is a nature that believes. It is not hard. It’s tender to the truth and the beauty of Christ. It’s not blind. It sees the supreme worth of Christ. It’s not insubordinate and rebellious. It gladly submits to the lordship of Christ. So yes, Josiah, the dead must die in order to live. And what a glorious work Christ has wrought in his death and resurrection to make that happen. 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently What Is Saving Faith? 

Plunge Your Mind into the Ocean of God’s Sovereignty

Article by John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org 

Sometimes we need to plunge our minds into the ocean of God’s sovereignty. We need to feel the weight of it, like deep and heavy water pressing in against every pore, the deeper we go. A billion rivers of providence pour into this ocean. And God himself gathers up all his countless deeds — from eternity to eternity — and pours them into the currents of his infallible revelation. He speaks, and explains, and promises, and makes his awesome, sovereign providence the place we feel most reverent, most secure, most free. 

Sometimes we need to be reminded by God himself that there are no limits to his rule. We need to hear from him that he is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. We need his own reminder that he is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. We need his assurance that he reigns over ISIS, terrorism, Syria, Russia, China, India, Nigeria, France, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and the United States of America — every nation, every people, every language, every tribe, every chief, president, king, premier, prime minister, and politician, great or small. 

Sometimes we need to hear specific statements from God himself about his own authority. We need God’s own words. It is the very words of God that have unusual power to settle our nerves, and make us stable, wise, and courageous. 

God’s Voice 

On the one hand, hearing the voice of God is like a frightened child who hears the voice downstairs, and realizes that daddy’s home. Whatever those other sounds were, it’s okay. Daddy’s home. 

On the other hand, it feels like the seasoned troops, dug in at the front line of battle, and about to be overrun by the enemy. But then they get word that a thousand impenetrable tanks are rushing to their aid. They are only one mile away. You will be saved, and the enemy will not stand. 

Vague generalizations about the power of God do not have the same effect as the very voice of God telling us specifically how strong he is, how pervasive his power, how universal his authority, how unlimited his sovereignty. And that our times are in his hands. 

So let’s listen. Let’s treat the Bible as the voice of God. Let’s turn what the Bible says about God into what God says about God — which is what the Bible really is — God speaking about God. 

And as we listen, let us praise him. There is no other fitting way to listen to God’s exaltation of God. This is what happens to the human soul when we plunge into the ocean of God’s sovereignty. 

We praise you, O God, that all authority in the universe belongs to you. 

“There is no authority except from me, and those that exist have been instituted by me.” (Romans 13:1

“You, Pilate, would have no authority over my Son at all unless it had been given you from me.” (John 19:11

We stand in awe, O God, that in your freedom you do all that you please and all that you plan. 

“Whatever I please, I do, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6

“I work all things according to the counsel of my will.” (Ephesians 1:11

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:9–10

We marvel, O God, that you share this total authority and rule completely with your Son. 

“I have given all authority in heaven and on earth to my Son, Jesus.” (Matthew 28:18

“I love my Son and have given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35

“I have given my Son authority over all flesh.” (John 17:2

“I have put all things in subjection under my Son’s feet — all things except myself.” (1 Corinthians 15:27

“I raised my Son from the dead and seated him at my right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. . . . I put all things under his feet.” (Ephesians 1:20–22

“I welcomed my Son into heaven. He is at my right hand, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.” (1 Peter 3:22

We submit with reverence to you, O God, because, through your Son, you remove and install the rulers of the world. 

“Wisdom and might belong to me. I change times and seasons; I remove kings and set up kings.” (Daniel 2:20–21

“I loose the bonds of kings and bind a waistcloth on their hips.” (Job 12:18

“I sent my angel and struck Herod down, because he did not give me glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” (Acts 12:23

Indeed, O God, you not only raise rulers and put them down; you govern all their deeds in every age. 

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in my hand, says the Lord; I turn it wherever I will.” (Proverbs 21:1

“I will put an end to the wealth of Egypt, by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. . . . I will break the yoke of Egypt, and her proud might shall come to an end. . . . I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put my sword in his hand, but I will break the arms of Pharaoh.” (Ezekiel 30:10, 18, 24

“I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.” (Jeremiah 27:6–7

“As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. I will break the Assyrian in my land; and his yoke shall depart from my people.” (Isaiah 14:24–25

“I will make the nations the inheritance of my Son, and the ends of the earth will be his possession. He shall break them with a rod of iron.” (Psalm 2:8–9

We acknowledge with wonder, O God, that no plan of man succeeds but those which you, in unfathomable wisdom, permit. 

“I bring the counsel of the nations to nothing; I frustrate the plans of the peoples.” (Psalm 33:10

“No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against me.” (Proverbs 21:30

And how mighty and wise you are, O God, that no man, no nation, force of nature can thwart your holy plans. 

“No purpose of mine can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2

“I do according to my will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay my hand or say to me, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35

“There is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 43:13

So, we bow, as dust in the scales, O God, and confess with joy, that we are as nothing compared to your greatness. 

“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales. . . . All the nations are as nothing before me, they are accounted as less than nothing and emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:15, 17

“I sit above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. I stretch out the heavens like a curtain, and spread them like a tent to dwell in. I bring princes to nothing, and make the rulers of the earth as emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:22–23

The joy of our hope, O God, is that you magnify your greatness by lifting up the low, and putting down the proud. 

