Journey in Grace: An Interview with Wendy Alsup

This interview was done in 2007. This is a repost of the exchange.

I want to thank Wendy Alsup for her time and thoughtful answers to my questions. Wendy is a member of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. I believe this Q&A will be a blessing to you as it is to me.

Q1: What are some challenges you face ministering in Seattle, Washington? Compared to South Carolina?

A1: Well, some might call it a challenge. I call it refreshing. But growing up in SC, everybody claimed to be a Christian but nobody acted like one (I generalize of course). The Apostle Paul uses a child’s expected growth as an illustration. When a baby drools, it’s an expected result of their stage of growth. When an adult drools, we know it represents some type of disability. That adult isn’t functioning as expected for its years of life. Growing up in the Bible belt, I knew a bunch of Christians who had been believers (in theory) for many years but still acted like toddler Christians. I admit that I have lost my patience with believers who should have long since learned better. It was God’s wise hand that moved us to Seattle at the time He did. Here, people either are or are not Christians, and their lives pretty consistently testify to the truth of their claim. There are many hostile unbelievers here. Our papers, politicians, and cultural figures tend to be much more frank in their opposition to Biblical truth. On the flip side, most of the new Christians in our church are blissfully ignorant of the concept of a lukewarm believer. When they came to Christ, it radically changed their lives. Christianity here isn’t a culture–it’s a radical change of life based on a completely new identity in Jesus Christ. There are still plenty of immature believers, but as they grow older in the faith, godly maturity follows.

Q2: What advice do you have for other women who are also trying to juggle ministry in marriage, family, and church?

A2: You need to have your priorities in a godly order. I used to drive to church praying that God would bless my ministry to women there. Then one day I was convicted that I never prayed the same as I was driving back toward home afterwards. Ministry at church had become exciting and fulfilling, and I rightly wanted to be a good steward of those opportunities. However, I have an even clearer calling to ministry in my home. It’s less glamorous, so I have to constantly fight to keep my husband and boys my first priority. I’ve learned to give my husband first right of refusal when a new opportunity arises for ministry at church. I’m also learning to not make him feel guilty if he doesn’t want me to take on a ministry opportunity that excites me. He knows better than anyone the stresses I am currently facing and has a good perspective of which opportunities would end up being a distraction from my true calling. Generally speaking, it is much better to do a few things well than a lot of things halfway.

Q3a: What has your church done to prepare you for “Deacon in Charge of Women’s Theology and Training”?

A3a: Honestly, I became a deacon before we had a streamlined training process. Back then, training consisted of extended conversations over coffee with whichever leader was available at the moment. We have a more formal process for deacon training in place now, which includes reading books, answering discussion questions, writing out statements of doctrinal belief, and apprenticing with a current deacon or elder.

Q3b: What responsibilities does “Deacon in Charge of Women’s Theology and Training” entail?

A3b: The analogy I use to illustrate the ministry at our church is that we are building the plane while it’s flying. With that said, it’s highly probably my responsibilities will change between the time I send this to you and you actually publish it. But right now, I help organize women’s teaching events, both our small weekly Capstone training and our quarterly large group events.

Q4: I know Elisabeth Elliot is one of your female heroes of the faith. Who else has influenced you? Why?

A4: I did a lot of Bible reading on my own growing up. At some point, I read the greatest command and took it to my pastor (I was probably around 18 at the time). I was curious why I had never heard a sermon in my fundamentalist church on the command to love–after all, it was the GREATEST command and therefore one would think it should be covered at some point. My pastor answered that I was reading neo-evangelical stuff and that they had an overemphasis on love and therefore our church didn’t like to talk about it. That seemed really odd to me, but that pastor and his cohorts were the only spiritual authorities I knew at the time. Then a few years later, someone gave me Desiring God by John Piper. It was the first confirmation I got that what I was seeing in Scripture in the Greatest Command wasn’t some evangelical compromise but the heart of the gospel itself. So I have great appreciation for John Piper–he gave me confidence that I was reading Scripture correctly. And I of course love Spurgeon, Luther, and Pascal.

Q5: Was there a single point in time or series of points in which you began to understand the Gospel is for all of life AND for the believer, not just for the unsaved?

