Are Guardian Angels Really Biblical?

“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”

These are familiar words for those of us who make a holiday tradition of watching the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. The angel Clarence helps George Bailey discover the unseen but tremendous significance his mundane life played in the lives of others. It’s a heartwarming story, full of hope and encouragement. But what about its theology? Are guardian angels—like Clarence—really biblical?
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How to Write a Funeral Sermon

If you are a preacher of the Word, you will one day have to preach a funeral. And that one day might be Tuesday. Even if you’ve heard a lecture in class on how to prepare for a funeral, it’s almost impossible for that lecture to cover all the bases: every death is different, because every human is a special creation of God.

Though every funeral sermon should also be, therefore, unique and different, the central task is still the same as that of any sermon: to faithfully herald what God has said in Scripture. You will have to face this question:

How can I write a faithful, concise, powerful, comforting sermon for this particular funeral service?

God has a great deal to say to the bereaved, and these principles will help you share his message at a funeral.
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What Did Jesus Mean by “Gates of Hell”?

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!… I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:17–18). The “gates of hell”? Why did Jesus respond to Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” in this way? (16:16)
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Some Say “Easter” Is Pagan. Is it Really?


Some of the angriest comments I’ve ever received came on a post I wrote about Easter. I honestly forgot that some Christians are very upset about the use of a(n allegedly) “pagan” word to describe the preeminent Christian holiday. Here’s what one commenter wrote:

Easter is a bad translation of a word that does not appear in the original language.… Easter is a carryover from the Greco-Roman world; which was engulfed in sun-worship…. The holiday and the word should be changed back to Passover.

This was one of the best comments from the say-no-to-Easter perspective: it was clear, avoided ad hominem, and was written in lower case. But you should have seen the abuse I got behind the scenes. I am a closet pagan; I am destroying the Christian faith; I am the most ignorantest person ever (that last one may be true, I’ll admit, but not the other two).
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The Wisdom of Christ’s Atonement


Christians around the world will reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ this Easter weekend. In The Reconciling Wisdom of God, Adam Johnson explores the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection in light of God’s wisdom, rather than an act of justice. In this excerpt, Johnson reveals how this shift in perspective expands our understanding of Christ’s atonement.

The primary power and efficiency of Christ’s atonement do not lie in his death, for death is but an “uncouth hideous thing.” Rather, the power and efficiency of Christ’s atonement lie in his resurrection. On this side of the resurrection, death has a new countenance, a new hue. Color has been put in his face, and he has become a friend, full of favor and grace. [Read more…]

How to Use a Critical Commentary If You’re an Evangelical

Logos sells many different commentaries. Literally thousands. They all fall into different categories, and here’s one schema you could use to organize them (borrowed from here, though there are others):

  1. Devotional/practical commentaries (NIVAC, LABC) focus on applying the Bible to real life.
  2. Pastoral/homiletical commentaries (REC, MNTC) were originally sermons and primarily provide models for other preachers.
  3. Exegetical commentaries (NAC, NICNT) go deep, but typically reserve Greek and Hebrew for footnotes.
  4. Critical commentaries (ICC, WBC) go a bit deeper and assume knowledge of the original biblical languages.

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7 Key Elements of the Doctrine of Scripture

What are the key elements of the doctrine of Scripture?

While there is no official list, there is general consensus. This article simply summarizes them. It is not an attempt to wade into any debates, only to refresh our minds and point out helpful resources for further learning—including a new documentary on the authority of Scripture.

Here are those traditional categories succinctly stated, followed by brief commentary.

Inspiration: The linchpin of the doctrines of Scripture, inspiration means that all the words of Scripture are God’s words (2 Tim. 3:16). John Frame says that inspiration “means that God takes words of human beings and makes them his own…. [It] is a divine act creating an identity between a divine word and a human word” (Systematic Theology, 594).” [Read more…]

What Was Jesus’ Tomb Really Like?

What would it have been like to step into the empty tomb on that first Easter morning?

This isn’t just idle speculation. When we take the time to understand the ancient culture and customs of the biblical world—when we reconstruct the world in which those stories took place—familiar biblical stories take on new life. And we can get a good sense of what that first Easter morning was like by exploring first-century tombs that are still around today.

We’ve put together a free, online, interactive experience that takes you inside a first-century tomb. Celebrated scholar Craig Evans is your tour guide in this fascinating glimpse at the biblical world. Follow him into the empty tomb, and renew your appreciation of the power of the Easter story.

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Good and Bad Goals for Studying New Testament Greek

You want to study New Testament Greek? I talked last week about good and bad motivations for the work. Now let’s get more practical and talk goals.

If you set unrealistic goals you’ll never arrive at them. You’ll get discouraged and give up, and you won’t want to try again. And if you set goals that are too low, you’ll be missing out on some Bible study riches.

So set the right goals. Let me suggest three goals you should not set, and three goals you should.
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The Right Way to Use a Commentary

“There’s no way to know it without discovery.” — Sara Groves, songwriter

Groves isn’t talking about commentaries when she sings that line, but she’s describing a fundamental truth about deep knowledge: it only comes by discovery. And discovery cannot be rushed.

Ideally, anyone digging into a biblical text wants to understand what God is revealing about Himself. The truths will be big, so they must be studied slowly and from every angle.

Here’s how to use commentaries as tools for discovery, rather than shortcuts to answers. [Read more…]