“Who but me can say to a king, ‘Worthless one,’ and to nobles, ‘Wicked man’? I show no partiality to princes, nor regard the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of my hands.” (Job 34:18–19

“I shatter the mighty without investigation and set others in their place.” (Job 34:24

“I look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand.” (Job 40:12

“I the LORD kill and bring to life; I bring down to Sheol and raise up. I make poor and make rich; I bring low and I exalt.” (1 Samuel 2:6–7

“I have scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; I have brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” (Luke 1:51–52

And so it will be forever, O God. You rule over all, with an everlasting rule, for the sake of the lowly who trust your Son. 

“I live forever, for my dominion is an everlasting dominion, and my kingdom endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:34

“My dominion shall not pass away, and my kingdom shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14

“My Son will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33

Therefore, overflowing with praise and thanks, O precious and holy God, we rest in your absolute sovereignty over our lives. And rejoice to hear you say, 

“Your times are in my hand.” (Psalm 31:15

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently What Is Saving Faith? 

The Word of God Is Worth the Work 

Article by Scott Hubbard, Editor, desiringGod.org 

Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Range is home to 58 peaks that reach 14,000 feet above sea level. “Fourteeners,” they’re called. Fifty-seven of those 58 peaks are accessible only by a long and sometimes grueling hike — Long’s Peak, for example, runs 14.5 miles round trip and rises 5,100 feet from trailhead to summit. One of these mountains, however, called Pikes Peak, has a parking lot at the top. 

Having topped both Long’s and Pike’s — the one through a desperate, why-did-I-agree-to-this trek, and the other through a comfy car ride (with doughnuts at the top, if memory serves) — I will confirm what you can probably guess: there is a difference between walking to 14,000 feet and driving there. 

The view may be the same, with those Rockies running like a river of mountains across the West. But the experience of the view is not. The 14.5 miles and 5,100 feet, it turns out, are not impediments to the beauty, but part of the beauty. You can’t separate the summit from the path, or the final footsteps from the 30,000 that precede them. The difficulty of the way increases the wonder. 

A similar principle applies to the spiritual life, including Bible reading. 

‘Restless Experientialists’ 

Many Bible readers can see ourselves in J.I. Packer’s description of “restless experientialists”: 

[They value] strong feelings above deep thoughts. They have little taste for solid study, humble self-examination, disciplined meditation, and unspectacular hard work in their callings and their prayers. They conceive the Christian life as one of extraordinary exciting experiences rather than of resolute rational righteousness. (A Quest for Godliness, 30) 

In Bible reading as well as mountaineering, many would like the experience of heart-skipping beauty without working their quadriceps to jelly. We often would prefer, say, to drive to the summit of Romans 8 without traversing the rocky fields of reasoning, and climbing the alpine slopes of argumentation, and patiently tracing the winding paths of logic in Romans 1–7. We want the thrill of spiritual feeling without the labor of spiritual thought. 

“God has carved only one path to the human heart, and it runs through the mind.” 

To be sure, a Christian is nothing without sincere spiritual affections. But God has carved only one path to the human heart, and it runs through the mind. 

Bright Minds, Burning Hearts 

Passage after passage in the Bible shows this relationship between thought and affections. In fact, the Bible’s very existence suggests it, because here we have a book that unashamedly addresses the brain en route to the heart. But consider just one passage for now. 

On the Emmaus Road, when Jesus finally reveals himself to Cleopas and the other disciple, the two men say, “Did not our hearts burn within us?” (Luke 24:32). Every Christian has felt something of the burning heart — the blaze of glory, the flame of joy. And every Christian, on some level, wants more. 

Notice, however, how the disciples finish the sentence: “Did not our hearts burn within us as he opened to us the Scriptures?” And by opened, they mean this: “[Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Jesus took the men on an Old Testament tour, interpreting its Christ-centered meaning. In other words, he led an in-depth Bible study with them. Then, and only then, did fire kindle within. Before their hearts burned with love, their minds brightened with truth. 

Packer draws the conclusion, 

Man was made to know God with his mind, to desire it, once he has come to know it, with his affections, and to cleave to it, once he has felt its attraction, with his will. . . . God accordingly moves us, not by direct action on the affections or will, but by addressing our mind with his word, and so bringing to bear on us the force of truth. (A Quest for Godliness, 195, emphasis added) 

“Our affections catch true fire only when our souls are full of truth’s kindling. And the Spirit lights the flame.” 

Deep Christian feeling is supernatural, to be sure, but it is not the product of spontaneous spiritual combustion. Rather, our affections catch true fire only when our souls are full of truth’s kindling. And the Spirit lights the flame. 

How to Summit Scripture 

How then shall we read the Bible? To return to our mountain image, we read the Bible well by hiking rather than driving — by prayerfully thinking our way to affections rather than bypassing the brain. Or, to get more specific, we don’t pass over the hard places, we slow down enough to see, and we resist the comforts of sentimental reading. 

Don’t pass over the hard places. 

On the Emmaus road, what Scriptures did Jesus open to Cleopas and his friend? Luke writes, “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). He took them to Genesis and Isaiah, Leviticus and Kings, Deuteronomy and Psalms, showing how his whole story reveals his whole glory. 

We may imagine a book like Leviticus can do little for our hearts; the sand around Sinai seems to offer little spiritual refreshment. And if we come to the Bible looking mainly for a quick emotional kick, we likely will drive right past Leviticus in search of better views. But what if good Bible reading looks less like finding familiar comfort and more like hiking, sometimes through rough terrain, toward a summit whose beauty will thrill us more because of where we’ve walked? 