A5: It’s been ongoing. I would have said quite boldly that I understood it years ago. Then last month I reread Ephesians and was hit with it again in even deeper ways. I think it’s something we get layer by layer, slowly with meditation and experience over time. I’m burdened anew that women need to really get this. We are the worst at comparing ourselves to each other. We feel shame if we don’t measure up and pride if we do. We compare ourselves on looks, husbands, education, career paths, children, cooking expertise, Martha Stewart decorating abilities, and so forth. And that path is SLAVERY. But when we find our identity in Christ and our self-esteem at the foot of the cross, we can start walking the path of freedom from both the shame and pride of comparison living.

Q5a: You said, “when we find our identity in Christ and our self-esteem at the foot of the cross, we can start walking the path of freedom from both the shame and pride of comparison living. ” Do you have any advice for women (and men!) on how to combat comparison with the Gospel?

A5a: For me, it started by getting a grasp on the idea that the gospel was something I needed to meditate on and apply to my life DAILY for the rest of my life. The only advice I can give to someone is to meditate on Scripture. was key for me (I am the Vine, you are the branches … Apart from me you can do nothing). It was life-changing when that last phrase finally settled into my psyche–apart from Jesus I can do NOTHING. Understanding the implications of Christ being the vine and I the branch and of Christ being the Head and I part of His Body were key. Meditating on Ephesians has also been life-changing. The phrase “in Christ” dominates . And everything else in the book, including the call to Christian unity and principles for marriage and family life all flow from this first chapter.

I was taught to read the Bible as a young person, but I read it much like the Pharisees (). I missed how all of Scripture testifies of Jesus. I’m learning to seek the Word whenever I read the Word. I love , “…then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Him (Jesus) in all the Scriptures.”

When I don’t get the Word and my identity in Him, I inevitably look to find my identity in whatever else I can. For me, it was boyfriends and popularity as a teenager and young single adult. Did people notice how I dressed? What about my hair? After marriage, it started to be how well I kept my home. The worst for me was realizing that when I signed up to take a meal to a sick church member, I decided what to take based on what made me look like the best cook. And it’s opposite reflects the same wrong thinking–I felt condemned by Satan after the birth of my 2nd son when all my friends brought over GREAT meals that I could never replicate myself. Why did that matter? Why was I comparing myself to them and either finding status or self-condemnation by how well I measured up? It’s ridiculous, but when I’m not meditating on my identity in Christ, I can follow that line of comparison thinking on a 1000 different issues. I’ve noticed that if I don’t deal with how I think about myself in relationship to Jesus, I just keep going from thing to thing to thing to bring me comfort, find status, and generally make me feel good about myself.

Q6: In what ways does Andy minister at your church? Do you have a ministry in which you participate together?

A6: We participate in all our ministries together, whether our names are both listed or not. Andy is a private person, and most of his service in the church is never seen by the masses (though many benefit in my humble opinion). He takes seriously his ministry to the boys and me and is a constant source of wisdom and discernment to me in my public ministry at church.

15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. (ESV)

1:1 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. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 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. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (ESV)

38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, (ESV)

25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (ESV)

Journey in Grace: An Interview with Mark Lauterbach

I have enjoyed and benefited from Mark Lauterbach and his blog- Gospel-Driven Life (for his old site here). I want to publicly thank Mark for his putting the time, effort, thoughtfulness and grace in his responses to some questions I posed to him via email. I have, once again, benefited from a man who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good most clearly in the Gospel and has committed himself to helping others to see and taste that the Lord is good most clearly in the Gospel.

For starters, would you tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and your ministry?
Thanks for asking. I am a native of Pittsburgh and a lifelong Steeler fan. I was there for the immaculate reception by Franco Harris (and if you don’t know what that is, look it up on google). My wife Rondi and I have been married for almost 29 years and she is my sunshine. We have three adult children, all graced by the Lord with faith. We have served church in the West primarily, since 1976. We have been in Oregon, Arizona, and California. I am currently the pastoral team leader for Grace Church in San Diego. I follow on the heels of a godly and gifted planter (Craig Cabaniss) who started Grace 11 years ago from scratch and laid some great foundations. I love ministry with my wife, and we cannot believe we have the joy of serving this body of people.

