How To Measure a Pastor

How do you measure the success of a pastor? Should a pastor be measured by buildings, budgets, or backsides? Should his pedigree or accomplishments be the yardstick for his worth? How do you determine if a pastor is successful?

You can find the answer to these questions in Paul Tripp’s post “The Recipe for a Successful Pastor.” Pastors may accomplish great measurable feats; however, if they do not proceed from a heart of brokenness, love, and the pursuit of holiness then they are nothing more than worldly accomplishments.

Tripp writes:

I am convinced that many of the problems in pastoral culture result from an unbiblical definition of the essential ingredients of ministry success. Sure, most candidate profiles expect a “vibrant walk with the Lord,” but these words are often weakened by a process that asks few questions in this area and makes grand assumptions. We’re really interested in knowledge (right theology), skill (good preacher), ministry philosophy (will build the church), and experience (isn’t cutting his pastoral teeth in this new place of ministry). I have heard church leaders, in moments of pastoral crisis, say many times, “We didn’t know the man we hired.”

What does knowing the man entail? It means knowing the true condition of his heart—as far as such is possible. What does he really love, and what does he despise? What are his hopes, dreams, and fears? What are the deep desires that fuel and shape the way he does ministry? What anxieties have the potential to derail or paralyze him? How accurate is his view of himself? How open is he to confrontation, critique, and encouragement? How committed is he to his own sanctification?

How open is he about his own temptations, weaknesses, and failures? How ready is he to listen to and defer to the wisdom of others? Is pastoral ministry a community project to him? Does he have a tender, nurturing heart? Is he warm and hospitable, a shepherd and champion to those who are suffering? What character qualities would his wife and children use to describe him? Does he sit under his own preaching? Is his heart broken and his conscience regularly grieved as he looks at himself in the mirror of the Word? How robust, consistent, joyful, and vibrant is his devotional life?

Does his ministry to others flow out of the vibrancy of his devotional communion with the Lord? Does he hold himself to high standards, or does he settle for mediocrity? Is he sensitive to the experience and needs of those who minister alongside him? Does he embody the love and grace of the Redeemer? Does he overlook minor offenses? Is he ready and willing to forgive? Is he critical and judgmental? How does the public pastor differ from the private husband and dad? Does he take care of his physical self? Does he numb himself with too much social media or television? How would he fill in this blank: “If only I had ________”? How successful has he been in pastoring the congregation that is his family?

True Condition of the Pastor’s Heart

A pastor’s ministry is never just shaped by his experience, knowledge, and skill. It is also always shaped by the true condition of his heart. In fact, if his heart is not in the right place, knowledge and skill can make him dangerous.

Pastors often struggle to find living, humble, needy, celebratory, worshipful, meditative communion with Christ. It is as if Jesus has left the building. There is all kinds of ministry knowledge and skill, but it seems divorced from a living communion with a living and ever-present Christ. All this activity, knowledge, and skill seems to be fueled by something else. Ministry becomes shockingly impersonal. Then it’s about theological content, exegetical rightness, ecclesiastical commitments, and institutional advancement. It’s about preparing for the next sermon, getting the next meeting agenda straight, and filling the requisite leadership openings. It’s about budgets, strategic plans, and ministry partnerships.

None of these things is wrong in itself. Many of them are essential. But they must never be ends in themselves. They must never be the engine that propels the vehicle. They must all express something deeper in the pastor’s heart.

The pastor must be enthralled by, in awe of, and in love with his Redeemer so that everything he thinks, desires, chooses, decides, says, and does is propelled by love for Christ and the security of rest in the love of Christ. He must be regularly exposed by, humbled by, assured by, and given rest by the grace of his Redeemer. His heart needs to be tenderized day after day by his communion with Christ so that he becomes a loving, patient, forgiving, encouraging, and giving servant-leader. His meditation on Christ, his presence, his promises, and his provisions must not be overwhelmed by his meditation on how to make his ministry work.