Christian joy becomes more whole the more we read the Bible whole: whole chapters, whole books, whole testaments. Over time, even a book like Leviticus — filled with Christward types and gospel whispers — will lay so many logs on the hearth, ready to be lit by the Spirit. 

Slow down enough to see. 

As you travel through whole books and testaments, consider also reading slow, at least slow enough to notice details that can’t be enjoyed by car: daffodils along the path, birds’ nests in the branches, unexpected prospects through the trees. 

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an unexpected sight while walking through familiar territory. “Love your enemies,” Jesus said, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good” (Matthew 5:44–45). Suddenly, that simple word his freshly welcomed me into a God-filled world. The sun is God’s sun, and he raises it, lovingly, like a father turning on the lights in a child’s bedroom. A pronoun changed my day. 

God means for pronouns to change us — and conjunctions and prepositions and definite articles. Not that we need to know the names of these parts of speech: a rose without a name still smells just as sweet. We can’t enjoy them, however, without noticing them, and noticing calls for an unhurried pace. 

Resist the comforts of sentimental reading. 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in a sermon on Hebrews 12:5–11, shares some strong words for those who read Scripture only in what he calls “a sentimental manner”: 

There are many people who read the Scriptures in a purely sentimental manner. They are in trouble and they do not know what to do. They say, “I will read a psalm. It is so soothing — ‘The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.’” They make it a kind of incantation and take the Psalms as another person takes a drug. 

The problem with such sentimental Bible reading is that it goes against the grain of Scripture’s own approach to our problems. “The word of God does not merely give us general comfort; what it gives us always is an argument,” Lloyd-Jones writes. And therefore, “We must follow the logic of it, and bring intelligence to the Scriptures. . . . Let them reason it out with you” (Spiritual Depression, 253). 

Often, the logic of a passage — its fors and therefores, its ifs and buts — is the trail leading to the summit of glory. “There is therefore now no condemnation” (Romans 8:1); “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6); “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) — all of these are scriptural summits. We can enjoy some of their glory if we drive quickly to the top. But oh, how much better the view if we patiently walk the path. 

Patience is, indeed, the virtue many of us may need most in our Bible reading. For the deepest joy, the kind “inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8), comes only to those who prayerfully and thoughtfully plod the path. They read the Bible to know what God says and how he says it — in order that they might then feel that knowledge become worship by the power of the indwelling Spirit. 

Resist, then, the urge the drive through your devotions. Glory awaits those who walk. 

Scott Hubbard is an editor for Desiring God, a pastor at All Peoples Church, and a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Bethany, live with their two sons in Minneapolis. 

How God Makes Much of You 

Article by John Piper, founder/teacher desiringGod.org 

Why does the Bible relentlessly reveal the love of God for us in a way that constantly calls attention to the fact that it is done for his glory? Because so many people, when they hear that, feel it as not loving. The point of those texts throughout the Bible, where God performs his love for us for his glory, is to show that he loves us in the greatest possible way.

Dwelling on God’s Love 

Why? How does that show that it’s a greater love? How is it a greater love when he loves me for his glory than if he just loved me and it all terminated on me? Well, before I answer that question — and I will answer it — let me dwell with you on the truth that evidently some have assumed I denied in asking, “Do you feel more loved by God when he makes much of you, or do you feel more loved by God when he frees you at the cost of his Son to enjoy making much of him forever?” 

It’s been assumed by some, “Oh, you don’t think he makes much of us.” Well, that’s a non sequitur; it doesn’t follow from what I said. But I don’t want to defend myself. Some have gotten that idea, and I would like to now fix it and keep fixing it. If I get things imbalanced, I’d like to get them back into balance. 

Seven Ways God Makes Much of Us 

So here we are trying to help those who heard it that way. The answer is yes, God makes more of you than you could ever imagine. And I will blow you away for the next five minutes. Put your seatbelt on if you have trouble with being made much of by God, because you might leave otherwise. I think I have seven of these, and they will go by quickly. 

1. God is pleased with us. 

God makes much of us by being pleased with us and commending our lives. Alan Jacobs wrote a great biography of C.S. Lewis, and he says in C.S. Lewis’s biography that the greatest sermon that C.S. Lewis ever preached was called “The Weight of Glory.” That is, believers will one day have a weight of glory that will be so heavy they will imagine, “I don’t know if I can bear this. It’s so good.” 

What do you think the weight of glory was in that sermon? It was the words “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And here’s what Lewis said: 

To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in his son — it seems impossible, a weight or a burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is. (39) 

And he’s right. That’s number one. God makes much of us by being pleased with us, making us an ingredient in the divine happiness, like an artist with something he painted or like a father with a son. 

2. God makes us fellow heirs with Christ. 

God makes much of us by making us fellow heirs with his Son, who owns everything. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). I wonder if you believe that. I do. Mine! I don’t need it now, therefore. I don’t need it now. I don’t need to scrounge to get a piece of earth for about fifty years and then maybe lose everything. 

I am very happy to belong to King Jesus — to be a fellow heir of Jesus Christ, who owns the universe, and get my globe at death (or maybe at the resurrection). And I won’t mind sharing it with you. And if that’s a problem, he’ll make another globe. In fact, he won’t have to make another globe. They’re out there. So you get Quasar 10, which is probably greener. “The promise to Abraham and his offspring [is] that he would be heir of the world” (Romans 4:13). Are you an heir of Abraham? You indeed are an heir. In Christ, we are Abraham’s offspring, and Abraham was promised the world. 