Q1. Would you explain your journey toward Gospel-Centeredness? Was there a watershed moment or sequence of moments?
That all began with an older man in our church in Tucson telling me one day that I did not preach Christ. Since I was in the middle of Romans I was quite perplexed. For a year or so he would make his point in various ways and I would try to understand him. I respected him greatly and thought I should hear him. About that time a friend moved to be near us. He had just completed his PhD, and when I asked him what it was about, he said he focused on the theme of the New Testament: “Jesus the Son of God came, lived a sinless life, died for sin on the cross, and rose again from death – now live in light of that.” I pressed him for more but that is what he kept coming back to . . . I was surrounded.

I set off on a journey of years. I started with the New Testament and circled or noted every reference to the achievements of the cross as I read and studied. I was shocked at how much the NT was blood stained and how I had turned it into a book of moral guidelines and rules. I was also reading Spurgeon, Charles Bridges, plus whatever I could get my hands on. I was being helped by the Lord to see that everything in the NT is a response to the Redeemer’s work. It took years. The final two “Wow” influences were Tim Keller and C J Mahaney. Keller showed me the Gospel everywhere and CJ showed me how to apply it and not just preach it.

I think the key was my re-reading of the entire NT. There are also more books coming out to help: Goldsworthy’s book on hermeneutics, and Dennis Johnson’s new book on preaching Christ.

Q2. Has your understanding of “the Gospel is for Christians” altered other facets of your theology? Why? Why not?
It has changed everything. I think all theology needs to be read through the Redeemer’s work. I think the character of God is most clearly seen through the cross and the empty tomb. I think the church is valued because Jesus died for it. I think eschatology is Redeemer centered not Israel centered (oops, that will get me into trouble with some). I could go on. There is no reason to fear that we lose something if we are focused on the cross and the resurrection. I am careful with theology that makes people feel burdened and heavy (that seems to be a side effect of Calvinism) and look for God-glorifying joy in a great salvation that brings us to God.

I now measure my own life by how much I live in the good of the Gospel every day. I measure my preaching and counseling by how clearly I help people grasp the full salvation achieved by Jesus and rest in it. Are they seeking to commend themselves to God? Are they defending themselves? Are they living under condemnation?

I have a sixth sense now for moralistic preaching. Anything preached that instructs, exhorts, admonishes, convicts – all the stuff we think makes it good – anything that does that but does not lead people to the cross seems to fall short of the apostolic pattern of ministry.

Q3. In your opinion, why do many Christians view the Gospel as only for unbelievers?
I would guess because we are all slow of heart to see the Gospel clearly. Luther said we have to remind ourselves of it all the time and beat it into our heads continually. I am so deeply self-righteous and self-reliant that it takes effort to remind myself of the grace of God. Take that tendency in all of us and mix it with lack of reading the Bible where we see the Gospel everywhere, and you have all that you need to have a “front door to salvation” view of the Gospel. I also think God is doing this work of making us Gospel centered in a new way in our day.

Q4. How do you stay Gospel-Centered in your preaching without allegorizing?
Who needs to allegorize? Most texts are Gospel centered – but there are lines to the Gospel everywhere. One of the key lines is to show how any law-demand cannot be met by us but is met in Christ. Another line is to show the sinfulness of the people in the situation and how they need a Savior. I think I read the passage praying for eyes to see Gospel issues – sin, redemption, grace, self-righteousness, etc. I think the link is often in application in its best form.

So, for example, the other day I read in what I have looked at a dozen times but never noticed before. Jesus tells the 11 that they will abandon him. He celebrates the Lord’s Supper with them. They immediately start fighting about who is the greatest! It is shocking. There they are in the presence of the Son of God who humbled himself for them – and they are arguing for pre-eminence in the group. So, Jesus teaches them about servanthood. That is Gospel-rich by itself. They need a Savior before they need moral teaching about humility. Luke makes that clear. But then the next verse bowls me over – he looks at these 11 who have been bickering and contending for honor and he says, “You are they who have continued with me in my trials.” Wow, — that is not what I am thinking. I am thinking they ARE his trials. But he, in grace, anticipating the cross, points out grace in their lives. I can use that passage to show how we all need a Savior – and how grace-filled eyes see people differently – and Jesus is the example for us. I can also point out to people that this is how Jesus sees his own – including them.