Protection Against All Other Loves

Only love for Christ can defend the heart of the pastor against all other loves that have the potential to kidnap his ministry. Only worship of Christ has the power to protect him from all the seductive idols of ministry that will whisper in his ear. Only the glory of the risen Christ will guard him against the self-glory that tempts all and destroys the ministry of so many.

Only Christ can turn an arrogant, “bring on the world” seminary graduate into a patient, humble giver of grace. Only deep gratitude for a suffering Savior can make a man willing to suffer in ministry. Only in brokenness before your own sin can you give grace to fellow rebels among whom God has called you to minister. Only when your identity is firmly rooted in Christ will you find freedom from seeking to get your identity out of your ministry.

We must be careful how we define ministry readiness and spiritual maturity. There is a danger in thinking that the well-educated and well-trained seminary graduate is ministry ready or to mistake ministry knowledge, busyness, and skill with personal spiritual maturity. Maturity is a vertical thing that will have a wide variety of horizontal expressions. Maturity is about relationship to God that results in wise and humble living. Maturity of love for Christ expresses itself in love for other.

Thankfulness for the grace of Christ expresses itself in grace to others. Gratitude for the patience and forgiveness of Christ enables you to be patient and forgiving of others. Your daily experience of the rescue of the gospel gives you a passion for people experiencing the same rescue. This is the soil in which true ministry success grows.

The Power of the Negative

As leaders, there are times we have to make difficult decisions on how to address the mistakes, weaknesses, or shortcomings of others. After taking time to pray and think through the situation, we still find ourselves struggling with how to approach the other person in just the right way. We want them to know how important they are; however, their actions are hurting others and must be dealt with.

The Power of the Negative” is a post which Dr. Thom Rainer calls attention to our need to have a healthy balance when using negative reinforcement.

Rainer writes:

I often turn to Brad Waggoner for leadership advice and wisdom. He serves as executive vice president of LifeWay and, previously, as dean of a graduate school of leadership. He provides me a gentle reminder from time to time on, to use his words, “the power of the negative.”

Indeed I often have to remind myself of this leadership principle.

Understanding the Principle

The principle is simple but profound: Negative reinforcement has 20 times or more power than positive reinforcement.  At first glance, a leader may conclude that speaking and leading negatively is the best path since it is so powerful. To the contrary, unless used wisely, negative words and leadership can demoralize, demotivate, and destroy because of its very power.

While there is a place for negative leadership, it must be used with the greatest of care and discernment.

Examples for All of Us

We all experience the power of the negative, either as givers or recipients. See if you can identify with any of these examples:

  • You speak or preach somewhere and you get twenty compliments and one criticism. Upon which one do you dwell?
  • A husband in anger tells his wife that he is tired of her. Though he has given her over a dozen compliments that week, which one does she remember?
  • A child receives accolades for her good grades that semester. But the dad, upon discovering the child has her first failing grade, tells her “you won’t amount to anything in life at the pace you are going.” Which of the father’s words stick with the child for years if not a lifetime?
  • One coworker points out problems in another coworker’s area. Though the praises have been equal to the criticisms, which have the greatest power?
  • A CEO who has provided mostly steady leadership for a few years has an anger meltdown in front of his direct reports. What facet of his leadership is remembered the most?

A Time to Tear Down, A Time to Build Up

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us clearly that there are times to be negative and times to be positive (3:3). Indeed there are times for a prophetic voice, a corrective voice, and an admonishing voice. The problem is that the writer of Ecclesiastes does not give us specific instruction on timing and frequency.

Many of us are tempted to exercise the power of the negative too frequently. When we are negative about some other person and event, we are able to look away from ourselves and our own weaknesses and failures. It’s easier to the point the finger of accusation at someone other than ourselves.

Further the power of the negative can be tempting because we often get attention when we do so. I can point to one example clearly on this blog. The article that has received the most views was a negative article I wrote on Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. I am convinced and convicted that the article was appropriate and timely. But I must ever keep in mind the power that negativity has.

The Power of the Negative and Discernment

The Apostle Paul said these words to a church 2,000 years ago, and they still apply to us today: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, HCSB). There are indeed times when a prophetic or negative word is in order. There are moments in any leader’s lives, whether a parent, pastor, or president, that the power of the negative should be exercised.