One more, 1 Corinthians 3:21–22 (this is the best of all, probably): “So let no one boast in men.” He’s trying to help Bethlehem not boast — boast in pastors, boast in elders, boast in buildings, boast in anything. “Let no one boast in men. For [here’s the argument] all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” What an argument. These ragtag Corinthians are being told, “Would you stop saying, ‘I’m of Paul,’ ‘I’m of Cephas,’ and realize you own everything?” It’s just a matter of time. A very short time. 

3. God promises to serve us. 

God makes much of us by having us sit at table when he returns, and serving us as though he were the slave and we are the masters. This is the parable of the second coming that is the most unbelievable. It’s Luke 12. I’ll just read you Luke 12:37. He’s describing the second coming, and he says, “Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have [us] recline at table, and he will come and serve [us].” What will it take to make you feel made much of? I used to think until I saw that parable that he did that on the earth: Last Supper, bound a towel, washed their feet — that’s an incarnation action. But now, name above every name, he’s coming on a white horse, sword out of his mouth, slaying his enemies, making everybody serve him at table. 

And that’s not what it says. He will never cease to be our servant. We will tremble. We will say what Peter said: “You can’t wash my feet! Get your towel off. Sit down.” And he will say — no, he won’t. I want to say that he’ll say, “Get behind me, Satan.” But I think probably at that point, we will be sanctified enough that we won’t be satanic like Peter was. So there we are, sitting at table shortly, with Jesus serving us. 

4. God appoints us to judge angels. 

God makes much of us by appointing us to carry out judgment of angels. “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:3). You can take a deep breath and say, “Well, I don’t think I could do that.” You will. You will. 

5. God rejoices over us. 

God makes much of us by ascribing value to us and rejoicing over us as his treasured possession. Consider two verses. 

Matthew 10:29–30: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father? Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” “I attend to the minutest detail of a sparrow’s life. You don’t compare. You are, I would say, infinitely more valuable than a bird. So don’t worry. I’ve got your back. I won’t let anything happen that’s not for your good. I love you. I value you. You’re coming home. I decided this before the foundation of the world.” 

I said there were two verses there. I said, “values you and sings over you, rejoices over you.” This is Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God . . . will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” You ever heard God sing? I haven’t. I suppose Jesus sang a hymn when he went out into the garden. When everybody else sang, he didn’t sit there quiet. But when God sings, universes come into being. God’s going to sing, and it’s going to be a sound like you’ve never heard over you, over the blood-bought bride of his Son. He will lead the song at the wedding feast. 

6. God will make us shine like the sun. 

God makes much of us by giving us a glorious body like Jesus’s resurrection body. “[He] will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21). But here’s the one that has captured me for all the years since I saw it — in the parable in Matthew 13:43: “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Remember seeing Jesus in Revelation 1? Hair white like snow, girded with a brass belt of truth, just pillars for legs. And his face, it says, “was like the sun shining” (Revelation 1:16). And John was on his face. So will you. 

We would not be able to look at each other in the resurrection unless God had given us new spiritual resurrection eyes. We will be so bright. No more wheelchairs, no more depression, no more fallen countenances, no more discouragement, no more disease, no more alienation — everything new, and your face shining like the sun. So, as C.S. Lewis said, we would be tempted to bow down and worship each other if God hadn’t given us eyes and a heart to know better. 

7. God will rule the world through us. 

Most amazingly, I think (maybe not), God makes much of us by granting us to sit with Christ on his throne. Revelation 3:21: “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” I don’t know what to do with that. 

“Everywhere the Father extends his rule in the universe, he will do it through you.” 

So, I’ll try. Maybe Ephesians 1:23 helps: “[The church] is [Christ’s] body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” We’re going to sit on the throne of God with Jesus, because the thrones merge. We’re on Jesus’s throne; he sits on the Father’s throne; now we’re all on the same throne. God, the Son, and us sitting on the throne of the universe. If I put those two texts together, I think it means something like this: everywhere the Father extends his rule in the universe, he will do it through you. 

God created the world, you, for a reason, and it isn’t to throw you away at the end. It’s so that you would fulfill what he gave you to do in the beginning — namely, to be a governor of the universe: subdue it, multiply, fill it, enjoy it, make something of it. “Now I’ve made you new, I’ll make the world new. Now get about it, and any place I stick my hand to rule, I’m ruling through people.” He’s going through people. 

So, let it be known loud and clear: God makes much of us. God makes much of his Son’s bride. God loves his church with a kind of love that will make more of her because he makes much of her for his glory. 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently What Is Saving Faith?

Does God Delight in Justification or Holiness? 

From an interview with John Piper, founder/teacher, desiringGod.org 

This is really crucial. It’s a question that lies very close to my heart because, as I look out across the longer-term effects of the gospel-centered movement of the last forty years or so, one of my concerns is that the stress on justification by faith — which is a glorious doctrine, not to be diminished or compromised at all — has not been accompanied by a biblically proportionate focus on sanctification by faith. 

One form that this neglect has taken is the hesitancy for some pastors to say to their people, “You should seek to please the Lord by the way you live.” One of the reasons they’re hesitant to say this is that they think it undermines the doctrine of justification, which says that we already stand pleasing, or perfect, before God, clothed with the perfection and the righteousness and the obedience of Christ, which is counted as ours through faith alone. 

So this question is absolutely crucial in order to preach and live biblically, because there’s no doubt that throughout the Gospels and throughout the Epistles we are exhorted to walk — that is, live practically with our minds and our attitudes and the members of our body — in a way that pleases the Lord. You may not please the Lord if you don’t walk that way. Now, that’s not a peripheral teaching, and it’s not in conflict with justification by faith. 