Q5. What is the most challenging aspect for you in preaching? What have you done to overcome these challenge(s)?
The biggest challenge is my own dull heart and my tendency to think that I am done with preaching after I have preached – and to miss application. It still takes me 14 hours a week or so to do a sermon. It all depends on if it is a new series (takes more time up front), a topical series (more work), and if the passage is simple or complex. Half of my time is spent on the sermon itself and most of that is trimming and ordering the flow. Seeing Gospel connections is often helped by the other pastors, who will go over the passage with me. And even when we are all committed to the Gospel as central, we still have differences!

Q6. What advice would you share with people who are aspiring Pastors/Elders/Counselors within a church?
The first issue is to put yourself under the oversight and evaluation of your pastors – and if they are not willing to do so, find a church where they will. Proven character and careful evaluation of character is so important. And it can only take place where you are known. Getting a “call” means nothing unless it is tested and you are evaluated. The second is to give yourself to serve the church. Don’t worry about preaching. Find a place to serve. Change diapers. Help in the parking lot. Teach children. Serve because you love the church. This will test your heart motive too! Third, find ways to care for people. Initiate care, friendship, hospitality. Don’t wait until you have an official ministry to do ministry! Fourth, find some avenue for practice and growth in preaching. Get evaluation as you go. Fifth, be more trusting of how other people see you than how you see yourself. Don’t think you have certain gifts if no one else sees it. But they will see where your gifts are and will serve you.

Q7. What are some of the challenges you face as a Pastor in California?
Same as everywhere – sin is real, Satan blinds the unbelievers to Jesus, sanctification is partial, and I am my own biggest problem. I actually think more of about the specific people I serve and know than about statistical averages. I have never met a statistical average.

All that aside, in my opinion the unique features to California are 1. Climate, 2. Cost. Our sunny weather means people are always on the move and rarely at home. The cost of housing affects everything. People have to spend a larger portion of their income to be in a home, even rentals. I may add a third: we are the rootless coast. Mark Dever described it this way. England is made up of the people who stayed. The Eastern USA is made up of the people who left. And the West is made up of the people who left the East. People here are fairly independent and rootless. That is why they came here. So, we call people to apply the Gospel to all these areas of life.

Q8. Who are your past/present heroes of the faith? What draws your attention to them?
I was very influenced by Tozer-Spurgeon-Packer early on. They drove my heart into the grace and glory of God. I have also been very influenced by Piper, Keller, Mahaney. I would say Eugene Peterson kept me sane when I was trying to be a pastor in churches that wanted a CEO. I do not recommend anyone anywhere without encouraging discernment. Only the Bible is infallible.

But I would say my real heroes are people I know and not just people I read. I admire my wife for 26 years of burying her life into our children when she had many desires to do other things besides. She has followed me through many tough times. I admire my children for their love of Christ even though they have seen some painful times in churches I have served. I admire CJ Mahaney for his humility and joy. I admire Steve Shank (who is on the Leadership team of Sovereign Grace) as he has moved so many times for the Gospel I cannot count them. He does it with joy and leads his family to the same. I admire John Piper for living in the city near his church and living simply. I admire my friend Drew because he is more kingdom focused than self-focused and gave me an opportunity to serve short term a few years ago. I admire a whole variety of folks for their love of the church, their teachability, their pursuit of godliness, their grace filled living. I admire people for their lives more than for their books.

Q9. You have written a book called The Transforming Community: The Practice of the Gospel in Church Discipline. Can you explain why you wrote it and what your hopes are for the book?
Well. I wrote it because when a friend asked me what God had taught me most deeply in twenty years I discovered I had been through a huge number of church discipline cases. It is a reflection on those lessons and how I grew to see that the Gospel informs how we do discipline. I wish I could redo all those years of ministry as I made so many mistakes. I also wish I could re-write it as I do not think it is well written – but I try to set out the grace motivated, careful process of dealing with sin that I think we find in Scripture. What is funny is that it was published as I went to the Pastors College for Sovereign Grace! As I re-read it during my first year with this family of churches; I found that I was seeing it lived in some clear ways. I am convinced that if the church will humbly and graciously deal with sin and encourage each other, we will see significant grace in our lives. But it takes faith and courage and humility. And that comes from the Gospel.

You can purchase the book from Amazon: The Transforming Community: The Practice of the Gospel in Church Discipline.

UPDATE: Mark’s sermons are now online!

22:1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 45 And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

47 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. 64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.

66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” (ESV)

The Gospel in Everyday Language: An Interview with Milton Vincent

As I have mentioned in the past (in 2007 to be exact), I have recommended the booklet A Gospel Primer for Christians now a book you can get from Amazon. I liked the Primer so much that I contacted Pastor Milton Vincent, the author of the Primer, and requested an interview. He graciously accepted the opportunity.

This interview has encouraged me greatly, and I am sure it will encourage you, as well. For anyone, and I am sure this includes everyone, struggling with sin in any and every area of life, this Q&A should be fresh, cold water to your soul.

First off, I want to thank you for taking this time to answer questions from a no-name blogger whom you have never met. I really want to make this an opportunity of learning and gleaning the wisdom God has given you relating to the ministry of the Gospel and to share this wisdom with my readers.

For starters, would you tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and your ministry?

My wife and I are from Indianapolis, Indiana. We both went to Bob Jones University, and we graduated from there in ’87. I graduated from The Master’s Seminary in ’91, and a few months later I assumed the pastorate at Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church, where my wife and I have been ever since. I did teach English Grammar at The Master’s Seminary for two years and Beginning Hebrew at the seminary for four years. I have four children, Brooke (17), Brendan (15), Benjamin (11), and Breanna (9). I have a terrible golf game.

1. You have written a booklet called A Gospel Primer for Christians. Can you explain why you wrote it and what your hopes are for the booklet?

To the Christians at Rome, Paul literally says, “I am eager to evangelize you who are at Rome” (). Apparently, Paul felt that the Roman Christians still needed to be evangelized; and I have found the same to be true in my own life and in the lives of many other Christians to whom I minister. The Gospel Primer represents an attempt to meet the needs of Christians who, like me, feel the need for a simple tool through which they can evangelize themselves each day.

It had been a burden of mine since 2001 to write a gospel tract for Christian people, a tract which lays out for them the basics of the gospel, calls them to faith in that gospel, and shows them how they can come into a fuller experience of it. The Primer is that tract.

My hope for the booklet is simply that Christians will find the truths in it as helpful as I have found them to be in my own life. It has been rewarding in recent months to witness the interest in the primer and to hear of how it has blessed so many. This confirms to me that we all share the same basic need for the gospel each day.

2. Has your understanding of “the Gospel is for Christians” altered other facets of your theology? Why? Why not?

Yes and No. My doctrinal statement looks the same now as it did before. But my emphases are vastly different. Everything I say and do always goes back to the gospel. This wasn’t true of my ministry prior to 2001.

3. In your opinion, why do many Christians view the Gospel as only for unbelievers?

I don’t know, except to say that if I were the Devil, this would be one of my favorite lies. The gospel of Christ is so powerful that, after experiencing the defeat of seeing a person become converted, the Devil rushes in to tell them, “OK, you’ve experienced the gospel. Now let’s move on quickly to the deeper stuff”! This is a scheme that Satan has perfected all too well. Hence, we have Christians who are saved by the gospel, but who walk by the Law. They have entrusted their glorification completely over to Jesus, but have not learned the mechanics of how to leave their justification to Him also.

4. Would you explain your journey toward Gospel-Centeredness? Was there a watershed moment or sequence of moments?

Pardon the length of my reply. But since you asked, I will tell you.

I would have never acknowledged this to be the case, but I labored for most of my life to maintain my justified status before God, and I was always left frustrated in my attempts to do so. The “God” I believed in was easily ticked at me. When I would come into His presence to make right some wrong, His arms were tightly folded, and His eyes were slow to meet mine. I imagined an angry look on His face, and it was up to me to figure out some way to mollify Him.

I figured that if I beat up myself sufficiently in His presence, or pled with Him long enough, or just waited a few hours to put a little distance between me and my sin, then He might warm to me again.

This view of God would work for a short while, but after a couple weeks, the sheer quantity of times I failed God would reach a threshold where I was convinced that He was fed up with me. I also grew weary of always falling out of His favor and having to confess or work my way back into His good graces. Exhausted from such efforts, I would eventually give up actually trying to relate to God.

I would then go weeks and months where all I would do was simply try not to do anything too stupid or overtly sinful. But inwardly I harbored much sin, and, over time, I would find myself acting out in ways that would scare me and bring the Spirit’s conviction upon me. Feeling convicted over such sin, I would return to God as a prodigal and renew my efforts to please Him this time around. With a burst of energy, I would throw myself into trying to relate to God once again, only to end up a couple weeks later exactly as I had so many times before: frustrated, defeated, and exhausted.

I operated this way through college and seminary, and even through the first decade of my ministry as a pastor. All the while, I hung onto my faith, because I knew something better was available. I just didn’t know how to get to it. God was gracious to teach me many things along the way that continued to move me forward, but rest in Christ eluded me.

In April of 2001, I was in the fourth week of a season of renewal in my walk with the Lord. I was relating to God with renewed passion and was experiencing significant growth as a result. But the same wearisome agitation began to grow over me as the days wore by.

Driving home from work one day, my mind came back to the Lord after I had allowed my thoughts to drift for about ten minutes. I was instantly concerned about what I might have just been thinking about in the previous ten minutes. “Have I been thinking anything sinful?” I asked myself. “If so, then God would be angry at me for letting my thoughts wander so. Or maybe I wasn’t even thinking sinful thoughts, but perhaps God is still upset with me because I wasn’t thinking on Him instead.”

My mind began to agitate, and I winced under the Lord’s gaze. “Lord, are we OK?” I asked. “Have I thought any thoughts that have offended You? Do I need to make anything right in order to restore our relationship?”

I anxiously replayed my thoughts from the previous ten minutes. I felt I needed to do this in order to know what the countenance of God was towards me at that moment. If He was angry, then I had to get back into His good graces.

A feeling of nausea began to sweep over me. “Surely, relating to God can’t be this difficult!” my heart screamed. “Why is it so hard to stay in His good graces? I can’t keep track of every thought in order to make sure that He stays graciously disposed towards me! This isn’t possible!”

Feeling exhausted at the thought of a lifetime of having to tend so obsessively to keeping myself in the good favor of God, I felt an extreme urge to trash the whole effort.

The words of a hymn came to my mind and I began to sing them: “Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art . . . .” As I sang the words, I agonized over the fact that my own experience was far removed from the rest about which the songwriter spoke.

When I got home, I found that my wife and kids were not at home. So I grabbed my Bible and began reading out loud as I paced the floor in our living room. What led me to I don’t recall. But I’m glad I landed there, because the chapter saved my life.

I started reading: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have an introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we exult . . . .”

As I continued through the chapter, my soul was stirred by the inspired ravings of a man who exulted in, rather than worried about, his justified status before God. This justification brought him into a gracious standing with God that was accomplished and always maintained by Jesus Christ.

The more I read, the more I began to see something I had not seen before. As a justified one, I am under God’s gracious favor at all times because of what Jesus did! This favored standing with God has nothing to do with my performance, but only with the performance of Jesus! As I read through the length of the chapter, I began to see that my justification was not something to agitate over, but to exult in, not something to wrestle for, but to rest in. I stole a glimpse into and realized that even when I sin, God’s grace abounds all the more as He graciously maintains my justified status.

The above realizations may seem like no-brainers to some, but Paul’s teaching on justification hit me that day like never before. Indeed, I had always believed I was justified, but I guess I treated my justification as some sort of legal fiction that had little direct bearing on the mechanics of how God related to me and how I related to Him. I suppose I would have imagined God saying, “Yeah, technically you’re justified, but I’m angry with you anyway for what you did today!”

But now I realized that absolutely 100% of the wrath I deserve for my sins was truly spent on Jesus, and there is none of God’s anger left over for me to bear, even when I fail God as a Christian. Hence, God now has only love, compassion, and deepest affection for me, and this love is without any admixture of wrath whatsoever. God always looks upon me and treats me with gracious favor, always seeking to work all things together for my ultimate and eternal good. All of these realities hold true even when I sin.

Being justified in Christ doesn’t mean that God no longer cares about my sin. He does care, and He is grieved by my sin. But His gracious favor upon me remains utterly unchanged by my sin, and no wrath is awakened in Him against me. In fact, God favors me so much when I sin that He sends chastisement into my life. He does so because He is for me, and loves me, and He disciplines me for my ultimate good.

Over the next few days, I wrote out some truths regarding my justification on a 3×5 card, and I carried that card around with me everywhere I went. I would pull the card out and read it several times a day. As I did so, I could hardly believe my good fortune. I drank in the doctrine of my justification like a dying man drinking a tall glass of water in the desert. The way those truths put my soul at rest was indescribable.

So delicious was the good news regarding my justification that I began to fear that perhaps I had misunderstood something. With fear and trembling, I ran what I had learned by two fellow-pastors and by the elders of Cornerstone. I also consulted a few evangelical theology books to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding something. To my great relief, I got a green light from all of these checkpoints! They all confirmed that I was rightly understanding what the Scriptures taught regarding my justification.

I felt like a kid in a candy store. How did I not see these things before? The Gospel is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. And it’s true!

The 3×5 card soon turned into the front side of a half sheet of paper, and one side quickly turned into two. I called it “A Gospel Primer” and kept inserting it into our church’s Sunday bulletins to make sure everyone was getting the good news of the Gospel. I kept quoting the contents of the Primer to myself in order to remain mindful of the grace of God in which I stood, because I found it too easy to get out of “gospel mode” and fall back into a performance-based relationship with God. Eventually, the single-page primer turned into a 78 page booklet, now entitled, “A Gospel Primer for Christians.”

Released from the burden of having to maintain my righteous standing with God, I quickly found that I had enormous amounts of passion to put into growing in holiness and ministering God’s amazing grace to other people. I had never had such energy available for ministry before, because so much of it was consumed with tending to my standing before God. I also found the grace of the gospel producing in me a huge passion to love and obey God. In moments of temptation, I enjoyed saying to myself, “You know, I can commit this sin, and God’s grace would abound to me all the more as He maintains my justified status. . . . But it is precisely for this reason that I choose not to commit this sin!” In such moments I would walk away from sin with laughter in my heart.

To keep a long story from getting longer, let me close this off by saying that I still struggle with sin, and I daily fall short of what I know God wants from me. But, without question, the Lord allowed me to turn a significant corner in my sanctification in the Spring of 2001. There are still many areas of my life which I have not yet brought the gospel fully to bear upon. And I am still learning and growing in my experience of the fullness of the gospel. But, as exciting as what I’ve already learned is, I see Jesus standing there saying, “There is more.”

And to me, a hell-deserving sinner, that’s just plain crazy. God’s grace is amazing!

5. How do you stay Gospel-Centered in your preaching without allegorizing?

I’m still growing in my ability to be gospel-centered in all I preach, and I have much to learn. While I have found it worthwhile to put forth the extra effort to be gospel-centered in every sermon, I don’t always feel that I have nailed it the way I should. In fact, in some ways I feel as if I am in Kindergarten on this topic. Nonetheless, what follows are some meandering thoughts that reflect my thinking and practice up to this point.

There are clearly gospel texts in Scripture (, , etc.), and, of course, I preach what’s there.

If I am preaching a prescriptive passage in the Old Testament, I preach the text for what it says in its context, but then tell people that they can only hope to be what the text calls for if they are centered on the gospel. I can tell them that every command in the Law is specifically designed by God to serve as a tutor to show them their bankruptcy and bring them to Christ (gospel!). If they are already saved, then every command in the Law is designed to bring them back again and again to Christ and His gospel.

Where the gospel is not explicitly in the text (as is the case with many proverbs), I preach the text and then bring the gospel to bear on the application. I suppose in such cases I am not applying a gospel-hermeneutic to the interpretation of the text as much as I am providing a gospel method for thinking through the application of the text.

When preaching Old Testament narrative, I think one can always bring the gospel to bear on the interpretation and application of the text. As a case in point, one can preach on David slaying Goliath, and he can talk about God preserving His people (particularly David!) through whom the Messiah would come (gospel!). By way of application, the preacher legitimately can ponder the strong-mindedness of David and ask what resource is available to us today to give us that same courage in the face of our enemies, particularly the principalities and powers we must stand against. The gospel provides abundant fuel for courage. Other gospel connections can easily be made.

One caution is in order. I think the preacher does well to treat Old Testament passages in their original context, and he should do the work necessary to discern how they were intended to be understood by their original readership. Some preachers might bail out on this process and jump too quickly to the gospel. In such cases, they actually diminish, rather than enrich, the gospel appreciation that such texts are ultimately intended to cultivate.

If I preach the commands of Scripture, even New Testament commands, without pointing people to the gospel, then I am nothing more than a preacher of the Law. After preaching some command in Scripture, such as “let all bitterness and wrath and anger . . . be put away from you . . . ,” I frequently tell our people, “Do not walk out of here merely resolving to do a better job of obeying this command. Instead, start gorging yourself on the gospel and you will catch yourself doing exactly what this passage tells you to do.”

6. What is the most challenging aspect for you in preaching? What have you done to overcome these challenge(s)?

For me, the most challenging aspect of preaching is the preparation process. Studying with tools of exegesis in one hand and a sword in the other, dealing with the fury of hell that seeks to impede my advancement in the text, often serves to make preparation excruciating. I envy men who rave about how much they enjoy their sermon preparation. Perhaps one day this will be my experience. For now, it is often the most painful part of what I do (this is not to say that there are not moments of rejoicing!).

It helps me to go into my sermon preparation with the mindset of a soldier. Sentinels of hell have stationed themselves around every truth in Scripture, and the mindset of a warrior braces me to fight the necessary fight to get at those truths for my own benefit and the benefit of the people to whom I am called to minister.

7. What advice would you share with people who are aspiring Pastors/Elders/Counselors within a church?

If you can do anything else, by all means do it. And if you can do anything else, you probably aren’t called. Ministry is not for the faint of heart. It is gritty and often messy. If you wish to be comfortable, do yourself a favor and avoid ministry.

The downside to avoiding ministry is that, when you reach your deathbed, you will have lived but one life. However, if you wish to live a thousand lives, and truly laugh all of your laughter and weep all of your tears, then ministry is definitely where it’s at.

Also, it seems that the longer I am in the ministry, the more I become a “one-tool” pastor/counselor. The one tool I have in my tool box is the gospel; and I’m finding that it works on everything!

Whether preaching or counseling, always direct people to the gospel, and then let the gospel wield God’s power in their areas of particular need. Follow Paul’s example by teaching gospel truth and then helping people to reason their way from gospel truth to whatever practical issue they are dealing with. This will save you a huge amount of work in the long run, and you will see for yourself why Paul calls the message of the cross “the power of God.”

8. What are some of the challenges you face as a Pastor in California?

Probably nothing any other pastor doesn’t face. People are the same anywhere. Actually, one of the greatest benefits to pastoring a church in California is that churches tend to be more racially integrated out here. One of the centerpieces of the gospel is that the death of Christ has obliterated the racial and socio-economic distinctions that once divided us outside of Christ. The journey to a racially integrated church is fraught with fewer obstacles out here than in some other parts of the country. I am extremely thankful for this.

9. Who are your past/present heroes of the faith? What draws your attention to them?

This is a difficult question for me to answer. I look up to so many people! Rather than boring you with a long list of heroes, I will give you just four, two of them from the past and two of whom are alive today.

The Apostle Paul is my greatest hero and dearest brother in the faith. The Lord used his fanatical zeal for the gospel to give me light and show me the way forward when my soul was at a critical impasse.

William Wilberforce. He was a gospel-driven man who worked and spoke with great conviction of the rightness of his causes, yet he did so with a humble consciousness of his own sin and graciousness toward others.

CJ Mahaney. I know of no other man who exudes the spirit of the apostle Paul more than he. CJ speaks and emotes about the gospel the way I’ve always imagined that the apostle Paul did when he was alive. I love him for that.

Jerry Bridges. Bridges’ book, The Discipline of Grace has had a huge impact on my life, and I will always be grateful for his introducing me to the role of the gospel in the life of the believer.
_____________________

I would like to thank Pastor Milton Vincent for this interview. If you have any questions to ask him, I am sure he would not object (I previously asked if I could do a follow-up interview if needed). You can visit his church’s website at: http://www.cornerstonebible.org/

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (ESV)

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)


Listen

6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

53:1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors. (ESV)

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, 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 lived 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. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

3:1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (ESV)