But it should be exercised with wisdom and discernment.

It would seem that the preponderance of our leadership should be one of building up and encouraging. Such leadership can change a family for the good. It can change an organization for the good.

And it might just change the world for good.

Way To Go Bubba!

In recent years we have heard a lot of athletes talking about their faith in Christ. Last week after winning the Masters golf tournament Bubba Watson gave the following interview with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:

Bubba Watson, first-time winner of a Masters Tournament who earned his green jacket on Easter Sunday, recently spoke about tweeting for God, the PGA Bible study he took part in and his newly adopted son.

Watson, 33, spoke with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association after winning the 2012 Masters Tournament on Sunday. The golfer who tearfully thanked his “Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” after the big win, said he utilises his Twitter account to spread his Christian faith.

Watson describes himself on his Twitter page as “Christian. Husband. Daddy. Pro Golfer”. The Christian golfer said he has lost at least 100 followers for tweeting biblical messages.

When Watson receives negative backlash for his biblical tweets, he responds with messages like “I will pray for u and ur family.” The golfer also quoted one of his favorite Christian rappers, Lecrae, saying he would like his followers to see God through him.

“Lecrae said it the best,” Watson told the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “He doesn’t want to be a celebrity. He doesn’t want to be a superstar. He just wants to be the middle man for you to see God through him.”

Watson maintained his Christian principles during the golf tournament by engaging in an hour-long Bible study with fellow golfers each week. He described the importance of being able to connect with both God and his peers.

“For me it’s a way to get back connected with the Bible and with God and Jesus. Now you know other people you can talk to, ask questions to, tell them what you’re thinking, tell them what’s going on in your life,” Watson said. “Getting more in the Word and realising that golf is just an avenue for Jesus to use me to reach as many people as I can.”

Watson, who recently adopted a one-month-old baby boy named Caleb with his former WNBA playing wife Angie Ball, also described his first church experience. According to Watson, twin girls from his neighbourhood convinced him to attend.

“The girls asked me to go to church,” Watson said. “And after a few times going I realised this is what I wanted to do. This is truth here. And I gave myself to the Lord.”

After he began dating Ball, the couple decided to live for Christ. Watson decided to get baptised with his wife in 2004 as a student at the University of Georgia.

“We wanted to be Christ followers,” Watson said. “We wanted to do the right thing. We started turning to the Lord for our decisions.”

The professional golfer, who said he has never taken a lesson, said he was grateful for the people around him and the opportunity to live his life for Christ.

“I’ve really got a good team around me trying to help me succeed,” Watson said. “Not just in golf, but off the golf course, to be a light for Jesus.”

Here Comes the Groom!

I have performed many weddings over my eighteen years in ministry. Just before the wedding starts I always tell the groom, “Be sure to watch as the doors open and you see your bride for the first time. It will be a memory you will never forget.” They usually nod out of respect not understanding exactly why I gave them that simple piece of advice. But then it happens, the doors open and standing there before them is their bride. The grooms eyes widen, his smile grows, and then a mental picture is taken that he will always remember. The long-awaited day of receiving his bride has arrived, and now they get to spend the rest of their lives together.

Jason Johnson writes in his post, “Easter and the Great Wedding to Come,” some of the truths from Scripture about the coming of The Groom for His bride—the church. One day Jesus will return for His bride, and their will be a great wedding on that day. It is a future day which should bring great anticipation, expectation, and preparation.

Johnson writes:

Throughout Scripture the marriage relationship is used as a picture of God’s relationship with his people. The bride and groom imagery highlights not only the covenantal love of God for his people but also their position within that relationship as the beneficiaries of his redemptive pursuit. A common theme woven within the thread of Scripture, from the Old to the New Testament, is God’s unwavering, unalterable, unceasing pursuit of his people into the consecrating and cleansing relationship of eternal marriage.

This is why the hallmark of all God’s grievances against his people is spiritual adultery, a heinous infidelity on the part of his people as they pursue lesser lovers and stray outside the conditions of the covenantal relationship (Jeremiah 13:27; Mark 8:38). God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:3-5; Deuteronomy 6:14-15), not because he lacks in companionship but because he longs for the exclusive affections of his people, as a groom does for his bride.

Jesus adopts the imagery of bride and groom as it pertains to his present application of the New Covenant and his future consummation of salvation through the great, eternal marriage with the church. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus allegorizes himself as the bridegroom and urges his disciples to stay alert, because they do not know the day or the hour he will return and take them to the eternal wedding celebration, i.e., the kingdom. He again refers to himself as the bridegroom while instructing his disciples on the proper purpose and function of fasting (Mark 2:18-20). As the bridegroom he will return to take his bride home, yet in the meantime, while he is present with them, fasting and longing for his return is not necessary.

Anticipation, Expectation, Preparation

The central focus of the wedding imagery in Scripture is anticipation, expectation, and preparation. It closely mirrors the traditional order of a first-century wedding, which involved a father arranging a bride for his son and paying the predetermined “bride price” on her behalf. The son would then return to his father’s house to make arrangements while the bride consecrated herself in eager anticipation for his final return for her. The terms of the relationship were sealed with ceremonial sharing of a glass of wine before the two parted ways and entered a time of anticipation and preparation leading up to the final wedding feast.

In strikingly similar fashion, God the Father has sent Jesus the Son to secure his bride, the church. The terms of the covenantal relationship between God and his people have been outlined in the gospel, and a great price has been paid by the Father to secure the relationship, namely, through the sacrifice of the Son on the Cross (1 Corinthians 6:20). The night before he would go to the Cross, Jesus shared a cup with his disciples as a means of symbolically sealing their new covenantal relationship. He instructed them to partake of this cup after his departure in remembrance of the price he paid for them and in anticipation of his future and final return for them.

Upon departure he will go to his Father’s house to prepare a place but will return one day to bring his bride home with him forever (John 14:2-3). The day and the hour of his return are unknown by all but the Father (Matthew 24:26). The bride of Christ, the church, eagerly waits and makes herself ready, setting herself apart for him and him alone, purifying herself for the day when he will return for her forever (1 Peter 1:13-16). He will come, and when he does the eternal wedding feast will commence (Revelation 19:7-8).

The recognition of the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter is not an isolated act of God but a pinnacle point in the ongoing bride-groom narrative running throughout the current of Scripture. It’s the celebration of God acquiring a bride for his Son through the ultimate price of death paid on the Cross. It’s the height of God’s radical, redemptive pursuit of a sinful and broken people to secure them as his beautifully treasured Bride.

Wonder of the Gospel

Easter is the joyous celebration of the wonder of the gospel—that God has gone to great lengths to secure us for his Son. We are forever bound to Jesus by his death that purchased us and his resurrection that secured us into a future inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5).

So we live in this present day as those who are consecrated to our future Groom—holy, set apart, uniquely and distinctively his. We live today with an eager sense of anticipation for the return of our Groom on a tomorrow yet to come. We live today as those who are valued not by the standards of this world but by the infinite price our Savior was willing to pay for us on the Cross. We are invaluably his, and he is ours.

We anticipate, we expect, and we prepare. Our Groom is coming back to take us home.

“The Comfort of a Cold Wet Nose” by Barbara Baumgardner

I hadn’t even wanted the dog in the first place! My husband insisted that I get him to replace the dog that had died recently. Soon, he was “my dog”, a friend and a faithful companion; not asking for anymore than I was willing to give—a daily meal, a kind word, a warm bed.

But not my bed! No dogs allowed on my bed.

The night after my husband died, I lay there, staring into the darkness, my pillow soppy wet with the unending flow of tears. The bed seemed so big all by myself and I was wondering how long it takes for a good case of loneliness to heal when I first felt it move. It was cold and clammy and creeping at a very slow pace into my open hand outside the covers. The solidified jelly like mass was followed by prickly hairs and just before I screamed, a muffled but familiar whine came from the creature that was forcing its cold, wet nose into my trembling hand.

“Oh, Shawn! What are you doing on my bed?” I threw my arms around his thick hairy neck and hugged and hugged.

In the days and months to follow, I came to realize that this dog I hadn’t wanted was a gift of love from God. He was a warm fuzzy on my bed every night; a companion always willing, wagging, and available to go out for a walk when I needed to get out of the house. Twice, he snapped at me as I wailed loudly and out of control, as if to reprimand me to be strong and of good courage.

Shawn taught me all about love and acceptance and forgiveness. That crazy dog loves me just as I am. And so I have learned to be a warm fuzzy to those around me who are hurting and to approach them gently, loving them just as they are. Like a dog curled up by the warm fire, I just want to be there in case I am needed. I thank God for providing me a friend when I felt alone, and for the comfort of a cold, wet nose.

The Rescue!

Throughout Easter weekend I read several posts that greatly blessed my heart. “How the Resurrection Undoes Our Need to Be Proven Right” by Russell Moore was one of my favorites.

Dr. Moore writes:

As Jesus drowned in his own blood, the spectators yelled words quite similar to those of Satan in the wilderness: “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mk. 15:32).

But Jesus didn’t jump down. He didn’t ascend to the skies. He just writhed there.

The bloated corpse of Jesus hit the ground as he was pulled off that stake, spattering warm blood and water on the faces of the crowd.

That night, the religious leaders probably read Deuteronomy 21 to their families, warning them about the curse of God on those who are “hanged on a tree.” Fathers probably told their sons, “Watch out that you don’t ever wind up like him.”

Those Roman soldiers probably went home and washed the blood of Jesus from under their fingernails and played with their children in front of the fire before dozing off. This was just one more insurrectionist they had pulled off a cross, one in a line of them dotting the roadside. And this one (what was his name? Joshua?) was just decaying meat now, no threat to the Empire at all.

The corpse of Jesus just lay there in the silence of that cave. By all appearances it had been tested and tried, and found wanting.

If you had been there to pull open his bruised eyelids, matted there together with mottled blood, you would have looked into blank holes. If you had lifted his arm, you would have felt no resistance. You would have heard only the thud as it hit the table when you let it go. You might have walked away from that morbid scene muttering to yourself, “The wages of sin is death.”

But sometime before dawn on Sunday morning, a spike-torn hand twitched. A blood-crusted eyelid opened. The breath of God came blowing down into that cave, and a new creation flashed into reality.

God was not simply delivering Jesus (and with him all of us) from death. He was also vindicating him (and with him all of us). By resurrecting Jesus from the dead, God was affirming what he had said over the Jordan waters. He was declaring Jesus “to be the Son of God in power” (Rom. 1:4).

This was done, the Bible says, by “the Spirit of holiness.” This is the same Spirit who rested on Jesus at his baptism “like a dove” (Matt. 3:16). I wonder if, as the dovish Spirit alighted on him in the water and in the tomb, Jesus might have thought of the words of the Psalm the Devil would quote in the wilderness: “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Ps. 91:4).

With that kind of rescue, who needs to be proven right in any other way?

Note: The following post is an excerpt from Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).

The Neglected Resurrection

Easter is a time when we celebrate the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is easy for us to focus on Christ’s suffering and death upon the cross; however, without the resurrection we have no hope for the forgiveness of sin or eternal life with God. Matthew Barrett shares with us what is gained through Christ’s resurrection in his article “The Neglected Resurrection.”

Barrett writes:

Too often in our churches the resurrection of Christ is a doctrine of secondary importance. It is neglected and forgotten until Easter comes around each year. The same disregard for the resurrection is seen in how we share the gospel. Christians tend to share the gospel as if Jesus died on the cross and that is the end of the story. We make a zip line from the crucifixion to “repent and believe,” contrary to the example Peter sets for us in Acts 2:22-24 and 4:26. The cross is central to our salvation, but what God accomplished there is incomplete unless the tomb is empty on Sunday morning. Therefore, the resurrection of Christ is vital “for us and our salvation” (to borrow from the Nicene Creed). But how exactly?

Our Regeneration Is Grounded in the Resurrection of Christ

Have you ever read the resurrection narratives and said, “Praise God! Because Christ has risen I am born again!” I know I haven’t. But if we truly understand the implications of Christ’s resurrection for our salvation, the new birth would be the first place to turn. Scripture teaches that our new birth—God’s supernatural, monergistic act whereby the Spirit makes us a new creature in Christ, replacing our heart of stone with a heart of flesh—is only possible because Jesus is risen.

Consider two passages. According to Peter, God has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3). The same God who raised Christ from the grave has also raised us from spiritual death to spiritual life. And the apostle Paul says that while we were dead in our trespasses and sins, God, being rich in mercy, “made us alive together with Christ” and “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:5-6; cf. Col 3:1).

Because God has raised Christ from the dead, he can make us alive together with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s resurrection life is the very basis and means by which we are born again.

Our Justification Is Grounded in the Resurrection of Christ

Those who believe in the God who raised Christ from the dead are counted righteous. As Paul says in Romans 4:23-25, like Abraham we are counted righteous, for we believe in him “who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” By raising Jesus from the dead, God approved the work of Christ on the cross for our sins. God declared his Son’s work complete! The penalty for our sin has been paid, and no guilt remains. As Wayne Grudem explains:

When the Father in essence said to Christ, “All the penalty for sins has been paid and I find you not guilty but righteous in my sight,” he was thereby making the declaration that would also apply to us once we trusted in Christ for salvation. In this way Christ’s resurrection also gave final proof that he had earned our justification (Systematic Theology).

Jonathan Edwards also states the matter precisely:

For if Christ were not risen, it would be evidence that God was not yet satisfied for [our] sins. Now the resurrection is God declaring his satisfaction; he thereby declared that it was enough; Christ was thereby released from his work; Christ, as he was Mediator, is thereby justified (Miscellanies, Vol. 13, 227).

In other words, if God did not raise Christ from the dead, he would essentially be saying, “I am not satisfied with your atoning work on behalf of sinners.” If this were the case, we would still be dead in our sins, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17. And if we are still dead in our sins then we stand guilty before a holy God, unjustified and condemned. It is hard to improve upon the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

If it is not a fact that Christ literally rose from the grave, then you are still guilty before God. Your punishment has not been borne, yours sins have not been dealt with, you are yet in your sins. It matters that much: without the Resurrection you have no standing at all (The Assurance of Our Salvation, 492).

Our Sanctification Is Grounded in the Resurrection of Christ

In Romans 6, Paul explains that we can “walk in newness of life” because Christ was raised from the dead. We are not to continue in sin, for how, as Paul asked, “can we who died to sin still live in it?” We have been baptized into the death of Christ so that “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). But Paul is not finished. He has much more to say about the resurrection and our sanctification.

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. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:5-12).

Paul’s last two sentences are especially powerful. As Christians, we are united to Christ. Christ died to sin, and so also must we consider ourselves dead to sin. But Christ also came back to life. The life he lives he lives to God. Therefore, as those who are in Christ, we are alive to God. No longer are we to walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Our old, unbelieving, sinful, condemned self has been crucified with Christ. And now that we are new creatures, we are no longer enslaved to sin, but by the power of the Spirit are able to walk in this newness of life.

None of this, however, is possible if Christ remains in the tomb. His resurrection is our victory over the reign of sin. Only because he has risen do we have the assurance, the confidence, and the ability to now walk in godliness. In this light, therefore, Paul’s admonition is all the more convicting:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:1-4).

The Climax of Redemptive History

Richard Gaffin once wrote that not only is the resurrection of Christ the pivotal factor in Paul’s soteriology, the “climax of the redemptive history of Christ,” but it is also that “from which the individual believer’s experience of redemption derives in its specific and distinguishing character and in all aspects of its inexhaustible fullness” (Resurrection and Redemption, 135). 

I couldn’t agree more. If we miss the importance of Christ’s resurrection for our salvation, then we have, as Sinclair Ferguson observes, misunderstood the gospel, severing our salvation from the lordship of Christ (Resurrection and Redemption, 6). How unthinkable this must be for the Christian who, as Calvin explains, believes that “our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ” (Institutes II.16.19).