Glory of Justification 

So let me give some biblical foundation for each of those realities — namely, justification as the imputation of Christ’s obedience to us, and sanctification as a way of life that pleases the Lord. I’ll try to put them together. 

“For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

“[That I may] be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9). 

“As by the one man’s [namely, Adam’s] disobedience the many were [appointed] sinners, so by the one man’s [namely, Christ’s] obedience the many will be [appointed] righteous” (Romans 5:19). 

We call this appointing imputation, or being counted righteous, and this imputation happens by union with Christ through faith, not works. Romans 4:5: “To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” 

So the moment — and this is the glory — the moment we experience authentic faith in Christ and are thus united to him, at that moment his death counts as the punishment of all our sin so that all divine wrath is forever removed from us. In that same glorious moment, Christ’s entire obedience is counted as ours so that he fulfills for us every demand that the law made on us in order to be found in God’s everlasting favor. From that moment on for the rest of eternity, God is 100 percent for us — not 99 percent for us and a little bit against us, but 100 percent for us. That’s the glory of justification by faith. 

Committed to Our Holiness 

Now, the fact that God reckons us to be perfect in Christ, and thus acceptable to him in his holiness, does not mean that God is willing to leave us in a condition embattled by sin where we can’t fully enjoy him forever. 

The fact that God accepts us fully in Christ means he is fully committed to making us fully happy forever, which means that he is displeased with anything short of our joyful perfection in attitude and heart and mind and body, because any imperfection is a dishonor to his worth and a diminishment of our joy. God cannot, as a justifying God, be indifferent to our everlasting happiness, which means being indifferent to our everlasting holiness. He cannot. That’s what justification guarantees. 

“God intends not only to count us righteous because of Christ, but to make us righteous because of Christ.” 

So we have texts like the one Kelly points out in Colossians 1:9–10: “We pray for you,” Paul says, “that you may . . . walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.” That’s what Paul’s praying for. God intends not only to count us righteous because of Christ, but to make us righteous because of Christ. 

To say that he sees us clothed with the righteousness of Christ for the sake of justification does not mean that he has become blind to the attitudes and thoughts and deeds of our life on earth. He has not become blind or indifferent to our lived-out holiness. On the contrary, it’s only because our sins are completely forgiven that we can get any victory over sinning at all. Practical holiness is only possible because of the prior imputed holiness. God means to get glory for Jesus, not only as the one who deals with the guilt of our sin by justification, but also as the one who deals with the power of our sin by sanctification. 

Pleasing God in Our Walk 

Over and over, Paul tells Christians to make it their aim to please the Lord by the way they walk — that is, the way they live. 

“We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1). 

“Whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). 

“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). 

“I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. . . . This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:13). 

“Let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God” (1 Timothy 5:4). 

The flip side of this repeated refrain that we can and should please the Lord by the way we live is the fact that we can displease the Lord by the way we live — even as justified, accepted, loved children of God. Paul says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30). In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, he says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” 

Made Delightful Through Discipline 

In Hebrews 12, God disciplines those he loves, his justified children. And then he explains what he’s doing. It says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). That’s not imputed righteousness. That’s practical righteousness that happens because God is disciplining us in our need. 

“The only sin you can get any victory over is a forgiven sin, not the other way around.” 

So there is imputed righteousness, and there is imparted righteousness. The imputed righteousness is the foundation of imparted righteousness. The only sin you can get any victory over is a forgiven sin, not the other way around. The imputed righteousness is the way we become the children of God so that he now exerts his omnipotent fatherly favor to impart his own righteousness to us by the Spirit. 

Kelly asks, “Does God’s pleasure in me depend upon Christ’s work or my works? Or is it somehow both?” Here’s the way I would answer. Proverbs 3:12 says, “The Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” So, God is seeking to make us delightful to him in our lived-out holiness and happiness because we are delightful to him as his justified children. 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently What Is Saving Faith?

The Supremacy of Christ in Everything  

Friends:  I am choosing to post less material.  The reason for this is that I am asking those of you who take the time to read Let There Be Light posts, to see these as a serving of delicious spiritual food.  The truth contained in the selected post is spiritual food that feeds your internal spiritual self.  So what I ask of you is to ‘chew’ on this teaching over a few-day period and then digest and absorb it into your understanding ‘so that’ it will become nourishment and healing in your heart and mind and in your relationship to God and our Glorious Savior, Jesus Christ.  And ‘so that’ you can share this truth and light with those that are stumbling and lost in darkness. dh  

Resource:  John Piper, desiringGod.org 

Let’s begin by asking the “So what?” question. So what, if Colossians 1:15–20 is one of the greatest exaltations to Christ in all the Bible? Maybe the greatest. There are a few that come close. 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1–314

That’s close. 

In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:2–3

That’s close. But Colossians 1:15–20 may be the greatest. So, you are about to listen to me for the next thirty-five minutes or so wave my little expository finger, and point toward this Mount Everest of Christ-exalting Scriptures, and then you’ll go home. And the crucial question will be, So what

I’m going to give you two answers to that question here at the outset from Colossians so you can be testing while I teach, and then when you go home: Is this happening? Is this text having this God-appointed effect on me? 

Vaccine Against Error 

Here’s my first answer to the “So what?” question. False teaching has begun to infect the minds of some of the believers in Colossae, and Paul intends for the clarification and exaltation of the majesty of Jesus Christ to be the theological vaccine that protects the Colossian Christians from the disease of Christ-diminishing, Christ-distorting error. 

Turn with me to Colossians 2 to get three glimpses of the false teaching in Colossae. Notice that in every case the failure to embrace a clear enough and big enough Christ is what makes the church vulnerable. 

Colossians 2:8: See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 

If you don’t embrace a Christ that is big enough and clear enough, you will be a sitting duck for Christ-diminishing, Christ-distorting philosophy, empty deceit, and human tradition. 

Colossians 2:16–17: Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 

If you don’t embrace a Christ that is big enough and clear enough, you easily mistake shadows for reality. 

Colossians 2:18–19: Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head. 

If you don’t embrace a Christ that is big enough and clear enough, you will stop holding fast to Christ as the great, all-supplying Head of the body, and take up sectarian strategies of self-improvement. 

So, the first answer to the “so what” question is this: if you embrace a Christ who is big enough and clear enough — the way Paul shows him to be in Colossians 1:15–20 — you will have a theological, spiritual, biblical vaccination against a hundred Christ-diminishing, Christ-distorting errors — and they will not be getting fewer in the last days. 

Endure and Give Thanks with Joy 

Now, the second answer to the “So what?” question. Back to chapter 1. Last week, Pastor Kenny walked us through Paul’s prayer for the Colossians — and for us — which starts in Colossians 1:9. It’s the connection between this prayer and today’s text about the supremacy of Christ which clarifies the second answer to the “So what?” question. 

Paul prays in Colossians 1:11 that we would be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience. And then that little phrase “with joy” could go either way, forward or backward. Endurance and patience with joy, or, with joy giving thanks to the Father. 

Experientially, I can’t see any difference. We are enduring with patience the pandemic, the political acrimony, the war in Ukraine, churches in conflict, the sexual debauchery of the culture, the heartbreak of lost loved ones. Does it make any difference whether you say: “We are enduring with joy” or to say, “We are enduring, giving joyful thanks to God the Father”? In both cases joy marks our patient endurance in these days, and, God willing, to the very end. Serious joy, thankful to our heavenly Father to the very end. 

“Joy marks our patient endurance in these days and, God willing, to the very end.” 

But how can we have thankful joyful hearts as we patiently endure these days? Paul answers in Colossians 1:12, because God the Father “has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” We are not going to be cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:1222:1325:30). Our inheritance is a new world where night will be no more. And there will be no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb (Revelation 22:521:23). 

And then Colossians 1:13 adds that we have already entered into this kingdom of light: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” And Colossians 1:14 adds that the reason that we guilty sinners can enter that kingdom of everlasting light and joy — it’s because “in [Christ] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” He paid the ransom with his blood for our forgiveness. By faith we are united to him. And his sacrifice covers all our sins. 

Greatest Tribute 

Now, follow the flow of thought to see the connection with today’s text. Paul’s prayer in verses 11–12 is that we would endure with joyful thankfulness everything this fallen world throws at us until Jesus comes. The reason we can do that, he says, is because he has qualified us for an eternity of light and love not darkness. And the way he has done that is by paying the redemption price for the forgiveness of all our sins and bringing us already into the kingdom of his greatly loved Son. 

“The supremacy of Christ is meant to sustain our joy through patient endurance.” 

And at this point Paul is so full of awareness that our thankful, joyful, patient endurance depends on the greatness of the redemption of Christ and the greatness of the reign of Christ that he launches into the greatest tribute to the supremacy of Christ in the Bible (Colossians 1:15–20). In other words, the second answer to the “So what?” question is that, if your mind and heart are captured with the greatness and the beauty and the worth of Jesus Christ in verses 15–20, you will endure the hardships of this life with patience and joyful thankfulness. The supremacy of Christ is meant to sustain our joy through patient endurance. 

Supremacy of Christ 

So let’s look at the supremacy of Christ in Colossians 1:15–20

I see at least five ways Christ is supreme in relation to creation — and then three ways he is supreme in relation to the church. Or if you prefer, you can use the word “preeminent,” since that is the purpose of God stated at the end of verse 19: “that in everything he might be preeminent.” That’s the immediate goal of this passage: to show that in everything Christ is preeminent, or supreme — that he is the greatest, most excellent reality that exists. 

Supreme over Creation 

First, then, in relation to creation — five aspects of his supremacy. 

1. CHRIST IS GOD 

Colossians 1:19: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Even more clearly in Colossians 2:9: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” Remember, in verse 13 Christ is called God’s beloved Son. Now we see that the Son is said to possess the fullness of God-ness. He is fully God. 

And this divine Son came to earth and clothed himself with humanity. He has a body and a human nature. So Colossians 2:9 says, “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” We call this the incarnation of the divine Son of God. There is now, and forever, a God-man. God the Son never lays down his body. He rises from the dead with it. He ascends with it. He possesses it in heaven today glorified according to Philippians 3:21. And he will return visibly in his body. 

They could see him and touch him while he was on the earth. And we will see him when he comes again. I think this is what Paul means in Colossians 1:15: “He is the image of the invisible God.” God is invisible. He is spirit. But Jesus is not invisible. He is the visible God. In John 14:9, Jesus said to Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” 

So I would ask you very frankly, Do you worship Jesus Christ? Matthew 28:17 says, “When the eleven saw him they worshiped him.” Do you? Is your Christ big enough and clear enough and supreme enough that you treasure him more highly than any other reality, as very God of very God? 

2. CHRIST IS BEFORE ALL THINGS 

Colossians 1:17: “And he is before all things.” Why would Paul say that? It is so obviously implicit in virtually everything else he says about Christ in this paragraph. Well, sometimes it is very good to make implicit, glorious things explicit! Things that we just pass over and don’t ponder. I invite you to ponder the fact that before there was anything else, Christ was. 

For example, this draws our attention to the fact that Christ’s relationship to things that are not Christ is very different from our relationship to things that are not us. We think that we are creators. We’re not. Not the way Christ is. When we make things, we just rearrange what’s already there. We rearrange chemicals and make a medicine. We rearrange molecules and make an atom bomb. We arrange materials and make house. 

When Christ brought creation into existence, he didn’t rearrange anything, because he was before all things. There wasn’t anything to arrange. Christ is absolute reality. Everything else is secondary. 

3. CHRIST CREATED EVERYTHING THAT IS NOT GOD 

Colossians 1:15–16: “[He is] he firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.” 

“Firstborn of all creation” does not mean he is part of creation. Four reasons: 

He is God — not part of what God made. We have seen that already. 

The ground of 15b in verse 16 contradicts that he is part of creation: “He is firstborn of all creation. Because by him all things were created.” It would make no sense to say, “He is part of creation because he created all things.” 

The word “of” in “firstborn of all creation” does not have to mean he is part of creation any more than my saying, “David is the coach of his son’s little league team,” means he is a little leaguer on the team. “Coach of” means “coach over” and that’s what Paul means here — he is the firstborn over all creation. 

The word “firstborn” came to mean, alongside its biological meaning, “having the highest rank,” as in Psalm 89:27 where God says to David, “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” That is, not having his origin from the kings of the earth but highest over them. 

So I say again, Christ created everything that is not God. And I suspect Paul listed the particular creations that he listed to make sure that the Colossians did not try to make exceptions by saying, “No, no, the thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities do not include evil powers.” Yes, they do! And that’s the point! Verse 13 just said we were delivered from the “domain (Greek exousias) of darkness” and that word “domain” is the same as the “authorities (exousiai)” in verse 16. He made them. And he delivered us from them. They have no independent existence or power. 

No exceptions, Colossians. No exceptions, Bethlehem. Christ is the creator of all that is not God. Including all the demons and their political echoes in this world. Is it any wonder that Jesus simply commands fevers, and wind, and water, and demons, and they obey? As then. So now. 

4. CHRIST HOLDS EVERYTHING TOGETHER 

Colossians 1:17: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Christ doesn’t just bring everything that is into being. He holds everything that is in being. This may strike home to help us feel the way we ought, even more than knowing that he is our Creator. 

Hour by hour the reason you do not fly apart into a billion fragments and then vanish is because Christ holds you together. And this is true of everything in the universe. Everything that man has ever made, and every body of every man and woman and child. And every mountain and ocean and cloud and supernova — all would cease to be if Christ did not hold them in being. 

He holds together the metal on the tanks rolling into Ukraine. He holds together the cellphones in Ukraine that connect the resistance. He holds together the pew you sit on, the clothing you wear, the food you eat, the skin that covers your bones. As your Creator you might think he is distant, having done that work some time ago. But to confess that in him you’re very body and soul, millisecond by millisecond, are held in being is another matter. He is not distant. You are personally and radically dependent on Christ, even if you don’t believe on him. 

5. ALL THINGS WERE CREATED FOR CHRIST 

Colossians 1:16 (at the end): “All things were created through him and for him.” What does for him mean? It can’t mean, in order to meet his needs. To be God means to have no needs. Acts 17:25 says, “God cannot be served as though he needed anything.” 

“Christ created everything and sustains everything for the glory of Christ.” 

One clue is found in Colossians 1:18 at the end: “that in everything he might be preeminent.” Creation exists “for him” in the sense of putting his preeminence on display. He does everything he does in order put his supremacy, his glory, on display. Christ created everything and sustains everything for the glory of Christ! This is why the universe came into being — to put the preeminence of Christ’s glory on display. 

Supreme over the Church 

Lest you think that makes an egomaniac out of Christ, we turn now, all too briefly, to three acts of Christ’s supremacy in relation not to creation but to the church in verses 18–20. 

I’ll name them quickly: 

He is supreme as the head of the body. Verse 18a: “And he is the head of the body, the church.” 

He is supreme as the beginning of the new creation as he rises first from the dead, the first of millions. Verse 18b: “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” 

We’ve already looked at verse 19, so I skip to verse 20: He is supreme as the one whose blood secures a new heaven and a new earth where everything is reconciled and at peace with God. Verse 20: “And through him to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven making peace by the blood of his cross.” 

Apex of Glory: Grace 

Here’s what changes the whole idea of egomaniac. When we say that Christ has created everything for the glory of Christ, the apex of that glory is the glory of grace toward his people. 

It’s the glory of being the head (v. 18a) that supplies every need that the church ever has for everlasting holiness and joy. 

It’s the glory not of being the only one to rise from the dead, but the first one to rise from the dead (v. 18b), bringing with him millions upon millions of people who will be delivered from the bondage of death and brought into a new world of everlasting joy with Christ. 

It’s the glory of shedding his blood (v. 20) so as to make peace — to make a new world of only reconciled people in two ways: one is to supply the forgiveness of sins for everyone who believes, and the other is to strip from the hands of God’s demonic and human enemies all grounds for condemning God’s people and dismiss those enemies into outer darkness where they will not in any way infect the new heaven and the new earth. 

Bethlehem, 

Jesus Christ is our God. 

Jesus Christ is before all things. 

Jesus Christ created all that is not God. 

Jesus Christ holds everything together. 

Jesus Christ created everything to display the supremacy and the glory of Jesus Christ. 

This is not egomania. It is love. Because the apex of that glory is the glory of grace. It’s the glory of Christ’s supplying everything his church needs to be holy and happy forever. It’s the glory of triumphing over death in bringing millions of believing sinners to everlasting life. And it’s the glory of establishing a new heaven and new earth of peace and reconciliation by the blood of his cross. 

What he wants from us is the answer to Paul’s prayer — that we would find strength for all endurance and patience with thankful joy because we have embraced this Christ. 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence

Why Do We Celebrate Easter?

It’s Good Friday today, but we are making our way quickly to Easter — my favorite holiday of the entire year. So why do we celebrate Easter?  

It’s a great question, and there are great answers in the Bible. This is not a hard question to deal with, because the resurrection is the greatest event — along with the death of Jesus — in the universe. 

Article by John Piper, Founder/Teacher desiringGod.org 

Jesus Is Lord ‘Now’ and Forever. 

So, before I give three reasons from the New Testament that the resurrection is essential to God’s purposes in creation and salvation, let me just say clearly that affirming the bodily resurrection of Jesus is essential to being a Christian. Paul says in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 

Now, I know that Acts 16:31 says this: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” But when he said that, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” he did not mean, “Believe on a dead man.” When he said, “Believe in the Lord,” he meant, “He’s Lord — he’s Lord.” You can’t read Paul’s letters and think that Jesus was Lord, and now he’s in the grave. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except in the Holy Spirit.” He is Lord. You can’t be a Christian if you only believe in a dead human being who was Lord. You can’t. He is Lord. And Jesus is Lord is the fundamental early-church confession. 

So, here are three reasons why the resurrection — and, consequently, Easter — is so important. 

It’s important because of the connection between Christ’s resurrection and his death. 

It’s important because of the connection between Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection. 

It’s important because of the connection between Christ’s resurrection and his present and future ministry. 

1. Christ’s resurrection vindicates his death and frees us from sin. 

Christ’s resurrection closely connects with his death. Consider two key passages. 

“[Christ] was delivered up [to death] for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). That means that the resurrection was God’s sovereign act to emblazon the triumph of Christ’s death across the universe. The death of Christ successfully completed the foundational work of our justification. Nobody would be saved without God’s declaring us just and righteous before his throne of justice. And Romans 4:25 says that the death of Christ so completely and successfully secures this justification that God put his omnipotent stamp of approval on it by raising Jesus from the dead. The bodily resurrection of Jesus vindicated the saving success of the bloody death of Jesus. 

Now, here’s the other text: 1 Corinthians 15:14–18. Paul is talking about bodily resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. . . . If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:1417). 

Jesus died to remove the guilt of our sins. And Paul is saying that if he’s not raised, you’re still in your sins. He goes on to say that “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Corinthians 15:18). In other words, Paul’s preaching of the cross is pointless if Christ was not raised from the dead. “Futile,” he says. And we know it means bodily resurrection because the rest of 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that’s the kind of resurrection he’s talking about. You are still in your sins; they are not forgiven; the blood of Jesus is powerless, useless, a failure; it aborted — if Christ was not raised from the dead. First Corinthians 15:20: “In fact Christ has been raised from the dead.” So the resurrection is important because of its connection to the death of Christ. 

2. Christ’s resurrection guarantees ours. 

The resurrection is also important because of its connection between Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection. First Corinthians 15:20: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” That means the resurrection is viewed as one great harvest, and Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruits, the first stage of the resurrection that guarantees our resurrection. 

Or Romans 6:5: “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Our resurrection will be owing to our union with Christ, who was raised. If he wasn’t, we won’t be. 

Or 2 Corinthians 4:14: “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus.” So, Christ’s resurrection is important because ours depends on his. If he wasn’t raised, we won’t be either. 

3. Christ’s resurrection empowers his present ministry. 

The resurrection of Christ is important because of the connection between Christ’s resurrection and his present and future ministry. The death of Christ was the purchase of our salvation, not the application or consummation of it. 

The Bible describes much more to be done for our everlasting enjoyment of the glory of God and the fellowship of Jesus. Christ’s saving work goes on in his resurrection body as he intercedes for us, and when he comes again in glory to establish his kingdom. The goal of our eternal life is to enjoy and magnify the living Christ as he rules over his church and gives himself in service and fellowship to his bride. It is a salvation of living fellowship. If he weren’t alive, we wouldn’t have any salvation. There would be nothing to enjoy forever and ever that is supremely satisfying. So, with no resurrection, we get no fellowship, no salvation, no joy. Consider these texts: 

Romans 6:9: “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” 

Romans 8:34: “Who is to condemn [us]? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that [that’s really important!], who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” 

Ephesians 1:20–23: “[God] raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named. . . . And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” That’s his present ministry today, as all-supplying guide and head for the church. 

Acts 17:31: “[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.” Judgment is coming. Jesus is going to be the man who does the judgment. “And of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” 

Colossians 1:18: “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” 

So, the resurrection of Jesus is all-important because his death would be ineffective without it; and because we would have no hope of resurrection without it; and because the ministry of Jesus that he is performing right now, and will perform forever for our everlasting joy, would not exist without the resurrection. Together with the death of Jesus, his resurrection is the all-important event in the history of the world. 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence