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Words from GOD – Words to GOD

Bible study, Piper edition, Archbishop Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

Look at the Book Labs

John Piper

Desiring God
2014–2015

© 2015 Desiring God Foundation

2 Chronicles 16:8–9

The Eyes of the Lord

September 23, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 16:8–9
Topic: The Love of God

Principle for Bible Reading

Look for promises in Scripture that rest in the never-changing character of God, and therefore are true for his people throughout all of history, even for us today. God gives us a broader, general principle about himself and his ways using a specific event in biblical history.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:42)

Observations (00:42–07:15)

1. Asa king of Judah relied on the king of Syria, and not on God (2 Chronicles 16:7).
2. Therefore, Judah lost the battle with Syria (2 Chronicles 16:7).
3. And because of their lack of faith, from now on, Judah will suffer wars (2 Chronicles 16:9).
4. We should rely on God, and not man, because God is searching for opportunities to help those whose hearts are wholly trusting in him (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Application (07:15–08:54)

What kind of God is our God?

1. Our God is not needy; He is strong.
2. Our God is not passive or hesitant; He’s aggressively pursuing us with goodness and mercy.
3. Our God is not limited; He’s everywhere, and he’s eager and ready to help anyone wholly trusting in him.

Study Questions

1. Based on these verses, why did Syria escape Judah?

2. What specific things do you learn about God from 2 Chronicles 16:8–9?

3. Based on these verses, why does the promise of 2 Chronicles 16:9 apply to all of us?

Related Resources

• When God Works for You (four-minute video)
• When Should I Stop Praying for Something? (interview)
• Regeneration, Faith, Love: In That Order (sermon on 2 Chronicles 16)

Psalm 50:8–15

God Does Not Need You

May 14, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Psalm 116:12–14 and Psalm 50:8–15
Topic: The Sovereignty of God
Series: The Uniqueness of God

Principle for Bible Reading

Why did God make human beings? Was it because he needed something that he didn’t already have? This series of labs asks what sets our God apart from all others. In this lab, John Piper asks how we can ever repay God for all he’s done for us.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:18)

Selfish Sacrifices of Praise (01:18–03:31)

1. Virtually all gods required sacrifices, including the God of the Old Testament.
2. God commanded burnt offerings, and Israel was offering them (Psalm 50:8), but God was not pleased with their sacrifices. (Psalm 50:9)
3. Israel was offering their sacrifices in a way that suggested God needed their sacrifices, as if God depended on them. (Psalm 50:12–13)

Our Giving Is Always Getting (03:31–06:45)

1. We are fundamentally receivers. In our relationship with God, we are always the recipients, even when we make an offering to him. We’re not meeting any need of God’s. (Psalm 50:14)
2. Therefore, relate to God, even in your offerings to God, as recipients. Do not give in a way that says God needs your gifts. (Psalm 50:14)
3. We do this by calling upon God, and allowing him to deliver us, and by allowing him to get all the glory. (Psalm 50:15)

Lift Up the Cup Again (Psalm 116:12–14) (06:45–09:35)

1. The question is how we will repay God for everything he has done for us. (Psalm 116:12)
2. As we lift our cup, we are not just toasting God, but asking him for more. (Psalm 116:13)
3. Of course we serve the Lord (Psalm 115:14, but even in our serving, we are crying out for more of him and his help. (Psalm 116:13)

Study Questions

1. Read Psalm 50:8–15. What problem does God have with Israel’s worship?

2. Explain the difference between the kind of sacrifice described in Psalm 50:8–13 and the kind described in Psalm 50:13–14.

3. Now, look at Psalm 116:12–14. What do we render back to God for all that he’s given us? What does it mean to lift the cup up again?

Related Resources

• Praise: The Consummation of Joy (article)
• Is God a Needy Vacuum Trying To Suck Praise Out of Us? (interview)
• Call upon Me in the Day of Trouble and I Will Deliver You (sermon on Psalm 50:1–15)

Psalm 141:1–4, Part 1

Pray for God to Meet You

August 18, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Psalm 141:1–4
Topic: Prayer

Principle for Bible Reading

We learn to pray by reading the prayers in the Bible. This short series will look at David’s prayer in Psalm 141. In the first lab, John Piper asks why we pray for God to come. God is everywhere all the time, so what would it even mean for him to come to you today?

Outline

Introduction/Prayer

O Lord, Hear My Prayer

1. “Call” appears twice in Psalm 141:1, forming two parallel statements.
2. The first call asks God to come to him, and the second asks God to hear him. (Psalm 141:1)
3. The psalmist hopes that God will overcome some distance between them (come to and hear him).

How Does God Come?

1. God is omnipresent, so what does it mean for him to come to us? (Psalm 141:1)
2. “Hasten to me” means coming with influence, or intimacy, or power, or help. (Psalm 141:1)
3. This prayer is a prayer for the manifest presence of God, an experience of his nearness and power. (Psalm 141:1)

A Prayer of Sacrifice

1. Psalm 141:2 offers a second pair of parallel phrases.
2. Psalm 141:2 seems to intensify the nature of the prayer by involving the body.
3. Incense and sacrifice were elements of temple worship in the Old Testament. The psalmist wants his prayer to be pleasing to God like those rituals were. (Psalm 141:2)

Same Prayer, Second Verse

1. Psalm 141:2 seems to be saying something similar to Psalm 141:1. Both verses are striving through prayer to overcome the distance between God and David.
2. In verse 1, David asks God to bring his presence to him.
3. In verse 2, David has come into God’s presence.

Study Questions

1. David repeats the phrase “I call” in Psalm 141:1. What might he be trying to communicate to God and to us through these parallel statements?

2. What does it mean for God to come to David (or to us)? Can you think of other texts in the Bible that use the same language?

3. How does David’s prayer change or progress in Psalm 141:2? What’s new in the second verse?

Related Resources

• What God Can Do in Five Seconds (article)
• Prepared Prayers, Impromptu Prayers, Sloppy Prayers (interview)
• Ask Your Father in Heaven (sermon on Matthew 7:7–12)

Psalm 141:1–4, Part 2

Pray for God to Guard You

August 20, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Psalm 141:1–4
Topic: Prayer

Principle for Bible Reading

Prayer is vital for the fight to be more like Jesus. In this lab, John Piper looks at prayer in the Bible that models the pursuit of purity. All of our effort in the pursuit of purity and holiness rests on the power and favor of God to guard us from evil.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–02:56)

Guard My Mouth (02:56–05:24)

1. What is God guarding David’s mouth from? (Psalm 141:3)
2. God is not guarding David’s mouth from something coming into it, but from something coming out of it, especially in prayer. (Psalm 141:2)
3. David does not want to offend God by saying anything envious of the wicked or resentful toward God. (Psalm 141:3)

Guard My Heart (05:24–08:50)

1. David prayer for God to guard him goes deeper down into his heart (Psalm 141:1)
2. God govern the inclinations of his heart. (Psalm 141:1)
3. Prayers ought to be pure in the words we use, but even importantly in the heart from which it comes. (Psalm 141:4)
4. All of our deeds are motivated by desires. We want to do the good or bad that we do.
5. Don’t let the delicacies of the world appear more desirable to me than you are. (Psalm 141:4)

Summary of the Prayer (08:50–10:41)

Study Questions

1. What would God be guarding David’s heart from in Psalm 141:3?

2. Based on Psalm 141:4 (and any other passages you can think of in the Psalms), how does David understand the relationship between his heart and his deeds?

3. David prays that God not allow him to enjoy the delicacies of the wicked. Why would he pray that way in this prayer?

Related Resources

• Seven Ways to Pray for Your Heart (article)
• A Prayer to Hold Your Life Together (interview)
• Prayer and the Victory of God (sermon on Isaiah 37)

Psalm 141:1–4, Part 3

Pray for God to Satisfy You

August 25, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Psalm 141:1–4
Topic: Prayer

Principle for Bible Reading

When we ask God to incline our hearts, can he do it? In this third lab, John Piper asks a couple of hard questions about what we pray when we pray. Are we hypocrites to pray for our mouths and behavior even when our hearts fail? We need God to meet us at every level of our lives.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:08)

A Clarification: The Temple (01:08–02:47)

When John used “temple” in the previous labs in this series, he was referring to the place where God’s presence dwelt before the temple existed (“tent” or “tabernacle” are better terms in this case). The Temple was built by Solomon, David’s son, later on in Israel’s history.

Praying from the Heart (02:47–07:49)

1. Why does David pray for his mouth if he is praying for his heart? Would not the work God does on his heart make his work on the mouth unnecessary? (Psalm 141:3–4)
2. David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is modeling what should happen in our prayers. How he prays is how things are because he’s been inspired by God when he writes.
3. We should pray for our mouths and our hearts, so that thoughts are stopped at our mouths even if they’ve proceeded from a bad heart. (Psalm 141:3)
4. The battle should be fought mainly at the level of the heart, but that does not mean we do not make war at the mouth level, as well.
5. We can fight the battle at both levels (heart and mouth) without being a hypocrite, even when we lose in what we feel and win in what we say.

Do You Incline Your Heart? (07:49–13:00)

1. Am I in charge of the inclinations of my heart, or is God? (Psalm 141:4)
2. Based on David’s prayer, we know that God governs our hearts (Psalm 141:4). Otherwise, David would not pray this way.
3. This does not lessen David’s ability to please or displease God. Even though God governs his heart, he can still please (“incense”) or offend God in what he prays and in how he lives. (Psalm 141:2)
4. David wants God to govern his heart in the deepest, most intimate way. He invites to do so. (Psalm 141:4)
5. Prayer is not worthless because God governs all things, but instead it is wise, because it is God who can do all things.

In Jesus’s Name (13:00–14:02)

Study Questions

1. Why does David pray for his heart and for his mouth? Wouldn’t a changed heart effect the necessary change in his mouth? Why might he still pray for his mouth?

2. Based on Psalm 141:1–4, who does David believe inclines his heart? What does that mean for our prayers?

3. Summarize the takeaways for your prayer life from studying David’s prayer in Psalm 141:1–4.

Related Resources

• How Prayer Glorifies God (article)
• A Theology of Prayer in Three Minutes (interview)
• Always Pray and Do Not Lose Heart (sermon on Luke 18:1–8)

Psalm 147:10–11

What Will Please God?

August 13, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Psalm 147:10–11 and Isaiah 8:12–14
Topic: The Pleasures of God

Principle for Bible Reading

What kind of heart and faith pleases God? In this lab, John Piper looks at several texts to try and understand what it means for us to fear God. How can we be terrified of God and still find hope in him at the same time?

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:02)

The Good Benefits of Fearing God (01:02–05:22)

1. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him and hope in him. (Psalm 147:11)
2. But fear and hope do not ordinarily go together in our experience. How can this tension be resolved for the Christian?
3. God befriends those who fear him, so fear and friendship go together with God. (Psalm 25:14)
4. God delivers those who fear him, so fear and safety go together with God. (Psalm 34:7)
5. God loves those who fear him, so fear and love go together with God. (Psalm 103:11)

A Terrifying Sanctuary (05:22–08:23)

1. God must be our “dread.” (Isaiah 8:12–13)
2. But if God is your dread, he becomes a sanctuary for you. (Isaiah 8:14)
3. Dreading God means dreading running away from God. It means fearing the consequences of leaving him.

Follow the Fear of God (08:23–10:54)

1. God takes great pleasure in those who fear him and hope in him. (Psalm 147:11)
2. If they start looking away to other things, to other gods, they should fear God and run back to him. (Psalm 147:10)
3. Fear of God will drive us to trust in God’s steadfast love and not ourselves. (Psalm 147:10)

Study Questions

1. Based on Psalm 147:10–11, explain what pleases God in your own words.

2. Read Psalm 25:14, 34:7, and 103:11. What do you learn about the fear of the Lord?

3. Now read Isaiah 8:12–14. Now how would you describe the relationship between the fear of the Lord and hope in the Lord?

Related Resources

• Your Joy Rests on Jesus’s Righteousness (article)
• Can My Good Works Outweigh My Bad? (interview)
• The Gentiles Have Obtained Righteousness by Faith (sermon on Romans 9:30–33)

Proverb 22:17–19, Part 1

Enjoy, Apply, and Share

January 28, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: Proverbs 22:17–19
Topic: Life of the Mind

Proverbs is one of the most ruthlessly practical books in the whole Bible. In this lab, John Piper breaks down several lines, asking what they mean and how they relate to each other. Before getting into one specific example, he makes some observations about the nature and purpose of the Proverbs.

Principle for Bible Reading

In the Bible, and especially in the book of Proverbs, you will get pairs of lines, or even pairs of couplets. Study the relationships between the lines and pairs of lines, looking for any structural observations that might help make sense of the whole.

Study Questions

1. If Proverbs 22:21 is stating the purpose of the thirty sayings in Proverbs 22:17–24:20, restate that purpose in your own words.

2. Now, read Proverbs 22:18. How does that verse change or fill out your answer to the first question?

3. Proverb 22:17 and Proverbs 22:18 are a pair of couplets. Study the relationships between each of the four lines. Why might the author structure these ideas this way?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:29)

Getting Started (01:29–05:26)

• “Words of the wise” is a title over the passage from Proverbs 22:17–24:20.
• In this passage (Proverbs 22:17–24:22), the author gives us thirty sayings. (Proverbs 22:20)
• There are more than thirty verses, but you can find thirty distinct sayings in all those verses.
• There is a lot of overlap between these thirty sayings and Egyptian sayings. Is that a problem?
• No, because the Proverbs send us into the world to learn (e.g. ants), assuming that the world testifies to the truth. And because the author of the Proverbs has chosen these sayings carefully in order that you would believe (choosing only what serves that purpose). (Proverbs 22:19)

Wisdom for You and Through You (05:26–06:45)

• The stated aim in these thirty sayings is that you know what is right and give a right answer. (Proverbs 22:21)
• The double purpose in these Proverbs, then, is to know things that are right and true with a view to being sent and giving those things to others.
• We see in Proverbs 22:18 that the Proverbs are there for us to enjoy (“within you”) and to share with others (“on your lips”).

Inside Out (06:45–10:34)

• Proverbs 22:17–18 give us two couplets of ideas.
• The progression from 22:17a to 22:17b moves us from our ears to our hearts, and from words to knowledge (knowledge is based on words and is communicated through words, but it is more than words).
• In 22:18a, the heart is delighting within us (“pleasant”) in the knowledge that has now sunk in (from 22:17b).
• And 22:18b move outside of us again through our lips, beginning the process again (for those who will hear with their ears). (Proverbs 22:17)
• 22:17b–22:18a deals with the inside of us, and 22:17a and 22:18b sandwich that with the external pieces.

Related Resources

• Back to School: A Biblical Perspective (article)
• I Read the Bible and Feel Nothing—What Should I Do? (interview)
• “The Lips of Knowledge Are a Precious Jewel” (message on Proverbs 20:15)

Proverb 22:17–19, Part 2

Fix Your Eyes and Heart on the Bible

February 2, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: Proverbs 22:17–19
Topic: The Bible

Our Bible reading is about much more than reading. Proverbs calls us to incline our ears and apply our hearts. In this lab, John Piper highlights these two major principles for getting the most out of your time in God’s word.

Principle for Bible Reading

Some phrases in the Bible have become so familiar, we’ve never really stopped to ask what they mean (e.g. “apply your heart to God’s word”). We have to slow down enough to really ask what these words and phrases mean, so that we can put them into practice in our lives, and in this case, in our Bible reading.

Study Questions

1. What do you think it means to “incline your ear” in Proverbs 22:17? What might that look like in your daily life?

2. What do you think it means to “apply your heart” in Proverbs 22:17–18? What might that look like in someone’s daily life?

3. Now, how do those two exercises relate to each other in our personal (or corporate) Bible reading?

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–03:32)

Incline Your Ear (03:32–05:45)

• Do you incline your ear (or eye) to the Bible when you read it? (Proverbs 22:17)
• Inclining your ear means paying close attention and observing carefully.
• We have to slow down to do this.
• Remove distractions, and be willing to read something over and over again until you understand it.
• We have to give rigorous attention to each line and even to each word.

Apply Your Heart (05:45–09:41)

• “Apply your heart to knowledge.” (Proverbs 22:17)
• The heart is an organ that takes pleasure (or displeasure) in something. It enjoys or values things. (Proverbs 22:17–18)
• The heart is moving through mere knowing to feelings, to treasuring something.
• Do you fix your heart on a truth to try and feel something?
• Pursue the pleasure that is in the object of observation, the words and truths in front of you. Apply your heart to knowledge.
• The effort to discern meaning with feeling cannot be done without prayer.

Summary (09:41–10:24)

Related Resources

• How to Read the Bible for Yourself (article)
• 6 Tips If You Find the Bible Hard to Read (interview)
• “Scripture: The Kindling of Christian Hedonism” (message on Bible reading)

Proverb 22:17–19, Part 3

God’s Bigger Purpose for Proverbs

February 4, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: Proverbs 22:17–19
Topic: Life of the Mind

You probably know the book of Proverbs as a collection of practical advice for God’s people. Proverbs itself, though, defines its purpose in a deeper, more significant way. In this lab, John Piper looks at the purpose and lays it onto several proverbs to see how the book works in the life of the believer.

Principle for Bible Reading

We take some things for granted about the Bible, for instance, that Proverbs is essentially a book about to-do’s. The author of Proverbs, though, explicitly offers a different and deeper purpose for these sayings. Watch for the biblical authors to give purpose statements for their writing, either for a paragraph or for a whole book. It will be an important lens through which to read everything else.

Study Questions

1. Read Proverbs 22:17–19, and identify the primary or highest purpose of this group of proverbs (Proverbs 22:17–24:20).

2. Now, read the proverbs in Proverbs 22:22–25. How would you explain how these proverbs carry out the primary purpose given in 22:17–19?

3. What might the “trust” in Proverbs 22:19 mean for the “knowledge” in 22:17 and the “pleasure” in 22:18? How does the author’s statement about our trust in God help us understand the other two ideas?

Introduction/Prayer/Recap

The Purpose of Proverbs

• The unmistakable purpose in Proverbs 22:17–19 is “that your trust may be in the LORD” (Proverbs 22:19).
• The LORD here is Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel.
• Most of the Proverbs are instructions for what to do in life.
• For instance, “Do not rob the poor” (Proverbs 22:22).
• Or another example, “Make no friendship with a man given to anger” (Proverbs 22:24).
• Proverbs 22:19 says that all of the proverbs are meant to cause us to trust in God. God strengthens our trust by showing us what the fruit of trust looks like.
• The commands in Proverbs (and elsewhere in the Bible) is what saving faith does.

The Joy of Knowing God

• The purpose statement in Proverbs 22:19 should not be disconnected from what we saw in Proverbs 22:17–18.
• Trust as the ultimate purpose in Proverbs 22:19 suggests that the knowledge in 22:17 is a collection of reasons to trust God.
• And therefore, the pleasure in Proverbs 22:18 is a knowledge of God, his word, and his works that cause us to trust in him.

Related Resources

• The Distance Between Head and Heart (article)
• “Piper Is Too Intellectual” (interview)
• “The Life of the Mind and the Love of God” (message)

Isaiah 48:9–11

For My Name’s Sake

September 30, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Isaiah 48:9–11
Topic: The Glory of God

Principle for Bible Reading

We should be constantly comparing lists of characteristics about God to determine if qualities are the same, different, or overlapping. This is especially important when statements seem contrary to each other. In this lab, John Piper models this and uncovers God’s love for us and his commitment to his own glory.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:35)

Observations (00:35–06:24)

1. God refers to his radical commitment to his own praise six times in three verses.
2. The progression of God’s passion for his glory: being ⇒ name ⇒ glory ⇒ praise.
3. God also expresses his patience with and love for us six times.
4. The foundation of his love for us is his commitment to himself.

Conclusions (06:24–10:35)

1. Love for people is not the most foundational thing in God’s being. Underneath his love for us is his commitment to himself.
2. God is angry. Why is he angry? They still need to be refined, because they continue to profane his name. The restraining of his anger is not the resolution of God’s anger. Isaiah 53:4–5 and Romans 3:25 are the resolution of God’s anger.

Study Questions

1. What does it mean for God to say that he acts, “for my name’s sake,” or, “for the sake of my praise,” or, “for my own sake”?

2. Based on these verses, how does his commitment to his own glory relate to his love for his people?

3. God lovingly defers his anger in verse 9, but the restraining of his anger is not the resolution of his anger. Can you think of other verses in Isaiah that tell us how the problem of God’s righteous anger is resolved for the believer?

Related Resources

• God’s Glory and the Deepest Joy of Human Souls Are One Thing: Fifteen Implications (article)
• What Is God’s Glory? (interview)
• God Is a Very Important Person (sermon on Isaiah 48:9–11)

Isaiah 55:6–9

God Will Abundantly Pardon

May 12, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Isaiah 30:15–22, Isaiah 57:15, and Isaiah 55:6–9
Topic: The Grace of God
Series: The Uniqueness of God

Principle for Bible Reading

The God of the Bible is not like any god of any other religion. This series of labs asks what sets our God apart from all the alternatives. In this lab, John Piper looks at the beauty of an infinitely high and holy God stooping to forgive and receive sinners like us.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:50)

Seek the Lord (00:50–04:02)

1. God wants us to seek him, depend on him, wait on him. (Isaiah 55:6)
2. The essence of wickedness is to fail to seek the Lord, and to look to other things for what only God can provide. (Isaiah 55:6–7)
3. If you are wicked, you are away from the Lord. Your sin separates you from God. (Isaiah 55:7)
4. If you return from your wickedness to God, God will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:8)
5. This willingness to pardon sinners who will return to him is the height of his uniqueness among all beings. (Isaiah 55:8)

High and Lifted Up (Isaiah 57:15) (04:02–05:34)

1. God is high and lifted up. He is holy, set apart from humanity in every way. (Isaiah 57:15)
2. God manifests his holiness by dwelling in the high and holy place and by descending to live and work among humble, lowly people. (Isaiah 57:15)
3. When God works for the lowly, the height of his holiness is glorified. The height of God’s holiness is not compromised by his going to the lowly and giving them life. It is magnified and exalted. (Isaiah 57:15)

Isaiah 30:15–18 (05:34–09:00)

1. The strength of God’s people is found in their waiting for God, in their trust in him. (Isaiah 30:15)
2. But God’s people rebelled against God by putting their trust in their strength and in their horses. (Isaiah 30:16)
3. Therefore, God gives them and their self-reliance over to defeat. (Isaiah 30:17)
4. But God also waits to show grace and patience to those who wait on him, who rely on him. (Isaiah 30:18)
5. God exalts himself—and not you—in showing you mercy. God will not reward us for our self-reliance or self-help. He works for those who will receive his help, and allow him to get all the glory.

Isaiah 30:19–22 (09:00–10:42)

1. At just the sound of your cry for help, God will answer and show you lavish grace. (Isaiah 30:19)
2. And when you turn, you will deny and discard every false god, including the idol of your performance, self-reliance. (Isaiah 30:22)
3. All the false gods of the world are not like our God. Our God exalts himself not in demanding our labor, but in demanding that we stop trying to prove ourselves and simply receive his grace and help.

Study Questions

1. Read Isaiah 55:6–9. Explain the “for” at the beginning of verse 8. How does what comes before explain the uniqueness of God in verses 8 and 9?

2. Looking now at Isaiah 57:15, how can God be high and holy, and yet mingle with the lowly? Explain how does God’s highness relates to his lowness.

3. There are two kinds of people described in Isaiah 30:15–18. Who are they and what separates them? How does God treat the two groups differently?

Related Resources

• Prayer: We Get the Help, He Gets the Glory (article)
• What Is God’s Glory? (interview)
• The Great Invitation: A High Way for Low Sinners (sermon on Isaiah 55:6–9)

Isaiah 64:1–4; 46:1–4

God Works for Those Who Wait

May 7, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Isaiah 46:1–4 and Isaiah 64:1–4
Topic: The Glory of God
Series: The Uniqueness of God

Principle for Bible Reading

The Bible says several times that our God is utterly unique among all the gods in the world and in history. But what makes him so unique? In this lab, John Piper begins a series looking at key texts for understanding why there is no god like our God.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:15)

Observations (01:15–03:07)

1. God seems distant in this passage. He is withholding his presence at this point. (Isaiah 64:1)
2. God’s adversaries seem to have the upper hand right now, so Isaiah is praying that God would come reveal himself and vindicate his name. (Isaiah 64:1–2)
3. Often when the saints in the Bible were praying for God to do a new thing, they called to mind an old thing God had done. (Isaiah 64:3)

What Makes God Unique? (03:07–05:25)

1. There isn’t any God like this God. (Isaiah 64:4)
2. God “works (or acts or performs deeds) for those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:4)
3. What sets God apart from all other gods is that he works for people who are willing to look to him, trust him, and give him the credit for working, rather than presuming that God needs more workers like me. (Isaiah 64:4)
4. All the other gods go around the world amassing slave labor. They all say prove yourself; come work for me, and then I will bless you.

Same Song, Different Verse (05:25–08:50)

1. The Babylonian gods must be carried. They do not bear the burden, but put a burden on their worshippers. (Isaiah 46:1)
2. The other gods say, “Carry me,” but God says, “I will carry you.” (Isaiah 46:4).
3. Our God bears. Our God carries. Our God saves. (Isaiah 46:3–4)
4. Other gods demand performance as a grounds for blessing. Our God offers performance for those who trust in him, and not themselves.

Study Questions

1. Read Isaiah 64:1–4. Isaiah says in verse 4 that God is utterly unique. From this passage, describe what makes God so unique from other gods?

2. What do you learn about Bel and Nebo in Isaiah 46:1–4? Do you see similarities with other popular gods or religions today?

3. How does Isaiah 46:1–4 reinforce or support the uniqueness you were seeing in Isaiah 64:1–4? Are there any new dimensions in these verses?

Related Resources

• 11 Ways God Works for Us (article)
• Personal Comfort in God’s Sovereignty Over Evil (interview)
• God Works for Those Who Wait for Him (sermon on Isaiah 64:1–4)

Lamentations 3:31–33

He Will Not Cast Off Forever

September 23, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Lamentations 3:31–33
Topic: The Grace of God

Principle for Bible Reading

God is completely consistent in all he does, but he is also very complicated. You’ll never find a contradiction in his character, but you’ll often have to work hard to see how different aspects of who he is relate to one another. In this lab, Pastor John asks how God could cause his children grief and remain compassionate towards them.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:37)

A Word About Lamentations (00:37–03:30)

Lamentations might be the most painful book in the Bible, because it describes the horrors of God’s judgment against his people. It is also one of the most clearly structured books. How could such an emotional book be so neatly ordered? Perhaps, it is a way for God to say that our pain is bounded or channeled. It might be to say that it has a purpose.

Observations (03:30–08:17)

1. This suffering is not God’s last word to his people (Lamentations 3:31). A New Covenant is coming (Jeremiah 31:31–34) when God will return with compassion.
2. God really does cause grief (Lamentations 3:32)
3. This grief, though, is not his last word. He will have compassion (Lamentations 3:32).
4. God does not grieve or afflict us from his heart (Lamentations 3:33).
5. Our pain is not God’s delight. Our pain is a means to the good in which God does delight.
6. God’s compassion and steadfast love come from his heart.

Application (08:17–09:05)

1. We bow down to God’s sovereignty. He does indeed cause grief.
2. We trust that at the bottom of his heart is his love and compassion.
3. There is good that is coming to the children of God through their pain.

Study Questions

1. Why was Lamentations written? What is the context of these verses about God’s love and compassion?

2. How could the writer of Lamentations say that God causes grief (Lamentations 3:32) and that he does not grieve (Lamentations 3:33)?

3. What does the “for” at the beginning of verse 33 say about how God’s love and compassion relate to the grief he causes his people?

Related Resources

• When It Feels Like God Is Punishing You (article)
• How Do I Know If I’m Being Disciplined by God? (interview)
• The Painful Discipline of Our Heavenly Father (sermon)

Matthew 6:9–13, Part 1

Your Kingdom Come

January 1, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Matthew 6:9–13
Topic: Prayer
Series: The Lord’s Prayer

Principle for Bible Reading

In five short verses in Matthew, Jesus taught us to pray. There are prayer-life-changing glories to be seen in these most familiar words if we slow down enough to see them. In this lab, John Piper begins a three-part series on the Lord’s Prayer.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:04)

Our Father in Heaven (01:04–03:10)

1. Who can say “our” Father (Matthew 6:9)? The fatherhood of God is established by the relationship we have with Jesus (John 8:42). Do you love Jesus?
2. Jesus came into the world to remove the wrath of God against us and welcome us into God’s family as children.
3. Everything in this prayer comes to us from a loving Heavenly Father.

Hallowed Be Your Name (03:10–05:42)

1. When we hallow (“sanctify”) God’s name we do not make him good or holy (the way God sanctifies us). (Matthew 6:9)
2. To hallow God’s name doesn’t merely mean to regard him as good and holy, either, because even the demons regarded him as holy. (Mark 1:24)
3. To hallow God’s name means something more—to love him, honor him, value him, treasure him above all else.

Your Kingdom Come (05:42–08:23)

1. God is already the king over all things. His rule has already been established in all the earth (Psalm 103). But there seems to be a way in which his kingdom has not come. (Matthew 6:10)
2. Isn’t God’s sovereign will done at all times and in all places? Yes, but clearly there’s a way in which his will is not yet done on the earth.
3. How do the angels (“as it is in heaven”) do his will? The angels always obey God’s commands perfectly and joyfully.
4. Therefore, this prayer is a prayer that God would continue transforming the world into a place where everyone obeys him perfectly and joyfully.

Prayer (08:23–09:19)

Study Questions

1. When can someone pray (with integrity) “Our Father in heaven …”? Can you think of other verses in the Bible that would help people know if God is their Father?

2. Why does Jesus tell us t pray for God’s kingdom when God has always been King? He has always ruled the everything and everything in it, so in what way does his kingdom still have to come?

3. Write out a short prayer to God applying what you’ve learned studying these verses.

‘The Lord’s Prayer’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Jesus’s prayer in Matthew 6:9–13. If we are going to learn to be alone with God in prayer, we need to slow down and mine everything we can from this short lesson Jesus gave his disciples. John Piper reveals several key insights he has seen in these verses over the years. Visit ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ series page to see all three labs in this series.

Related Resources

• The Deepest Desire of the Christian Heart (article)
• How Does Scripture Serve Our Prayers? (interview)
• Our Deepest Prayer: Hallowed Be Your Name (sermon on Matthew 6)

Matthew 6:9–13, Part 2

Deliver Us from Evil

January 6, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Matthew 6:9–13
Topic: Prayer
Series: The Lord’s Prayer

Principle for Bible Reading

Jesus’s prayer for you is clear: Today, you need God to provide for you, forgive you, and deliver you. Every single day, you need God to move in these three ways. In this lab, John Piper unfolds these simple, but critical prayers.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:57)

Our Daily Bread (00:57–01:44)

1. Jesus tells us to pray for our basic needs. We do not need more and more things.
2. Simplicity and necessity (“daily bread”) are the prayer because there is so much temptation in wealth and excess. Accumulation is not evil, but it very easily can become so.
3. Jesus’s prayer for “daily bread” stands for all our needs. It’s an admission that we are human and need provision from God to survive.

Forgive Us Our Debts (01:44–06:00)

1. Why can Jesus compare our forgiving of others with our being forgiving? Isn’t that works righteousness? (Matthew 6:12). No, Jesus is not saying we are earning forgiveness, but asking that we would be forgiven in a way that correlates with the way we forgive each other.
2. Those who do not forgive others are foolish, unwise, and will be miserable.
3. If our heart says it is a good, beautiful, desirable thing to forgive others, it will call down forgiveness from God for our own sin.

Lead us Not Into Temptation (06:00–08:52)

1. Jesus states this prayer negatively and positively. Negatively: “Lead us not into temptation.…” Positively: “… deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)
2. All pleasure in this life is a test from God laced with temptation from Satan. Will we idolize this pleasure or thank God for it and consider him as more valuable than this pleasure?
3. In the same way, all pain in this life is a test from God laced with temptation from Satan. Will we trust God in his infinite wisdom, power, and love or will we curse him?
4. Therefore, this prayer is asking God to keep every test from ensnaring us in Satan’s temptations. God, deliver us from this pain or pleasure becoming destructive to our faith in you.

Prayer (08:52–09:56)

Study Questions

1. In Matthew 6:11, why is Jesus’s prayer for “daily bread”? Why “bread”? What was he trying to communicate? And why “daily”?

2. Explain the “as” in the middle of Matthew 6:12. In what way could a holy God possibly forgive us as we sinners forgive others?

3. How does it work when God “delivers us from evil” (Matthew 6:13)? What would it look like in your life if God answered that prayer today? Try to be specific.

‘The Lord’s Prayer’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Jesus’s prayer in Matthew 6:9–13. If we are going to learn to be alone with God in prayer, we need to slow down and mine everything we can from this short lesson Jesus gave his disciples. John Piper reveals several key insights he has seen in these verses over the years. Visit ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ series page to see all three labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Does God “Lead Us Into Temptation”? (article)
• Pornography and Resisting the Power of Temptation (interview)
• As We Forgive Our Debtors (sermon on Matthew 6:9–13)

Matthew 6:9–13, Part 3

Hallowed Be Your Name

January 8, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Matthew 6:9–13
Topic: Prayer
Series: The Lord’s Prayer

Principle for Bible Reading

There is no more familiar prayer in the Bible than the Lord’s Prayer. In the last lab of his three-part series, John Piper highlights two major new insights he’s seen over the years in the structure and relationships within this paradigm-creating prayer of Jesus.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:29)

We are praying to a Father who knows what we need before we ask him. He loves us, and he loves to do these things for us, his adopted children.

Commands, Not Confessions (02:29–06:12)

1. You might be tempted to think of the first three prayers (God’s name, kingdom, and will) as confessions or acclimations, and not requests, but they really are prayers.
2. With those three prayers, we really are asking God to act and bring something about. We really are asking or even commanding that he hallow his name, establish his kingdom, and execute his will.
3. The last three prayers (for food, forgiveness, and protection) are how the first three play out in our daily lives (Matthew 6:11–13). We need these three in order to be an active part of bringing God’s glory, kingdom, and will into the world. We become useless to God’s mission when we die or despair or are (spiritually) destroyed.
4. There is a global dimension (first three) and a personal dimension (last three) to this prayer.

The Prayer of Prayers (06:12–12:17)

1. Lots of people think of these six prayers only as two sets of three. The first three are global, spiritual, and kingdom requests, and the second three address our personal and practical needs.
2. “Hallowed be your name,” though, is a unique and supreme prayer among the others (Matthew 6:9). This request alone directly targets our heart, because only the heart hallows (treasures or reveres or loves).
3. The other five prayers all culminate in hearts that hallow God’s name. When God answers (acts, provides, forgives, delivers), he gets the glory as his children exult in him (cf. Psalm 5:11).
4. All of this comes very near to the heart of Christian Hedonism. We might say, “God is most hallowed in us when we are most happy in his holiness.”

Study Questions

1. Look at the six prayers in Matthew 6:9–13. Do you see any discernable structure? Can they be grouped or categorized?

2. Describe the nature of the first three prayers. Take each one at a time and ask how they would be fulfilled. Are they fundamentally different in any way from the last three?

3. Now look at the first prayer, “Hallowed be your name,” in Matthew 6:9. Can you determine any differences from the other five prayers? Is there anything that sets it apart? If so, how does it relate to the others?

‘The Lord’s Prayer’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Jesus’s prayer in Matthew 6:9–13. If we are going to learn to be alone with God in prayer, we need to slow down and mine everything we can from this short lesson Jesus gave his disciples. John Piper reveals several key insights he has seen in these verses over the years. Visit ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ series page to see all three labs in this series.

Related Resources

• The Deepest Desire of the Christian Heart (article)
• What Is God’s Glory? (interview)
• Pray Like This: Hallowed Be Your Name (sermon on Matthew 6:9–13)

Matthew 6:24–34, Part 1

Nine Arguments Against Anxiety

April 23, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Matthew 6:24–34
Topic: Fear & Anxiety
Series: Do Not Be Anxious

Principle for Bible Reading

This three-part series of labs takes on anxiety by studying Matthew 6:24–27. If the Bible is going to effectively speak to our anxious hearts, we need to learn how to read it well. In this lab, John Piper lays out the arguments and gives three short lessons for our daily Bible reading.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:25)

Two Assumptions for Reading:

1. Every passage has a main point.
2. Every passage uses arguments to support its main point in various ways.

What Is the Main Point? (01:25–06:32)

Main Point: “Do not be anxious.” (Matthew 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34)
Arguments:

1. “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). We know this is an argument because the next verse begins with the word “Therefore”.
2. “Is not life more than food?” (Matthew 6:25)
3. “Look at the birds of the air …” (Matthew 6:26)
4. “Which of you can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)
5. “Consider the lilies of the field …” (Matthew 6:28–30)
6. “The Gentiles seek after these things.” (Matthew 6:32)
7. “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:32)
8. “All these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
9. “Tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” (Matthew 6:34)

Lessons for Bible Reading (06:32–09:16)

1. The Bible argues. It gives reasons for things. Its thoughts are linked together.
2. A unit of thought (or passage) has a main point. Everything else in that unit supports in the main point in some way.
3. To truly understand a passage we must figure out how the arguments support the main point.

Study Questions

1. Read Matthew 6:24–34. What do you think is the main point of these eleven verses?

2. Read Matthew 6:24–34 again. How many different arguments do you see that support your main point?

3. Restate each of the arguments you identified from the previous question in your own words.

Related Resources

• God Doesn’t Want You to Worry (article)
• Anxiety: Sin, Disorder, or Both? (interview)
• Do Not Be Anxious About Your Life (sermon on Matthew 6:24–34)

Matthew 6:24–34, Part 2

Do Not Be Anxious About Tomorrow

April 28, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Matthew 6:24–34
Topic: Fear & Anxiety
Series: Do Not Be Anxious

Principle for Bible Reading

When you think about the future, what makes you most anxious? Jesus gives us plenty of reasons not to fear. In Part 1 of this series, John Piper identified nine arguments against our anxieties. In this lab, he slows down over the first five to highlight how they each help us.

Outline

Recap/Introduction (00:00–03:00)

1. “You Cannot Serve Both God and Money” (03:00–05:11)

1. The “therefore” at the beginning of Matthew 6:25 communicates the previous verse is an argument for what comes after (“do not be anxious”).
2. Do not worry yourself with money and the things money can buy. Do not calculate your life to maximize money and possessions.
3. You can’t love money as the goal of your life and God as the goal of your life.

2. “Is Not Life More Than Food?” (05:11–07:04)

1. You do not lose your life when you lose food, drink, or clothing. Life is more than those things.
2. Saving your life ultimately is not about keeping yourself alive here.
3. Do not worry yourself with the things that keep you alive physically, because life is more than physical.

3. “Look At the Birds of the Air …” (07:04–08:45)

1. Birds do not have a way to store food. They receive one meal at a time, and they are not anxious about that.
2. Where do the birds get this food, meal by meal by meal? Your heavenly Father provides for them.
3. If your Father cares even for the birds in this way, will he not do the same and more for you?

4. “Which of You Can Add a Single Hour to His Life?” (08:45–09:22)

Anxiety does you no good. It does not effectively help your circumstances in any way.

5. “Consider the Lilies of the Field …” (09:22–11:47)

1. The lilies do not make their own clothing. The point is not that they are lazy, but that their garments come from somewhere else (God).
2. The lilies’ clothing is not only effective, but beautiful.
3. The lilies are here today and gone tomorrow. Their life is short and seemingly insignificant.
4. Therefore, if God cares for the lilies like this, will he not do this and more for you?

Study Questions

1. Explain the “therefore” at the beginning of Matthew 6:25. How does what come before support what comes after?

2. Read Matthew 6:26–30, and explain the logic under the birds and the lilies illustrations. How do those picture help us not fear?

3. Jesus says, “your life is more than food” (Matthew 6:25). In what way is life more than food? How specifically does that speak to our anxiety about food?

Related Resources

• When Fear Seizes You (article)
• Fear, Anxiety, and Growth in Godliness (interview)
• Anxieties: To Be Cast Not Carried (sermon on fear and anxiety)

Matthew 6:24–34, Part 3

Your Father Knows What You Need

April 30, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Matthew 6:24–34
Topic: Fear & Anxiety
Series: Do Not Be Anxious

Principle for Bible Reading

God wants to comfort and stabilize the anxious with truth. What truths calm our fears? In Part 1, John Piper identified nine arguments against our anxieties. In Part 2, he covered the first five. In this lab, he covers the last four, and highlights six lessons for Bible reading.

Outline

Recap/Introduction (00:00–02:39)

Arguments Against Anxiety from Part 2:

1. “You Cannot Serve Both God and Money”
2. “Is Not Life More Than Food?”
3. “Look At the Birds of the Air …”
4. “Which of You Can Add a Single Hour to His Life?”
5. “Consider the Lilies of the Field …”

6. “The Gentiles Seek After These Things.” (02:39–03:24)

1. The Gentiles (the nations) are the people who don’t know God, at least not as their Father.
2. If you’re anxious about what you’ll eat or drink or where, you’re acting like people who do not know God.
3. This kind of fear and anxiety, therefore, dishonors God, who you do know as your heavenly Father.

7. “Your Heavenly Father Knows You Need Them.” (03:24–04:20)

1. In God, you have a Father, not just a king or a shepherd).
2. God also knows every need you have.
3. Neither of these points would be a great comfort by themself, but the two together should keep you from anxiety about your life.

8. “All These Things Will Be Added to You.” (04:20–05:20)

1. “These things” refers to all the food, all the drink, all the clothing, and everything else you need.
2. We know, though, not all Christians have their basic needs. Christians all over die from hunger or thirst or nakedness.
3. This verse, therefore, does not promise you will not die of hunger or nakedness. It promises that God will give you everything you need now to prepare you for the life to come, the life that lasts.

9. “Tomorrow Will Be Anxious for Itself.” (05:20–06:22)

1. There is trouble for every day, and there will be grace for that trouble every day.
2. We know there are new mercies every morning (just like there are new troubles every morning). (Lamentations 3:23).
3. Tomorrow’s troubles are not designed to be dealt with today’s grace. Every day has its sufficient trouble, as well as its sufficient grace.

Lessons for Bible Reading (06:22–11:32)

Lessons from Part 1:

1. The Bible argues. It gives reasons for things. Its thoughts are linked together.
2. A unit of thought (or passage) has a main point. Everything else in that unit supports in the main point in some way.
3. To truly understand a passage we must figure out how the arguments support the main point.

More Lessons:

1. Jesus assumes that truth affects/influences the emotions.
2. Truth has its affect on our emotions when it is believed, when we have faith.
3. Therefore, pray for faith and meditate on his truth.

Study Questions

1. What are “these things” in Matthew 6:32–33? How can Jesus God will give us all these things when we know Christians die without them every day?

2. Why do the Gentiles seek after “these things”? According to Matthew 6:32, why is their example a bad one to follow?

3. Read Lamentations 3:21–23 (with Matthew 6:34). In God’s care and provision, what is the relationship between today’s grace and today’s trouble? What about between today’s grace and tomorrow’s trouble?

Related Resources

• Help Me Face Today (article)
• The Fear That Haunts Humanity (interview)
• Battling the Unbelief of Anxiety (sermon on fear and anxiety)

Matthew 10:25–31

Have No Fear of Them

November 20, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Matthew 10:25–31
Topic: Fear & Anxiety

Principle for Bible Reading

“Do not fear.” Jesus’s command can be hard to obey, but it is filled with promise. In this lab, John Piper shows us how Jesus helps his disciples (and us) battle fear.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:32)

Jesus’s Commands (00:32–03:20)

1. “Have no fear of them.” (Matthew 10:26)
2. “Say in the light … proclaim on the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27)
3. “Do not fear …” (Matthew 10:28)
4. “Fear God.” (Matthew 10:28)
5. “Fear not.” (Matthew 10:28)

Main point: Do not fear man. Fear God, and boldly proclaim his truth.

Jesus’s Arguments (03:20–10:25)

1. If they malign you, then you are in good company with Jesus. If you are mistreated for his sake, you know that you are his. (Matthew 10:25)
2. The truth will be revealed and vindicated one day. The things we say now about God will be proved by God before the world. (Matthew 10:26)
3. Your enemies cannot destroy you. They can kill you, but they can not destroy. They can only dispatch you to heaven. (Matthew 10:28)
4. God can destroy you, therefore you do not want him to be against you. God can do much greater harm to you than man. (Matthew 10:28)
5. God pervasively governs all the details of the world, even the most insignificant things, like the death of a sparrow. And God values you more than the sparrows. And he is very attentive toward you. (Matthew 10:29–31)

Summary (10:25–11:45)

Study Questions

1. Read through Matthew 10:25–31 one time and list all of the commands. Do you notice a theme in the commands?

2. How many arguments does Jesus use in Matthew 10:25–31 to persuade his disciples not to fear? Identify them and say each of them in your own words.

3. Why is it good news that we are “of more value than the sparrows” (Matthew 10:31)?

Recents Labs from John Piper

1. “Love Builds Up” on 1 Corinthians 8:1–3
2. “The Spirit in You Is Life” on Romans 8:10–11
3. “You Are Not Your Own” on Romans 8:9

Related Resources

• Reasons Believers in Christ Need Not to Be Afraid (article)
• What Does It Mean for the Christian to Fear God? (interview)
• Even the Hairs of My Head Are All Numbered (sermon on Matthew 10:25–31)

Matthew 22:15–21

Render to Caesar

March 10, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Matthew 22:15–21
Topic: Government

Principle for Bible Reading

Jesus does not always give us every answer explicitly. Sometimes he wants us to think and come to the right answer for ourselves, like when the Pharisees tried to trap him over taxes. In this lab, John Piper helps us understand how we relate to the government by highlighting God’s governing of all things.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:55)

Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes? (00:55–06:43)

1. The Pharisees and Herodians wanted to entangle Jesus over the issue of taxes. If Jesus says they ought to pay, he betrays the Jews who resented the Romans. If he says do not pay, he would be in trouble with Caesar and the Romans. Either conflict could undo him and his influence.
2. The malice in the question springs from envy. Even Pilot knew the Jews were handing Jesus over out of envy. (Matthew 27:18)
3. Jesus asks them to bring him a denarius and show him the face on the coin. He answers them by saying they ought to give to Caesar what it Caesar’s, and to God what it God’s.
4. Jesus did not deal with the scope of Caesar’s sphere of power and possession, or God’s. He also does not deal with the relationship between Caesar’s sphere and God’s.

Give to God What Is God’s (06:43–11:56)

1. Everything belongs to God, meaning the things that belong to Caesar do not belong to him ultimately. All of his possession is derivative. (Matthew 22:21; John 19:11)
2. Therefore, Caesar’s rights and claims over you are limited. If Caesar calls us to do anything God prohibits, we refuse. (Acts 5:29)
3. Caesar’s influence and our allegiance to him are shaped by God’s superior possession and authority. We render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s as an act of worship to God. (Ephesians 5:22; 6:7)

Study Questions

1. Why did the Pharisees and the Herodians think their question would entangle Jesus (Matthew 22:15–16)? What made the question so difficult (even impossible) in their minds?

2. Why does Jesus call them hypocrites for asking that question (Matthew 22:18)?

3. Jesus doesn’t answer their question directly, but his answer does suggest a lot. List two or three implications you see in Jesus’s answer (Matthew 22:21).

Related Resources

• Render to Caesar the Things That Are Caesar’s (article)
• Does Romans 13 Prohibit All Civil Disobedience? (interview)
• Subjection to God and Subjection to the State, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 (sermons)

Matthew 28:18–20

I Am with You Always

September 23, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Matthew 28:18–20
Topic: Missions

Principle for Bible Reading

Some of God’s commands in the Bible are very difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, we need to pay close attention to the promises in Scripture that accompany God’s commands and equip us with God’s power to do the impossible.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Overview (00:00–01:57)

1. Six Commands
2. Two Promises (Jesus’s Authority and Presence)

Commands (01:57–04:26)

1. Go. (Matthew 28:19)
2. Make disciples. (Matthew 28:19)
3. Take the gospel to all the nations. (Matthew 28:19)
4. Baptize them. (Matthew 28:19)
5. Make plain the Trinity. (Matthew 28:19)
6. Teach them to obey. (Matthew 28:20)

Promises (04:26–07:38)

1. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). We have the warrant and power to fulfill Jesus’s commission.
2. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). There will never be a moment or a circumstance in which I won’t be with you.

Study Questions

1. How many separate commands can you identify in Matthew 28:18–20? Are there commands or facets of commands that you missed before?

2. What promise(s), if any, does Jesus make to his disciples in these verses?

3. How do Jesus’s commands and promises relate to one another in Matthew 28:18–20?

Related Resources

• The Greatest Challenge in the World (article)
• Is Direct Human Contact Important In Evangelism and Church Life? (interview)
• Jesus Christ: Alive and With Us to the End (sermon)

Luke 1:30–37

What Child Is This?

December 16, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Luke 1:30–37
Topic: The Birth of Christ

Principle for Bible Reading

What child is this, the baby boy we celebrate every Christmas? Mary met the true identity of her son in the words of an angel, recorded in Luke 1. In this lab, John Piper prepares our hearts for Christmas by slowing down over these verses.

Outline

Prayer/Review (00:00–00:55)

The Son of the Most High (00:55–06:07)

1. The phrase “found favor with God” is a popular one in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament. (Luke 1:30)
2. Jesus was born a human to a human. (Luke 1:31)
3. Jesus will be great by being the very Son of God. (Luke 1:32)
4. It’s not just that the kingdom will not end, but the king himself will not end. (Luke 1:33)
5. We know from elsewhere in the New Testament that this house of Jacob now includes Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus. (Luke 1:33)
6. Mary’s baby boy is the fulfillment of God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:16 and rehearsed again in Psalm 89:34–36.

The Power of the Most High (06:07–09:38)

1. Mary responds to the angel with meekness and obedience, not doubt or defiance. (Luke 1:34)
2. How will this baby be born? By the Holy Spirit, the power of the Most High. (Luke 1:35)
3. The word for “overshadow” appears in the Old Testament when God hovers over the tabernacle, and then again at the Transfiguration when God “overshadows” the mountain.
4. The Son of God is born of a virgin (Luke 1:34–36). The divine sonship of Jesus is owing to the virgin birth by the Holy Spirit. (“therefore” in Luke 1:35)
5. The impossible feat God accomplished with Elizabeth, he will now surpass with Mary, by causing her to bear his own Son.

A Summary for Christmas (09:38–11:04)

Christmas is the Holy Spirit coming to a virgin, Mary, and causing her to give birth to a son, Jesus, making him the son of Mary, the Son of God, and our holy, great, and eternal King.

Study Questions

1. Read Luke 1:30–37. List everything you learn about Jesus, as many different things as you can.

2. Put yourself in Mary’s shoes. How would you have heard these words from the angel? How would you have connected the different pieces here?

3. Explain the “therefore” at the beginning of Luke 1:35. How does what come before the “therefore” ground what comes after? Why does the angel draw the conclusion that he does?

Christmas Content from Desiring God

1. “Hope for the Hurting This Christmas (Video)” (a poem from John Piper)
2. “Rethinking Santa” (Ask Pastor John episode)
3. “Make This Christmas Special” (6-minute video)
4. “Five Things to Teach Your Children This Christmas” (article)

Related Resources

• Christmas Spending Is a Test of Your Treasure (article)
• Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? (interview)
• Christmas as the End of History (sermon)

Exploring Key Texts

The Book of Life

October 2, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Luke 10:20
Topic: The Doctrines of Grace / Calvinism

Principle for Bible Reading

When you come across an important word or phrase in our reading, stop to search for other uses of that same word or phrase. Look first within the book you’re reading, then within the same author, then in the rest of the Bible.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:59)

What is the Book of Life?
What does it mean to have our names there?
Can our names be erased from the book?

Observations (00:59–09:25)

1. Revelation 20:12, 15—Being written in the Book is to have eternal life. (00:59–03:23)
2. Revelation 21:27—Being written in the Book means you enter the city of God. (03:23–04:11)
3. Revelation 3:5—God will not blot out the one who endures to the end from the Book. (04:11–05:15)
4. Revelation 13:8—Those who worship the beast were never written in the Book. (05:15–06:50)
5. Revelation 17:8—Again, those who marvel at the beast were never written in the Book. (06:50–08:46)
6. Luke 10:20—Our whole security from hell and the things that send us to hell is found in our names being written in the Book. (08:46–09:25)

Study Questions

1. From the verses above, what does it mean to have our names written in the Book of Life?

2. Take the six passages and restate in your own words what each says about the Book of Life.

3. What do Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 say about people who are written in the Book of Life?

Related Resources

• New Poem: ‘The Book of Life’ (article)
• How Can I Help Someone Who Thinks They Aren’t Elect? (interview)
• We Will All Stand Before the Judgment of God (sermon)

Luke 7:36–50, Part 1

Forgiveness Leads to Love

September 22, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Luke 7:36–50
Topic: Justification

Principle for Bible Reading

What do you do when a verse in the Bible (even words from Jesus himself) seem to contradict core beliefs at the heart of Christianity? In this lab, John Piper models a way forward with difficult texts, not ignoring the problem, but digging deeper to find the harmony with the rest of Scripture.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:15)

The Woman’s Love for Jesus (01:15–04:56)

1. She wet Jesus’s feet with hear tears, and wiped them with her hair. (Luke 7:44)
2. She continually kissed his feet. (Luke 7:45)
3. She anointed his head with expensive ointment. (Luke 7:46)
4. Simon, on the other hand, as the host, failed to show anything remotely close to this kind of love and affection. (Luke 7:44–46)

Forgiveness and Performance (04:56–07:30)

1. Jesus declares (“Therefore”) her sins are forgiven (“for”) because of her love. (Luke 7:47)
2. People have asked if this reverses the order of salvation through faith alone. Has Jesus made her love the basis or ground or cause of her forgiveness?
3. If so, this creates massive issues for our understanding of Christ himself—his righteousness and his cross.

What Does “For” Mean Here? (07:30–12:05)

1. “For” can support in more than way. It can communicate a cause or evidence. So which is the case here in Luke 7:47?
2. The forgiveness of little leads to loving little (Luke 7:47). Therefore, the forgiveness of much leads to loving much.
3. Earlier, we see the same pattern with the moneylenders. Those with a larger debt canceled will love the moneylender more. (Luke 7:42)
4. Therefore, the “for” here seems to be communicating evidence, and not cause. (Luke 7:36)

Study Questions

1. Luke 7:47 says the woman loved Jesus much. What evidence is there of that love in the previous verses?

2. What possible problem do Jesus’s words in Luke 7:47 create? How would you resolve that problem for someone struggling to understand what he is saying?

3. Explain the “for” in “for she loved much” (Luke 7:47). What possible explanations are there, and why did you choose yours?

Related Resources

• What Love for God Looks Like (article)
• How Does God’s Forgiveness Free Us from Idols? (interview)
• How Justified Sinners Love Each Other (sermon on Romans 12)

Luke 7:36–50, Part 2

God’s Love for the Worst

September 24, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Luke 7:36–50
Topic: The Grace of God

Principle for Bible Reading

Who will love Jesus more, the one who has been forgiven much or the one who has been forgiven little? If so, why do we not sin more? In this lab, John Piper tackles another difficult question raised by Jesus. His answer helps us understand Jesus’s words and cultivate a deeper love for him.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–02:12)

Sin Against Jesus and Love for Jesus (02:12–05:44)

1. Jesus seems to suggest that people will love him more if they’ve been forgiven for more (or worse) sins. (Luke 7:42–43)
2. This seems to suggest that we would need to do more serious sins if we want to love Jesus more.
3. Jesus is assuming that there are “better” or worse sins. (Luke 7:41)
4. Therefore, do we commit more serious sins so that he could forgive us more and deepen our love for him?

Who Will Love Jesus More? (05:44–10:28)

1. The one Jesus kept back from five hundred sins or the one Jesus kept back from fifty sins? Clearly, the former (John accidentally flips this).
2. The one Jesus enabled to lead one thousand people to salvation or the one Jesus enabled to lead ten people to salvation? The former.
3. The one Jesus strengthens to endure one hundred days in prison or the one Jesus strengthens to endure ten days in prison? Again, the former.

Different Blessings and Different Loves (10:28–11:59)

1. The point of those examples are to highlight different kinds of love we have for Jesus.
2. Love for the forgiveness of sin is one kind of love we cultivate for Jesus. (Luke 7:42)
3. There are many ways grace comes to us, and each produces its own love for Jesus.

Study Questions

1. What potential problem do Jesus’s words create in Luke 7:42–43? How would you go about resolving that problem in your own mind and heart?

2. If we love Jesus in response to the forgiveness of our sins, what are other things he is or does for us that would cause us to love him more?

3. How might your answer to the previous question resolve the problem in Luke 7:42–43? How does it keeps us from deliberately committing more serious sins?

Related Resources

• Where Sin Increased, Grace Overflowed (article)
• I’ve Sinned Horribly, Is There Any Hope? (interview)
• By His Grace, for His Name, Through the Obedience of Faith (sermon on Romans 1:1–5)

Luke 12:32

Fear Not, Little Flock

September 24, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Luke 12:32
Topic: Fear & Anxiety

Principle for Bible Reading

There are often riches and depths of meaning in the simplest verses. Luke 12:32 is one verse with two short propositions, but there are riches buried in its simplicity. Pastor John gives a few tips for meditating on verses like this and seeing all that’s really there. In this case, it reveals several reasons not to fear.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:36)

Tips for Meditation (00:36–08:29)

1. Take words or phrases in your passage and restate them in your own words (e.g. “fear not”).
2. Ask yourself why the writer chose the words he did (e.g. “flock”).
3. Look for meaningful connections between words and phrases in a passage (e.g. God as a Shepherd, a Father, and a King).
4. Identify individual propositions (subject + verb) and the connecting words between them (e.g. “for”).

Summary (08:29–09:50)

1. In God, we have a Shepherd, Father, and King.
2. He enjoys freely giving us the kingdom at great cost to himself.
3. Therefore, we should not fear.

Study Questions

1. What pictures or metaphors are used to describe God in Luke 12:32?

2. How is “for” connecting the two propositions in Luke 12:32?

3. Take the verbs in Luke 12:32 (“fear” and “give”) and restate them in your own words (other words that mean the same thing). What do you learn?

4. How many reasons not to fear do you see in Luke 12:32? What are they?

Related Resources

• Keep Praying That Prayer (article)
• What Does It Mean to Call God Our Father? (interview)
• It Is Your Father’s Pleasure to Give You the Kingdom (sermon on Luke 12:32)

Luke 12:32–34, Part 1

Sell the Treasure That Will Not Last

March 24, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Luke 12:32–34
Topic: Giving

Principle for Bible Reading

Many people are afraid to give because they’re afraid they won’t have enough themselves or that they’ll miss out on something in the future. In this lab, John Piper highlights the liberating promise that God is a providing shepherd, father, and king. Therefore, we can give freely and generously.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:01)

God Knows Your Needs (01:01–03:59)

1. What should you not be afraid of (Luke 12:32)? You are not to fear the consequences of giving.
2. You are not to fear being without our basic necessities. God knows everything you need. (Luke 12:29–31)
3. Jesus overcomes this fear by reminding us that we have a good Shepherd, a good Father, and a good King.
4. Therefore, give. Be generous.

Sell Your Possessions (03:59–07:35)

1. If you don’t have cash to give, sell your possessions to get some. (Luke 12:33)
2. Jesus is not against possessions. We know this because Jesus is simply putting your possessions into someone else’s hands. He’s not prohibiting possessions. (Luke 12:33)
3. We should hold our possessions so loosely that we are willing to let them go if others are in need.
4. Being a generous and compassionate person is what shows you are a member of this flock, this family, and this kingdom. And that is because this Shepherd, this Father, and this King delights to give. (Luke 12:32)
5. If you have a God like this, you can afford to live simply and generously. (Luke 12:32–33)

Closing Prayer and Commission (07:35–08:02)

God, make us the kind of people that prove by our giving that we are sheep of such a shepherd, children of such a father, subjects of such a king. I pray this through Christ, Amen.

Study Questions

1. In the context of Luke 12, what specifically are Jesus’s disciples not to fear (Luke 12:32)?

2. How does Jesus try and overcome the disciples’ fear? What promise(s) does he give them?

3. What lesson is Jesus teaching about possessions in Luke 12:32–34? Is it bad to have possessions? Why or why not?

Related Resources

• Four Questions to Keep Close to Your Wallet (article)
• Are Christians Called to Obey the Law? (including tithing) (interview)
• Loved Flock, Do Not Be Afraid to Give It Away (sermon)

Luke 12:32–34, Part 2

Seek the Treasure That Will Not Fail

March 26, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Luke 12:32–34
Topic: Christian Hedonism

Principle for Bible Reading

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” What we treasure has massive implications for the health and security of our hearts. In this lab, John Piper explains why treasure in heaven will satisfy us more than any other, and shows us the pathway to more of the joy found in Jesus.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:58)

We are sheep of a great shepherd, children of a great father, and subjects of a great king. This shepherd/father/king delights to give, so we also should be generous toward those in need.

The Treasure in Heaven (Luke 12:33) (01:58–04:03)

1. This treasure will not be lost (“grow old”).
2. This treasure will not fail.
3. This treasure will not be stolen (“no thief”).
4. This treasure will not be ruined (“no moth destroys”).

The Treasure in Your Heart (04:03–06:09)

1. The heart is the emotional barometer of the value and security of the treasure (Luke 12:34). If your treasure is vulnerable, your joy is vulnerable. If your treasure is secure, your joy is secure. If your treasure is great, your joy is great.
2. Your heart follows your treasure, wherever and however it leads. Your heart rises and falls with the quality and security of what you treasure.
3. The full, trustworthy, satisfying treasure in heaven is God—himself, his Son, his kingdom.

Generosity and Joy (06:09–10:19)

1. Giving to the needy is providing yourself with a never-failing treasure. Generosity is the way you have this treasure. (Luke 12:33)
2. You do not earn the kingdom (the treasure). You confirm that you are a person with this treasure by your generosity.
3. You confirm that God is your treasure, and you increase your treasure, and therefore your joy (Luke 6:38). In God’s economy, there is a correlation between our generosity and our joy.
4. Therefore, do not be afraid. Let’s sell what we need to in order to give all we can.

Study Questions

1. Explain the “For” at the beginning of Luke 12:34. How does Luke 12:34 ground or explain Luke 12:33?

2. In Luke 12:34, try and explain the connection between the treasure and the heart? In what ways does our heart follow/depend on what we treasure?

3. How does Luke 6:38 help clarify the relationship between our generosity and our reward (joy)?

Related Resources

• Seven Ways to Pray for Your Heart (article)
• Will Some Saints Be Happier in Heaven?) (interview)
• Don’t Be Anxious, Lay Up Treasure in Heaven, Part 1 and Part 2(sermons)

John 1:14, Part 1

God Lived Among Us

December 15, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: John 1:14, John 1:1–3, and John 6:51
Topic: The Birth of Christ

What is Christmas? In this lab, John Piper walks through the familiar words of John 1 to explain the unexplainable mystery of God becoming a man for us. What does it mean that Jesus was God? And what does it mean that he is man? And why? Come and see the Word become flesh.

Principle for Bible Reading

When it comes to major holidays that we celebrate (like Christmas), look for a key text or two (or more) that will help you understand its true meaning and significance in God’s mind. In this way, we make sure we celebrate in a way that brings glory to God.

Study Questions

1. What do you learn about the Word from John 1:14 in John 1:1–3?

2. If someone suggested that Jesus was the product of conception between God and Mary, how might you lovingly correct them? How would you use John 1:1–3 to explain yourself?

3. Read John 6:51. What does this verse tells us about Christmas? Why did the Son of God put on flesh and become a man?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:33)

Who Is the Word? (01:33–04:13)

• The Word existed as far back as you can go (“in the beginning”). (John 1:1)
• “The Word was with God, and he was God.” (John 1:1)
• “All things were made through him …” (John 1:14)
• Jehovah’s Witness think Jesus was God’s first creation, the first thing made. John writes that last line to deny that claim.
• The Son made everything in the category of “made.” Therefore, he could not himself be made.

The Son of God (04:13–06:46)

• “Son” is used 60 times in the Gospel of John. (John 1:14)
• Christians know that “God + Mary = Son of God” is blasphemy.
• The Son is the Word, and so he is God. (John 1:1–3)
• The Son of God is not the product of conception with Mary. He existed thousands of years before Mary was even born.
• The Father has always had a perfect image of himself in the Son. He has always had someone with whom to relate. (John 1:1)

The Word Became Flesh (06:46–09:22)

• This God became flesh. (John 1:14)
• This means he was not flesh before this moment, and that he entered into the world in the flesh as a man at one point in history. (John 1:14)
• The point of putting on flesh was so that he could die. (John 6:51)
• Now, he will always be a man. He raised his body when he ascended. (John 2:19–21)
• Paul says the same thing about Jesus and about us in Philippians 3:20–21. We will have a (new and glorious) body forever.

And He Dwelt Among Us (09:22–10:35)

• You might think that “dwelt” means for a brief time, that Jesus came and lived with us for a little while. (John 1:14)
• No, “dwelt among us” means he drew near to us. It’s about proximity. (John 1:14)
• Christmas is about God becoming man so that he might die so that he might be near to his people.

Related Resources

• O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (article)
• Christmas at the Piper Home (interview)
• “In the Beginning Was the Word” (sermon on John 1:14)

John 1:14, Part 2

Glory Full of Grace and Truth

December 17, 2015
by John Piper
Topics: The Glory of God, The Birth of Christ

“We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” In this lab, John Piper helps us understand the glory we see at Christmas, defining glory and pulling apart the marriage of grace and truth. He also explains why we’re not at a disadvantage at all two thousand years later.

Principle for Bible Reading

As you read the Bible, try and think of objections other people might raise (even if you personally do not struggle with that particular objection). For example, in this lab, John wrestles with whether we’re at a historical disadvantage to those who saw Jesus in the flesh. Objections will force you to search the text more carefully, and you will often see more than you would otherwise.

Study Questions

1. What do we learn about the glory revealed at Christmas in John 1:14? How would you put what you see in your own words?

2. Why might someone think, after reading this verse, that we’re at a disadvantage to the eyewitnesses during Jesus’s life? Where would you take them to change their mind? Now, read 2 Corinthians 4:4 and John 17:20 for help.

3. How would you define the glory of God? What words would you use to help a friend understand glory?

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–03:52)

1. God is the Word.
2. The Word became flesh (a man).
3. The Word dwelt among us (drew near to us).

A Definition for Glory (03:52–05:15)

• “… We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (John 1:14)
• If you have seen Jesus, you have seen God’s glory.
• God’s glory is God’s transcendent beauty or radiance. (John 1:14)

The Light of the Gospel of the Glory (05:15–07:21)

• You might object that we’re not there to see him in the flesh. You might think we’re at a disadvantage.
• Satan blinds unbelievers from seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)
• In the narrated events of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry, called “gospel,” you see God’s glory. (John 1:14)
• Jesus prayed not only for those who saw him in the flesh, but for “those who will believe in me through the word.” (John 17:20)
• It’s through the Word that John expects us to see the glory of God.

Our Advantage Today (07:21–09:06)

• We are not at a disadvantage compared to the eyewitnesses.
• Judas saw everything Jesus did, and he didn’t see any glory.
• The crowds saw him, and they wanted to crucify him.
• We see the whole story as we read an inspired Book that is much more rich and full even than experiencing it firsthand.

Full of Grace and Truth (09:06–10:13)

• And the glory we see in the Word is full of grace and truth.
• This glory is the measure of all truth. If you want to see anything for it really is, bring it into the light of the glory of God.
• And in all of the truth and reality, wonder of wonders, God’s heart is gracious toward us.

What Is Christmas? (10:13–12:24)

1. The Word is God.
2. The Word (God) became the God-man.
3. The Word came near and dwelt among us.
4. The Word reveals his divine glory to us.
5. This glory gives truth to the ignorant and deceived, and it gives grace to the guilty.

Related Resources

• Christmas Happened Because It Is Fitting (article)
• What Christmas Is All About (interview)
• “A Big God for Little People: Seven Christmas Eve Meditations” (sermon on Luke 2:1–20)

John 15:12–15, Part 1

Love Lays Down His Life

July 2, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 5:6–8 and John 15:12–15
Topic: The Love of God
Series: Friendship with Jesus

Principle for Bible Reading

What does it mean to be a friend of Jesus? In this lab, John Piper begins a series of three labs focused on friendship with Jesus. Jesus loves you with the greatest possible love and paid the ultimate price to have you—a friendship like no other.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:22)

Friends or Enemies? (01:22–05:16)

1. Why does Jesus say “friends” and not enemies in John 15:13. Isn’t loving enemies a greater love than loving friends?
2. The love of God increases as the object of his love goes down in merit (Romans 5:8). His love is greatest when the object is least deserving.
3. So why does Jesus saying something different in John 15:13?

The Greatest Love (05:16–07:54)

1. Jesus’ point in John 15:12–15 is not about the difference between love for friends and love for enemies.
2. The two ends of the spectrum here are, for instance, giving a friend a cup of water and sacrificing your own life for them. (John 15:13)
3. Greater love for a friend makes greater sacrifices for the one it loves.
4. Jesus loves you with the greatest possible love. He made the greatest possible sacrifice—the ultimate price—for you.

Study Questions

1. Why would Jesus say “friends” in John 15:13, and not “enemies”? Would not a love for one’s enemies exceed love for a friend?

2. Read Romans 5:6–8. What point is Paul making in these three verses, and how might it relate to John 15:12–15?

3. If Jesus is making a different point in John 15:13 than Paul is in Romans 5:6–8, what is it? What unique point is Jesus making about friendship?

Related Resources

• Three Tips on Being a Friend of Sinners (article)
• Love Jesus over Human Approval (interview)
• Being Loved by Christ (sermon on John 13:1)

John 15:12–15, Part 2

Are You a Friend of Jesus?

July 7, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: John 15:12–15
Topic: Sanctification & Growth
Series: Friendship with Jesus

Principle for Bible Reading

Are you a friend of Jesus? How do you know? In this lab, John Piper looks again at John 15 to see what kind of confidence we can have that Jesus loves us and died for our sins. He looks closely at one two-letter word that makes all the difference.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:50)

Condition or Evidence? (00:50–05:00)

“You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). What does this “if” mean? One kind of “if” communicates Christianity. Another would be heresy.

1. One kind of “if” would communicate a condition, meaning one thing precedes and brings about the effect. e.g. If you are strong and courageous, then the Marine corp will want you.
2. Another kind communicates an effect, meaning one thing follows and confirms a cause. e.g. If your white blood cell count is low, then must (already) be in remission.

Christianity: Proven Free Friendship (05:00–09:15)

1. Conditional “If” (Heresy)—If (and only if) you do what Jesus commands, then you will be a friend of Jesus and his death will count for you. (John 15:14)
2. Evidential “If” (Christianity)—If you do what Jesus commands, then you confirm that you are already his friend, and that his death paid for and changed you. (John 15:14)
3. John 15:12 confirms that the “if” in John 15:14 is describing a confirming effect, and not a condition. Jesus loved us before we loved one another. His love came first and causes our love. We do not earn his love and friendship with our love for one another.

Study Questions

1. What does the “if” mean in John 15:14? Explain the “if” clause first as a conditional statement: If A happens, then B happens. Now, explain the “if” clause as an evidence statement: If A happens, then B must have happened.

2. Which interpretation seems correct in John 15:14, and why?

3. How does John 15:12 change or confirm your answer to the previous question? How does it clarify the meaning of “if” in John 15:14?

Related Resources

• Three Ways Our Deeds Relate to Our Salvation (article)
• Can I Confess the Name of Jesus and Be Unsaved? (interview)
• If Anyone Loves Me He Will Keep My Word (sermon on John 14:15–24)

John 15:12–15, Part 3

We Are Friends, Not Slaves

July 9, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: John 15:12–15
Topic: The Love of God
Series: Friendship with Jesus

Principle for Bible Reading

If you believe in, follow, and treasure Jesus Christ, he calls you his friend. Last time, we asked how we know if we are his friends. In this lab, John Piper reveals five one-sided ways Jesus befriends and loves us that we could never reciprocate.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:17)

A Unique and Glorious Friendship (02:17–03:57)

1. The main point of this argument is John 15:12. John 15:13–15 serve to support that verse, and to highlight the wonders of friendship with Jesus.
2. The potential problem with talking about friendship with Jesus is that he demands obedience. (John 15:14)
3. This does not mean our relationship with Jesus is not a real friendship. It simply means that it’s a unique friendship, in many ways—at least five—a one-sided friendship.

Five One-Sided Wonders of Friendship with Jesus (03:57–10:14)

1. We are loved with the greatest love. (John 15:13)
2. Christ laid down his life for us. (John 15:13)
3. We obey. (John 15:14)
4. We are informed (John 15:15). We are taught everything we need to obey him gladly, unlike slaves.
5. We are welcomed into his family. (John 15:15)

Illustration: Love Your Enemies (10:14–11:57)

Study Questions

1. What would you argue is the main point of John 15:12–15? What verse or point do all the other verses support?

2. Jesus highlights some one-sided aspects (some asymmetries) to our friendship with him. How many can you point out in John 15:12–15?

3. Both a friend (John 15:14) and a slave obey, so help someone understand the difference between the two in Jesus’s words here in John 15:12–15.

Related Resources

• The Intensity of Christ’s Love and the Intentionality of His Death (article)
• You Have Been Greatly Loved (interview)
• Being Loved by Christ (sermon on John 13:1)

Romans 1:18–23

What Can Be Known About God

May 5, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 1:18–23
Topic: Salvation

Principle for Bible Reading

The Bible says that the whole world already knows God, but also says that much of the world does not know him. What does it mean to know God? And how does someone know him, and yet not know him? In this lab, John Piper explores this difficult, but critical tension and commissions us into the world to speak the gospel.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:47)

Some Do Not Know God (00:47–01:52)

1. The world does not know God. (1 Corinthians 1:21)
2. The Gentiles did not know God before they believed and were freed from slavery to false gods. (Galatians 4:8)
3. Again, the Gentiles did not know God, and therefore cannot control their passions, like lust. (1 Thessalonians 4:4–5)
4. Therefore, we know that some do not know God, at least not in a real, saving way.

Everyone in the World Knows God (01:52–05:05)

1. Everyone suppresses the truth. In order to suppress the truth, you have to know it first. (Romans 1:18)
2. What can be known about God is plain to everyone in the world. (Romans 1:19)
3. God has revealed himself to all in what he has made (“God has shown it to them”). (Romans 1:19)
4. “They (all) knew God.” (Romans 1:21)
5. In order to exchange the glory of God for other things (“for images”), we must know him, at least in some way. (Romans 1:23)

All Are Without Excuse (05:05–06:09)

1. With all of this knowledge, we did not honor him or give him thanks. (Romans 1:21)
2. We suppressed this knowledge of God and traded the knowledge of his glory for the glory of the things he created. (Romans 1:18
3. Therefore, we are all without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

They Knew and Did Not Know: An Illustration (06:09–10:36)

1. We were all designed with a capacity to know God.
2. Because of our sin, we tried to take other things and use them to fill the cavities inside of us created for God.
3. Nothing fits in the space inside of each of us made for God.
4. Everyone knows God. They know what they’re experiencing now apart from God is not satisfying.
5. The Holy Spirit, by the word of God, needs to come and clean out the alternatives and fill us again with a knowledge of God through the gospel.

Our Task (10:36–11:33)

Everyone we meet has a knowledge of God, but they are eternally restless until they know God through Jesus Christ. Our task is to speak the gospel everywhere we can, and pray that the Holy Spirit would take that message and put it into the places for which it is perfectly designed in every human soul, so that they would see and believe.

Study Questions

1. Read Romans 1:18–23. Now read 1 Corinthians 1:21, Galatians 4:8, and 1 Thessalonians 4:4–5. Do you see any inconsistencies between the two sets of verses? If so, how might you explain them?

2. In Romans 1:18–23, how do we know that everyone in the world knows God? How many times does Paul reinforce that reality in these verses?

3. How would you explain to someone that the whole world knows God (Romans 1:21), and yet that some do not know him (1 Corinthians 1:21)? Can you think of a creative way to help someone understand this difficult truth?

Related Resources

• Letter to a 12-Year-Old Girl About the Eternal Destiny of Those Who Have Not Heard the Gospel (article)
• Is Jesus the Only Way to Be Saved? (interview)
• Proud People Don’t Say Thanks (sermon on Romans 1:16–23)

Romans 7:22–8:2

No Condemnation

October 9, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 7:22–8:2
Topic: Justification
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

In your Bible reading, an author will often compare two things. It’s important to stop and study everything you learn about how those two things are similar and different. In this lab, Pastor John looks at our slavery to sin and freedom in Christ.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:16)

Observations (01:16–06:21)

1. Two laws are waging war against each other inside of Paul.
2. The law of God does its work in a person’s mind (Romans 7:22).
3. The law of sin works in a person’s members to cause them to sin (Romans 7:23).
4. In spite of the war within us, a great victory has been won by God through Jesus (Romans 7:25).
5. Our delight in God’s law gives evidence that the victory is ours (Romans 7:22), that is, that we are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Freedom and Slavery? (06:21–10:25)

How can someone be “free in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2) and “serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:25)?

1. Notice the first person voice (“I”) throughout these verses. This is Paul.
2. Paul says he “delights” in the law of God and that he “serves the law of God.”
3. The climax of this passage says that Paul really does serve the law of God, even though his flesh still serves the law of sin (Romans 7:25).

You Are Free (10:25–12:01)

1. You have been decisively set free. The battle has been won.
2. You have been finally or ultimately set free. It is certain. It will happen.
3. You are progressively being set free. You are really being set free, but it will not be finished until later.

Summary (12:01–13:12)

1. There is, therefore, no condemnation for us. Even though the battle is still being waged within us, Christ has already won the victory for us.
2. The freedom we have in Christ is decisive, final, and progressive. We don’t experience it completely now, but it is real for us now and we will have it fully one day.

Study Questions

1. Paul talks about different laws at work in us in these verses. What are the differences between them?

2. What is the purpose of the “therefore” in Romans 8:1? What is it referring to in the previous verses?

3. How can someone be “free in Christ” (Romans 8:2) and still “serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:25)?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• When Does God Become 100% For Us? (article)
• What Is Christian Freedom? (interview)
• No Condemnation in Christ Jesus, Part 1 & Part 2 (sermons on Romans 8:1)

Romans 8

The Big Picture

February 26, 2015
by John Piper
Topic: The Love of God
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

John Piper has completed thirty labs working verse-by-verse through Romans 8. In this last lab, he sums up all that we have learned and explains how the highest points relate to each other. We need to be regularly stepping back in our Bible reading to see the bigger picture.

The Levels of Romans 8

John Piper uses levels to summarize Romans 8. Many of you will not be able to recreate this yourself today, and that is completely fine. The point here is to pick up principles for seeing connections and relationships between the bigger ideas in a passage or chapter. We hope this lab helps pull the pieces together from the series and models a broader way of thinking through a text that complements and completes a careful verse-by-verse study.

Outline

Brief Introduction to Levels (00:00–02:11)

We will attempt to summarize Romans 8 in three steps: 1. Summarize the main points of each section in a chapter in one sentence. 2. Identify the relationship between those main points. Which statements support or follow from the others? 3. Diagram those relationships to

Summarize the Main Points (02:11–08:06)

1. Romans 8:38–39: God’s love for us goes back into eternity and is unshakeable.
2. Romans 8:29–30: God’s love for us gives rise to an unbreakable chain of salvation.
3. Romans 8:28 (cf. 8:21): God’s unshakeable, unbreakable love causes him to work all things together for our good, namely our glory.
4. Romans 8:18–27: God is working all things for our good through our suffering and by our suffering.
5. Romans 8:15: All of this produces our full assurance that we are God’s children forever.
6. Romans 8:4–14: And this unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit in us, enabling us to kill sin and to love people.
7. Romans 8:1–3: These points (#3–6) are supported by the work of Christ on the cross, where God condemned our sin.

Summary of the Greatest Chapter (08:06–10:18)

The whole of Romans 8 is in the service of present holiness and love—a kind of love that lays down its life for the lost, and thus brings great glory to God (cf. Matthew 5:16).

Study Questions

1. Look back over all of Romans 8. What are the 5–8 high points in Paul’s argument? If you had to summarize what you’ve learned and share it with someone, which 5–8 points would you include.

2. Now, try to explain the relationship between those summary points. With each new point, how does it relate in Paul’s argument to what came before and what comes after?

3. Take some time to pray over all that you’ve learned. Offer these truths—specific truths from specific verses—back to God in adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is the final lab in a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Piper: “The whole of Romans 8 is in the service of holiness and love, a love that lays down its life for others.

Romans 8

The Greatest Chapter

October 7, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8
Topic: The Bible
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Pastor John introduces a new series focused on Romans 8. First, he spends a couple minutes helping you make the most of Look at the Book. Then, he gives you seven reasons why Romans 8 is the greatest chapter in all the Bible.

Outline

Introduction (00:00–01:04)

Make the Most of Look at the Book (01:04–03:14)

• Think of what John is doing (in Look at the Book) as illustration, not demonstration.
• Think of what you are doing as adaptation, not replication.

Key Principles (03:14–04:52)

1. Ask good questions.
2. Notice the relationships between sentences or phrases.
3. Consider the meaning of individual words.
4. See through the details of a passage to the bigger point.

Why ‘The Greatest Chapter’? (04:52–08:14)

1. There is no chapter that more deeply or fully deals with the brokenness of the physical universe, and how it got that way, and what will become of it.
2. There is no chapter that expresses with more clarity or power the infallible and unbreakable linkages in our salvation from predestination to glorification.
3. There is no other chapter that combines the intercession of the Holy Spirit in us, with the intercession of the Son for us, in the service of the never-failing love of God the Father over us.
4. There is no chapter that more explicitly or repeatedly juxtaposes the necessary horrors of our suffering with the utterly assured grandeur of our glory—that moves with such force through suffering to a crescendo of unshakable hope in the love of God.
5. There is no chapter that deals more directly and tenderly with our struggle to know that we are the children of God, opening to us the witness of the Holy Spirit.
6. There is no chapter with a more sustained litany of privileges, securities, and assurances to hold us firmly in the keeping love of God.
7. There is no chapter in which so many glorious truths are marshaled to help us obey only one implied command: Live by the Spirit, not the flesh, and so fulfill the whole law—that is, love.

Piper’s Prayer (08:14–09:08)

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• John Piper sermons on Romans 8
• The Solid Logic of Heaven Holds (chapel message)
• Five Points Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace (book)

Romans 8:1–3

Free in Christ Jesus

October 14, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:1–3
Topic: Identity in Christ
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Some phrases are used so often in the Bible that we need to stop and do the work of understanding what they really mean. Paul uses the phrase “in Christ Jesus” 47 times in his letters. Pastor John looks at several other passages to better understand these important words in Romans 8:1–2.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:38)

“In Christ Jesus” (00:38–02:32)

1. In Christ Jesus, there is now no condemnation (a legal verdict) (Romans 8:1).
2. In Christ Jesus, there is power for transformation (Romans 8:2).

Application: How Do You Get Into Christ? (02:32–08:52)

If these amazing things are true of people who are “in Christ Jesus,” how does someone experience that? How do we find ourselves in Christ?

1. 1 Corinthians 1:30—God does it. He unites us with Christ Jesus.
2. Romans 6:3–5—Baptism is a picture of being in Christ.
3. Colossians 2:12, Galatians 2:20—Faith is the most basic description of the experience of being united with Christ.
4. Ephesians 2:8; Romans 6:17—Faith is a gift from God.

Summary (08:52–10:18)

1. It is God who unites us with Christ Jesus.
2. God unites us to Christ by giving us the gift of faith.
3. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (legal verdict).
4. The Spirit empowers those in Christ Jesus to live differently (transformation).
5. All of this is pictured in the act of baptism.

Study Questions

1. From Romans 8:1–2, what does it mean to be in Christ Jesus? What benefits are there for those who are found in him? Can you see more than one?

2. Look at 1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 2:12, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 2:8, and Romans 6:17. What else do you learn about the phrase, “in Christ Jesus”?

3. Read Romans 6:3–5. What role does baptism play in our being found in Christ Jesus?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• The Stupendous Reality of Being “in Christ Jesus” (article)
• Christian Life As Union with Christ (interview)
• No Condemnation in Christ Jesus, One Body in Christ (sermon on Romans 8:1–2)

Romans 8:1–4

The Spirit Set You Free

October 16, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:1–4
Topic: Justification
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

The word “for” is one of the most common in Paul’s writing. His letters often hang on what that little connecting word means, and there are at least a couple of options in each case. In this lab, Pastor John explains the relationship between our justification and sanctification by focusing on those three letters: f-o-r.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–01:57)

1. In Christ Jesus, we have received the legal verdict: no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
2. In Christ Jesus, we have received power to live transformed lives (Romans 8:2).

Understanding the Grammar: For (01:57–04:32)

There are two potential ways Romans 8:2 is grounding (“For” or “Because”) Romans 8:1:

1. Cause—The second idea or activity produced the first. For example, “I am hungry for I skipped breakfast.”
2. Evidence—The second idea or activity proves the first. For example, “I am hungry for my stomach is growling.”

Defining the “For” (02:32–09:08)

So there are two option for the “for” at the beginning of Romans 8:2:

1. Cause—We are justified (“no condemnation”) because of our sanctification (“free in Christ Jesus”). Sanctification produces justification.
2. Evidence—It is clear we are justified because of our sanctification. Sanctification proves justification.

Here is the evidence from the context that the “for” is communicating evidence, and not cause or basis:

1. Romans 8:3—God condemned our sin in Jesus. He accomplished out justification by sending his Son, not by our righteousness.
2. Romans 8:4—My walking according to the Spirit (sanctification) is a result (“in order that”) of Jesus having died for my sins (justification).

Study Questions

1. How does Romans 8:2 relate to Romans 8:1? What does the “for” at the beginning of Romans 8:2 mean? What are the options?

2. What does Romans 8:1–4 tell us about the relationship between out justification (being set right with God) and our sanctification (being set free from sin in our lives)?

3. How would you explain the difference between a ground that is a cause or basis and a ground that is an evidence?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Three Ways Our Deeds Relate to Our Salvation (article)
• Does Justification-Centered Sanctification Lead to Antinomianism? (interview)
• The Liberating Law of the Spirit of Life (sermon on Romans 8:1–2)

Romans 8:3

God Sent His Own Son

October 21, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:3
Topic: The Death of Christ
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Romans 8:3 holds some of the most precious truths of Christianity. Paul explains how God remove our guilt and end our condemnation. Pastor John slows down to dig into the nitty-gritty details of our good news.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:45)

Observations (00:45–04:48)

1. Incarnation—Jesus was sent to take on flesh (cf. Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:4–7; Colossians 1:19; 2:9).
2. In these verses, Jesus is God (God’s own Son) and he is without sin (in the “likeness” of sin). These two things qualify him to be condemned in our place.
3. Substitution—Whose sin was condemned at the cross? Not Jesus’. It was our sin. Jesus died in our place.

What About the Law? (04:48–08:21)

It says God did what the law could not do. Why could the law not condemn sin?

1. The law is very effective at condemning sin.
2. The law always and only gets a verdict of guilty.
3. But God can condemn sin in the Son. Only God can get a not guilty verdict.
4. Jesus was not God’s plan B. The law was meant to lead to Christ.
5. In love, God rescued us from God.

Study Questions

1. From Romans 8:3, how did God remove our condemnation? How could that be enough to pay for all our sin?

2. In Romans 8:3, what could the law not do? Why could it not do that? What does it mean that the law was “weakened by the flesh”?

3. What is the significance of the word “likeness” in Romans 8:3? What is Paul trying to communicate about Jesus?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• What God Requires, Christ Provides (article)
• How Did God Make Evil Commit Suicide At the Cross? (interview)
• What the Law Could Not Do, God Did Sending Christ (sermon on Romans 8:3)

Romans 8:3–4

What the Law Could Not Do

October 28, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:3–4
Topic: Justification
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Purpose clauses (“in order that”) tell us why God does what he does. In this lab, Pastor John looks at why God gave us the law and why he sent his Son to die on the cross. All along, he asks how the Christian should relate to the law after Christ has come.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:00)

How should Christians relate to the law now that Christ has come?

Observations (01:00–03:38)

1. The righteous requirement of the law is love.
2. What the law could not do Christ did in order to fulfill the law. The law could not fulfill the law.
3. When Christ died, we were empowered to fulfill the law.
4. We fulfill the law when we walk not according to the flesh.

Christ’s Coming and Law-Keeping (03:38–06:31)

What does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus mean for the Christian’s relationship to God and his law?

Read Romans 7:4–6.

You also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.… We are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:4–6)

1. We died to the law and have been released from it.
2. We have a living relationship with Jesus and belong to him.
3. We belong to Jesus in order that we would bear fruit (love).
4. So, now, we serve God by the Spirit, not by law-keeping.
5. The law (“the written code”) cannot fulfill the law.

Conclusion (06:31–09:15)

1. What the law could not do, God did by sending his Son Jesus.
2. The law is fulfilled by dying to the law. Law-keeping can no longer be the means of law-fulfilling.
3. We fulfill the law by looking to Christ—his death and resurrection—and depending on his Spirit.

Study Questions

1. From Romans 8:3–4, what can the law not do? How does God accomplish what the law cannot do?

2. In Romans 8:3–4 and Romans 7:4–6, why did Christ die and rise again (“in order that”)?

3. What is the alternative to trying to fulfill the law by law-keeping?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• If You Want to Love, You Must Die to the Law (article)
• Are Christians Under the 10 Commandments? (interview)
• Why the Law Was Given (sermon)

Romans 8:3–4

Love Fulfills the Law

October 23, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:3–4 and Romans 13:8–10
Topic: Sanctification & Growth
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Romans 8:3–4 says Christ died so that the law would be fulfilled in us. What does it mean for the law to be fulfilled? And how is it fulfilled in us? In this lab, John Piper tackles these two critical questions.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:33)

Two questions:

1. How is the righteous requirement of the law fulfilled?
2. What is the righteous requirement of the law?

How Is the Law Fulfilled? (02:33–03:42)

This fulfillment is not talking about the perfect, legal fulfillment of all that the law requires of us that is—the righteousness that is imputed to us (Romans 5:18–19). The fulfillment in Romans 8:4 is “in us,” not “for us.” This fulfillment happens in us as we walk by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What Is the Requirement of the Law? (03:42–06:14)

The righteous requirement of the law is love, which fulfills the whole law.

Read Romans 13:8–10:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

1. The law is summed up in love (Romans 13:9).
2. That summary of the law (love) fulfills the law when it is lived out in the life of the believer (Romans 13:8).
3. Confirmation: Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

Application (06:14–08:46)

1. In Romans 8:3, God provides his Son so that we would not be condemned. Because of him, we are declared holy (justification).
2. In Romans 8:4, God provides the Spirit to change us and make us more holy—that is, more loving (sanctification).
3. The critical, unchangeable order of these two works of God means: “The only sin that can be defeated in your life by the power of the Spirit is a forgiven sin.”

Study Questions

1. From Romans 8:3–4, how is the law fulfilled? Is there more than way it is fulfilled?

2. In Romans 8:4, why does Paul say the law is fulfilled “in” us? What are other options he might have used instead? Why “in” here?

3. Look at Romans 13:8–10. How do those verses help us define “the righteous requirement of the law” (Romans 8:4)?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Love That Will Complete You (article)
• Are Christians Called to Obey the Law? (interview)
• What Does It Mean to Fulfill the Law in Romans 8:3–4 (sermon on Romans 8:3–4)

Romans 8:5–6

Set Your Mind on the Spirit

October 30, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:5–6
Topic: The Power & Effects of Sin
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

The Bible often presents two ways for us to live. In Romans 8:5–6, Paul describes two different lives, two different mindsets, and two different conditions. This lab carefully traces the serious differences in order to cause us to look to Christ.

Outline

Recap/Introduction (00:00–01:34)

What the law could not do, God did. He did two things:

1. He condemned our sin in Christ’s body, so that we are rendered not guilty.
2. He fulfills the law (“the righteous requirement of the law”) in us by the Spirit.

Romans 8:5: Where Is Your Mind? (01:34–04:49)

1. A life lived “according” to the flesh produces a mind “set on” (given over to, preferring, enjoying, etc.) the flesh. And it is the same with a life lived according to the Spirit (Romans 8:5).
2. The flesh is anything minus (without) God, or anything not done in reliance on him or for his glory (cf. Matthew 16:23).
3. The things of God/the Spirit are anything in life seen in relationship to God—to their beginning with God, being sustained by God, and existing for the glory of God.

Romans 8:6: Why (“For”) Is Your Mind? (04:49–07:49)

1. To set the mind on the things of the flesh is to reveal the presence of the power of death (Romans 8:6).
2. To set the mind on the things of the Spirit is to reveal the presence of the power of life.

1. The life lived according to the flesh inevitably produces a mind given over to the things of the flesh, because it reveals the presence of death (deadness to God and to spiritual things). Therefore, that mind and life default to the things of the flesh.
2. The life lived according to the Spirit inevitably enjoys/prefers/focuses on the things of God or the Spirit, because it reveals the presence of life and peace (an awakening to God and to spiritual things).

Summary (07:49–08:47)

1. The law could not fulfill the law (it could not cancel our sin or produce love) (Romans 8:3–4).
2. Because the flesh is the presence of death in us (Romans 8:6).
3. That death is a deadness to the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:6).
4. Therefore, we are left loving and preferring the things of the flesh (Romans 8:5).

Study Questions

1. What might it mean to set your mind on something (the things of the flesh or on the things of the Spirit)? What are some synonyms for “set one’s mind on”?

2. Explain the “For” at the beginning of Romans 8:6. How is verse 6 grounding (“for” or “because”) Romans 8:5?

3. In your own words, summarize the major things you have learned from Romans 8:3–6 so far in the series.

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• How to Get Your Mind Back on Track (article)
• How Do We Walk by the Spirit? (interview)
• How the Spirit Does What the Law Could Not Do (sermon)

Romans 8:7–8

The Mind Against God Is Dead

November 4, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:7–8
Topic: The Power & Effects of Sin
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Romans 8:5–8 gets down to the bottom of our sin, untangling the reasons we rebel against God. Pastor John highlights the meaning of two “for” statements to show the relationship between sin, hostility to God, death, and worldliness.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:09)

Observations (01:09–06:08)

1. The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God (Romans 8:7). That is, we resist God, don’t like him. We prefer ourselves to God.
2. We are all hostile to God by nature.
3. Our hostility to God expresses itself in an unwillingness to submit to him and his word.
4. Apart from the saving work of the Holy Spirit, people only displease God. They are in bondage to self.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Summary (06:08–08:28)

1. We are all born in the flesh. That is our nature.
2. Therefore, we have an inability to please God (because we were born in bondage to sin).
3. That inability expresses itself in rebellion against God.
4. That rebellion is revealed by a deadness to spiritual things—that is, to the things of God.
5. That deadness produces a mind focused on the things of the flesh—that is, on the world minus God.

Study Questions

1. Does the “For” at the beginning of Romans 8:7 communicate cause or evidence for what comes before? What about the “for” in the middle of the verse?

2. Read 1 Corinthians 2:14. How does that verse help you understand what Paul is saying in Romans 8:7–8?

3. Take these four ideas in Romans 8:5–8, and—using Paul’s argument—describe how they relate to one another: sin, hostility to God, death, and worldliness (setting on our minds on the things of the flesh).

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Whatever Is Not from Faith Is Sin—Really? (article)
• How Should I Think About My Failures? (interview)
• Why and How We Walk According to the Spirit (sermon on Romans 8:5–9)

Romans 8:9

You Are Not Your Own

November 11, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:9
Topic: Identity in Christ
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

What does it mean to belong to Jesus? As we study a passage slowly verse by verse, sometimes we need to step back and look for help from other places in the Bible. There are other verses that will help us see more in the one before us.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:57)

Survey of the New Testament (00:57–03:55)

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

“For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.” (1 Corinthians 7:22–23)

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:29)

“All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23)

“ “In Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:22–23)

We Belong to Jesus (03:55–06:29)

What does it mean that we belong to Jesus?

1. We can make God look glorious. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)
2. We are not slaves of anyone or anything. (1 Corinthians 7:22–23)
3. We are dead to ruling and damning passions. (Galatians 5:24)
4. We are heirs of Abraham and all the promises God made to him. (Galatians 3:29)
5. All things are ours in Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:21–23)
6. We will be raised from the dead with a resurrection body. (1 Corinthians 15:22–23)

Study Questions

1. Before going to look at other passages, try to describe what it means that we belong to Jesus. How would you describe what it means to someone who doesn’t understand?

2. Then, read 1 Corinthians 3:21–23; 6:19–20; 7:22–23; and 15:22–23, and Galatians 3:29 and 5:24. What do these parallel passages tell us about what it means to belong to Jesus? Summarize the point of each verse as it relates to our belonging to him.

3. Can you think of other verses that help us understand what it means to belong to Christ? How would you find them? Are there other ways the Bible talks about our belonging to him?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• We Are Not Our Own: On God, Brittany Maynard, and Physician-Assisted Suicide (article)
• What’s the Main Reason Jesus Died? (interview)
• You Were Bought with a Price: Glorify God with Your Bodies (sermon on 1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

Romans 8:9

The Spirit Lives in You

November 6, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:9
Topic: The Holy Spirit
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Jesus bought us with his death and then sealed us with his Spirit. In this lab, John Piper unfolds the glory of the Trinity in our salvation and the role of the Spirit in showing that we belong to Jesus.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:45)

If the Spirit Lives in You (00:45–03:28)

1. To be in the flesh is to be in the sway and control of the flesh.
2. To be in the Spirit is to be in the sway and control of the Spirit.
3. The way we come under the sway of the Spirit is that the Spirit comes and lives in us (“if the Spirit dwells in you”).
4. If the Spirit lives in you, you are freed from the flesh and all its consequences.

Belonging to Jesus (03:28–07:03)

Paul shifts from “the Spirit of God” to “the Spirit on Christ,” because he wants to highlight what it means to belong to Jesus.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

1. You have the Spirit of God or you do not. (Romans 8:9)
2. If you do not have the Spirit of God, you do not have the Spirit of Christ (because it is the same Spirit).
3. And if you do not have the Spirit of Christ, you do not belong to him.
4. Therefore, the indwelling Spirit is the seal of belonging to Christ (Romans 8:9), and that belonging was owing to a purchase (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
5. And this is confirmed in Romans 8:1–4, where Jesus dies in my place in order that I might walk according to the Spirit. The presence of the Spirit in my life was bought on the cross.

Summary (07:03–08:21)

1. We belong to Christ because we have been purchased by his death.
2. Therefore, we have the Spirit of God—which is the Spirit of Christ—living in us.
3. Therefore, we are under the sway of the life-giving and sanctifying Spirit and walk according to the Spirit.

Study Questions

1. Explain the “if” clause in the first half of Romans 8:9 in your own words. If what, then what?

2. Read 1 Corinthians 6:19–20. How does that help you understand what it means to belong to Jesus? Do you see any connections with what we have studied in Romans 8 so far?

3. Why might Paul shift from “the Spirit of God” to “the Spirit of Christ” within the same verse?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• How to Be Filled With The Spirit (article)
• Am I Saved? (interview)
• Christian, Know Whose You Are: You Have the Spirit of Christ (sermon on Romans 8:7–11)

Romans 8:10–11

The Spirit in You Is Life

November 13, 2014
by John Piper
Topic: The Holy Spirit
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Even though we’ve been saved by Jesus, we all still die. What does it mean for us that the Spirit lives in us? What does it mean for our fight against sin, our relationship to Jesus, and our death?

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:34)

Life and Death for the Believer (00:34–06:31)

1. If the Spirit is in you, Christ himself is in you. (Romans 8:10, cf. John 14:16–18)
2. Your body will still die because of sin. We have been saved from sin, but the effects of sin still inflict us. (Romans 8:10)
3. But the Spirit lives in you now because of the righteousness of Christ. (Romans 8:10, cf. 8:1–4)

Effects of the Spirit (06:31–08:34)

1. The Spirit in you gives you victory over sin. (Romans 8:9)
2. If the Spirit is in you, you belong to Jesus. (Romans 8:9)
3. The Spirit in you will raise you from the dead. (Romans 8:11)

Study Questions

1. Based on Romans 8:10, how do those who are in Jesus experience life and death?

2. Whose righteousness is Paul referring to at the end of Romans 8:10? How do you know?

3. From Romans 8:9–11, sum up three benefits of having God’s Spirit living in us.

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• By What Death Will You Glorify God? (article)
• Facing Death Faithfully (interview)
• Christian, Know Whose You Are: You Have the Spirit of Christ (sermon on Romans 8:7–11)

Romans 8:12–13

Put Sin to Death

November 27, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:12–13
Topic: Killing Sin
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Paul warns us about letting sin linger in our lives, so how do we kill sin? Beginning with Romans 8, John Piper walks through several passages to explain the weapons God has given us to defeat sin and its deception.

Outline

Introduction (00:00–00:41)

Why We Kill Sin (00:41–02:13)

1. What are “the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13)? They happen when we present our bodies to sin (Romans 6:12–13).
2. “Put to death the deeds of the body.” That is, kill the sin that is about to take hold of the body and make it an instrument for unrighteouesness.

How We Kill Sin: By the Spirit (02:13–05:46)

1. We kill sin “by the Spirit.” (Romans 8:13)
2. The only weapon in the armor of God is the word of God (Ephesians 6:16–17). So, we kill sin by the Spirit by wielding the word against temptation.
3. We kill sin by the Spirit by hearing the word with faith (Galatians 3:5). We defeat sin when we trust that God’s word holds a superior satisfaction.
4. We kill sin through sanctification “by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

Killing Sin: An Example (05:46–07:20)

Read Hebrews 13:5–6 (about the love of money).

1. “Keep your life free from the love of money.” (Hebrews 13:5)
2. Because God says (God’s word), “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Trust God’s promises over the promises money makes.
3. Don’t love money. Instead, love God’s promises and satisfied in them.

Summary (07:20–08:14)

1. “If you live according to the flesh, you will die.” (Romans 8:13)
2. “But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)
3. Eternal life is attained along the path of warfare, not of making peace with our sin.
4. This fight is fought by the Spirit, not in our strength.
5. We trust in the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, which satisfies us more than anything the deeds of the flesh can give us.

Study Questions

1. What are the deeds of the body? After defining them yourself, look at Romans 6:12–13 and improve your definition.

2. How do we kill sin? Read Ephesians 6:16–17, Galatians 3:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, and Hebrews 13:5 for help.

3. What does it mean to kill sin “by the Spirit”?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Jesus Is Not Your Sin-Manager (article)
• What Does It Mean to ‘Kill Sin by the Spirit’? (interview)
• How to Kill Sin, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 (sermons on Romans 8:10–17)

Romans 8:12–13

Sin Will Kill You

November 25, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:12–13
Topic: Killing Sin
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Sin will kill you. God gives warnings in the Bible, and sometimes they seem to call into question our security in Christ. How should we read the Bible’s warnings? And what role do they play in our salvation? John Piper answers in this lab.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:59)

The Debt We Do Owe (00:59–04:06)

1. We owe the flesh nothing (Romans 8:12). It has done nothing but curse and enslave us.
2. But we do owe the Spirit everything (Romans 8:12). The Spirit overcame the power of the flesh and brought us to life.
3. Why? Because if we live to satisfy the flesh, we will die. (Romans 8:13)
4. This death is not a physical death, because everyone dies physically. This is a spiritual death.

Real Warning, Real Security (04:06–07:41)

1. The justified are secure. They will be glorified. No one drops out in God’s plan for salvation. (Romans 8:28–30)
2. Therefore, those who really are justified, who have been sealed by the Spirit, will most certainly put to death the deeds of the body. (Romans 8:13)
3. Paul is aiming to produce urgency and intentionality in the Christian life, specifically in fighting sin.

Study Questions

1. Why are we not debtors to the flesh? In what way are we debtors to the Spirit?

2. Read Romans 8:28–30. How do these verses affect how you understand the warning in Romans 8:13?

3. Paul is writing to believers (“brothers”), so is he saying that true Christians can in fact fall away and be sentenced to hell (“you will die”)?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Some Proven Weapons in the Fight for Holiness (article)
• A Prayer for Those Stuck in Sin (interview)
• How to Kill Sin, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 (sermons on Romans 8:10–17)

Romans 8:14

The Children of God

December 2, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:14
Topic: Sonship (Adoption by God)
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

The Bible often argues in “if/then” statements, and the context will help us clarify exactly what the conditions are. In this lab, John Piper shows us where to find assurance that we are the children of God.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:44)

Review Romans 8:12–13 (00:44–03:11)

1. We do not owe the flesh anything. It’s done nothing but harm and ruin us. We would be foolish to look to it for happiness. (Romans 8:12)
2. If you live to the flesh, you will die a forever death (not just a physical death). (Romans 8:13).
3. If by the Spirit you kill sin, you will live forever. (Romans 8:13)
4. You really do put sin to death, but you do it by the power of God—that is, by the Spirit. (Romans 8:13)

The Sons of God (03:11–06:00)

1. All who are led by the Spirit (Romans 8:13) reveal that they are the true sons of God. IF you are being led by the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13), THEN you are a child of God. (Romans 8:14)
2. To be led by the Spirit (in this specific passage) is to be led into war against our sin. (Romans 8:13)
3. Paul’s point in these verses is to encourage us to confront and conquer sin in our lives by the Spirit in order to enjoy greater assurance that we are God’s children.

Children Never Die (06:00–07:37)

1. The children of God do not die. They inherit the estate of God. (Romans 8:17)
2. The condition in Romans 8:17 is the same as in Romans 8:13. Putting sin to death is hard, and it hurts, but it brings joy and glory in the end.

Study Questions

1. Based on Romans 8:14, how do we know if we are children of God? Restate the conditional statement in your own words.

2. What might it mean to “be led by the Spirit”? Does the immediate context in Romans 8 help you answer that question?

3. Read Romans 8:12–17. What are the benefits of being a child (son) of God?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• The Strange and Wonderful Miracle of Feeling Loved by God (article)
• Childlike, Not Childish (interview)
• The Spirit-Led Are the Sons of God (sermon on Romans 8:14)

Romans 8:15

Not Slavery, But Adoption

December 4, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:15
Topic: Sonship (Adoption by God)
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Adoption is not unique to Christianity, but it is a much more complex and glorious reality in the context of God’s love for us in the gospel. In this lab, John Piper presses in on several key words to show what it means for God to be a Father.

Outline

Prayer/Review (00:00–00:56)

Slavery or Adoption (00:56–03:03)

Question: Why do those who are led by the Spirit of God prove they are children of God (“For”)?

Answer: Because God does not give us a spirit of slavery, but of adoption. When he makes us his, it’s not as slaves, but as children.

Application (03:03–07:09)

1. We may wish that slavery never existed as an illustration, but it does still give God an opportunity to show us how he relates us (or how he does not).
2. The solution to fear in this life is to have a Heavenly Father.
3. We “cry” to this Father, meaning we throw ourselves on him in dependence.
4. We cry “Abba”, a personal and affectionate name. This describes the kind of relationship we have with God through Christ.
5. We wage warfare against sin (Romans 8:13) not from fear, but out of love for our Father (Romans 8:14).

Study Questions

1. Explain the “For” at the beginning of Romans 8:15. How is verse 15 grounding or explaining what comes before?

2. Describe the difference between a god who rules through slavery and One who rules as a Father. What distinctions is Paul making between slavery and adoption?

3. Why did Paul use the word for “cry” in Romans 8:15? What other words could he have used?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Adoption Is Bigger Than You Think (article)
• We Pray to a Father (interview)
• Predestined for Adoption to the Praise of His Glory (sermon)

Romans 8:16

The Witness of the Spirit

December 9, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:16
Topic: The Holy Spirit
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

The Holy Spirit has a massive role in Romans 8, and in the rest of the Bible, but he is often overlooked. In this lab, John Piper highlights the work of the Holy Spirit, specifically three ways he testifies that we are the children of God.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:37)

Three Ways the Spirit Testifies (00:37–08:51)

God has given us a Spirit of adoption, not a spirit of slavery (Romans 8:15). Paul puts a name on that Spirit in Romans 8:16.

1. The first way the Spirit testifies that you are a child of God is a heartfelt cry to a Father (Romans 8:15).
2. The second way the Spirit testifies that you are a child of God is a hatred in our hearts for our sin and a desire to kill it (Romans 8:13).
3. The third way the Spirit testifies that you are a child of God is by highlighting the centrality and sufficiency of Jesus (John 15:26).

Study Questions

1. What does “testify” mean? Step back and define the work of testifying before you narrow in specifically on how the Spirit testifies. What’s another example of testifying, and how does it work?

2. Looking back on the last few verses in Romans 8, how does the Spirit testify that we are children of God? What specific ways does he work to show that we are God’s?

3. Read John 15:26. Does that help you define the Spirit’s work in Romans 8? Reread Romans 8:1–4. Do you read it differently after reading John 15:26?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit this page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• What’s Better Than Jesus Beside You (article)
• How Does the Spirit Testify I’m Saved? (interview)
• Four Sermons on the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:17

Heirs of God

December 11, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:17
Topic: Sonship (Adoption by God)
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Our adoption as sons and daughters of God is a deep and glorious blessing. In this lab, drawing on several other texts, John Piper asks what it means that we will be glorified with Christ and share in his inheritance.

Outline

Prayer/Review (00:00–00:45)

Who Are the Children of God? (00:45–02:08)

What is the evidence that we are, in fact, children of God?

1. We are not debtors to the flesh to live according to the flesh (Romans 8:12).
2. We put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit (Romans 8:13).
3. We are led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14).
4. We cry to God in humble dependence, as with a Father (Romans 8:15).

The Benefits of Being a Child of God (02:08–09:19)

1. We will be glorified with Christ—made glorious. (Romans 8:17; cf. Romans 8:28–30; Matthew 13:43)
2. We will be heirs with Christ of all things. (Romans 8:17, cf. Romans 4:13; 1 Corinthians 3:21–23)
3. We will suffer with Christ., experiencing all kinds of hardship and pain in this life. (Romans 8:14, cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17)

Study Questions

1. What does it mean for us to be heirs of God? Can you think of other verses that might help someone understand our inheritance with Christ?

2. Read Romans 8:28–30 and Matthew 13:43. How does this help you define what it means that we will be glorified with Christ?

3. Paul says we will be heirs if we suffer with Christ. Does that mean everyone must suffer in order to be saved? And what kind of suffering is he talking about?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Is My Suffering Meaningless? (article)
• Do My Sufferings Complete Christ’s? (interview)
• Children, Heirs, and Fellow Sufferers (sermon on Romans 8:17)

Romans 8:18–21

The Freedom of the Glory of the Children of God

January 13, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:18–21
Topic: Suffering
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Suffering might be the hardest, most confusing reality in the Christian life. In this lab, John Piper uncovers deep and durable truths that will help you suffer well. God made and saves the world in the way he did in to make Christ the center of the universe.

Outline

Prayer (00:00–00:34)

Suffering and Glory (00:34–03:55)

1. We will be glorified with Christ if we suffer with him. (Romans 8:17)
2. Paul wants believers to know that they will (all) suffer in this life. (Romans 8:18)
3. We will not understand our suffering without understanding what is waiting for us in eternity. (Romans 8:18).
4. The glory that will be revealed will be Christ’s glory, and it will be our glory. (Romans 8:18)

Futility and Freedom (03:55–07:02)

1. We often think we are the ones waiting to see the earth made new, but it is also the reverse. The creation is longing to enter into the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:19)
2. God subjected the creation to futility because of sin, but he did it in hope. (Romans 8:20)
3. God’s hope for the creation is that it will be set free from corruption and enter into the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)

Why Save This Way? (07:02–08:56)

1. We, the children of God, are being glorified with Christ. Meaning, Christ is glorified as we are redeemed and glorified with him. (Romans 8:17)
2. Christ saves and glorifies us through his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his own glorification. He died, rose, and reigns to be the highest point of all of history and all of creation.
3. The suffering, longing, and glory of redemption is God’s way of making Christ the center of the universe.

Study Questions

1. Is the glory “to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18) a glory that we will see or a glory that we ourselves will be?

2. In Romans 8:20, who subjected the creation to futility? Why did he do that?

3. Read Romans 8:18–21. Who is waiting/hoping/watching for whom in these verses? How do the creation and the redeemed children of God relate to one another?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• What’s the Point of All this Futility? (article)
• The Doctrine of Suffering (interview with David Platt)
• Subjected to Futility in Hope, Part 1 & Part 2 (sermons on Romans 8:18–21)

Romans 8:22–25

The Redemption of Our Bodies

January 15, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:22–25
Topic: Suffering
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Knowing that the whole creation, including us, is suffering because of the corruption of sin, what hope can we have that things will get better? In this lab, John Piper talks about the tensions we feel as we strive to believe God’s promises while sometimes suffering greatly.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:51)

Birth Pains, Not Death Pains (00:51–05:14)

1. The creation will be freed into the glory of the redeemed children of God. (Romans 8:19–21)
2. The creation is groaning in birth pains, not death pains. (Romans 8:22, cf. Mark 13:8)
3. Not only the creation groans, but believers suffer now, as well, until we (including our bodies) are fully redeemed and made new. (Romans 8:23)

Present Pain, Future Hope (05:14–08:31)

1. There is a tension in these verses between the already of our salvation (our hope for the future) and the not-yet of our salvation (our pain in the present). (Romans 8:23)
2. We are the “firstfruits” (Romans 8:23). The harvest has begun, but it is not yet complete.
3. Yes, we groan now, but wait “eagerly” (Romans 8:23) for the redemption that is to come.
4. We are adopted (Romans 8:15), but we have not experienced our adoption fully yet (Romans 8:23).
5. The hope we have is real, but it not a hope we can see. That is, the world we see around us does not confirm our hope. (Romans 8:24–25)
6. Paul is pleading with Christians to be patient and endure suffering in this life so that they might be glorified with Christ. (Romans 8:17–25; cf. Romans 2:7)

Suffering and the Prosperity Gospel (08:31–09:52)

The not-yet of our salvation in these verses is the great corrective to the prosperity gospel. We wait and suffer in the pains of childbirth, all the while having great hope in our sovereign purposes of God. We know that these bodies will be redeemed.

Study Questions

1. Why would Paul describe suffering in this world as birth pains in Romans 8:22?

2. From Romans 8:22–25, describe the tensions between the already aspects of our salvation and the not-yet aspects. What is already true of us in Christ? What are we still waiting for?

3. What do the truths in Romans 8:22–25 mean for the prosperity gospel? Drawing on these verses, how would you talk to someone whose faith in God gospel is undone by suffering or evil in this life?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Boomers’ Bodies—And Yours (article)
• Facing Death Faithfully (interview)
• Our Hope: The Redemption of Our Bodies (sermon on Romans 8:22–25)

Romans 8:26–27

The Spirit Helps Us in Our Weakness

January 20, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:26–27
Topic: The Holy Spirit
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

These two verses are two of the hardest in Romans 8. John Piper asks two important questions to uncover how the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. He shows how God—all three persons—is active in helping and keeping us through the hardest things in life.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:41)

Who Does the Groaning? (00:41–06:03)

1. These groanings are not the Holy Spirit’s, but something he works in us. (Romans 8:26)
2. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need to groan. We don’t know what to pray, but he knows exactly what to pray for. (Romans 8:26)
3. God “searches hearts” (Romans 8:27). He is not searching the mind of the Spirit, but our hearts. Our hearts are doing the groaning as the Holy Spirit stirs them.
4. The previous verses say that we, who have the Holy Spirit, “groan” (Romans 8:23).
5. Again in the context, the Holy Spirit testifies with our Spirit when we cry “Abba Father!” (Romans 8:15–16).

For what Does the Holy Spirit Pray? (06:03–09:51)

1. Our “weakness” (Romans 8:26) at least includes physical pain and suffering. (cf. Galatian 4:13; 1 Timothy 5:23; Romans 8:23)
2. Should we pray for deliverance or endurance? For healing or patience while you die? “We do not know what to pray for as we ought …” (Romans 8:26).
3. So in our weakness we groan by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through them the Holy Spirit intercedes before the Father. (Romans 8:26–27)
4. The will of God in everything is for our good. The Spirit knows what to pray for us in every circumstance to bring about Romans 8:28.

Study Questions

1. Who does the groaning in Romans 8:26?

2. What kind of weakness is Paul describing here in Romans 8:26? What kinds of weakness fit in this verse?

3. Looking at the context in Romans 8. Can you say anything about “the will of God” (Romans 8:27)? Is there anything that suggests what God’s will for you is?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• When We Don’t Want to Wait (article)
• The Holy Spirit: Jesus’s Closest Companion (interview with Sinclair Feruson)
• The Spirit Helps Us in Our Weakness, Part 1 and Part 2 (sermons on Romans 8:26–27)

Romans 8:28, Part 1

All Things Work Together for Good

January 22, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:28
Topic: The Sovereignty of God
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Romans 8:28 is one of the most important and most treasured verses and promises in the Bible. In this lab, John Piper begins a series of three labs pulling apart the critical pieces in these twenty-four words for understanding and embracing our sovereign and good God.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:48)

What Does ‘Good’ Mean? (01:48–05:30)

“We do not know what to pray for as we ought …” (Romans 8:26). But there is something we do know (Romans 8:28). What do we know? We know that all things work together for good for those who love God. (Romans 8:28)

1. What does “good” mean? First, “good” is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29). We will be like him one day in sinlessness and purity.
2. Second, being conformed to him, we will be in a position to see and praise him, the one who goes before us and is lifted above us. (Romans 8:29)
3. The last good of Romans 8:28 is our final glorification. (Romans 8:30)

What Are the ‘All Things’? (05:30–11:03)

1. All things—positive or negative, painful or pleasurable—are by his design, and sustained by him, and for his glory. (Romans 11:36)
2. God will work all things according to the counsel of his will, and his will is for our good. (Ephesians 1:11–12, cf. Romans 8:28)
3. Everything we need in this life will be ours, including painful things that are necessary to bring us to glory. (Romans 8:31–34)
4. Even death is yours. Death itself will serve our ultimate, lasting death. (1 Corinthians 3:21–23)
5. All our sufferings will serve our future glory. (Romans 8:18–22)
6. All of our groaning will work together for our good (Romans 8:23–25). At least one way this happens is that suffering produces hope (Romans 5:3–5).

Study Questions

1. Try to define “good” in Romans 8:28. Clearly, it does not mean comfort or ease or health or prosperity. So what does it mean here?

2. When Paul says “all things,” what kinds of things does he have in mind?

3. Read Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 3:21–23, and Romans 5:3–5. Do those verses change or shape the way you read Romans 8:28? If so, in what ways?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Life’s Deepest Pains for Your Greatest Pleasure (article)
• Finding Joy When Life Hurts Most (interview)
• All Things for Good, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 (sermons on Romans 8:28)

Romans 8:28, Part 2

Do You Love God?

January 27, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:28
Topic: Faith
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

The Bible makes promises to those who love God. But how do we know if we do? In this lab, John Piper digs into the relationship between saving faith and loving God. He goes on to show why and how God works all things for good for those who love him.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:59)

All Who Believe God Love God (00:59–04:21)

1. “Those who love God” must be all Christians because Romans 8:29 assumes they’re all believers (all are foreknown, predestined, etc.).
2. This same idea is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 2:9–10, where Paul is clearly talking about all Christians, not some smaller group of them.
3. The evidence that you’ve been known (or foreknown) by God is that you love God. (1 Corinthians 8:3)
4. Anyone who does not love God is to be accursed. (1 Corinthians 16:22)

Why ‘Love’ and Not ‘Trust’? (04:21–09:25)

1. The Holy Spirit delivers us from hostility to God, and replaces it with love (or a desire to please him). (Romans 8:7–8)
2. We cry, “Abba! Father!” by the Holy Spirit. It is a heartfelt cry of affection and adoration, not indifference. (Romans 8:15)
3. God’s glory is so precious to us that we can consider all our suffering not worth comparing with it (Romans 8:18). How could someone say that if they did not love God?
4. Therefore, all who truly trust God do love him—desire him, delight in him, and treasure him above all else. And all who truly love God trust him.
5. What does it mean for God to work all together for the good of those who love him? The greatest good is us being swept up into God—being conformed to the image of his Son and sharing in his glory. (Romans 8:28–30)

Study Questions

1. Who are “those who love God” (Romans 8:28)? Why does Paul use ‘love’ here, and not trust or believe or follow?

2. Read back through Romans 8. Note all the evidence that believers in God also love God.

3. How does Romans 8:29–30 relate to Romans 8:28? Do you see a connection between the promise of 8:28 and the promise of 8:29–30?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• The Story of Ian & Larissa (article)
• Do I Love God or Just Love Loving Him? (interview)
• All Things for Good, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 (sermons on Romans 8:28)

Romans 8:28, Part 3

Called According to God’s Purpose

January 29, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:28 and 1 Corinthians 1:22–24
Topic: Assurance of Salvation
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

When God calls a man or woman, what happens? In this lab, the third of three labs focused on Romans 8:28, John Piper draws in several other verses to try and understand the call of God. He explains why those who love God should rest secure in his sovereign care.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:24)

The Call of God (01:24–06:08)

1. “… those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified …” (Romans 8:30). Not some, but all who are justified are also called.
2. The only way one can be justified is by faith. (Romans 3:28)
3. The call in Romans 8:28 and 8:30 must, therefore, be more than the preaching of the gospel because not everyone who hears believes and is justified.
4. The general call is the preaching of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:23), but there is a call within the general call (1 Corinthians 1:24). The specific call creates sight—or saving, justifying faith.
5. Again, the call of God creates sight. It is the effectual work of God in our hearts to awaken some through preaching. (2 Corinthians 4:6, cf. Romans 4:17)

The Love of God (06:08–07:12)

1. We must love God (our side of the equation), and God calls us (God’s side of the equation). (Romans 8:28–30)
2. Your faith—filled with love for God—was created by God’s call.
3. Therefore, your love for God was not created by you, and it is not sustained by you. It was created and is sustained by God.

The Purpose of God (07:12–09:02)

1. The call accords with a predestination, and that predestination is unto our conformity to the Son. (Romans 8:29)
2. That conformity to the Son eventually leads to our glorification with him. (Romans 8:30)
3. God’s purpose in our salvation is an eternal purpose (“before the ages began”), and it accords with his calling. (2 Timothy 1:9)
4. Therefore, God’s calling (Romans 8:28, 30) accords with the purpose of election (Romans 9:11). Behind our calling is a predestination, and behind our predestination is an election.

Summary (09:02–09:39)

Be encouraged and assured. If you love God, you have at least two reasons to rest secure that God is working all things for your good.

1. God called us sovereignly to himself and created our faith in and love for him.
2. This call itself is rooted in an eternal purpose to bring us into conformity with his Son and to bring us to glory. It cannot fail.

Study Questions

1. Read through Romans 8:28–30. Write down everything you learn about the call of God in these verses.

2. Read 1 Corinthians 1:22–24. How do those verses help you understand the call of God? When this call occurs, what happens? Do you see two different calls happening in this passage?

3. Look back over Romans 8:28–30. Try to define the relationship between God’s call on your life and your love for God. How do those two actions—one God’s and one ours—relate to each other?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• How to Confirm Your Call and Election (article)
• Am I Saved? (interview)
• Called According to His Purpose (sermon on Romans 8:28)

Romans 8:29

Conformed to the Image of Christ

February 5, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 1:15–16, and Romans 8:29
Topic: Sanctification & Growth
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

God’s purpose in creation and redemption is to have a family of children conformed to the image of his Son. But how does that happen in me? In this lab, Pastor John explains the ways in which we are made like Jesus.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:30)

Predestined to Adoption and Conformity (01:30–05:02)

1. God’s plan is to have a vast family (“the firstborn among many brothers”) (Romans 8:29). Predestination is God’s purpose to have many children—many sons and daughters. (Ephesians 1:3–5)
2. Those who experience the amazing privilege of being in God’s family are being conformed into the image of Christ, God’s Son. (Romans 8:29)
3. Jesus himself is the image of God (Colossians 1:15–16). Therefore, we are being made into images of the image of the Father.

The Way We Are Changed (05:02–09:20)

1. To be conformed into the image of the Son is to be glorified. The glory we get in glorification is the glory of the Son. (Romans 8:29–30, cf. Romans 8:17)
2. This glory is moral and spiritual (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our bodies get older and weaker, so this growth in glory cannot be physical. We are, however, being transformed day by day within.
3. And one day, our bodies will be transformed physically to be like the glorious body of Jesus. (Philippians 3:20–21)
4. Our transformation will be made complete at the second coming, when we see Jesus and never sin again. (1 John 3:2)

Christ, the Goal and End of Everything (09:20–11:08)

1. All this happens so that Christ would be “the firstborn of many” (Romans 8:29). That does not diminish Christ; it exalts him.
2. As we are conformed to him, he is made the standard of all beauty, excellence, and purity.
3. So, the purpose of the universe is to have a vast family of children conformed to Christ, which makes him the center of all things and the meaning of creation.

Study Questions

1. Read Ephesians 1:3–5. How does this help you understand and explain predestination in Romans 8:29?

2. Read 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Philippians 3:20–21. In what ways are we being conformed to Christ? Is it moral, spiritual, or physical?

3. Explain how us being conformed to Christ exalts Christ. Why does that not diminish him in any way? How does our being conformed to Christ fit into God’s main purpose in creation and redemption?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Believer, Become What You Are (article)
• The Transforming Power of Christ’s Glory (interview)
• Glorification: Conformed to Christ for the Supremacy of Christ (sermon on Romans 8:28–30)

Romans 8:29

Foreknown by God

February 3, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:29
Topic: The Doctrines of Grace / Calvinism
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

The phrase “foreknown by God” has caused significant controversy and conflict within Christianity. Did God simply know ahead of time that we would believe, or did he choose who would believe? In this lab, John Piper explains as he tackles the next verse in Romans 8.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:53)

Two Options For ‘Foreknown’ (01:53–05:35)

Option #1: God foresaw our self-determined faith. We remain the decisive cause of our salvation. God responds to our decision to believe.
Option #2: God chose us—not on the basis of foreseen faith, but on the basis of nothing in us. He called us, and the call itself creates the faith for which it calls.

‘Known’ in the Bible (05:35–09:25)

1. Being known by God awakens and enables our love for God (1 Corinthians 8:3). This relationship between loving God and being known by him is in Romans 8:28–29, as well.
2. To ‘know’ was a way of talking about sexual intercourse in the Old Testament. It communicates and intimate choosing of someone. (Genesis 4:1; 18:17–19)
3. God ‘knew’ Abraham, meaning he chose him for his special possession and purpose. (Genesis 18:17–19)
4. God knows all the families of the earth, but he knows Israel in a different way. He chose her. (Amos 3:2)
5. God knows the ways of the wicked, too, but he knows the ways of the righteous in a different way. He chooses and embraces their ways. (Psalm 1:5–6)
6. Therefore, it would not be strange at all to replace “foreknew” in Romans 8:29 with “chose ahead of time.”

Summary (09:25–11:44)

1. Man is responsible to know and love the truth of God.
2. Man is guilty whenever and wherever he doesn’t know or love that truth. We all have rejected and suppressed the truth about God.
3. God does not give man decisive control over salvation. It remains a free, undeserved gift.
4. Therefore, we serve all with the utmost humility, because we did nothing to deserve or achieve our salvation.

Study Questions

1. Explain Paul’s use of the word “For” at the beginning of Romans 8:29. How is it connecting what comes before it with what comes after?

2. Read 1 Corinthians 8:3, Genesis 18:17–19, and Amos 3:2. Define what it means to “know” someone in these verses. Include as many observations as you can see.

3. Explain at least two ways for interpreting “foreknew” in Romans 8:29, establishing some of the evidence—in Romans 8 or elsewhere in the Bible—for each side. Which do you find more compelling here?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Saying What You Believe Is Clearer Than Saying “Calvinist” (article)
• Is It Sin to Dislike Divine Election? (interview)
• Foreknown, Predestined, Conformed to Christ (sermon on Romans 8:28–30)

Romans 8:30

Predestined, Called, Justified, Glorified

February 10, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Philippians 3:9, Romans 4:5, and Romans 8:30
Topic: Justification
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

A promise as mind-blowing as Romans 8:28 needs massive faith-sustaining truth underneath it. Romans 8:30 lays out a process in which God exalts Christ by bringing ungodly people to glory. In this lab, John Piper offers assurance in God’s invincible plan of salvation.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:35)

If you’re going to build a building as a high as the promise of Romans 8:28, you better dig a very deep foundation (Romans 8:29–30).

Observations (02:35–06:12)

1. Between predestination and glorification are two steps: calling and justification. (Romans 8:30)
2. There are no dropouts in this process. Everyone who is predestined will be glorified. (Romans 8:30)
3. The call is an omnipotent, sovereign work of God to bring into being what isn’t. (Romans 4:17)
4. God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5). The only people that exist are ungodly people. If anyone will be justified, he or she will be an ungodly person.

Implications (06:12–10:24)

1. The justification of ungodly people exalts Christ, because it was by his sacrifice that we were redeemed and justified.
2. God condemned our sin in the flesh of Christ (Romans 8:1–4). Our punishment was executed in the crucifixion of Jesus.
3. We will never be righteous by law-keeping. Our only hope for righteousness is the righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:9)
4. Because of our calling and justification, all the predestined will be glorified. (Romans 8:30)
5. Christ is exalted because he is both the ground of our glorification and the goal of our glorification.

Study Questions

1. Is there any difference between the groups that are predestined, called, justified, and glorified? Why or why not?

2. Read Romans 4:5 and Philippians 3:9. Define justification in Romans 8:30 using these other verses.

3. Explain how Romans 8:29–30 ground the amazing promise of Romans 8:28. How does Paul argue that God is working all things for our good from the truths that follow?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• We Will Be Like Him (article)
• Why Is Jesus My Advocate If I’m Already Justified? (interview)
• Those Whom He Called He Also Justified, Part 1 and Part 2 (sermons on Romans 8:30)

Romans 8:31–32

Who Can Be Against Us?

February 12, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:31–32
Topic: The Death of Christ
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

God is for you, and therefore no one can defeat you. God gave his Son, so he will most definitely give you all things. This lab looks at a couple powerful rhetorical questions. John Piper searches the truths behind Paul’s questions to find massive rocks under the Christian’s life.

Outline

Prayer (00:00–00:36)

Introduction (00:36–03:07)

Paul reinforces the glorious promises of Romans 8 with two questions: 1. Who can be against us? 2. How will he not give us all things?

God Is for Us (03:07–07:08)

1. Who is the “us” in Romans 8:31? It is those who are foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified (Romans 8:28–30).
2. God is for us—the elect—in a way that he is not for everyone (John 3:16). God loved the world by sending his Son to die for sins, but God goes beyond the offer to predestine and call us (Romans 8:30).
3. If God is for us, no one can succeed against us (Romans 8:31). If you cut my head off, you dispatch me to glory.

God Did Not Spare His Son (07:08–10:50)

1. God, who gave even his own Son, will most definitely also give us all things. (Romans 8:32)
2. This is an argument from the greater to the lesser. If God can sacrifice his infinitely precious Son, of course he would give us anything and everything else. All things are small compared to the value of God’s Son.
3. This is not the prosperity gospel, because we know Christians will experience all kinds of suffering and even death. (Romans 8:35–39)
4. “All things” (Romans 8:32) means everything we need to be conformed to Christ, to persevere to glory, and to enjoy God forever.

Study Questions

1. Describe the way Paul is arguing here in Romans 8:31 and Romans 8:32. How is this different than the ways he has been arguing so far in Romans 8?

2. If Christians face all kinds of opposition and persecution, how could Paul suggest that no one can be against us (Romans 8:31)?

3. What does “all things” mean in Romans 8:32? What can it not mean?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Why God Gives Us More Than We Can Handle (article)
• The Mystery of Sorrowful Rejoicing (interview)
• God Did Not Spare His Own Son (sermon on Romans 8:32)

Romans 8:33–34

It Is God Who Justifies

February 17, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Luke 22:31–32 and Romans 8:33–34
Topic: Justification
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Satan is an accuser (Revelation 12:10), but Jesus disarmed him at the cross. In this lab, John Piper explains how the work of Christ wars against and defeats Satan’s schemes to accuse and condemn us. Are you able to wield the sword of Paul’s promises against the evil one?

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:25)

No One Can Convict You (01:25–03:19)

1. This cannot mean that no one can charge us with something. Even Jesus had charges brought against him. In fact, he was killed because of false charges brought against him.
2. No one can accuse you successfully (Romans 8:33). No one can make charges against you stick.
3. God has already justified you—declared you not guilty, righteous.
4. God—the highest court of appeal, and the highest, most supreme of courts—has already rendered his verdict.

No One Can Condemn You (03:19–08:42)

1. Christ Jesus died for you (Romans 8:34, cf. Romans 8:1–4). Your guilt has been paid for, endured by Jesus.
2. Christ Jesus rose from the dead (Romans 8:34). God’s saving work on the cross was vindicated (proved to be successful) by the resurrection. No matter how painful and gruesome your circumstances are here, you have not been condemned by God.
3. Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34). If God has so honored him, he will honor the work he did for you at the cross.
4. Christ Jesus is interceding for you now (Romans 8:34; cf. John 17:9, 15–17). Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail, and it did not utterly fail, even though it faltered for a time (Luke 22:31–32).

Summary (08:42–09:23)

Study Questions

1. If you are in Christ, no one can bring any charge against you. What does this mean, and how does Paul defend that promise?

2. If you are in Christ, no one can condemn you. What evidence does Paul give for this promise (four points)?

3. Read John 17:9, 15–17 and Luke 22:31–32. How do those verses help you understand what it means for Christ to intercede for you?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Satan Disarmed, Sin Forgiven, Soul Alive (article)
• Why Is Jesus My Advocate If I’m Already Justified? (interview)
• It Is God Who Justifies! (sermon on Romans 8:33–34)

Romans 8:35–37

We Are More Than Conquerors

February 19, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:35–37
Topic: Perseverance of the Saints
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

We learn a lot about the Bible when the Bible quotes itself. In this lab, John Piper looks at Paul’s use of Psalm 44 to see how we are more than conquerors in all our suffering. Understanding God’s love for us in Christ completely changes how we think about hard things in this life.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:44)

Suffering Cannot Separate You from Christ (00:44–07:32)

1. Christ Jesus died, rose, sits at God’s right hand, and intercedes for you with his omnipotent love (Romans 8:34). Christ will not stop loving you.
2. But can you be separated from Christ’s love? Is there anything in life that could keep you from being loved by Christ?
3. Paul’s examples of things that might separate us from Christ are both opposition and poverty. (Romans 8:35)
4. God promises to provide everything we need (Matthew 6:30–33). Yet Paul suggests we may experience famine and nakedness (Romans 8:35). God will give us everything we need according to his judgment of what we need to do his will and glorify him.
5. Paul says, “We are being killed …” (Romans 8:36, cf. Psalm 44:22). This is not hypothetical suffering. It is real.
6. Paul asks, “Who,” and not, “What,” at the beginning of Romans 8:35. Someone is behind these sufferings—God, another person, or the devil (Revelation 2:10).

Innocent Suffering and Eternal Security (07:32–11:03)

1. The sufferer in Psalm 44:22 is innocent (“God knows the secrets of our hearts”). (Psalm 44:21)
2. Christians often suffer even though they have not disobeyed God or turned away from him.
3. Nothing shall separate us from the omnipotent love of Christ. (Romans 8:37)
4. Through Christ, in all these things—not despite, but in—we are more than conquerors. (Romans 8:37).
5. Why “more than” a conqueror (Romans 8:37)? Your enemies die, and then rise again to serve you and your eternal good.
6. Our sufferings are expressions of the love of Christ for us in the sovereign hand of God, because they make us more like Jesus and bring us with great reward to glory.

Study Questions

1. What do you notice about the list of sufferings Paul uses here? Are there any that are different than the others? If so, why do you think he included them?

2. Go back and read the context of Psalm 44:22. Why might Paul have quoted this text in particular? What similarities might there be with the Christians in the early church?

3. What does it mean to be “more than” a conqueror? It’s easy, perhaps, to understand what it means to be a conqueror, but why does Paul say “more than”?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Remembering the Unquantifiable Love of God (article)
• You Have Been Greatly Loved (interview)
• The All-Conquering Love of Christ (sermon on Romans 8:35–37)

Romans 8:38–39

Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Love

February 24, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 8:38–39
Topic: The Love of God
Series: The Greatest Chapter

Principle for Bible Reading

Romans 8 lands on the note of God’s unstoppable, unshakeable love for us in Christ. Nothing—however dark or hard—can separate us from him. Not only that, but all things now work for us. In this lab, John Piper reveals the love of God for us, and calls us all to love one another in response to this great love.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:48)

God Will Not Stop Loving You (00:48–06:41)

1. In Christ Jesus, God will never stop loving us. (Romans 8:35–37)
2. But can something block the love of God to us? Paul gives ten more possible examples. (Romans 8:38–39)
3. We know that all things work for our good (Romans 8:28). They don’t just get out of the way. They work for us.
4. Nothing can block the love of God to us in Christ (Romans 8:38–39).
5. For instance, death cannot stop God’s love for us. In Christ, God makes death gain for us. (Philippians 1:20)
6. Not even the devil can get in the way of God’s love for us. Every time he opposes us, God is using it to serve us (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). The devil is a disarmed idiot.

Do Not Stop Loving One Another (06:41–08:47)

1. As debtors to the Spirit, we do not pay back the Spirit (Romans 8:12–13). No, we live by the Spirit by trusting in the Spirit, embracing all these great truths to strengthen and guide.
2. In doing so, we fulfill the just requirement of the law, which is love. (Romans 8:4; 13:8)
3. All that God did on the cross and all he is doing in working all things for our good is meant to enable us to love each other and our enemies.
4. This love takes whatever risks and makes whatever sacrifices necessary, because the sufferings of this time are not worth comparing with the glory to come.
5. Therefore, let us spend these few years loving people to the glory of our great God, in whom we have absolute security.

Study Questions

1. Take a couple of the items in Paul’s list in Romans 8:38–39. Why might someone think they would separate someone from God’s love?

2. Now read Romans 8:28–39. How might those same things be used by God for our good?

3. Look back over Romans 8. How does this unstoppable love of God relate to our love for one another?

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• God Will Fulfill His Purpose for You (article)
• You Have Been Greatly Loved (interview)
• Nothing Can Separate Us from This Love (sermon on Romans 8:35–37)

Romans 9:1–5, Part 1

The Word of God Has Not Failed

May 21, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:1–5
Topic: The Bible
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

Romans 9 potentially creates a massive problem for the glorious promises of Romans 8. In this lab, John Piper begins a series through this difficult, but critical chapter by explaining the crisis of unbelieving Israel and the sure hope of the new people of God in the word of God.

Outline

Prayer/Introduction to Romans 9 (00:00–02:27)

Romans 9 is the massive, unshakeable, often unnoticed foundation of the beautiful, glorious house of Romans 8 and all its promises.

Paul’s Pain Over Israel (02:27–04:19)

1. Paul is utterly heartbroken over the faithlessness of his fellow Jews. He loves them desperately. (Romans 9:2–3)
2. Despite the privileges they were given by God, Israel spurned him and his Messiah. (Romans 9:3–5)
3. Israel’s failure to inherit the kingdom raises questions about God and his faithfulness to his word.

Confirmation in the New Testament (04:19–06:53)

1. Not all of the Jewish people will receive Jesus as the Messiah, and therefore many of them will not be saved. (Romans 9:27)
2. Gentiles will join the Jewish patriarchs in the kingdom of heaven, but many you would expect—many of the Jews—will spurn their Messiah, and therefore will be left out of the kingdom and cast into hell. (Matthew 8:11–12)
3. Even the Jewish leaders must be born again, or they will not be saved. They must experience Jesus Christ as their Messiah. (John 3:3, 5)
4. The builders—the Jewish leaders—reject their cornerstone—Christ. Therefore, the kingdom is taken away from Israel and given to the church. (Matthew 21:42–43)

Has God’s Word Failed? (06:53–08:58)

1. Romans 8 hangs entirely on whether God’s word stands.
2. If God’s word hasn’t stood for Israel despite all of God’s promises, why should we think his word will stand for us, the church?
3. “But it is not as though the word of God has failed” (Romans 9:6). All of our hope in Romans 8 hangs on Romans 9:6 being true.

Study Questions

1. After all the promises of Romans 8, what is the crisis in Romans 9:1–5? Why is Paul so distraught after explaining the glories of all God has promised to us in Christ?

2. Read Romans 9:27, Matthew 8:11–12, John 3:3–5, and Matthew 21:42–43. What do you learn about the state and future of Israel from these verses?

3. How does Paul address his own pain over Israel in Romans 9:6? How does this begin to resolve the crisis he is feeling in Romans 9:1–5?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Five Reasons to Embrace Unconditional Election (article)
• Can I Believe the Whole Bible and Not Be Elect? (interview)
• The Absolute Sovereignty of God: What Is Romans Nine About? (sermon on Romans 9:1–5)

Romans 9:1–5, Part 2

Unending Joy and Unceasing Anguish

May 26, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:8–10, Philippians 4:1, Philippians 4:11–13, and Romans 9:1–5
Topic: Joy
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

The Christian life is an undeniably hard, yet gloriously satisfying life. How is it that we can be unbelievably heartbroken over the lost in our lives and unshakably happy in the promises of God all at the same time? In this lab, John Piper digs at the root of this emotional mystery.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:23)

Speaking the Truth (01:23–05:29)

1. “Speaking the truth in Christ” means Paul is conscious of being united with Christ as he speaks. (Romans 9:1)
2. “I am not lying”—Lying does not belong in the Christian life. Christians do not need to protect themselves with deceit and manipulation. (Romans 9:1)
3. The Holy Spirit shapes Paul’s conscience. As Paul speaks, he believes he is in step with God and his Spirit. Paul is not his own, but he lives and acts and speaks in the presence and power of God. (Romans 9:1)

Why Would I Lie? (05:29–07:52)

1. Paul loves the Jewish people (his fellow kinsmen). (Romans 9:2–3)
2. People have doubted his love for the Jews because he has said grave things about their eternal destinies apart from Christ. (Romans 9:6–8)
3. Paul’s anguish over their lostness proves his love for them, despite their doubts. He is not lying when he says he loves them. He is speaking to them and warning them from a genuine and concerned heart. (Romans 9:3)

Rejoicing and Weeping (07:52–12:50)

1. Paul commands followers of Jesus to rejoice at all times. (Philippians 4:1)
2. Paul said that we should rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Someone in our lives is always rejoicing, and someone is always weeping.
3. It is possible to experience joy and sorrow at the same time, in the same heart. (2 Corinthians 6:8–10)
4. The secret of the Christian life is learning to face abundance and need in the strength and satisfaction of God. (Philippians 4:11–13)

Study Questions

1. Why does Paul feel the need to establish the truthfulness of his words in Romans 9:1–5? Why would anyone doubt him and his love for the Jews?

2. How does Paul argue for his honesty and love? What evidence does he give?

3. How would you explain that Paul can write Romans 9:3 and Philippians 4:1? How can one person experience both realities all the time? Read 2 Corinthians 6:8–10 and Philippians 4:11–13.

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• The Ethos of Christian Hedonism: Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing (article)
• The Mystery of Sorrowful Rejoicing (interview)
• My Anguish: My Kinsmen Are Accursed (sermon on Romans 9:1–5)

Romans 9:1–5, Part 3

Chosen by God, Cut Off from Christ

May 28, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:1–5
Topic: The Covenants
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

The crisis in the first verses of Romans 9 is the unbelief of Israel, God’s chosen people. How can we trust God’s promises to us, if his promises to Israel did not come true? In this lab, John Piper wrestles with the tragedy of Israel turning away from God after everything they have been given.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:06)

Loving the Lost Through Tears (01:06–04:55)

1. The main point of a paragraph is not the only point, maybe not even the only life-and-death point in the paragraph.
2. The main point of Romans 9:1–5 is that Jews are cursed and cut of from Christ, which creates a potential crisis regarding God’s promises.
3. “I could wish …” means Paul is wishing he could, but he cannot. Something is stopping him from making that ultimate sacrifice. (Romans 9:3)
4. That something is the covenant God has made with his people through Christ. Nothing can separate Paul from the love of God. (Romans 8:38–39)
5. If Paul loved his kinsmen this much, and valued Christ this much, then Paul could never receive the punishment of hell. (Romans 8:28)

The Privileges of God’s People (04:55–08:36)

1. Paul’s anguish over Israel’s unbelief is intense not only because they’re his kinsmen, but because they have fallen from such high privilege. (Romans 9:4–5)
2. To Israel belongs the patriarchs of God’s people (the beginning) and God’s Messiah (the culmination) (the bookends of Israel’s privileges). (Romans 9:5)
3. They were adopted out of Egypt as God’s chosen children. (Romans 9:4)
4. They received special revelation of the glory of God at Mount Sinai and in the Tabernacle. (Romans 9:4)
5. They were brought into a covenant with God and given a law to govern them. (Romans 9:4)
6. They were given a way to worship God. (Romans 9:4)
7. They were promised extraordinary things by God to carry them until Christ came. (Romans 9:4)

Study Questions

1. Paul says, “I could wish …” (Romans 9:3). Why is it not possible for Paul to be cursed on behalf of his fellow unbelieving Jews?

2. List all the privileges Paul mentions that belonged to Israel as God’s chosen people.

3. Now, explain each of those privileges in your own words. How would you explain each to someone who had not read the Old Testament?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Damned for the Beloved? (article)
• Can I Say ‘God Loves You’ to Unbelievers? (interview)
• How Great Is the Honor of Israel? (sermon on Romans 9:1–5)

Romans 9:6–8

God’s Promises Never Fail

June 2, 2015
by John Piper
Topic: The Sovereignty of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

God made massive promises to Israel, but much of Israel has rejected the Christ. How, then, can we trust the promises of God to us today? In this lab, John Piper looks at promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament, how they are being fulfilled, and the implications for us.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:35)

Israel, But Not Israel (01:35–04:12)

1. Not all who are Jewish by birth belong to true Israel. (Romans 9:6)
2. The promises of God to Israel only apply to true Israel. (Romans 9:6)
3. Those who belong to the true Israel are the children of Abraham. (Romans 9:7)
4. The children of Abraham are divinely named, not just born. (Romans 9:7)

A Son, But Not a Son (04:12–05:35)

1. Sarah arranged for Abraham to have a son by her servant Hagar. (Genesis 21:10)
2. Ishmael is the offspring of Abraham, and Isaac is the offspring of Abraham, but only Isaac is named his offspring. (Genesis 21:12)
3. Paul sees a selectivity among the offspring of Abraham in which God names who Abraham’s true offspring are.

Children of Promise (05:35–09:50)

1. It is not the children of flesh (Jews by birth), but the children of promise that belong to the true Israel. (Romans 9:8)
2. When God promises children to Abraham and Sarah, it’s clear that Abraham’s line would be a miracle, a sovereign act of God. (Genesis 17:15–17)
3. Again, Abraham’s old age and Sarah’s barrenness meant their baby would be a miracle baby. This would have to be a son of God. (Romans 4:19–21)
4. God does not just predict what will happen, but fulfills all he promises. (Romans 4:21)
5. When God made promises to Israel, he intended those promises not for everyone in the ethnic line of Israel, but for the chosen ones among Israel who would be saved through faith in the promises.

Study Questions

1. Paul says there is not one, but two Israels in Romans 8:6. What are the two Israels, and what is the difference between them?

2. Paul quotes Genesis 21 in these verses. How does Genesis 21:10–12 help clarify how Paul is arguing for God’s faithfulness to his promises (despite Israel’s unbelief)?

3. Now, read Romans 4:19–21. How do these verses help us understand Paul’s point in Romans 9:6–8?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• When It Seems Like God Did You Wrong (article)
• Can We Trust the Bible? (interview)
• God’s Word Stands, Part 1 and Part 2 (sermons on Romans 9:6–12)

God’s Word Stands: Not All Israel Is Israel, Part 2

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9 For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

The unbelief and condemnation of many Israelites in Paul’s day and in ours creates personal and theological crisis for all Christians. Can we trust the promises of God? In verse 3 we learn that many Jews are accursed and cut off from Christ. Paul says it with sorrow and grief. Verses 4 and 5 intensify the crisis: they are Israelites, and they were given promises and covenants and adoption as sons. But now they are perishing, cut off from the Messiah. This is the crisis Paul deals with in these verses.

His answer is in verse 6a: No, “it is not as though the word of God has failed.” How so? His basis for this statement is in verse 6b: “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.” In other words, the saving promises of God applied only to the “Israel within Israel”—the true Israel. The word of God has not fallen. It always saves the true Israel. There is an Israel within Israel.

He says it three times. Again in verse 7: “Nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants.” And again in verse 8: “It is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” In other words:

1. there is a true spiritual Israel in ethnic Israel;
2. there are true children among Abraham’s children; and
3. these true children and true Israel are children of God, children of promise, not mere children of flesh.

The word of God has not failed because it applies only to these. And these are saved. That’s the argument.

The support for the argument is from two Old Testament illustrations that show God was choosing some descendants of Israel as children or promise, not others. The first illustration was Isaac and Ishmael, which we considered last week. Not only did God choose Isaac to be the heir of the promises, but he did it in a way that shows God’s freedom and power in creating children of promise. For example, in verse 9 he says, “For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.’ ” The point here is that Isaac became a child of promise because of God’s free and sovereign creative work. Sarah was barren; Abraham was old. And God says: “I will come.” Not Hagar. The child of promise will be born decisively because of my powerful promise, not your human resources. That’s the key. Children of the promise are children of God, because God freely chooses to make them his own.

The Illustration of Jacob and Esau

Today we consider the second Old Testament illustration—Jacob and Esau. Paul is still illustrating that within the physical descendants of Israel there is a true Israel chosen by God. Here, more clearly than ever, Paul makes it plain that God’s election—God’s free and unconditional choosing of the children of promise—is what guarantees that the word of God does not, and never can, fail.

Let’s start reading at verse 10. “And not only this, [not only do we see the point in the case of Isaac and Ishmael] but there was Rebekah also [the wife of Isaac], when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac.” Notice what Paul is doing here. He is pointing out two things that make the choice of Jacob over Esau an even more compelling illustration of God’s unconditional election than the illustration of Isaac and Ishmael.

The first is that Jacob and Esau were twins. They were in the same womb. This draws attention to the fact that the distinctions between them were minimal. The conditions of their birth are going to be almost identical. So any choice between them would be based on God, not on them.

The second difference from Isaac and Ishmael is was that Jacob and Esau were conceived of the same parents. Notice the words in verse 10, “conceived by one man.” Somebody might have said about Ishmael, “Of course God didn’t choose him as a child of promise. He didn’t have a Jewish mother. Hagar was a Gentile.” But Paul says, “No, you missed the point, and I will clarify that with Jacob and Esau. They were in the same womb and had one father, not two different fathers.” He is systematically doing away with the human distinctives that might constrain God’s election of one over the other. He is saying that election is based on God, not man.

Then in verse 11 he makes this unconditionality of his election crystal clear: “For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad”—skip to the main clause in verse 12—“it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ ” The quote from Genesis 25:23 simply makes clear that God decides the destiny of these two sons and the nations they represent before they are born. And to make it even clearer for us, Paul does not just say, they were not yet born when God decided their destinies, he also says, “they had done nothing good or bad.” And to remove the possible objection that he chose the older because the older deserves it, he chose the younger.

This is why we speak of the biblical doctrine of unconditional election. God chose Jacob over Esau before they were born or had done anything good or bad. It was not their behavior or their attitude or their faith or their parents that moved God to choose Jacob and not Esau. The choice was unconditional. It was rooted in God alone and not in man.

This Teaching Nullifies Neither the Genuineness of Our Choices Nor the Necessity of the Obedience of Faith

Before we look at the rest of the text let me make sure you are not jumping to unwarranted and unbiblical conclusions. This teaching of Romans 9 does not contradict the truth that Jacob and Esau and you and I make choices in life and will be held responsible for those choices. If Jacob is saved he will be saved by faith. And if Esau is finally condemned, he will be condemned for his evil deeds and unbelief. Our final judgment will accord with the way we have responded to the gospel in this life. Which means that our final entry into heaven or to hell is not unconditional. To be finally saved we must have believed. And to be lost we must have sinned and not believed. No one will stand on the precipice of hell and be able to say, “I don’t deserve this.”

Just one text to show this: Romans 2:7–8, “To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” In other words, unconditional election does not contradict the necessity of the obedience of faith for final salvation, or the necessity of the disobedience of unbelief for damnation. What unconditional election does is knock from underneath salvation every ground of human boasting, and replaces it with the unshakable electing love and purpose of God (v. 11b).

The will to believe is saving, and the will not to believe is damning. We are held responsible for both. But underneath both is God’s free and unconditional election of who will be saved and who will not. The elect believe. The non-elect do not believe. We are not sovereign, self-determining, autonomous beings. Only God is. How God renders certain the belief and unbelief of men without undermining our accountability I do not fully understand.

If this stretches your mind to the breaking point, better that your minds be broken than that the scriptures be broken. And even better yet would be to let your mind and heart be enlarged rather than broken, so that they can contain all that the Scriptures teach.

“Jacob I Loved …”

Now with that clarification in place consider verse 13. After saying in verse 12 that God determines the destiny of Jacob and Esau before they were born or had done anything good or bad, he supports this with a quote from the Old Testament. “Just as it is written, [Malachi 1:2–3] “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

What did Paul see in this quote from Malachi that made it right for him to use it in this way to support the unconditional election of Jacob over Esau? Let’s go read it in context. What we will see is that Malachi’s way of arguing is exactly like Paul’s. Malachi 1:1,

The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?” [Then God answers] “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; 3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.”

Do you see how God is arguing for his love for Jacob? They say, “How have you loved us?” And he answers, “Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” In other words, “Didn’t Esau have as much right to being chosen as you? Wasn’t he the son of Isaac? Wasn’t he a twin in the same womb with you? Wasn’t he even your elder brother? Nevertheless, I chose you.” The whole point of that question, “Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” is exactly the same as Paul’s point. Paul saw it in Genesis. And he saw it in Malachi. Jacob and Esau had an equal claim on God’s choosing, namely, no claim. And God chose Jacob unconditionally. That is the meaning of “Jacob I loved.” In fact, we will never understand or experience the fullness of God’s love until we grasp what it means to be chosen freely by God on the basis of nothing in us.

“… But Esau I Hated”?

Now what is the meaning of the words, “But Esau I hated”? I think we should put aside all speculations here and get the meaning strictly from the context in Malachi and Romans 9. Let’s read Malachi 1:3–4, “But I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” 4 Though Edom [i.e., Esau] says, ‘We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins;’ thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.’ ”

Verse 4 points to two ways of understanding God’s hate.

The first meaning is seen in the word “wicked.” Near the end of verse 4 God says, “Men will call them the wicked territory.” “I have hated Esau … I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory.” In other words, God gives them up to wickedness. This is important in view of what we said earlier about the conditionality of God’s final judgment. God does not bring judgments on an innocent Esau or Edom. Edom was judged as wicked. When God passed over Esau and chose Jacob before they were born, there was no decree that an innocent Esau would be judged. Rather what God decreed was to pass Esau by, to withhold his electing love, and to give him up to wickedness. And as Esau acted in wickedness, he was accountable for that wickedness and deserved the indignation and judgment of God.

Which leads to the second meaning of God’s hate. At the end of verse 4: “And men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant [or angry] forever.’ ” In a sense you might say there is a passive and an active side of God’s hate. Passively, he withholds electing love from Esau and gives it only to Jacob, and hands Esau over to wickedness—a wickedness for which he is really accountable and blameworthy. Then actively, God is angry with this wickedness forever. And if Esau is finally condemned, he will not be able to say “I do not deserve condemnation.” His own sins will shut his mouth and his own conscience will condemn him.

And Jacob on the other side will tremble with fear and wonder that he was chosen to believe and be saved.

Be Careful!

O Bethlehem, be careful here. Be careful that you do not play God and tell him how he should save. Be careful you do not stand above Scripture and demand that it be one way and not another. Be careful that you do not assume that your heart is good enough to judge the goodness of God. Or wise enough to judge the wisdom of God. There are a thousand reasons why God does what he does which we cannot yet comprehend. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). How do these chapters end?

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36)

Why Did He Save Us This Way?

If we ask why he saves by means of unconditional election, there will be several answers in this chapter. God is not opposed to honest and humble questions. And he takes us farther than many are willing to go. His first answer is given in verse 11b. Why did God choose Jacob and not Esau, before they were born or had done anything good or bad? Here’s his answer: “so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.”

And that is so important I must save it for next week and give it a sermon of its own. But you can see the connection with verse 6 and the overall purpose of this chapter. The word of God has not fallen. You can count on the promises of Romans 8. Why? Because God has chose to save his people in such a way, as verse 11 says, that his purpose will stand—it is invincible. Because it depends not on us but on the one who calls. From him and through and to him are all things. To him be glory.

The creation of the universe, the history of the world, the plan of salvation, the coming of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection for sinners, and the gift of your own faith—are all for the glory of God. Look to Jesus Christ, to the Word of God. And pray with the psalmist, “O Lord, Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things.” Then banish all your fears. Amen.

Romans 9:9–13, Part 1

Jacob I Loved, But Esau I Hated

June 4, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:9–13
Topic: The Doctrines of Grace / Calvinism, The Sovereignty of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

In Romans 9, Paul wants to show us why we should believe in God’s unconditional election. Isaac and Ishmael were examples in the previous verses, and now Jacob and Esau are presented as better examples. In this lab, John Piper highlights the similarities and differences between these brothers.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:52)

Not Two Mothers, But One (00:52–04:16)

1. The father of Isaac and Ishmael is Abraham (Romans 9:7–8). The father of Jacob and Esau is Isaac (Romans 9:10–13).
2. Isaac and Ishmael had different mothers (Sarah and Hagar) and Jacob and Esau had the same mother (Rebekah).
3. Even though they had the same father and the same mother, God chose the younger over the older. Esau served Jacob. (Romans 9:12–13)

Better Examples of God’s Election (04:16–08:10)

1. Some might say Isaac was chosen over Ishmael because his mother was Egyptian. That distinction does not exist between Jacob and Esau. (Romans 9:10)
2. Jacob and Esau are better examples of election because they had one mother, and not two. (Romans 9:10)
3. Jacob and Esau are better examples of election because they were not yet born when God distinguishes between them. (Romans 9:11)
4. Jacob and Esau are better examples of election because neither had done anything to deserve being chosen by God. The distinction was not in their works. (Romans 9:11)
5. Jacob and Esau are better examples of election because Esau was older than Jacob, and therefore privileged. (Romans 9:12)

Summary So Far (08:10–10:17)

1. The main point is that the word of God—the promises of God—have not failed. (Romans 9:6)
2. The first reason is that not everyone descended from Israel belongs to true Israel. (Romans 9:7)
3. The true offspring of Abraham are counted or named offspring through faith in the promise. (Romans 9:8)
4. Isaac and Ishmael are examples of this reality (Romans 9:7–9), and Jacob and Esau are better examples (Romans 9:10–13).

Study Questions

1. Read Romans 9:11–13, and name the similarities and distinctions between Jacob and Esau.

2. What makes Jacob and Esau better (more compelling) examples of election than Isaac and Ishmael?

3. Summarize Paul’s argument up to this point in Romans 9 for why we should not think that God’s word has failed because so much of Israel has not believed.

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Does God (Really) Desire All to Be Saved? (article)
• Is Election Divine Favoritism? (interview)
• Unconditional Election and the Invincible Purpose of God (sermon on Romans 9:6–13)

Romans 9:9–13, Part 2

Why God Chooses Whom He Chooses

June 9, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:9–13
Topic: The Doctrines of Grace / Calvinism
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

God’s electing love is one of the most challenging realities in the Bible. In this lab, John Piper digs down underneath the doctrine of election to try and understand why God chooses who he chooses. How do the true sons and daughters of God become his children?

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:43)

Recap (00:43–03:27)

Paul is arguing that God’s word has not fallen (Romans 9:6), even though many Israelites have been cut off from Christ because they did not believe. But not all who are born of Israel are truly Israel. The true offspring of Abraham are not just born, but named (or chosen), as we saw with Isaac and Ishmael, and with Jacob and Esau.

The Purpose of Election (03:27–06:29)

1. Abraham’s true offspring were named by God. Isaac was not more Jewish than Ishmael. He was chosen. (Romans 9:8)
2. Jacob was not chosen over Esau because of his deeds. It is not anything in us that is the reason for us being chosen by God. (Romans 9:11)
3. God does the calling (or naming, or choosing). (Romans 9:11)
4. God does it this way “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue.” (Romans 9:11)

No Works, Not Not One (06:29–09:36)

1. It looks like the word of God has failed because some in Israel have not believed. (Romans 9:6)
2. Paul is saying that God’s word was meant for, and therefore only applies only to, a select group within Israel. (Romans 9:11)
3. This group is not brought about by anything in them. No, God is naming these offspring. He is electing them.
4. “Works” (Romans 9:11) means any distinction resident in us—whether physical pedigree or spiritual sensitivity or moral accomplishment. God does not choose us because of anything about us.

Study Questions

1. Read Romans 9:6–13. According to Paul, how do the true offspring of Abraham become his offspring?

2. Paul says that God has a “purpose” in election. How does that change how we think about Paul’s crisis in Romans 9:6 (the main point of Roman 9)?

3. When Paul uses the word “works” in Romans 9:11, what is he trying to communicate about election? How does it relate to us today?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Five Reasons to Embrace Unconditional Election (article)
• Is Election Divine Favoritism? (interview)
• Unconditional Election and the Invincible Purpose of God (sermon on Romans 9:6–13)

Romans 9:9–13, Part 3

The Mystery of Election

June 11, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Malachi 1:1–4 and Romans 9:9–13
Topic: The Doctrines of Grace / Calvinism
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

What did it mean for God to “love” Jacob and “hate” Esau, even before they were born? How can God elect some and still be good? In this lab, John Piper narrows in on the question of election, and why it’s good news for those who will believe.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–04:04)

God’s Love and Hate (04:04–06:40)

1. God declares his love for Israel. (Malachi 1:2)
2. Israel questions God’s love for them. (Malachi 1:2)
3. God reminds Israel that neither Jacob nor Esau was deserving, and yet God loved Jacob, and not Esau. (Malachi 1:2–3)
4. “Love” (Malachi 1:2) means choosing Jacob despite his being undeserving, and “hate” (Malachi 1:3) means forever angry because of wickedness (Malachi 1:4).

Was Esau More Wicked? (06:40–08:04)

1. But Romans 9:11 says that Jacob and Esau had not done anything wrong when God chose Jacob. How, then, could God “hate” Esau for his wickedness?
2. When Esau is born and grows up, he becomes the wickedness outwardly that already exists in him inwardly, being born in Adam. (1 Corinthians 15:22)
3. Therefore, Esau, being born in wickedness as a son of Adam, was always deserving of the hatred of God. (Romans 9:8)

Summary of Election (08:04–11:12)

1. God chooses who will believe and undeservingly be saved in spite of their sin.
2. God thus decides who will rebel and deservingly be lost because of their sin.
3. God’s election is never against our desires. Judgment is never put upon someone wishing they were a Christian.

Study Questions

1. Look back over Romans 9:1–13, and try to explain Paul’s argument up to this point in Romans 9.

2. Romans 9:13 quotes Malachi 1:1–4. Why did Paul quote Malachi? How does it help his argument at the beginning of Romans 9?

3. Relying on Romans 9:1–13 and Malachi 1:1–4, try and define what it means for God to “love” Jacob and “hate” Esau.

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Does God Desire All to Be Saved? (book)
• How Do I Explain Election over Brunch? (interview)
• Pastoral Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election (sermon on Romans 9:6–13)

Romans 9:14–18, Part 1

Is God Just to Choose Some?

June 16, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:14–18
Topic: The Holiness of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

God’s unconditional election causes many to say that he must be unrighteous. He can’t choose some and not others, and be good and just. In this lab, John Piper begins to address this objection by studying the surface structure of Paul’s argument.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:00)

The Righteousness of God (01:00–03:37)

1. There is no unrighteousness with God. (Romans 9:14)
2. Paul feels the need to defend God’s righteousness because he has just said God chose Jacob over Esau before they were even born or had done anything good or bad. (Romans 9:11–13)
3. Some might interpret this kind of election—not based on anything in the person—as an unjust way for God to save or not save people. (Romans 9:14)

The Surface Structure (03:37–07:16)

1. Main Point: Romans 9:14
2. Grounding Statement (“For”): Romans 9:15
3. Inference (“So then”): Romans 9:16
4. Grounding Statement (“For”): Romans 9:17
5. Inference (“So then”): Romans 9:18

The Deeper Structure: An Illustration (07:16–10:15)

Study Questions

1. Why would someone suggest God is unrighteous at this point in Paul’s argument (Romans 9:14)?

2. Identify the relationship between each verse in Romans 9:14–18. Explain the relationship between verses fourteen and fifteen, fifteen and sixteen, and so on.

3. Write a couple examples of statements with ground clauses (“for” or “because”) and then a couple examples of statements with inferences (“therefore” or “so then”).

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Joy Designed (article)
• God’s Aim in Election, and Our Personal Holiness (interview)
• The Freedom and Justice of God in Unconditional Election (sermon on Romans 9:14–18)

Romans 9:14–18, Part 2

God Acts for the Sake of His Glory

June 18, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:14–18
Topic: The Glory of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

Many in Paul’s day were accusing God of being unrighteous in electing some and not others. In this lab, John Piper explains what the righteousness of God is, showing his definition from several texts. In doing so, he shows that God indeed does all he does for the glory of his own name.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:46)

The Crisis of God’s Election (00:46–03:45)

1. God is righteous because (“For”) he said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15)
2. Election is not because of works—or anything in man outside of God—but because of him who calls. (Romans 9:11)
3. Paul quotes Exodus 33:19 into the controversy in Romans 9 over election. (Romans 9:15)

God’s Freedom (03:45–07:06)

1. Moses asks God to show him his glory, and responds that he will proclaim his own name (Exodus 33:18–19). This means there is a close connection between the glory of God and the name of God.
2. A vital piece of Yahweh’s identity is his complete freedom and independence from outside influence. He acts only according to his own dispositions. This freedom is his glory. (Exodus 33:19)
3. “I am who I am” is saying the same thing about God’s freedom and independence (Exodus 3:13–15). God is not dependent on or subject to anyone.

God’s Righteousness (07:06–10:17)

1. Paul says this freedom of God to choose Jacob and not Esau is not unrighteous. (Romans 9:14)
2. Unrighteousness suppresses the truth about God, specifically it trades his glory away for images. (Romans 1:18–23)
3. Sin is anything that falls short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
4. God looks unrighteous in passing over sins (Romans 3:25), because it looks like he does not value his own glory.
5. His righteousness is his esteeming, valuing, and upholding the value of the glory of God.
6. For God, to be righteous is to uphold his name and his glory. (Psalm 143:11)

Summary (10:17–12:53)

Study Questions

1. Read Exodus 33:18–19. When Moses asks to see God’s glory, why might God say he will proclaim his name? What was he declaring about himself in 33:19?

2. Read Romans 1:18–23. How is Paul defining unrighteousness? How does unrighteousness relate to the glory of God in these verses?

3. Romans 3:23–25 takes up the same issue Paul is wrestling with in Romans 8:14–18. How does Romans 3 help enlighten the dilemma and Paul’s argument in Romans 9 concerning God’s righteousness?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Joy Designed (article)
• God’s Aim in Election, and Our Personal Holiness (interview)
• The Fame of His Name and the Freedom of Mercy (sermon on Romans 9:14–18)
• The Justification of God (book on Romans 9:1–23)

Romans 9:14–18, Part 3

Saved Not by Human Will or Effort

June 23, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:14–18
Topic: The Sovereignty of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

If God is as big and sovereign as we have seen so far in Romans 9, that must have implications for us. In this lab, John Piper explores the question of human free will by examining the absolute sovereignty of God. He also points to a concrete example elsewhere in the New Testament.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–04:20)

Not Our Will Be Done (04:20–07:03)

1. “… not on human will or exertion …” means literally, “not on him who will or on him who runs …” (Romans 9:16)
2. “It” in Romans 8:16 refers to God’s election in Romans 9:11 and Romans 9:15.
3. “Not on human will” (Romans 9:16) corresponds with “not because of works” (Romans 9:11).
4. “But on God” (Romans 9:16) corresponds with “because of him who calls” (Romans 9:11).
5. Therefore, Paul is simply restating the same idea he has already articulated in Romans 9:11, but in wider terms for the sake of application.

God Does What Titus Does (07:03–10:18)

1. There is no such thing as ultimate human self-determination. (Romans 9:16)
2. God put care into the heart of Titus for the Corinthians. (2 Corinthians 8:16)
3. And yet Titus is said to have cared for them of his own accord. (2 Corinthians 8:17)
4. When Paul sees Titus’s care for the Corinthians—real, meaningful, human passion and activity—Paul knows that God has done it. (2 Corinthians 8:17)

Study Questions

1. Romans 9:16 begins with “So then …” Explain how Paul’s inference works. How does what comes before ground what comes after?

2. What is the “it” in Romans 8:16?

3. Read 2 Corinthians 8:16–17. How do these verses confirm or enlighten Romans 9:16?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• The Argument of Romans 9:14–16 (article)
• Do We Have Free Will to Choose Christ? (interview)
• The Fame of His Name and the Freedom of Mercy (sermon on Romans 9:14–18)
• The Justification of God (book on Romans 9:1–23)

Romans 9:14–18, Part 4

God Has Mercy on Whom He Wills

June 25, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:14–18
Topic: The Doctrines of Grace / Calvinism
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

At this point in Paul’s argument, he introduces Pharaoh and the awful confrontation between God and the Egyptian leader in Exodus. He uses this history to explain God’s absolute freedom in election, and to show how this freedom is God’s wrapped up in God’s name and glory.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–02:23)

Not By Human Will (02:23–04:43)

The “so then” in Romans 9:16 and the “for” at the beginning of Romans 9:17 mean verses Romans 9:15 and Romans 9:17 are meant to support verse 16, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

Moses and Pharaoh (04:43–06:10)

1. Pharaoh, as an example, is not a Jewish leader (like Moses), but a Gentile leader. (Romans 9:17)
2. Pharaoh is raised up not for mercy, but for hardening. (Romans 9:17–18)
3. Paul is developing a double argument. Moses and mercy correspond to Jacob and his election (Romans 9:15). Pharaoh and hardening correspond to Esau and his rejection (Romans 9:17).

God’s Righteousness in Election (06:10–09:58)

1. God’s absolute freedom is part of what it means for him to be God. This freedom is an essential part of his name and glory. (Romans 9:15)
2. When God acts to show his power and his name, he acts righteously. (Romans 9:17)
3. God is righteous in his unconditional election, which is expressing God’s freedom from all controlling influences outside himself, which is an essential part of God’s name or glory.

Study Questions

1. Explain the “For” at the beginning of Romans 9:17. How does what comes after “For” explain what came before?

2. How do Moses and Pharaoh relate to Jacob and Esau in Paul’s argument in Romans 9?

3. Do you see a connection regarding God’s name between Romans 9:15 and Romans 9:17? What do we learn about God’s name in each verse?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Is There Injustice With Our God? (article)
• Is Election Divine Favoritism? (interview)
• The Fame of His Name and the Freedom of Mercy (sermon on Romans 9:14–18)

Romans 9:14–18, Part 5

God Exalted Him to Crush Him

June 30, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Exodus 7:3–4, Exodus 4:21, and Romans 9:14–18
Topic: The Doctrines of Grace / Calvinism
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

Paul defends God’s freedom to mercifully save or righteously harden in Romans 9:14–18. In this lab, John Piper looks at Pharaoh as an example from the Old Testament. Can God be just in hardening Pharaoh? And is mercy or judgment a greater goal in the mind of God?

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–03:32)

Mercy and Justice (03:32–05:46)

1. The stress is not merely on mercy, but also on justice and hardening. (Romans 9:18)
2. God has absolute freedom in regard to his mercy and his justice. (Romans 9:18)
3. This holds with the examples of Moses and Pharaoh, Jacob and Esau, and the children of promise and children of the flesh. (Romans 9:6–17)
4. Just as it is with God’s mercy, God’s hardening is not based on human will or effort. (Romans 9:16, 18)

I Will Harden Whom I Will Harden (05:46–08:23)

1. There is no reference in Exodus 9:16 (quoted in Romans 9:17) to the hardening of Pharaoh. Paul expects us to know that context from the story in Exodus (Romans 9:18).
2. God tells Moses that he (God) will harden Pharaoh’s heart. (Exodus 4:21)
3. Part of God’s design in saving Israel is to harden Pharaoh’s heart even in the face of multiple miracles. (Exodus 7:3–4)

How Can God Be Just? (08:23–11:22)

1. The first thing we must say is that we do not know entirely how God’s sovereignty and justice are resolved in the end. It is a mystery, but not a complete mystery.
2. Isaiah says that God even hardens Israel’s hearts. (Isaiah 63:17)
3. At least in this case, God seems not to be actively inflicting a hardening, but instead withholding himself (which is itself the hardening). (Isaiah 64:7)
4. Are mercy and judgment equal goals in God’s mind? Or does one serve the other?
5. God’s mercy is served by God’s hardening. (Romans 9:22–23)

Summary of Romans 9:1–18 (11:22–12:50)

1. Most of Israel is cut off from Christ. (Romans 9:1–5)
2. Yet the word of God has not failed. (Romans 9:6a)
3. For the promise was only to the elect. (Romans 9:6b–13)
4. In this, God is righteous. (Romans 9:15)
5. For God’s righteousness is his commitment to his name, and essential to his name is his freedom. (Romans 9:14–18)

Study Questions

1. Paul mentions Pharaoh in Romans 9:17–18. Read Exodus 4:21 and Exodus 7:3–4. How do these verses help us understand why Paul mentions Pharaoh here, and what he means by “harden” in Romans 9:18?

2. Based on Romans 9—and any other texts you can think of—are mercy and judgment (Romans 9:18) equal goals in God’s plan?

3. Look back over Romans 9:1–18. Summarize, in your own words, the major points in Paul’s argument up until this point in the chapter (for instance, John identifies five main points).

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Is There Injustice With Our God? (article)
• If Our Will Is Not Free, Are We Accountable? (interview)
• The Hardening of Pharaoh and the Hope of the World (sermon on Exodus 9:8–17)

Romans 9:19

None Can Resist God

July 14, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:19
Topic: The Sovereignty of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

If God was governing Pharaoh, how could God hold Pharaoh responsible? Isn’t God the guilty one? In this lab, John Piper begins to unfold an answer to one of the Bible’s most difficult questions. If God is sovereign over us, even our sin, why are we held accountable for it?

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:29)

Why Is God Not Guilty? (01:29–04:57)

1. God is governing Pharaoh’s will, so that Pharaoh will not let God’s people go. This God-wrought rebellion allows God to show more of his power (in judgment). (Romans 9:14–18)
2. Paul asks how God can find fault with Pharaoh if God was governing Pharaoh. (Romans 9:19)
3. Romans 3:5–7 presents a similar problem. If my (or Pharaoh’s) sin is bringing about glory for God, then why am I at fault?

What Is God’s Will? (04:43–07:45)

1. God’s will is to show his power and make a name for himself. (Exodus 9:16)
2. God’s will is that all people know that he is the Lord, and that he is sovereign over all his enemies. (Exodus 10:1–2)
3. God’s will is that his wonders be multiplied on the earth and in history. (Exodus 11:9)
4. God’s will is to get glory. (Exodus 14:16–18)

Who Can Resist God’s Will? (07:45–11:30)

1. Paul’s question in Romans 9:19 is a rhetorical question. He doesn’t expect an answer. He’s making a statement with his question. Asking his question is the same as declaring that no one can resist God’s will.
2. We do not have ultimate self-determination. Ultimately, God’s will holds sway. (Romans 9:19)
3. Our will still counts. We have a real choice, and moral accountability for our choices.
4. If God’s sovereignty and your accountability seem logically impossible to us, we need to submit our limited minds (and logic) to the word of God.
5. Paul’s question: If God decisively and ultimately governs our will, and we sin, why does he still judge/condemn us? We’ll look at Paul’s answer next time.

Study Questions

1. Read Romans 9:19. Looking at what comes before this verse, why might someone ask Paul’s question, “Why does [God] still find fault?”?

2. Read Exodus 9:16, 10:1–12, 11:9, and 14:16–18. What do you learn about the will of God in these passages?

3. What is Paul saying with the second question in Romans 9:19? What answer is he looking for, and what does that say about the relationship between our will and God’s will?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• How to Query God (article)
• Do We Have Free Will to Choose Christ? (interview)
• The Free Will of the Wind (sermon on John 3:1–10)

Romans 9:20

Who Are You to Question God?

July 16, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:20
Topic: The Sovereignty of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

Certain truths about God in the Bible are confusing and even troubling to some. In this lab, John Piper corrects one way of questioning God, and encourages another. Questions are welcome, even necessary part of the Christian life, but they must be offered to God with the right attitude.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:41)

Questions or Objections? (01:41–04:23)

1. What does it mean to “answer back” to God (Romans 9:20)?
2. Is Paul saying there are no questions allowed, or is he confronting a certain kind of attitude in the questions?
3. The same word for “answer back” is used in Luke 14:5–6. In that instance, “answer back” is not about legitimate inquiries, but objections.
4. The same word for “answer back” is used in Luke 14:5–6. In that instance, “answer back” is not about legitimate inquiries, but objections.
5. Paul is not prohibiting questions, but objections to God and his will.

Two Kinds of Questions (04:23–07:44)

1. Look at Zechariah in Luke 1:18–20. The question, “How shall I know this?” communicates skepticism and unbelief. (Luke 1:18)
2. There is a kind of question that we ask God that makes him angry. (Luke 1:19–20)
3. There is a kind of question that we ask God that makes him angry. (Luke 1:19–20)
4. Now look at Mary in Luke 1:34–35. Her question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” is a genuine cry for help in understanding.
5. Therefore God, through his angel, responds patiently and graciously.

The Differences Between God and Man (07:44–11:30)

1. God is the creator, and man is the created.
2. God is infinite, and man is finite.
3. God is utterly self-sufficient, and man is totally dependent on God for everything.
4. God is all-knowing, and man is little-knowing.
5. God is never erring, and man is often erring.
6. Therefore, how can we, mere men, presume to object to that God and his will.

Study Questions

1. What does “answer back” mean in Romans 9:20? For some help, the same verb is used in Luke 14:6.

2. Paul is correcting a certain kind of question. Study Zechariah (Luke 1:18–20) and Mary (Luke 1:34–35). What are the differences in their questions to God? What are the differences in God’s responses?

3. Write down a list of as many things as you can that separate God from us. What makes him different from man? These can be from anywhere in the Bible. How should that list change how we respond to God and his sovereign will?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• God Desires All to Be Saved, and Grants Repentance to Some (article)
• Personal Comfort in God’s Sovereignty Over Evil (interview)
• The Sovereignty of God: “My Counsel Shall Stand, and I Will Accomplish All My Purpose” (sermon on Isaiah 46:8–11)

Romans 9:20–21

Why Have You Made Me This Way?

July 21, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:20–21
Topic: The Sovereignty of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

It’s in the nature of us, as creatures, to question our Creator. Why did you make me like this, and not like him or him? Why did you make him like that, and not like me? Why do some believe the good news, and others reject it. In this lab, John Piper explores the relationship between the Potter and his clay.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–01:56)

The Pots’ Rebellion (01:56–04:25)

1. Romans 9:20 is a quote from Isaiah 29:16 and Isaiah 45:9.
2. A pot makes a mistake when it claims it was not made (deny), or when it says its potter did not know what he was doing (find fault). (Isaiah 29:16)
3. A pot also errs when it pretends to know pots better than the potter (suggesting the potter should have made him differently). (Isaiah 45:9)

The Potter’s Scorecard (04:25–06:41)

1. Pots do ask the Potter all the time, “Why have you made me like this?” But they ought not ask God in this way. It’s a protest, not a genuine question. (Romans 9:20)
2. The rightness of a potter is not determined by anything in the clay, but by the wisdom in the decisions he makes with the lump he’s given. (Romans 9:21)
3. The potter is evaluated by whether he fulfills holy purpose with the clay he’s been given. (Romans 9:20)
4. God is the potter, and he decides what is right.

Meet the Potter (06:41–9:34)

1. God is the potter, and he decides what is right, and wise, and fitting.
2. God desires to make known his power, and the riches of his glory. (Romans 9:22–23)
3. If those desires require vessels for dishonorable use, than he is right to make them. (Romans 9:21)
4. The vessels for honorable use (mercy) are Jacob and Moses. And the vessels for dishonorable use (hardening) are Esau and Pharaoh.

Study Questions

1. Read Isaiah 29:16 and Isaiah 45:9. What mistakes do pots make in relationship to their potter?

2. Considering a potter’s relationship to his clay, what right is Paul speaking of in Romans 9:21? How then would you explain that same right for God in his relationship to human beings?

3. Looking over Romans 9 so far, which people are the vessels for dishonorable use, and which are the vessels for honorable use?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Was Katrina Intelligent Design? (article)
• God’s Sovereignty Over Evil in My Life (interview)
• He Commanded and They Were Created (sermon on Psalm 148:5)

Romans 9:22–23, Part 1

God Wants to Show His Wrath

July 23, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:22–23
Topic: The Wrath of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

John Piper says, “In all the Bible, there are no more weighty, or ultimate, or difficult words than Romans 9:22–23.” These verse tackle the issues of God’s sovereignty and God’s wrath. How can God judge those whom he has hardened?

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–02:04)

God’s Purpose in God’s Wrath (02:04–07:30)

1. Why is there judgment or wrath if none can resist God’s will (Romans 9:19)? How can God fault Esau or Pharaoh, if he hardened them?
2. Paul does not refuse the questions, as if it is not okay to wonder why God created and rules the world the way he does. He answers the question. (Romans 9:21)
3. If God endured vessels of wrath in order to make known his glory to the vessels of mercy (Romans 9:22–23), then no legitimate objection can be raised. He has clearly and sufficiently answered the question being raised.

Confirmation from Romans 9 (07:30–11:41)

1. What kind of participle is “desiring” (Romans 9:22)? Is it communicating “although” or “because”?
2. Romans 9:17 suggest the same motive: God wants to show his power, and make known his name. Because that’s God’s desire, he raises Pharaoh up, hardens him, and crushes him.
3. That same motive and structure exists in Romans 9:22–23 regarding how God deals with all people, and not just Esau and Pharaoh.

Study Questions

1. Explain Romans 9:22–23 in your own words. How is Paul answering the question of whether God can judge those he has hardened?

2. Is the participle “desiring” in Romans 9:22 communicating “although” or “because”? Is his desire a concession or the purpose of his dealing with the vessels of wrath and the vessels of mercy?

3. Reread Romans 9:14–18. How does that confirm or deny how you are reading Romans 9:22–23?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Biblical Texts to Show God’s Zeal for His Own Glory (article)
• Your Life’s Greatest Problem (interview)
• Why Did God Create the World? (sermon on Isaiah 43:1–7)

Romans 9:22–23, Part 2

The Ultimate Purpose of the Universe

July 28, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:22–23
Topic: The Wrath of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

Why would God prepare some people for wrath and destruction? It’s one of the biggest, weightiest questions in all the Bible. In this lab, John Piper uncovers the purpose above every other purpose in the universe, and points to the role wrath plays in God’s bigger design.

Outline

Prayer/Recap (00:00–02:00)

Vessels of Wrath (02:00–06:00)

1. The context of God’s patience with the “vessels of wrath” (Romans 9:22) is Pharaoh’s hardening and Egypt’s judgment. God patiently sent ten plagues to warn Egypt, but they rejected them all.
2. The vessels of wrath really are suited for wrath (“prepared for destruction”) (Romans 9:22). There is real fault, real guilt, and real blame.
3. Therefore, nobody who comes under God’s judgment will ever be able to say they do not deserve it.
4. God is sovereign over the design of each vessel, those for wrath and those for mercy. (Romans 9:22)

God of Patience (06:00–08:07)

1. God really is patient in dealing with the vessels of wrath. (Romans 9:22)
2. Pharaoh had opportunities to repent, like he did more than once. (Exodus 10:16–19).
3. Had Pharaoh stood by that repentance, God would not have brought wrath and destruction.

The Purpose of Everything (08:07–11:52)

1. God’s ultimate purpose is not wrath or judgment, but “in order to make known the riches of glory for vessels of mercy.” (Romans 9:23)
2. This different set of vessels are suited or fitted for mercy and salvation. God makes such people. (Romans 9:23)
3. God fits some for mercy so that he can make known the riches of his glory. We need both wrath and mercy to see God’s mercy clearly and powerfully.
4. The ultimate purpose of the universe is that vessels of mercy would see all the riches of God’s glory.

Study Questions

1. What does it mean that the vessels of wrath are “prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22)? Who does the preparing, and for what purpose?

2. Is the patience described in Romans 9:22 real or not? If it’s real, how would you explain it to someone in light of the judgment God eventually brings?

3. Based on Romans 9:23, what is God’s ultimate purpose in his mercy and wrath? Why would he create or design two kinds of people like this?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Why God Created the Universe (article)
• If God Is So Happy, Why Did He Create the Non-Elect? (interview)
• God’s Ultimate Purpose: Vessels of Mercy Knowing the Riches of His Glory (sermon on Romans 9:23–24)

Romans 9:22–23, Part 3

Jonathan Edwards and His Angry God

July 30, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:22–23
Topic: The Wrath of God
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

If people’s hearts are ultimately governed by God, how can God find fault with their hardness and rejection? In this lab, John Piper looks to Jonathan Edwards to understand why the judgment of God is essential for our fullest knowledge of him, and therefore our fullest enjoyment of him.

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Five Truths About the Wrath of God (article)
• The Doctrine of the Wrath of God (interview)
• Pour Out Your Indignation Upon Them (sermon on Psalm 69)

Romans 9:24–29, Part 1

The Circumcision of the Heart

August 4, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 2:28–29 and Romans 9:24–29
Topic: Faith
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

How could God be faithful to his promises if so many in Israel have fallen away, rejected the Messiah, and not been saved? In this lab, John Piper uncovers the next progression in Paul’s argument for God’s trustworthiness: the Gentiles are included as children in God’s invincible plan and promises.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:55)

Who Are We? (00:55–06:20)

1. The new piece in Paul’s argument for God’s faithfulness to his word is the inclusion of the Gentiles as children of promise. (Romans 9:24)
2. Not all who were born into Israel truly or ultimately belong to Israel. (Romans 9:7)
3. Based on the previous verses, “us” (Romans 9:24) is referring to the children of God, the elect, the vessels of mercy, the children of promise, and the true Israel.
4. Some who were not born into Israel will truly and ultimately belong to Israel. (Romans 9:24)

Jews and Gentiles Alike (06:20–10:09)

1. What marks a true Jew—a member of true Israel—is the condition of a person’s heart, not their flesh or lineage. (Romans 2:28–29)
2. Paul cities Hosea to show that Gentiles will be included in God’s people. (Romans 9:25–26)
3. Paul cites Isaiah to show that some Jews will not be included in God’s people. (Romans 9:27–29)
4. Paul evidently thinks both of these points is critical to demonstrating God’s faithfulness to his promises. (Romans 9:6, 24–29)

Study Questions

1. What is the dramatic new piece in Paul’s argument for the faithfulness of God to his word in Romans 9:24?

2. Based on everything we’ve read so far in Romans 9 (and anything else you can remember or find in Romans up until this point), how would you define the “us” in Romans 9:24?

3. Read Romans 2:28–29. How do these verses help us understand who God’s people truly are?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Did the Old Testament Teach You Could Be a True Jew? (article)
• God’s Fame and Global Missions (interview)
• The Gentiles Are Included (sermon on Romans 9:24–29)

Romans 9:24–29, Part 2

Partakers of God’s Promises

August 6, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 9:24–29
Topic: The Covenants
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

When did God decide to include the nations in his chosen people? The apostle Paul cites Old Testament passages to show that God always intended to bring Gentiles into his family. In this lab, John Piper explores Paul’s use of the Old Testament to give us outside of Israel hope.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–04:38)

Not My People (04:38–07:45)

1. Paul wants us to see in Hosea that God’s call to Israel implies that Gentiles will be included. (Romans 9:25–26)
2. Paul takes the phrase “not my people” seriously (Romans 9:26). If Jews utterly rejected by God can become children of God again, then Gentiles have the same hope.
3. These Gentiles have become sons of the living God, and are truly Jewish after all. (Romans 2:28–29)

Not All Israel (07:45–09:03)

1. Not all who are of Israel are truly of Israel. (Romans 9:24)
2. Isaiah makes clear that God never intended that every Jew would be partakers of the promises in the Old Testament. (Romans 9:27)
3. Jewishness doesn’t guarantee that one wouldn’t be counted and judged with Gentile peoples like Sodom and Gomorrah. (Romans 9:29)

No Distinction in Christ (09:03–11:32)

1. God has promised that the partakers of God’s promises would not only come from Israel, but also from among the Gentiles. (Romans 9:24)
2. This is the great mystery Paul describes in Ephesians 3:4–6. The Gentiles are fellow heirs with the Jews and partakers of the promise through the gospel.
3. In Christ, all the distinctions between people are leveled (Galatians 3:26–29). God saves people of every kind through the gospel, and makes them partakers of his promises to Israel.

Study Questions

1. How is Paul using Hosea 2:23 (cited in Romans 9:25–26) to explain Romans 9:24? Why does Paul quote that particular verse here?

2. And how is Paul using Isaiah 10:22 and 1:9 (cited in Romans 9:27–29) to explain himself? Why does he quote those particular verses here?

3. Now, read Ephesians 3:4–6 and Galatians 3:26–29. How do those other texts from Paul help make clear his meaning in Romans 9:24–29?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• I Know the Plans I Have for You (article)
• What Must I Believe to Be Saved? (interview)
• The Gentiles Are Included (sermon on Romans 9:24–29)

Romans 9:30–33

The Great Antidote to Shame

August 11, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 10:1–4 and Romans 9:30–33
Topic: Justification
Series: God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise

Principle for Bible Reading

Has God’s word of promise failed because so many in Israel have failed to believe and receive it? In the last lab in this Romans 9 series, John Piper looks at a second major piece of Paul’s argument for the faithfulness of God to his promises. He also summarizes what we’ve learned from the whole chapter.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:04)

Has God’s Word Failed? (01:04–04:36)

1. What shall we say then to what? The truth that Gentiles are included as vessels of mercy and children of promise. (Romans 9:24, 30)
2. Paul’s answer so far in Romans 9:6–29, especially in Roman 9:11, has been unconditional election.
3. He gives a second answer in Romans 9:30–33. God requires people to be holy and righteous, so how do Gentiles become righteous?

Israel’s Faith Failed (04:36–10:26)

1. This righteousness comes by faith. (Romans 9:30)
2. Israel did not attain the righteousness that the law required. (Romans 9:31)
3. Why? Because they pursued it as if it were based on works, and not on faith. (Romans 9:32)
4. Israel failed to believe in Jesus as the one to whom the law was pointing. (Romans 9:33; 10:4)
5. Instead of relying on Christ for righteousness, the Jewish people tried to produce a righteousness of their own.

Summary of Romans 9 (10:26–13:36)

It looked like the word of God had failed because so much of Israel had fallen away and failed to receive the promise. (Romans 9:6)

1. The word of God has not failed because of God’s unconditional election. God decides who—Jew or Gentile—is the true Israel through election. (Romans 9:6–29)
2. The word of God has not failed because justification comes on the basis of Christ for righteousness through faith alone. (Romans 9:30–33)

Study Questions

1. When Paul asks, “What then shall we say?” at the beginning of Romans 9:30, what is he responding to? What statement or idea is making him ask that question?

2. Some thought the word of God had failed (Romans 9:6). How would you summarize Paul’s answer to that claim so far in Romans 9:6–29?

3. What new argument does Paul make in Romans 9:30–33? How could Gentiles who have not even pursued righteousness according to the law be made righteous before God?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Related Resources

• Your Joy Rests on Jesus’s Righteousness (article)
• Can My Good Works Outweigh My Bad? (interview)
• The Gentiles Have Obtained Righteousness by Faith (sermon on Romans 9:30–33)

Romans 11:28–32

Our Disobedience and God’s Mercy

September 23, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 11:28–32
Topic: The Doctrines of Grace / Calvinism

Principle for Bible Reading

When you see personal pronouns (e.g. he, she, you, they, or his, hers, your, their), identify to whom they are referring. Is the writer speaking about his audience? If so, who is the audience? Is he speaking about Jews or Gentiles? Believers or nonbelievers? To understand the passage, we have to identify the relevant parties.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:52)

Observations (00:52–05:59)

1. The Jews became enemies of God for the sake of the Gentiles (Romans 11:28).
2. The Jews are loved by God because they’ve been chosen by God (Romans 11:28).
3. God’s election is sure and his love cannot be revoked (Romans 11:29).
4. The Gentiles also disobeyed, but they received mercy because of Israel’s disobedience (Romans 11:30).
5. The Jews will be shown the same mercy that the Gentiles received (Romans 11:31).
6. God’s deep purpose in all of this is to have mercy on both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 11:32).

Summary (05:59–09:43)

1. Israel is elect, and that election cannot be removed (Romans 11:29).
2. Despite their election, Israel has become disobedient (Romans 11:28–32).
3. At the same time, the Gentiles were disobedient (Romans 11:30).
4. Because of Jewish disobedience, Gentiles now also receive mercy (Romans 11:30).
5. By the same mercy the Gentiles receive, Israel will also be saved (Romans 11:32).

Application (09:43–11:06)

1. We are all, Jew and Gentile, are utterly dependent on God’s mercy.
2. Neither Jew nor Gentile has any reason to boast because each of our disobedience ultimately serves to save the other.

Study Questions

1. Track the personal pronouns in these (e.g. they, you, your, etc.). To whom is each referring?

2. Based on these verses, why do the Gentiles receive mercy? Why does Israel (eventually) receive mercy?

3. What does the “that” mean in Romans 11:32? How is it connecting the two phrases in that verse?

Related Resources

• Seven Details to See in Your Past (article)
• Is God Fed Up with Me? (interview)
• God’s Design for History: The Glory of His Mercy (sermon on Romans 11:28–32)

Romans 12:19–20

Vengeance Is Mine

April 14, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:22–23 and Romans 12:19–20
Topic: The Wrath of God

Principle for Bible Reading

We all have been sinned against, in large or small ways. The Bible calls us not to avenge ourselves, but to entrust the pain and offense to God, who judges justly. In this lab, John Piper reminds us of the promise that God will repay every wrong ever committed against us.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:44)

God Will Repay (00:44–03:24)

1. When it comes to personal vengeance or payback, surrender it. Do not act like it didn’t happen, but give it over to God. (Romans 12:19)
2. God promises to repay evil done against you. (Hebrews 12:19)
3. Believing this promise will free us from the felt need to avenge ourselves.

The Example of Jesus (03:24–05:15)

1. Jesus did not revile or threaten in return. (1 Peter 2:23)
2. Instead, Jesus (even Jesus) trusted himself to the one who judges justly. Vengeance is God’s. (1 Peter 2:23)
3. All things will be settled rightly by the one who judges justly. God always gets it right.
4. If you have a cause that you believe is just, and you believe you’ve received an injustice, the Bible calls you to entrust it to the judge.

What Revenge Says About God (05:15–07:03)

1. God always punishes every wrong.
2. He punishes the evil in hell (for those who do not repent), or on the cross (for those who repent).
3. To take vengeance yourself is to say hell is an inadequate punishment or the cross is an inadequate sacrifice.

Study Questions

1. According to Romans 12:19–20, why should we not try to avenge ourselves? What promise keeps us from taking vengeance ourselves?

2. Read 1 Peter 2:22–23. Explain how Jesus lived our the principles of faith in Romans 12:19–20.

3. If hell is the punishment for sin, and the cross paid the penalty for sin, what do our attempts to avenge ourselves say about hell? About the cross?

Related Resources

• The Avenger (article)
• Do I Need to Repent If Christ Died for All My Sins? (interview)
• Do Not Avenge Yourselves, But Give Place to Wrath (sermon on Romans 12:16–20)

1 Corinthians 8:1–3

Love Builds Up

November 18, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 8:1–3
Topic: Life of the Mind

Principle for Bible Reading

Is knowledge good or bad? 1 Corinthians 8:1–3 says that knowledge can lead to pride or to love, so how do we know which our knowledge is? Pastor John unfolds the life of the mind in this new lab.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:43)

The Progression of Pride (00:43–03:26)

1. Knowledge leads to pride. (1 Corinthians 8:1)
2. Pride leads to lovelessness.
3. Lovelessness leads to destruction (hurting others).

To Know or Not to Know (03:26–07:03)

What kind of knowledge is good? And what kind is destructive?

1. There is a knowledge that is good (“as he ought to know”).
2. Knowledge that puffs up is an imaginary knowledge (“if anyone imagines that he knows something”).
3. If your knowing is not serving others it’s not true knowing.
4. To know as you ought is to love God. You don’t know anything unless your knowing is resulting in love for God.
5. Therefore, true knowledge loves and serves people (1 Corinthians 8:1) and treasures God (1 Corinthians 8:3).

Known by God (07:03–08:46)

1. Whoever loves God—that is, has a knowledge producing love—has been known by God. They have been chosen by God (cf. Amos 3:2).
2. God’s election totally undermines our propensity toward pride in our knowledge. God is under and behind all of our knowing.

Summary (08:46–10:42)

1. Election ⇒
2. Humility ⇒
3. True Knowledge ⇒
4. Love for God and Love for People ⇒
5. Building Up of Others ⇒
6. Others Love God and People

Study Questions

1. Based on 1 Corinthians 8:1–3, is knowledge good or bad? How do you know whether your knowledge is good or bad?

2. What is the imaginary knowledge in 1 Corinthians 8:2?

3. Why might Paul say, “he is known by God, and not, “he knows God”? What does it mean to be known by God?

Recents Labs from John Piper

1. “The Spirit in You Is Life” on Romans 8:9
2. “You Are Not Your Own” on Romans 8:12–13
3. “The Spirit Lives in You” on Romans 8:12–13

Related Resources

• The Danger in Our Daily Devotions (article)
• What Does It Mean to Love the Lord With All Your Mind? (interview)
• Think Hard, Stay Humble: The Life of the Mind and the Peril of Pride (sermon by Francis Chan)

1 Corinthians 15:9–10, Part 1

Grace Redeems the Worst Pasts

October 15, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:9–10, 1 Timothy 1:13–16, and Galatians 1:15–16
Topic: The Grace of God

Principle for Bible Reading

God’s grace rescued one of the worst sinners in history, a man who by his own admission was a persecutor, blasphemer, and murderer. Paul’s story gives every sinner hope. In this lab, John Piper defines grace and explains how it meets us in the midst of our brokenness and rebellion.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:41)

The Least of the Apostles (01:41–04:31)

1. Paul calls himself the least of the apostles and unworthy to be called an apostle. (1 Corinthians 15:9)
2. Paul sees God’s grace in his past, and in his future. (1 Corinthians 15:9–10)
3. One question is whether Paul is suggesting grace intervened and made Paul an apostle, or that the grace of God was working all along to make Paul who he is.

What Is Grace? (04:31–06:25)

1. We ordinarily think of grace as the disposition of God to treat us better than we deserve.
2. God’s grace is not so much an activity with power as it is a state of his heart and a way of his being.
3. For instance, God’s grace is his disposition to choose and save his people, even though they are sinners and do not deserve it. (Romans 11:5–6)
4. God’s grace is the origin of every blessing we receive.

God’s Perfect Patience (06:25–11:51)

1. Grace is also power that changes things in our lives. (1 Corinthians 15:9–10)
2. Is grace in 1 Corinthians 15:10 about Paul being the “least of the apostles” or just about him being an apostle?
3. Paul was set apart to be an apostle long before he was called, even before he was born. (Galatians 1:15)
4. God allowed Paul to become the kind of sinner he was so that he could display his perfect patience. (1 Timothy 1:13–16)
5. This means God’s grace is not above any sinner in your life, however awful they have sinned against God or others.

Summary: God’s Grace-Filled Wisdom (11:51–13:10)

The grace of God did not make Paul the least of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9). The grace of God and the wisdom of God allowed him to commit the sins he did because it would make him a more useful minister of the gospel.

Study Questions

1. Looking at 1 Corinthians 15:9–10 and Romans 11:5–6 (and any other relevant texts that come to mind), how would you define the grace of God towards you?

2. If Paul was set apart as an apostle before he was born (Galatians 1:15), why would God wait to save him? Write down your answer, and then refer to 1 Timothy 1:13–16.

3. In 1 Corinthians 15:9–10, is Paul saying grace simply made him an apostle, or that it made him the least of the apostles? Why?

Related Resources

• Put Yourself in the Path of God’s Grace (article)
• Have I Exhausted God’s Patience with My Sin? (interview)
• “Grace to You” and “Grace with You” (sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:10)

1 Corinthians 15:9–10, Part 2

Grace Empowers the Best Work

October 20, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:9–10
Topic: The Grace of God

Principle for Bible Reading

For many, the message of grace means the end of all effort. But the Bible will not let us settle for that kind of Christian life. In this lab, John Piper connects key texts to inspire real, consistent, passionate effort to live like Jesus today. The grace that saves us also empowers change in us.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:45)

Grace Does Not Fail (01:45–04:09)

1. “I am what I am” looks at grace’s impact on Paul’s life looking back into the past. (1 Corinthians 15:9)
2. Why was God’s grace toward Paul not in vain? Because he became a worker for the sake of the gospel. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
3. Grace does not replace work in the Christian life, but empowers it.

Grace Does Not Replace Effort (04:09–06:12)

1. None of our works contribute with Christ’s work to the forgiveness of our sins or the providing of our righteousness.
2. Once we have been justified, grace not only takes the place of works (for our justification), but also produces work (for our sanctification). (1 Corinthians 15:10)
3. Grace does not replace our effort, but empowers our effort.
4. If you are dominated by grace, you will overflow with real efforts to live for God.

Grace Works Within Me (06:12–11:12)

1. We might construe Paul’s words here to mean that grace starts the work and we finish it. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
2. Paul resolves that issue by clarifying that even his effort is not his own, but the grace of God in and through him. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
3. In Galatians 3:2–5, Paul corrects the same wrong way of thinking. We don’t pick up in sanctification where God left off in justification. It is all by grace.
4. The grace of God is so decisive and powerful in the good work I am doing that it is fitting to say I am not doing it.
5. The same dynamic between God’s grace and our effort is shown again in Philippians 2:12–13.
6. Therefore, all the glory from justification and sanctification belongs to the God of grace.

Study Questions

1. Why was God’s grace toward Paul not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:10)? What would it mean for his grace to be in vain toward someone?

2. If Paul was relying on God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:10), why did he work harder than anyone? Based on 1 Corinthians 15:9–10, how does God’s grace relate to our effort in the Christian life?

3. Read Galatians 3:2–5 and Philippians 2:12–13. How do these other texts from Paul help us understand 1 Corinthians 15:9–10?

Related Resources

• Three Ways Our Deeds Relate to Our Salvation (article)
• Does Justification-Centered Sanctification Lead to Antinomianism? (interview)
• “I Act the Miracle” (sermon on Philippians 2:12–13)

1 Corinthians 15:9–10, Part 3

Grace Supplies Strength for Today

October 22, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:9–10
Topic: The Grace of God

Principle for Bible Reading

If grace empowers us to live like Christ, how do we access that grace day after day? What does it mean to live in the strength and grace that God supplies? In this lab, John Piper continues to unpack a life marked and sustained by faith in God’s future grace, where God’s power meets our needs for his glory moment by moment.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–03:02)

In 1 Corinthians 15:9–10, Paul says that he worked harder than anyone, and he says that the grace of God accomplished any work he had done. How do we work hard in a way that relies entirely on grace?

We Died, and We Live Again (03:02–04:47)

1. Paul uses the same “not I, but grace” language in Galatians 2:20.
2. There is a sense in which Paul died when he became a Christian, but there’s also a way in which he still lives. (Galatians 2:20)
3. According to Paul, the old unbelieving me no longer lives, but the new believing me lives through faith.
4. Grace works in us and through us by faith, by us believing something about God. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Jesus Lives in You (04:47–06:24)

1. We live because Jesus Christ lives through us by faith. (Galatians 2:20)
2. Paul also talks about Jesus living inside of us in Ephesians 3:17.
3. The way Paul prays in Ephesians 3:14–17 suggests that Christ can live in greater or lesser ways in the Christian heart.

Models of Faith in Future Grace (06:24–09:56)

1. As Paul worked, he trusted the grace of God to come and work in him and through him, so that grace would get all the credit for whatever he accomplished. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
2. We trust grace to come and help us in whatever situation we face. That is what faith is. (Hebrews 11:1)
3. For example, Abraham was willing to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice because he trusted that God would fulfill his promise. (Hebrews 11:17–19)
4. For example, Moses was mistreated in Egypt because he trusted in the promise of a future reward for his faithfulness. (Hebrews 11:24–26)
5. Note. (1 Corinthians 15:9)

The Strength that God Supplies (09:56–13:52)

1. The same pattern appears in 1 Peter 4:11.
2. God’s grace supplies the strength whenever we serve, so that we can give God all the glory for any service or ministry we perform.
3. The Giver gets the glory. (1 Peter 4:11)
4. Grace provides the promise for us to believe, and then works in and through our faith to supply the strength we need to live for God.

Study Questions

1. Paul says that he worked hard, but that it was not him in the end, but the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:9–10). What does that mean? How do Paul’s work and God’s grace relate to each other? Look at Galatians 2:20 and Ephesians 3:14–17 for help in filling out your answer.

2. Read through Hebrews 11:17–26. How do Abraham and Moses live out the faith you see in 1 Corinthians 15:9–10?

3. Now, read 1 Peter 4:11. In what ways is it similar to 1 Corinthians 15:9–10? What is the main point of what Peter is saying in 1 Peter 4:11?

Related Resources

• How to Find Strength in the Strength of God (article)
• The 8 Steps of Christian Obedience (interview)
• “The Glory of God in the Good Resolves of His People” (sermon on 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12)

2 Corinthians 4:4–6

The Light of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ

March 12, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:4–6
Topic: Salvation

Principle for Bible Reading

What happened when you were saved? While Satan did everything he could to blind you to the beauty of Jesus Christ, God broke through in marvelous light, and you saw, and you believed. In this lab, John Piper highlights critical parallels between two key verses to explain the miracle of conversion.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:14)

Blindness: The Nature of Satan’s Work (01:14–02:56)

1. Satan is focused on keeping unbelievers from seeing the light of Christ’s glory. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
2. This light streams through facts about Jesus and the gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
3. Satan focuses on blinding people to Jesus Christ because we—God’s messengers—are proclaiming him (2 Corinthians 4:5). He’s not as concerned with the facts (the knowledge) of the gospel, but about hiding people from the light streaming from the gospel.

Sight: The Nature of God’s Work (02:56–06:48)

1. “Light” in 2 Corinthians 4:4 corresponds with “light” in 2 Corinthians 4:6.
2. The blindness in 2 Corinthians 4:4 is like the darkness that was on the earth before God created light. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
3. “Gospel” in 2 Corinthians 4:4 corresponds with “knowledge” in 2 Corinthians 4:6. The gospel is a series of facts that anyone can know. Knowledge, though is not enough to save anyone. But anyone can know the gospel.
4. “Glory” in 4:4 corresponds with “glory” in 4:6. The glory in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 4:6 is not two glories, but one. It is the glory of God, which is made visible in the face of Jesus Christ.

How Shall We See? (06:48–09:50)

1. God shines light on Jesus through the gospel.
2. The light reveals God’s glory in Jesus Christ to our hearts and minds.
3. When we see God’s glory in Christ, we believe.

And if you do not see Jesus Christ as beautiful or glorious? Pay close attention to those who proclaim not themselves, but Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5). Listen to them. And because only God brings this kind of sight, pray.

Study Questions

1. From 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, define the nature of Satan’s work in the world, as well as the nature of God’s.

2. Look at 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 2 Corinthians 4:6. Identify and explain all the parallels between the two verses.

3. Is the “glory” in 2 Corinthians 4:4 a different glory than the “glory” in 2 Corinthians 4:6? Or are they the same glory?

4. If someone does not see Jesus Christ as glorious, how would you counsel them? Based on 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, how might they seek out the gift of sight?

Related Resources

• The Glory of God As the Ground of Faith (1976 article)
• How Do I Know I’m Saved? (interview)
• Why Do Christians Preach and Sing? (sermon)

2 Corinthians 8:1–2

An Abundance of Joy

June 9, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1–2
Topic: Giving

Principle for Bible Reading

We take some words in the Christian vocabulary for granted. 2 Corinthians 8:1–2 and 2 Corinthians 8:8 offer a definition of love that you may not have considered. By paying close attention to Paul’s grammar, we find keys to loving people more truly and effectively. We also learn what’s behind the kind of generosity that pleases God.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:40)

Observations (00:40–03:07)

1. Paul is trying to inspire generosity by sharing the example of the Macedonians (2 Corinthians 8:1).
2. Affliction and poverty didn’t cease when the Macedonians came to faith (2 Corinthians 8:2).
3. Surprisingly, these afflicted believers were overflowing with joy (2 Corinthians 8:2).
4. Their abundance of joy and extreme poverty produced generosity (2 Corinthians 8:2).
5. Paul called this kind of generosity, “love” (2 Corinthians 8:8).

Defining Love (03:07–05:27)

Love (2 Corinthians 8:8) is the overflow of joy (2 Corinthians 8:2) in the grace of God (2 Corinthians 8:1) that meets the needs of others (2 Corinthians 8:2).

Confirmation from 1 Corinthians 9:7–8 (05:27–07:04)

1. God loves a cheerful (or joyful) giver. Giving that pleases God is the overflow of joy (2 Corinthians 9:7).
2. Our giving relies on God making grace abound to us (2 Corinthians 9:8).
3. Grace leads to joy, and joy produces generosity (2 Corinthians 9:7–8).

Study Questions

1. What is surprising about the Macedonians’ generosity?

2. Looking only at 2 Corinthians 8:1–2 and 2 Corinthians 8:8, how would you define love?

3. What themes do you see in 2 Corinthians 8:1–2 and 2 Corinthians 9:7–8? How do those themes relate to one another?

Related Resources

• Four Questions to Keep Close to Your Wallet (article)
• What Are Your Thoughts on Preparing for the Future Financially? (interview)
• Love: the Labor of Christian Hedonism (sermon on 2 Corinthians 8:1–2)

Galatians 6:12–15, Part 1

Law-Keeping Cannot Save You

August 27, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Galatians 6:12–15
Topic: Justification

Principle for Bible Reading

People by nature want to boast in their own abilities, efforts, and achievements. Therefore, the cross of Christ is an offense to everyone. In this lab, John Piper looks at why we resist the message of the cross, as well as what the good news of the gospel says to our self-righteousness.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:38)

Law-Keepers Love to Boast (01:38–05:46)

1. Those who are pushing for circumcision and law-keeping in Galatia want to boast in what they’ve done. (Galatians 6:12)
2. Therefore, they are trying to convince others to do the same to validate and commend what they themselves have done. (Galatians 6:12)
3. The reason they’re requiring circumcision is not because they have successfully or perfectly fulfilled the law themselves. (Galatians 6:13)
4. No, their motive is to boast in themselves by others’ circumcision. (Galatians 6:13)

Law-Keepers Lose Christ (05:46–10:36)

1. One reason these false teachers are requiring circumcision is to avoid persecution (Galatians 6:12). What is it about the cross that would cause persecution?
2. If you want to try and contribute to your salvation, Christ is of no advantage to you (Galatians 5:1). It is all Christ or no Christ.
3. If law-keeping will be any part of the ground of your salvation, it will be perfect law-keeping. (Galatians 5:10)
4. The cross strips us of the ability to boast in any part of our being made right with God. (Galatians 5:11)
5. We are persecuted over the cross, because people want to boast in their effort and achievements.

Summary (10:36–11:36)

Study Questions

1. Describe the false teachers in Galatians 6:12–13. What is their message? What is their motivation?

2. Read Galatians 5:1–11. How do these verses in the previous chapter help you understand the situation in Galatians 6:12–15?

3. Paul says the law-keepers do not want to be persecuted for the cross. Why are Christians persecuted for the cross of Christ?

Related Resources

• Boasting in Man Is Doubly Excluded (article)
• Can My Good Works Outweigh My Bad? (interview)
• Justification by Faith Is the End of Boasting (sermon on Romans 3:27–31)

Galatians 6:12–15, Part 2

Crucified to the World

September 1, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Galatians 6:12–15, Galatians 5:6, 1 Corinthians 7:19, and Romans 13:8–10
Topic: Regeneration / New Birth

Principle for Bible Reading

What does it mean for us to die to the world or for the world to die to us (Galatians 6:14)? In this lab, John Piper explains what happens when we belong to Jesus. What kind of new creation are we, and what does that mean for our lives? Piper pulls in several texts to answer difficult questions.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–06:11)

1. How does someone die to the world?
2. What does it mean for the world to die to me?
3. How does our new creation relate to our death?

Dead to the World (06:11–08:14)

1. How does someone die to the world? (Galatians 6:14)
2. We have been crucified with Christ. (Galatians 2:20)
3. This union happens through faith. When we believe in Jesus, his death counts as ours. (Galatians 2:20)

The World Died to Me (08:14–09:30)

1. What does it mean for the world to die to me? (Galatians 6:14)
2. When we die to the world, we are no longer enslaved by the world because it’s lost its power to destroy you.
3. Knowing the world has died to me means knowing that you are free from the world’s influence and rule.

Made New Through Death (09:30–11:17)

1. How does our new creation relate to our death? (Galatians 6:15)
2. I died, but Christ still lives in me (Galatians 2:20). This means we’re still alive somehow.
3. Now, I love in the flesh (bodily), but now I live by faith. (Galatians 2:20)
4. The new creation reality in my life is me living by faith. (Galatians 2:20; 6:15)

Confirmation in the New Testament (11:17–14:31)

1. Galatians 5:6 confirms this by replacing “new creation” with “faith working through love” when talking about circumcision and uncircumcision.
2. 1 Corinthians 7:19 also confirms this with similar language, this time using “keeping the commandments of God” instead of “new creation.”
3. Romans 13:8–10 ties together Galatians 5:6 and 1 Corinthians 7:19, “love is the fulfilling of the whole law.”

Summary of Galatians 6:12–15 (14:31–16:13)

Study Questions

1. What does it mean for us to die to the world in Galatians 6:14? Review Galatians 2:20 for help. What does it mean for the world to die to us (Galatians 6:14)?

2. Based on Galatians 6:12–15, how do we become a new creation after dying? Again, look at Galatians 2:20 for help.

3. Read Galatians 5:6, 1 Corinthians 7:19, and Romans 13:8–10. What do you learn about how Paul thinks about us being a “new creation”?

Related Resources

• The Incalculable Wonder of Being a Christian (article)
• What Does It Mean to Be Dead to the World? (interview)
• Christ Crucified, Our Boast (sermon on Galatians 6:11–18)

Philippians 1:20–23

To Die Is Gain

December 18, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Philippians 1:20–23
Topic: Christian Hedonism

Principle for Bible Reading

John Piper says this passage has been one of the most pivotal for him and his ministry. These four verses hold profound and precious truths about life and about death. In this lab, Piper shows why Christ is most magnified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

Outline

Introduction (00:00–00:30)

The Passion of Paul’s Life (00:30–03:08)

1 Paul has a passion in life (“eager expectation and hope”). (Philippians 1:20)
2. That passion—or longing—has two components: 1: that he not be ashamed (of Christ) and 2. that Christ would be honored in Paul, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:20)
3. Therefore, Paul would be happy if in everything he did in his body (whether in life or in death) Christ was made to look great.

The Prize of Paul’s Death (03:08–05:09)

1. There is a parallel in Philippians 1:20 and 1:21. “To live” corresponds back with “by life,” and “to die” corresponds with “by death.”
2. We need to ask how Christ could be honored in our death. It is easier to see how we make him look great in life, but maybe harder to make the connection in death.
3. Christ is honored in our dying when we experience death as gain. That is the argument of the word “For” in Philippians 1:21.

Implications for Christian Hedonism (05:09–08:04)

1. Death is gain because death means more of Christ. And more of Christ is gain because he is better than anything this life can give you. (Philippians 1:21)
2. Therefore, Christ is most magnified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

Study Questions

1. Explain the “For” at the beginning of Philippians 1:21. How does what comes after the “For” explain or ground what comes before?

2. Based on these verses, how does Paul honor Christ in his life? In his death?

3. What does it mean that death is gain? Look specifically at Philippians 1:22–23.

Related Resources

• It Is Great Gain to Die (article)
• Facing Death Faithfully (interview)
• Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain (sermon)

Philippians 2:3–8, Part 1

Holy God Became Like Us

December 22, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Philippians 2:3–8 and Romans 8:3
Topics: Pride & Humility, The Birth of Christ

Why did Jesus take on flesh and go to the cross? To take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). But not only that. He also went before us as a spectacular picture of humble service and obedience. He lived and died, in every way, for the sake of others. In this lab, John Piper calls us to do the same by looking again at the wonder and mystery of Christmas.

Principle for Bible Reading

The most important idea in a passage is not always the main point of a passage. Sometimes the biblical authors use massive realities (God, sin, the cross, etc.) to support lesser, more practical realities (our forgiveness, obedience, love, etc.). Seeing the relationship between immeasurable theological truths and our lives is critical and glorious.

Study Questions

1. Look at Philippians 2:3–4, and explain the lifestyle Paul is describing in your own words. What kind of person lives like this?

2. List all the ways Jesus models humility for us from Philippians 2:3–8.

3. Explain how Paul relates the description of Jesus in Philippians 2:5–8 with the commands in Philippians 2:3–4. What’s the relationship between those two sets of verses?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–03:10)

Live Your Life for Others (03:10–06:08)

• Philippians 2:3–4 offers the practical goal of this text.
• Be a person for others. Live for others and not yourself. (Philippians 2:3–4)
• Paul enables or inspires that kind of lifestyle by describing Christmas. (Philippians 2:5–8)
• We live for others by looking to Christ’s love for us.

He Humbled Himself (06:08–08:30)

• Jesus was in the form of God. (Philippians 2:6)
• His mind was not set on keeping his power and glory. (Philippians 2:6)
• Instead, he emptied himself. (Philippians 2:7)
• He took the form of a servant focused on others. (Philippians 2:7)
• He became a man, a real human being. (Philippians 2:7, Romans 8:3)
• As a man, he humbled himself and obeyed his Father. (Philippians 2:8)
• His obedience led him to death, and the worst kind of death imaginable. (Philippians 2:8)

Jesus Suffered for Your Love (08:30–09:17)

• Jesus humbled himself so that we would not live out of rivalry or conceit. (Philippians 2:3)
• He did it so that we would count others more significant than ourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
• He did it so that we would wake up thinking of others’ needs and interests, and not just our own. (Philippians 2:4)

Related Resources

• The Shy Virtue of Christmas (article)
• Our Theology Is Meant to Flatten Us (interview)
• “The Mind of Christ: Looking Out for the Interests of Others” (sermon on Philippians 2)

Philippians 2:3–8, Part 2

Lower Yourself in Love Like Jesus

December 24, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Philippians 2:3–3:11
Topics: Pride & Humility, The Birth of Christ

The key to enduring suffering in service to others is putting on the humility of Christ. But how do we become humble people? In this lab, John Piper walks us through the birth and death of Jesus, showing us how to unite ourselves to him and to walk in love after his example. The end of all our humble service is everlasting joy.

Principle for Bible Reading

One question we should be asking when slow down over a passage in the Bible is whether a particular author uses a word in this verse(s) somewhere else in their writing. Sometimes he will use the same word in close proximity, as in Philippians 2:3–6. Often, we learn a great deal by seeing how they use that word in other places.

Study Questions

1. Explain the exchange being made in Philippians 2:3. Practically, what role does humility play in that transition?

2. What word occurs in Philippians 2:3 and Philippians 2:6? What is Paul communicating to us by using the same word in those two places?

3. Now read Philippians 2:9–11. Do you see anything new about the humility of Jesus Christ in these verses? What does that mean for our humility and service now?

Related Resources

• How to Fight the Sin of Pride (article)
• The Power to Conquer Selfishness (interview)
• “A Big God for Little People: Seven Christmas Eve Meditations” (sermon on John 13:1–20)

Philippians 4:19–20

God Will Supply Your Every Need

May 19, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 4:11, Philippians 4:19–20, Mark 10:43–45, and Acts 17:24–25
Topic: The Glory of God
Series: The Uniqueness of God

Principle for Bible Reading

God exalts himself by serving us, not by having us serve him, and that sets him apart from all the gods. In this lab, John Piper shows why we should never think we have served God as though he needed anything. He ends by asking if we can serve God at all.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:00)

God Needs Nothing (Acts 17:24–25) (01:00–03:47)

1. God is never served by us in a way that suggests he needed us. (Acts 17:25)
2. God exalts himself by being above having needs.
3. God is fundamentally giver, not need-er. Everything we need comes from him, and nothing he needs comes from us. He is infinitely resourceful. (Acts 17:24–25)

He Came Not to Be Served (Mark 10:43–45) (03:47–05:47)

1. The Son of Man came from heaven not to be served. (Mark 10:45)
2. No, the Son of Man came to serve us, specifically to give his life to pay our debt. (Mark 10:45)
3. Therefore, beware that you never serve Jesus as though he needed anything. He didn’t come to fulfill his need with you, but to meet all your need with his death.

My God Will Supply (Philippians 4:19–20) (05:47–07:21)

1. God promises to supply our every need—not our every whim (Philippians 4:19).
2. Everything we have is a gift from God. We do not receive anything we need apart from the sovereign grace of God. (1 Corinthians 4:7)
3. Philippians 4:20 ends with worship to the God who provides for us. God serves us to exalt himself and his mercy.

Can We Serve God? (1 Peter 4:11) (07:21–10:42)

1. We know it is right to serve God, because it’s commanded throughout Scripture We have learned, though, that we need to have our idea of what it means to serve God utterly transformed.
2. Every time you put forward effort to serve God—whatever you do in the name of Christ—your effort is being supplied by God.
3. That transaction should be a conscious one. We pray for the strength of God (God serving us) in order to live for his glory (us serving God).
4. Waiting for God to work for us involves activity. This kind of waiting requires all kinds of serving, but all of it in the strength and grace that God supplies, so that he receives all of the glory.

Study Questions

1. What do we learn about God in Acts 17:24–25? What implications does that have for our relationship with him?

2. Read Mark 10:43–45. Why did Jesus come to earth? How might our serving him undermine that great purpose?

3. If it’s wrong to serve God as though he needed us, how should we serve God? Read 1 Peter 4:11, and explain how we serve God in a way that honors him.

Related Resources

• What Does It Mean to Serve God? (article)
• The Transforming Power of Christ’s Glory (interview)
• Why God Cannot Be Served But Loves to Serve (sermon on Acts 17)

2 Thessalonians 1:11–12

New Year’s Resolutions

December 30, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12
Topic: Sanctification & Growth

Principle for Bible Reading

At the beginning of another year, people will make new resolutions. But should Christians make these New Years commitments? In this lab, John Piper shows that resolutions can be deeply Christian and grace-filled.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:29)

What Does It Mean to Be Worthy? (01:29–03:42)

1. Whenever Paul prays in Scripture he is asking God to do whatever comes next. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
2. The same idea (living worthy of the calling) shows up in 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and Ephesians 4:1. Paul is asking that God cause them to walk in a way that is worthy.
3. Being worthy of a call that originates in “grace” (2 Thessalonians 1:12) cannot mean you have deserved it.
4. No, walking worthy means walking in a way that testifies to the worth of the calling.

Resolve to Be Worthy (03:42–07:41)

1. A resolve (at least here) is a desire for God to do something in and through us.
2. It is your resolve and your work, but it is done by “faith” (2 Thessalonians 1:11)—that is, in reliance upon God.
3. The result of this kind of resolve and this kind of work is that Jesus is glorified, because Jesus purchased the “power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11) for our resolves. (2 Thessalonians 1:12)
4. Jesus will be glorified when his power is shown as your resolves become good works, and you will be glorified (“and you in him”).

Resolutions for the Christian Life (07:41–11:29)

• The Grace of God in Jesus ⇒
• Blood-Bought Power ⇒
• (Moving Through) Our Faith ⇒
• God Fulfills Our Resolutions ⇒
• Blood-Bought Power ⇒
• The Glory of God (or Christ) ⇒
• And Our Glory (in Him)

So, how do you make resolutions?

1. By God’s grace.
2. Through faith in God’s power.
3. For God’s glory.

Study Questions

1. How would you define a resolve or resolution? After developing your own definition, read 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12. Based on these verses, how might Paul define a Christian resolve or resolution? What pieces need to be there?

2. What does it mean to be made worthy of God’s calling? Look at 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and Ephesians 4:1 for help.

3. Why is Jesus glorified when we make resolutions in the way Paul describes? What about these resolves and these good works makes him look great?

New Years Articles from Desiring God

1. New Year, New Adjective: “Christ-Exalting
2. Seven Resolutions to Pursue Love in 2015
3. Trading One Dramatic Resolution for 10,000 Little Ones
4. 10 Resolutions for Mental Health

Related Resources

• Are You Worthy of Jesus? (article)
• A Little Theology of Resolutions (interview)
• Are You Worthy of Jesus? (sermon)

2 Thessalonians 2:9–12

They Refused to Love the Truth

April 7, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 2:9–12
Topic: Assurance of Salvation

Principle for Bible Reading

The Bible is clear that people are perishing in rebellion against God. One of the most important questions we can ask is why people perish, and how we can avoid that fate. In this lab, John Piper looks at the relationship between what we believe and what we love in determining our eternal destiny.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:48)

Why Do People Perish? (01:48–03:05)

By loving the truth—not just by believing the truth—we are saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:10)

1. The Thessalonians refused to love the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:10)
2. Because they did not love the truth, God brings judgment against them. His judgment is belief in false things. (2 Thessalonians 2:11)
3. They did not even believe in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:12)
4. They took pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:12)

Belief and Love (03:05–05:30)

1. In 2 Thessalonians 2:12, Paul draws a contrast between not believing in the truth and a pleasure in unrighteousness (“but”). He does not diagnose their lack of faith as a lack of facts, but as a broken love for unrighteousness.
2. People love the darkness rather than light, and therefore do not come to the light (the truth). (John 3:19)
3. The deepest problem in the world is that fallen human beings do not love truth. We love what will serve our fallen appetites.

Application (05:30–08:16)

1. Therefore, we can’t only focus on facts in our ministry. We need to also pray and work against ours and others’ love for sin.
2. As long as our hearts are still in a love affair with sin, we’ll find every reason to deny the truth.
3. The same principles in exist in 1 Corinthians 13:6: “Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but in truth.”
4. Therefore, go deep in your soul and find the real obstacles to belief. They are always deeper than facts. They are, at their root, a love for darkness.

Study Questions

1. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10, Paul mentions those who are perishing. Based on the immediate context, why are they perishing?

2. Explain the “but” in 2 Thessalonians 2:12. What two things is Paul contrasting?

3. How might 2 Thessalonians 2:9–12 affect how you minister to your own heart and to others? What, if anything, would you do differently?

Related Resources

• Should We Tell Children to Love Jesus? (article)
• Is My Lack of Joy Sinful? (interview)
• What Must Happen Before the Day of the Lord? (sermon on 2 Thessalonians 2:9–12)

2 Timothy 2:8–13

Saved by Grace, But Not Without War

February 16, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:8–13
Topic: Perseverance of the Saints

Nobody who has been saved by Jesus will ever lose their salvation. That truth has wrongly led many to relax and live passively. There’s a war still being waged for your soul, and you must fight to make it to glory. In this lab, John Piper teaches us how to love each other until the end.

Principle for Bible Reading

Theological truth is often deeper and more complex than we are willing to make it. The doctrine of unconditional election is a mysterious and wonderful truth, but it is not simple. Instead of relying on theological systems or answers, we need to do our best to take every word in the Bible seriously and strive to see how they all might work together.

Study Questions

1. When Paul says he would do anything, “that they may also obtain salvation” (2 Timothy 2:8), what does he mean? Is this salvation conversion (initial salvation) or glorification (final salvation)? How would you argue for your answer from 2 Timothy 2:8–13?

2. Read Romans 8:30–37. How do the promises in these eight verses help you understand the dynamics in 2 Timothy 2:8?

3. After seeing the role Paul plays in these believers’ perseverance, what should we do for one another in the church? Use Hebrews 3:13–14 in your answer.

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:40)

Saved Today or on the Last Day? (02:40–05:17)

• When Paul says, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain salvation,” what does he mean? (2 Timothy 2:8)
• Is he saying he serves the elect in order that they might come to salvation (conversion) or is it in order that they might obtain final salvation?
• I think it is the latter because of 2 Timothy 2:12–13, where Paul describes how God will respond to us on the last day. “If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us.”

The War Still Being Fought for You (05:17–07:38)

• Between justification and glorification in God’s act of saving his people, nobody drops out. (Romans 8:30)
• Even though nobody drops out, does anything absolutely have to happen between justification and glorification for a person to be glorified?
• Yes, because Christ Jesus continues to intercede for you right now (Romans 8:34). He prays because there’s a war still being waged for your soul (Romans 8:33–34).
• For example, Jesus prayed for Peter’s perseverance when Satan demanded to have him. (Luke 22:32)
• A war must be fought in heaven and on earth to get us to final glorification.

Paul’s Role in Perseverance (07:38–09:18)

• Paul plays a part as a minister of the word in these believers’ final glorification. (2 Timothy 2:10)
• Jesus is praying for them, and he is also sending messengers like Paul to teach, encourage, and exhort them to keep them from ever denying God. (2 Timothy 2:8)
• Even though Paul was in prison, he continued to do everything he could for the elect, including writing to them in letters. (2 Timothy 2:9)

Our Role in Perseverance (09:18–11:06)

• What then should we do for each other in this war?
• We must exhort one another every day against the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)
• Our endurance to the end is the evidence that we have truly known Christ and been saved by him. (Hebrews 3:14)
• Nobody loses their salvation, but means are necessary to get the elect to their place in glory.

Related Resources

• Will You Be a Believer Tomorrow Morning? (article)
• Can a Born-Again Christian Lose Salvation? (interview)
• “The Elect Are Kept by the Power of God” (message on the perseverance of the saints)

2 Timothy 2:11–13

If We Are Faithless, He Remains Faithful?

January 26, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:11–13
Topic: The Glory of God

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful.” In this lab, John Piper asks whether this popular phrase was written to be a comfort or warning. He believes that many misunderstand these words because they have taken them out of context and made them something they do not say.

Principle for Bible Reading

Some popular verses in the Bible are often misquoted or misused. People will wield the words of the Bible wrongly because they have ripped them from their context in Scripture. The words are made to fit or serve some other purpose than their original meaning. Read the context carefully to confirm that favorite verse means what you think it means.

Study Questions

1. Why would Paul say that 2 Timothy 2:11–13 is “trustworthy”? What does that say (or not say) about the rest of his letter?

2. What structure, if any, do you see in the saying in 2 Timothy 2:11–13? How do the four lines of the saying seem to relate to one another, and what would that suggest about the meaning of the first half 2 Timothy 2:13?

3. If the beginning of 2 Timothy 2:13 is a warning after all, why would it be good news that God will not deny himself? What makes the faithfulness of God to himself good news for a believer?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–03:03)
1. Beware of Bible slogans without context.
2. Glad expectancy of God-centeredness pays off.

A Trustworthy Saying (03:03–05:17)

• “The saying is trustworthy” (2 Timothy 2:11) does not mean some things are reliable and others are not.
• Paul is saying that there are common phrases in the church that are trustworthy and others are not. Paul advocates for the truthfulness and reliability of this saying.
• The verses say that the saying is trustworthy because God is faithful (“for”). (2 Timothy 2:11)

If We Die, We Will Live (05:17–07:06)

• Paul introduces a positive pair of statements in 2 Timothy 2:11–12.
• If we die with Christ through faith, we’re going to live with him forever. (2 Timothy 2:11)
• Paul goes further to say that if we endure in faith with him, we will not only live with him, but reign with him. (2 Timothy 2:12)

If We Are Faithless (07:06–09:14)

• If we deny him—we deny that he is to be preferred over the things we want in this life—he also will deny us. (2 Timothy 2:11)
• What will he deny us? He will deny us the privilege of being with him, of reigning with him.
• Another way to say the same thing is to say that if we do not have faith in him, he remains totally committed to himself and his glory. (2 Timothy 2:13)

Beware of Bible Slogans (09:14–10:14)
• Beware of Bible slogans without context.
• People often wrongly quote 2 Timothy 2:13 to suggest that God is faithful to save us when we are faithless. Paul is saying the opposite.
• This quote, ripped out of its context, has given lots of people false assurance.

God’s Faithfulness to God (10:14–12:00)

• God is radically committed to God. He’s radically God-centered and God-exalting. (2 Timothy 2:13)
• Why is that good news? Because he is completely and utterly faithful to himself and to his promises.
• If you die with him through faith (2 Timothy 2:11) and endure with him through faith (2 Timothy 2:12), he will faithfully fulfill every promise to you.

Related Resources

• Advice for Another Year of Bible Reading (article)
• 6 Tips If You Find the Bible Hard to Read (interview)
• “He Cannot Deny Himself” (message on 2 Timothy 2:8–19)

2 Timothy 2:24–26, Part 1

God May Grant Repentance

March 17, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:24–26
Topic: Repentance

Principle for Bible Reading

There is war happening for your soul. On one side, Satan is scheming to enslave you to sin and blind you to the beauty of God. But God, by his power, is able to lead you to faith, repentance, and freedom. How is the war won? John Piper looks at several key verses in this lab.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:29)

Repentance as Transformation (01:29–04:54)

1. Unrepentant people lack the knowledge of the truth, are captured by the devil, and have lost their senses. (2 Timothy 2:25–26)
2. God alone grants repentance. When it comes, it comes from him. (2 Timothy 2:25)
3. Repentance is a deep inner change in a person—change of mind, of heart, and of soul—that leads to a knowledge of the truth.
4. Knowledge alone is not enough. Unbelieving and unrepentant people—even demons—can know a lot of true things about God.
5. True knowledge of God sees Jesus as beautiful, compelling, and infinitely valuable.
6. The kind of knowledge that leads to freedom and a right, vibrant relationship with God is grounded in repentance.

Salvation as Sight (04:54–08:32)

1. Coming to their senses (2 Timothy 2:26) corresponds with repentance (2 Timothy 2:25).
2. Repentance is a change of heart, in which we reacquire our ability to think and feel rightly.
3. Escaping from the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26) corresponds with coming to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25).
4. The devil does not snare us by binding our hands against our will. When we’re under his power, we hate the right and love the wrong. No, the devil ensnares us through deception. He holds us in captivity by blinding us.

The Gift of God (08:32–10:51)

1. Our Condition: We were snared by Satan, and were blinded by him. ⇒
2. Our Repentance: God gives repentance, and restores our senses. ⇒
3. Our Knowledge: Repentance leads to a knowledge that treasures Christ. ⇒
4. Our Freedom: We are now free from the captivity to do the devil’s will, and free now to do the will of God.

Study Questions

1. Based on 2 Timothy 2:25–26, how would you describe yourself before God granted you repentance? What language does Paul give to describe our condition?

2. Is there true knowledge of God that does not spring from repentance? Can you think of examples in the Bible?

3. How does the devil ensnare people? And how does God defeat their bondage to the devil?

Related Resources

• God Desires All to Be Saved, and Grants Repentance to Some (1976 article)
• Is Election Divine Favoritism? (interview)
• My Prayer to God Is That They Might Be Saved (sermon)

2 Timothy 2:24–26, Part 2

God’s Agents of Repentance

March 19, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:24–26
Topic: Evangelism

Principle for Bible Reading

God makes the objects of the miracle of repentance agents of the miracle of repentance. In Part 1 of this two-part series, John Piper established that it is God who decisively brings repentance for any sinner. Now, he asks what role, if any, we have in bringing about that repentance for others.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Review (00:00–03:10)

1. Only God gives repentance—a deep heart/mind/soul change. (2 Timothy 2:25)
2. This repentance leads to a true knowledge of the truth, beyond the knowledge of Satan and of unbelievers. (2 Timothy 2:25)
3. By this repentance (and the true knowledge it brings), we escape the snare of the devil, which is his deception. (2 Timothy 2:24–26)

Traits of the Agents of Repentance (03:10–07:50)

1. When God grants repentance, it leads to a knowledge of the truth. But where did that truth come from? The Lord’s servant. Repentance is always a response to truth (2 Timothy 2:24–25). Therefore, we must speak the truth.
2. We must speak with clarity and competence. (2 Timothy 2:24–25)
3. We must speak with love. The Lord’s servant is not quarrelsome—not easily angered (2 Timothy 2:24). The Lord’s servant patiently expects and endures evil (2 Timothy 2:24). The Lord’s servant is gentle, even when correcting someone (2 Timothy 2:24).

Sent to Open the Eyes of the Blind (07:50–10:49)

1. Yes, God is sovereign in the granting of repentance. (2 Timothy 2:25)
2. But, we should never conclude that we do not have to do anything to bring others to faith and repentance. The Bible clearly says that the Lord’s servant—you and me—are essential for God’s saving work. (2 Timothy 2:26)
3. God makes the objects of the miracle of repentance agents of the miracle of repentance. (Acts 26:18)

Study Questions

1. Who is “the Lord’s servant” in 2 Timothy 2:24? List all the qualities Paul gives for the Lord’s servant in that verse.

2. If the repentance that God brings leads to a knowledge of the truth, what is that truth, and where does it come from?

3. Look again at 2 Timothy 2:24–26. If God sovereignly, decisively grants repentance, why do we have to do anything?

Related Resources

• Give the Blessing of Rebuke (article)
• Robust Theology Fuels Ambitious Evangelism (interview)
• How Shall People Be Saved? Part 1 and Part 2 (sermons)

2 Timothy 3:14–17

Breathed Out By God

July 22, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:14–17
Topic: The Bible

Principle for Bible Reading

When we find lists in the Bible, we should ask how the items in the list relate to one another. In 2 Timothy 3:14–17, Paul says Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training. Pastor John tries to identify, explain, and differentiate each reason for continuing in the Word.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:14)

Reasons to Continue in the Word (02:14–05:52)

1. You know the character of those who shared the truth with you (2 Timothy 3:14), Lois and Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5).
2. Scripture is able to make you wise for salvation through faith (2 Timothy 3:15).
3. Scripture is breathed out by God. These words are his words (2 Timothy 3:16).
4. Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training (2 Timothy 3:16).
5. The righteousness that Scripture produces reveals itself in good works (2 Timothy 3:17).

Summary (05:52–10:16)

The Inspired Bible ⇒
Life-Changing Teaching or Wisdom ⇒
Faith in Jesus Christ ⇒
Good Works ⇒
Salvation ⇒
Continue in the Truth

Study Questions

1. How many reasons do you see for continuing to love and live the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:14–17? What are they?

2. Look at the list in 2 Timothy 3:16. Are they four different benefits or four ways of saying the same thing? If different, how would you define each?

3. How do good works relate to faith and salvation in 2 Timothy 3:14–17?

Related Resources

• Primer on Reading the Bible (article)
• Should I Read My Bible Daily? (interview)
• All Scripture Is Breathed Out By God, Continue In It (sermon on 2 Timothy 3:14–17)

Hebrews 2:14–15

Why Christmas?

December 23, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: Colossians 2:13–15 and Hebrews 2:14–15
Topic: The Birth of Christ

Principle for Bible Reading

God wrote the Christmas story, and yet we don’t often stop to ask why he wrote it the way he did. In this lab, John Piper uncovers four reasons for Christmas from these two verses.

John Piper wrote an article to accompany this lab called, “Christmas Happened Because It Was Fitting.” There he expounds more on the implications of Hebrews 2:14–15 on your celebration of the birth of Christ.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:31)

Reasons for Christmas (00:31–05:20)

1. Since we are human, God became a human in Jesus. (Hebrews 2:14)
2. Jesus could not die unless he became a man. (Hebrews 2:14)
3. Jesus came to destroy the devil, the one with the power of death. (Hebrews 2:14)
3. Jesus came to deliver us from the slavery we have because we’re afraid to die. (Hebrews 2:15)

How Jesus Destroys the Devil (05:20–09:11)

1. The word “destroy” clearly does not mean to put the devil out of existence. He’s still alive today. No, Jesus broke the back of Satan’s power. (Hebrews 2:14)
2. Satan has the power of death because he makes it a doorway to hell and not heaven. He condemns us by the record of our sins.
3. Jesus canceled the record of our debt. This disarms Satan, because Satan is the great accuser. (Colossians 2:14)
4. Jesus destroyed Satan by removing the weapon that is the record of our debt. Now we are free from condemnation, and therefore from death.

Study Questions

1. There are at least four reasons in Hebrews 2:14–15 that Christmas happened the way it did. Identify as many as you can.

2. Look at Colossians 2:13–15. How does that help you understand what it means for Jesus to “destroy” the devil (Hebrews 2:14)?

3. What are the implications of what you’ve learned for how you celebrate Christmas this year?

Christmas Content from Desiring God

1. “Hope for the Hurting This Christmas (Video)” (a poem from John Piper)
2. “Glory to God in the Lowest” (Ask Pastor John episode)
3. “Christmas Is the Greatest Mystery” (6-minute video)
4. “When God Gives You an Overcrowded Christmas” (article)

Related Resources

• Christmas Happened Because It Is Fitting (article)
• Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? (interview)
• Christmas as the End of History (sermon)

Hebrews 3:12–14, Part 1

Take Care, Brothers

March 3, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Hebrews 3:12–14
Topic: Perseverance of the Saints

Principle for Bible Reading

It is very important to study the tenses of verbs, especially in this case when they are in an if/then conditional statement. When you come across an if/then statement, restate the condition and study the implications. For instance, can someone who has truly been saved fall away from the faith? John Piper answers in this lab.

Outline

Introduction (00:00–00:26)

Can True Believers Fall Away? (00:26–06:34)

1. Paul’s warning makes it sound like believers (“brothers”) can fall away from God (3:12). This is a potential problem for eternal security (or perseverance of the saints).
2. All those who are faithful to the end prove that they have been in Christ (“have come”), and only they can be in Christ (“if”).
3. You can say the same thing the opposite way: All those who are not faithful to the end prove that they have not come to share in Christ.
4. Therefore, true believers cannot fall away, so Paul calls them, “brothers,” because he’s giving them the benefit of the doubt and speaking to a crowd, not because he believes they are all true believers.
5. If anyone falls away from the living God, they are not falling away from Christ, because they have proven that they were never truly in him. No, they are falling away from some other experience.

Hold Fast to the End (06:34–07:11)

1. Therefore, brothers who are genuinely in Christ cannot be lost.
2. If we hold fast to Christ to the end, we prove we have been in Christ.
3. And if we don’t, we prove that we have not (ever) come to share in Christ.

Study Questions

1. Why is Hebrews 3:12 a potential problem for our belief in eternal security (or the perseverance of the saints)?

2. Restate the if/then statement in Hebrews 3:14 in your own words.

3. Why would Paul call them “brothers” if true believers cannot fall away? Are there reasons he would use that term other than to say that they were all true believers?

Related Resources

• Will You Be a Believer Tomorrow Morning? (article)
• Can a Born-Again Christian Lose Salvation? (interview)
• Consider How to Stir Up One Another to Love (sermon on Hebrews 3:12–14)

Hebrews 3:12–14, Part 2

Exhort One Another Every Day

March 5, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Hebrews 3:12–14
Topic: Small Groups

Principle for Bible Reading

God has appointed other believers as one of the primary means of our perseverance. In this lab, John Piper explains how sin wages war against our souls, and how God equips us with weapons for the battle. We will see that this fight is not one we should fight alone.

Outline

Introduction/Review (00:00–02:20)

1. Can true believers (“brothers”) fall away from the living God after having shared in Christ? The author of the Hebrews suggests yes, but then says no. (Hebrews 3:12–14)
2. If we persevere in faith, we have come to share in Christ. If we do not hold fast until then, we prove we never did share in Christ. (Hebrews 3:12–14)
3. Now, we need to ask how we are to help each other persevere until the end and thus prove that we have been found in Christ. (Hebrews 3:13)

The Hardness of the Human Heart (02:20–04:29)

1. Hardness in our hearts produces unbelief and evil in us. (Hebrews 3:12–13)
2. How do we become hardened? We believe lies that sin says to our heart. (Hebrews 3:13)
3. What lies does sin feed us? Sin says God is not trustworthy. It says that the sin’s promises are more desirable and reliable than God’s. (Hebrews 3:12–14)

Defeat Sin’s Deceit Together (04:29–06:24)

How are we to help each other persevere to the end and prove that we have a share in Christ? We should counter sin’s deceit by speaking things that are true about God and evil to one another. We remind one another that God’s all-satisfying promises are better than the suicidal promises of sin. Eternal security is a community project.

Study Questions

1. What does the “for” at the beginning of Hebrews 3:14 mean? How do verses 13 and 14 relate to one another?

2. Looking at Hebrews 3:13, what specifically causes an evil, unbelieving heart?

3. Based on these verses, how are we to help each other persevere to the end and prove that we have been found in Christ?

Related Resources

• Praying for Your Straying Soul (article)
• Why Eternal Security Needs Community (interview)
• Eternal Security Is a Community Project (sermon on Hebrews 3:12–14)

Hebrews 10:32–35

A Better and Abiding Possession

April 21, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Hebrews 10:32–35
Topic: Suffering

Principle for Bible Reading

The gospel shines most brightly when Christians rejoice in the midst of really painful, even unjust suffering. In this lab, John Piper looks at Hebrews 10 to understand how we cultivate the kind of joy that can endure anything and that frees us to love and serve radically.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:45)

Suffering for the Sake of Christ (00:45–04:08)

1. To be “enlightened” (Hebrews 10:32) probably means to be converted (see 2 Corinthians 4:6).
2. It was not easy for these believers to become Christians (“you endured a hard struggle with sufferings”). (Hebrews 10:32)
3. Some Christians suffered, and others suffered by serving the sufferers (Hebrews 10:33). They were threatened and mistreated because they identified with persecuted Christians.
4. One of the ways these Christians suffered was that their possessions were plundered while they went to help their brothers and sisters in Christ (Hebrews 10:34). Amazingly, they responded with joy.

Unexplainable Joy in Jesus (04:08–04:58)

1. The “since” in the middle of Hebrews 10:34 explains the psychological dynamic under this unexplainable joy in suffering Christians.
2. These Christians knew they had a better and abiding possession than their earthly possessions.
3. The possession they have with Christ that is qualitatively better and temporally longer, infinitely longer.

Confidence and Compassion (04:58–07:15)

1. Therefore, because you have a better and abiding possession, hold your confidence fast until the end, knowing it will be greatly rewarded beyond your imagination.
2. If you want to be a compassionate person, you need confidence in a reward greater than any possession you have in this life.
3. If you are indifferent toward your future reward, your joy will be small (Hebrews 10:34) and, therefore, you will not have compassion on others.

Study Questions

1. Look at Hebrews 10:32–33. Why are these people being mistreated?

2. Explain the “since” in Hebrews 10:34. How does what follows the “since” explain what comes before it?

3. Based on Hebrews 10:34–35, explain how our future, eternal reward relates to our compassion toward others today.

Related Resources

• You Can’t Arrest the Gospel (article)
• Vision for the Local Church in Exile (interview)
• The Plundering of Your Property and the Power of Hope (sermon on Hebrews 10:32–36)

Hebrews 11:24–26

The Fleeting Pleasures of Sin

April 9, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Hebrews 11:24–26
Topic: Killing Sin

Principle for Bible Reading

Hebrews 11 calls us to look to God’s people who have gone before us to learn how to walk by faith. In this lab, John Piper highlights the life of Moses, who preferred the reward he had with God more than all the riches of Egypt.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:35)

An Unexplainable Exchange (00:35–03:33)

1. Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter” (privilege and power). (Hebrews 11:24)
2. Moses chose not “to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews 11:25)
3. Moses turned down “the treasures of Egypt.” (Hebrews 11:26)

1. Instead, Moses chose “to be mistreated with the people of God.” (Hebrews 11:24)
2. Instead, Moses “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth”—better. (Hebrews 11:26)

A Greater Reward (03:33–06:56)

1. Moses rejected power, wealth, and pleasure “by faith.” (Hebrews 11:24)
2. What is faith? “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” (Hebrews 11:1)
3. Faith also seeks a reward from God (Hebrews 11:6). This appears in our passage, “looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)
4. Faith conquers our desire for privilege and fame (Hebrews 11:24); it conquers our craving for sinful delights (Hebrews 11:25); and it conquers our need for money (Hebrews 11:26).

The Reproach of Christ (06:56–08:34)

Wherever in the world someone suffers to embrace God’s people and to flee from sin, looking to the reward that Christ purchased, he is suffering with and for Christ. (Hebrews 11:26)

Study Questions

1. Read Hebrews 11:24–26. Name everything in those three verses that Moses rejects or forgoes because of his faith.

2. What does it mean that Moses refused, chose, and considered “by faith”? How does faith overcome these particular temptations?

3. How might you explain “the reproach of Christ” in Hebrews 11:26? How did Moses experience the reproach of Christ long before Christ was even born?

Related Resources

• How Dead People Do Battle with Sin (article)
• What Does It Mean to ‘Kill Sin by the Spirit’? (interview)
• Liberated for Love by Looking to the Reward (sermon on Hebrews 11:23–28)

Hebrews 13:5–6

God Will Never Forsake You

November 10, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: Hebrews 13:5–6 and Joshua 1:9
Topic: Money

The love of money—a craving for money as the source of our security—is an epidemic in our world, and maybe especially in our nation. So how do we kill the craving within us? In this lab, John Piper models what it means to fight temptation with the promises of God.

Principle for Bible Reading

Some of the most difficult texts in the Bible are God’s commands us for us to feel (or not feel) certain things—joy, love, anger, contentment, and more. Fortunately, the Bible does not give us commands to feel without truths to awaken those feelings. Study the promises God has given us, and pray that he would cause your heart to feel in accordance with those great truths.

Study Questions

1. The commands in Hebrews 13:5 are commands to feel (or not feel) certain things. How do you approach commands to feel in the Bible? What does it mean, practically speaking, to obey those commands?

2. The author of Hebrews quotes God’s promise to Joshua in Joshua 1:5. Why would he be comfortable applying a specific promise to an Old Testament believer to his readers (or to us today)?

3. Identify each of the essential points in the argument of Hebrews 13:5–6 (John identifies six). Then place the points in logical order, and explain how they relate to one another.

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:07)

How Do We Obey Commands to Feel? (01:07–02:57)

• How do we obey commands to feel (or not to feel)? It seems like we have so little control over our feelings.
• We’re commanded to flee love for money (a feeling), and put on contentment (a feeling) with what we have. (Hebrews 13:5–6)
• The “love of money” is not just a commitment, but deep desire and longing—a craving for money as a means of security. (Hebrews 13:5)

One Promise from God (02:57–04:53)

• How does God expect us to obey commands to feel? (Hebrews 13:5–6)
• “For” in Hebrews 13:5 gives us the basis for feeling how we ought to feel.
• If the Bible gives reasons for why we should not be discontent, we should not give up until those reasons feel real and effective to us.
• Hebrews 13:5 quotes Joshua 1:5 to help us feel content, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
• The author of Hebrews applies Joshua 1:5 because of texts like 2 Corinthians 1:20 and Romans 8:32.

Preach to Yourself (04:53–06:48)

• From Joshua 1:9, the author turns to something we can confidently say. (Hebrews 13:6)
• Why does he use “say” instead of “believe” or “trust”? (Hebrews 13:6)
• He expects us to preach to ourselves, because believing can be so elusive.

The Path to Change (06:48–10:39)

• God promises his presence.
• So I say, “The Lord is my helper.”
• Therefore, man cannot ruin me.
• Therefore, I will not fear.
• And thus I am freed from my craving for money as the source of my security.
• Therefore, I am content.

Related Resources

• How to Find Strength in the Strength of God (article)
• Jesus’s Aggressive, Relentless, Surgical Love (interview)
• “Jesus Christ is the Same Yesterday and Today and Forever” (sermon on Hebrews 13:5–9)

James 5:19–20, Part 1

Bringing Back a Wandering Believer

November 26, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: James 5:19–20 and Galatians 2:14
Topic: Loving Others

Some of the most heartbreaking moments in a Christian’s life are watching other believers wander away from the truth. In this lab, John Piper tackles a couple verses that help us understand a Christian’s identity and give us great hope in pursuing a wandering brother or sister in Christ.

Principle for Bible Reading

The way James uses “brother” and “sinner” in James 5:19–20 might trip up some readers. It seems to contradict our basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian. When you face problems like this, search the immediate context carefully, then search the book in the Bible and the Bible as a whole for relevant words or phrases.

Study Questions

1. Look throughout James for other instances of the phrase “my brothers”. What do they say about them, and about his feelings for them?

2. If James is speaking about a genuine believer, why would he call them a sinner in James 5:20? Is that an appropriate way to talk about saved people?

3. Why would bringing someone back from their wandering cover a multitude of sin? What is it about that exchange that could cover sins?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:45)

Brother or Unbeliever? (01:45–04:30)

• “My brothers” appears eight times in James (James 5:19). Even though James is not writing to a particular church, he treats his readers as family.
• Do we have an orientation that wherever Christians are, they are family to us?
• If you see a professing believer wandering, earnestly pursue them like you would pursue a brother. (James 5:19)
• How they respond to your earnest, brotherly pursuit will prove whether they are a brother or not.

The Ways People Wander (04:30–07:56)

• This person is wandering “from the truth.” (James 5:19)
• You can wander from the truth by believing something false or by not believing something true (doctrine).
• Or you can wander from the truth by living in a way that’s contrary to the truth they believe or profess. (Galatians 2:14)
• Human beings are used by God to keep his people. People bring back sinners (“someone”). (James 5:19)
• This should make the returning sinner grateful, and should encourage those pursuing the wandering sinners. (James 5:19)

Sinner or Saint? (07:56–10:29)

• Are you uncomfortable with James’s use of “sinner” in James 5:20? Is it ever appropriate to call a “brother” a “sinner”?
• Paul calls himself the “chief of sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
• Clearly, here in James 5:19–20, “sinner” (5:20) is the “him” in 5:19, who is the “anyone” in 5:19.
• Therefore, it seems appropriate to still describe true believers as sinners.
• That being said, since Paul almost always calls us saints, and not sinners, we ought to allow “saint” to be our primary identity. Our sinning is not our most fundamental identity anymore.

What’s at Stake? (10:29–12:25)

• What’s at stake in bringing a sinner back from his sinning? Eternal life and death.
• How does bringing him back from his wandering cover a multitude of sins?
• If you bring him back from wandering from the truth, you bring him back into the truth of the gospel. And only there are all of our sins covered.

Related Resources

• Give the Blessing of Rebuke (article)
• Don’t Neglect the Work of Speck Removing (interview)
• “Preserving the Covenant Community In Spite of Sickness and Sin” (sermon on James 5:16–20)

James 5:19–20, Part 2

Five Truths About Eternal Security

December 1, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: James 5:19–20
Topic: Perseverance of the Saints

If we’re called to bring believers back from their wandering, does that mean true believers can lose their faith? In this lab, John Piper deals with the security of every believer, and draws in lots of texts to explain how God keeps his children from falling away. He summarizes this important doctrine with five critical truths.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you come to a verse in the Bible that seems to contradict other verses in the Bible, work hard to understand the verse in question in its context. Then, step back and look again at the verses in the rest of Scripture that seem to contradict what you’re reading. Work hard to find an explanation that allows every verse (in its context) to be true.

Study Questions

1. James 5:19–20 seems to suggest that believers can wander away from the faith. How would you answer that question in a way that does justice to these two verses?

2. Read 1 Corinthians 15:1–2, Colossians 1:21–23, and Matthew 10:22. What do these texts contribute to our understanding of eternal security?

3. Now, read Philippians 1:6 and 1 Corinthians 1:8–9. What do we learn in these verses about God’s relationship with believers?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:19)

Eternal Security Is a Community Project (01:19–04:22)

• God uses human beings to bring back human beings from their wandering. (James 5:20)
• Human beings save souls from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)
• This means Christian community is unbelievably important.
• God uses people to save people the way a lumberjack uses an axe to cut down trees.

Five Truths (01:45–11:44)

• We are justified by grace alone through faith alone apart from works. (Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 3:28)
• Those who are justified will certainly be glorified. (Romans 8:30)
• But no one will be glorified or finally saved who does not continue in the faith. (1 Corinthians 15:1–2; Colossians 1:21–23; Matthew 10:22)
• God himself will keep his children from finally falling away. (Philippians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 1:8–9)
• God keeps his children by means of his children. (Hebrews 3:13–14)

Related Resources

• Will You Be a Believer Tomorrow Morning? (article)
• Can a Born-Again Christian Lose Salvation? (interview)
• “The Doctrine of Perseverance: The Earnest Pursuit of Assurance” (sermon on Hebrews 5:11–6:12)

1 Peter 1:1–2, Part 1

A Letter to Exiles

September 3, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:1–2
Topic: Persecution & Martyrdom

Principle for Bible Reading

Peter wrote a letter to Christians facing massive opposition and even persecution for their faith. These believers refused to join in the world’s rebellion against God, and they were mocked and rejected for it. In this lab, John Piper begins a new series through this hope-filled letter to exiles.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:51)

An Eyewitness of Jesus Christ (00:51–04:00)

1. Peter was one of the twelve apostles appointed by Jesus (Text 1:1), and an eyewitness of Jesus’s life and ministry (1 Peter 5:1).
2. When we read 1 Peter, we are listening to a man who saw Jesus, talked to him, and watched him die.
3. Peter was commissioned by Jesus to shepherd and feed the flock. (Text 1:1)
4. An apostle is an authorized spokesperson to speak on behalf of someone else with that person’s authority.

A Messenger of King Jesus (04:00–05:43)

1. Jesus Christ is not like other dead teachers. He is risen and living today. (1 Peter 3:21–22)
2. We know that this Jesus will one day reveal his glory. (1 Peter 4:13)
3. He will reveal his glory by returning himself and appearing to all. (1 Peter 5:4)

Exiles (05:43–12:43)

1. This letter is written to a group of churches in modern day Turkey. (1 Peter 1:1)
2. Is the “dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1) the Jewish people dispersed outside of Palestine, or is it the dispersion of Christians outside of heaven (exiles in the world)? This question determines to whom Peter is writing.
3. We know Peter’s readers lived like Gentiles (1 Peter 4:3–4). Those verses are not describing Jewish life in a synagogue. It appears Peter is speaking to Christians exiled from heaven, and not Jews exiled from Palestine.
4. Elsewhere, Christians are called “strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)
5. Likewise, Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20–21)
6. Therefore, we are primarily citizens of heaven, and only secondarily citizens of the country we live in on this earth.

Study Questions

1. Before you begin reading Peter’s letter, list the things you know about him from other places in the Bible (maybe especially from the Gospels). Don’t write down every verse, but try and list the highlights of his life and ministry.

2. Read 1 Peter in one sitting, and bullet point what you learn about the Jesus Christ mentioned in 1 Peter 1:1.

3. Who might “the exiles of the dispersion” be? Can you think of a couple possibilities? Read 1 Peter 4:3–4, Hebrews 11:13, and Philippians 3:20–21. Do those texts help clarify for you who Peter is writing to in 1 Peter?

Related Resources

• Taking the Swagger Out of Christian Cultural Influence (article)
• Pilgrims and Patriots (interview)
• The Hope of Exiles on the Earth (sermon on Hebrews 11:13–22)

1 Peter 1:1–2, Part 2

Known by God Before You Were Born

September 8, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:1–2, Genesis 4:1, Amos 3:1–2, 1 Corinthians 8:3, and Genesis 18:19
Topic: The Doctrines of Grace / Calvinism

Principle for Bible Reading

When did God know you would be his adopted son or daughter? Peter says that our election is “according to the foreknowledge of God.” In this lab, John Piper asks what it means for God to foreknow us, and then explores the relationship between our election and God’s foreknowledge.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:01)

What Kind of Elect Exiles? (01:01–03:23)

We’re looking at three prepositional phrases (according to, in, and for), all modifying “elect exiles” in 1 Peter 1:1–2.

God Foreknew Christ (03:23–06:19)

1. What does it mean that we are elected “according to the foreknowledge of God” (1 Peter 1:2)?
2. Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20), and then “made manifest” when he came to earth.
3. So how can God foreknow an eternal person like the Son? We need to study how the Bible uses the word for “know” or “foreknow.”

How Does God “Know” Me? (06:19–09:35)

1. Adam “knew” his wife (Genesis 4:1), meaning he had sex with her. To know is to know uniquely, intimately, and within a covenant.
2. God “knew” Abraham (Genesis 18:19), meaning he chose him among all the nations. He set his love and favor uniquely on him.
3. God only “knew” Israel (Amos 3:1–2). Surely, God knew of all the peoples of the earth, so this must mean God has taken special, close, committed, intimate, personal interest in Israel.
4. Anyone who loves God has been “known” by God (1 Corinthians 8:3). Knowing is something that God does beforehand that brings about their faith and love.

Election and Foreknowledge (09:35–12:06)

1. In eternity, the Father set his knowing and committed favor on the Son. (1 Peter 1:20)
2. So in a similar way, God has set his unique, intimate, committed, loving favor on us as Christians (“according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”). (1 Peter 1:2)
3. But election cannot equal foreknowledge, because Peter says that our election is according to foreknowledge. (1 Peter 1:1–2)
4. No, our current status as elect exiles is rooted in eternity in God’s foreknowledge. Election is a present realization of what God foreknew before the foundation of the world. (1 Peter 1:1–2)

Study Questions

1. There are three prepositional phrases in 1 Peter 1:2. What word or idea are they modifying or explaining? What is according to the foreknowledge of God, and so on?

2. Read Genesis 4:1, Genesis 18:19, Amos 3:1–2, and 1 Corinthians 8:3. How does that help you understand what it means for God to know or foreknow someone?

3. Peter says our election is “according to the foreknowledge of God.” What, if any, is the difference between our election and God’s foreknowledge of us?

Related Resources

• Saying What You Believe Is Clearer Than Saying “Calvinist” (article)
• Is It Sin to Dislike Divine Election? (interview)
• Foreknown, Predestined, Conformed to Christ (sermon on Romans 8:28–30)

1 Peter 1:1–2, Part 3

Bought with Blood for Obedience

September 10, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:1–2 and 1 Peter 1:18–19
Topic: Pursuit of Holiness

Principle for Bible Reading

The Bible stabilizes us in the storms of life by reminding us who we are. In this lab, John Piper highlights our unfathomable relationship to God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—all in the very first words of Peter’s letter. God has ransomed us, set us apart from the world, and made us new.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–03:22)

In the Sanctification of the Spirit (03:23–05:09)

1. What makes us exiles in the world? What sets us apart? (1 Peter 1:1–2)

2. We are exiles by the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification (1 Peter 1:14–15).

3. Holiness is nonconformity to the former way of life. Therefore, what the Spirit works in us through sanctification sets us apart from the world.

For Sprinkling with His Blood? (05:09–08:36)

1. What does it mean that we are exiles “for sprinkling with hid blood” (1 Peter 1:2)?
2. The blood of Christ is mentioned again 1 Peter 1:18–19. The blood in these verses does not rescue us from guilt or wrath, but from ways.
3. Therefore, we are ransomed with blood for obedience (“from futile ways”). (1 Peter 1:18)
4. So “the sprinkling with his blood” in 1 Peter 1:2, at least in the mind of Peter, probably means we are being bought or ransomed “for obedience to Jesus Christ.”

Bought with Blood (08:36–11:22)

1. Does all of this mean, that we are on our own as exiles to try and obey?
2. No, Peter wants you to see that you are not alone in your pursuit of holiness, because Jesus purchased you for obedience. He bought you with his blood (“for sprinkling with his blood”). (1 Peter 1:2)
3. This letter is written to help believers whether persecution by remembering who they are with God. (1 Peter 1:1–2)

Study Questions

1. 1 Peter 1:1 calls us “exiles.” What makes us exiles in the world? What sets us apart?

2. What might “for sprinkling with his blood” mean? Where else would you look in the Bible to help you understand how Peter is using that phrase?

3. With all of this talk of obedience in 1 Peter 1:2, has Peter neglected the work of Christ and the grace of God? Why or why not?

Related Resources

• Live Homeless, Homesick, and Free (article)
• Vision for the Local Church in Exile (interview)
• How Aliens Keep the Identity of Their Homeland (sermon on 1 Peter 1:1–2)

1 Peter 1:3–5, Part 1

Born Again to a Living Hope

September 15, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3–5
Topic: Regeneration / New Birth

Principle for Bible Reading

According to the Bible, every believer in Jesus Christ is born a second time by the Spirit. In this lab, John Piper looks at this beautiful and spectacular mystery, asking what it means and how it happens. He also draws out the implications of serious study of the Bible for our worship.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:56)

Theology Exists for Worship (00:56–03:35)

The Father of Jesus Christ (03:35–05:32)

Born Again by the Spirit (05:32–10:21)

The Awakening Word of God (10:21–13:42)

Study Questions

1. Why does Peter start a paragraph (in 1 Peter 1:3) about God’s mercy, the new birth, our eternal inheritance, and unshakeable joy in suffering with, “Blessed be God”? What does this mean for our personal Bible study?

2. What does it mean to be “born again”? Read 1 John 5:1. How do those other verses help you understand what Peter means here?

3. If someone asked you how they can be born again, what would you say? After giving your answer, look at 1 Peter 1:23–25 to help fill out your explanation.

Related Resources

• Your Hope Is As Alive As Jesus (article)
• Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same Deity?
• God’s Great Mercy and Our New Birth (sermon on 1 Peter 1:3–4)

1 Peter 1:3–5, Part 2

God’s Power Will Guard You

September 17, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3–5
Topic: Hope

Principle for Bible Reading

God is guarding an infinitely valuable inheritance for you in heaven, and guarding you through faith to make sure you receive it. In this lab, John Piper pulls parts several implications from the new birth, explaining the new hope we have, and the sovereign hands that hold us.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–02:36)

Our Hope Is Alive (02:36–05:20)

1. The difference between people who have been born again and those who have not is hope (faith in the future tense). (1 Peter 1:3)
2. This hope drives us and colors everything we do.
3. It is called a “living” hope because we have just been born (and now are finally alive). (1 Peter 1:3)
4. Another reason it might be called a living hope is that it happens through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (once dead, not living). (1 Peter 1:3)

Our Inheritance Is Great (05:20–07:03)

1. Our inheritance is an objective, outside of us hope in the future. (1 Peter 1:4)
2. God himself is keeping our infinitely valuable inheritance in heaven. (1 Peter 1:4)
3. Therefore, no one and nothing can ruin it, defile it, diminish it, or take it away (1 Peter 1:3). It is perfectly secure.

Our God Is Faithful (07:03–10:17)

1. Our inheritance is being kept, and we are being kept. (1 Peter 1:4–5)
2. This is important because we might be preserved for heaven and there was nothing there that we want, and we might fail to get there because our faith failed. God prevents both (1 Peter 1:4–5).
3. God guards us a Father (1 Peter 1:3). Therefore, the inheritance we receive is his inheritance passed down to us as children.
4. Summary: God’s Mercy ⇒ New Birth ⇒ Living Hope ⇒ Kept by God ⇒ Worship

Study Questions

1. What might it mean that we have a “living” hope (1 Peter 1:3)? How would you argue for your interpretation from the immediate context in 1 Peter 1?

2. Write down everything you learn about our eternal inheritance in 1 Peter 1:3–5.

3. What does it mean for God to “guard” us in 1 Peter 1:5 (from what and/or for what)?

Related Resources

• Biopsy Blows and the Helmet of Hope (article)
• Hope in Heaven Changes Today (interview)
• A Living Hope Through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (sermon on 1 Peter 1:3–9)

1 Peter 1:6–9, Part 1

God Gives Us Joy in Grief

September 29, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:6–9
Topic: Joy

Principle for Bible Reading

What role do trials play in the Christian life? In this lab, John Piper explains a hard, but beautiful truth. God writes hardship and suffering into every believer’s story for the sake of their faith. He wants to secure and deepen our joy in himself, and so he carries us through various trials.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:56)

The Call to Rejoice (01:56–04:00)

1. “In this you rejoice …” (1 Peter 1:6). “This” refers to the salvation and inheritance described in 1 Peter 1:3–5.
2. By saying that they do rejoice, Peter’s words very likely created what they called for, meaning some were liberated to rejoice in their suffering by Peter’s letter. (1 Peter 1:6)

Grief in the Christian Life (04:00–07:02)

1. “A little while” (1 Peter 1:6) is Peter’s description of a person’s whole life.
2. Why would trials be necessary for a Christian (1 Peter 1:6)? Who determines that it is necessary? God (1 Peter 4:19).
3. Joy and trials are simultaneous in Peter’s mind. (1 Peter 1:6, 2 Corinthians 6:10)
4. The trials (the types of suffering) that come will be of various kinds. (1 Peter 1:6)

Reasons for Rejoicing (07:02–05:20)

1. The reason trials come in order to prove our faith genuine, and result in praise, glory, and honor. (1 Peter 1:7)
2. The genuineness of our faith is more precious even than gold (1 Peter 1:6). And if gold is of less value and is tested by fire, how much more will our faith be tested to prove its greater worth.
3. Whose “praise and glory and honor” (1 Peter 1:7)? Surely, it is the believer’s (1 Peter 5:4). His word for shepherds applies to all.
4. Your faith will result in glory. If you persevere, you will be glorified. (1 Peter 1:7, Romans 8:18)

Study Questions

1. 1 Peter 1:6 begins with, “In this you rejoice …” What does “this” refer to? Summarize it in your own words.

2. What do you learn about suffering in the Christian life in 1 Peter 1:6–7? How many things can you list from these two verses?

3. Whose “praise and glory and honor” is Peter referring to? Does 1 Peter 5:5 and Romans 8:18

Related Resources

• There Is a Way to Be Happy, Even in Sadness (article)
• Truths You Will Need When Cancer Hits (interview)
• Joy Through the Fiery Test of Genuine Faith (sermon on 1 Peter 1:6–7)

1 Peter 1:6–9, Part 2

Love by Faith, Not by Sight

October 1, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:6–9, 1 John 5:1, Romans 5:2, and 2 Corinthians 3:18
Topic: Joy

Principle for Bible Reading

Do you love Jesus? A genuine affection for and devotion to Jesus is an unmistakable miracle made possible only by God’s work. In this lab, John Piper looks at the affect of the new birth on our heart’s response to Christ. He also asks how the promise of God’s glory in the future affects our lives today.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–02:17)

Obstacles to Joy (02:17–03:55)

1. The obstacle to joy in 1 Peter 1:8 is that Peter’s readers have not seen Jesus, and did not watch him suffer on the cross. (1 Peter 1:8)
2. Peter actually saw Christ suffer with his own eyes. (1 Peter 5:1)
3. His readers did not see Jesus, and they have no present sight or vision of him now. (1 Peter 1:8)

A Supernatural Joy (03:55–06:03)

1. A genuine love for Jesus is a miracle worked by God in the new birth. (1 Peter 1:3, 8)
2. When God gave us a living hope, one of the things we no hope for is to see Jesus. That is what it means to love him. (1 Peter 1:8)
3. If you believe in the Lord Jesus, you have been born of God, meaning you’ve experienced a supernatural miracle. (1 John 5:1, 1 Peter 1:8)

A Glorified Joy (06:03–10:05)

1. What does it mean that the joy in 1 Peter 1:8 is “glorified”?
2. Our rejoicing happens through hope for the future glory of God. As we focus on the glory to come, that glory has an effect on our joy. (Romans 5:2)
3. We grow from one degree of glory to another by beholding the Lord, by looking to him in love and with joy. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
4. The hope of future glory streams back into our joy today. (1 Peter 1:8)
5. Filled with hope, we are now experiencing our salvation and the glory-filled joy it brings. (1 Peter 1:8–9)

Study Questions

1. What is the obstacle to joy in Jesus in 1 Peter 1:8–9? Why is it an obstacle?

2. Why might Peter’s statement of their love and joy in 1 Peter 1:8 be encouraging to his readers?

3. What might it mean that our joy is “glorified” (1 Peter 1:8)? Try and give an answer yourself, and then look at Romans 5:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 for possible help.

Related Resources

• In God We Joy (article)
• Joy in God: To Be Waited for or Pursued? (interview)
• True Christianity: Inexpressible Joy in the Invisible Christ (sermon on 1 Peter 1:8–9)

1 Peter 1:10–12

The Immeasurable Value of Grace

October 6, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:10–12
Topic: The Grace of God

Principle for Bible Reading

We will never be able to estimate the value of the grace God has shown us as sinners. In this lab, John Piper highlights the preciousness of our salvation by looking at three groups of people in the Bible: prophets, preachers, and angels. Each saw the grace Jesus brings, and each responded in their own way.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:00)

The Prophets (02:00–05:50)

1. The prophets felt intense interest and desire for the grace that was coming. (1 Peter 1:10)
2. They knew the Messiah would suffer, but that glories would come after. (1 Peter 1:11)
3. And they knew that they were serving people later in history through their ministry. (1 Peter 1:12)
4. Therefore, we are heirs of all the hopes of the Old Testament.
5. This should intensify our desire to see and understand how the Old Testament anticipates Jesus.

The Preachers and Angels (05:50–07:58)

1. Peter moves from the prophets to Spirit-filled preachers of the gospel. (1 Peter 1:12)
2. The emphasis in 1 Peter 1:12 is to highlight even further the preciousness of the salvation foretold in the Old Testament, and now preached in the gospel.
3. The gospel we are now hearing is the culmination of all the prophets’ ministry.
4. And Peter doesn’t stop with prophets and preachers, but draws in angels, as well. Even the angels desire to see what we see in the gospel. (1 Peter 1:12)

The Angels (07:58–10:05)

1. The prophets ached to see and experience the grace we have received. (1 Peter 1:10)
2. The Holy Spirit confirms through the gospel that this grace has arrived with Jesus. (1 Peter 1:12)
3. Even the angels watch and are stunned by the story of God’s redeeming grace. (1 Peter 1:12)
4. The point of this paragraph is to make God’s grace so intensely desirable that we would set our hope fully on it. (1 Peter 1:13)

Study Questions

1. Based on 1 Peter 1:10–12, what do we learn about the role of the prophets in our life and salvation? How does this change or inform how we read the Old Testament?

2. What is it precisely about the “good news” (1 Peter 1:12) that fulfills the prophets’ prediction of “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories”?

3. Reading 1 Peter 1:10–13, why does Peter draw in the prophets, the preachers, and the angels in here at this point in his letter?

Related Resources

• Grace Gone Wild (article)
• How Do I Know I’m Saved? (interview)
• What the Prophets Sought and Angels Desired (sermon on 1 Peter 1:10–12)

1 Peter 1:13–16, Part 1

Think Hard for the Sake of Your Heart

October 8, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:13–16
Topic: Hope

Principle for Bible Reading

Hope is a human emotion, and the Bible commands us to have it. So how do we pursue it if we do not feel it? In this lab, John Piper explains how God has wired the relationship between the mind and the heart. Scripture tells us that biblical thinking serves passionate hoping.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:47)

Set your Hope on Grace (01:47–05:23)

1. The main command in 1 Peter 1:13 is to “set your hope fully …”
2. 1 Peter 1:13 begins with “Therefore …” So what is grounding these believers’ hope?
3. Their hope rests on their new birth in the past, their glorious inheritance in the future, and the tested genuineness of their faith. (1 Peter 1:3–7)

Be Ready to Give a Reason (05:23–06:55)

1. Our hope in Jesus has reasons. (1 Peter 3:15)
2. That doesn’t mean that the reasons have to be complicated or intellectually impressive. Peter gives us plenty of reasons for our hope in 1 Peter.
3. The call in 1 Peter 3:15 is to be ready to give an answer, not necessarily the best or most compelling answer. Just know some reasons for your hope in Jesus.

Prepare Your Minds for Action (06:55–11:26)

1. Peter adds two participles to the command to hope: “… preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded.” (1 Peter 1:13)
2. As we hope in Jesus, we are called to think actively or energetically (“prepare your minds for action”). (1 Peter 1:13)
3. And as we hope in Jesus, we are called to think clearly (“being sober-minded”), and not like someone who is drunk. (1 Peter 1:13)
4. With a clear and active mind, set your hope fully on grace.
5. God has wired our minds to serve our emotions, our convictions to serve our hope. Therefore, think hard for the sake of your heart.

Study Questions

1. Name the different commands in 1 Peter 1:13. Which command is the primary one?

2. Explain the “Therefore” at the beginning of 1 Peter 1:13. How does what comes before serve what comes after?

3. Define what it means to “prepare our minds for action” or to “be sober-minded.” How do those activities relate to hope in Peter’s mind, and what does that mean for the Christian life?

Related Resources

• Your Hope Is As Alive As Jesus (article)
• Hope in Heaven Changes Today (interview)
• Girding the Mind to Guard Your Hope (sermon on 1 Peter 1:13)

1 Peter 1:13–16, Part 2

Put Away Ignorant Passions

October 13, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:13–16
Topic: Pursuit of Holiness

Principle for Bible Reading

All of us have remaining sin still inside of us making war against our souls. In this lab, John Piper looks at strategies for bringing our hearts and lives further and further into conformity to God and his word. We need to see the relationship between what we know, what we feel, and how we live.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–01:58)

Recap: Think Hard for the Sake of Your Heart (01:58–05:45)

Replace Ignorance with Knowledge (05:45–08:27)

1. Peter says “children” (1 Peter 1:14) at least in part because we have been born again. (1 Peter 1:3)
2. Before we were born again, we were ignorant (1 Peter 1:14), and our desires deceived us because they were based on ignorance, and not on truth. (Ephesians 4:22)
3. The answer to our former ignorance is to prepare our minds for action and replace ignorance with knowledge, with reasons for real hope. (1 Peter 1:13)
4. Our new knowledge produces new passions leading to new behavior.

Value God in All You Do (08:27–10:54)

1. Ignorance has been replaced with knowledge, and deceitful passions have been replaced with new passions. (1 Peter 1:13–14)
2. That knowledge and those passions lead to “holy conduct.” (1 Peter 1:15)
3. God’s holiness is always acting in accord with his own infinite value. (1 Peter 1:15)
4. We are called to be holy, and we do that by showing the infinite value of God in all our conduct.

Summary (10:54–13:55)

1. New Knowledge—Replace your former ignorance with truth about God and the grace that is coming to you. (Head) ⇒
2. New Hope and New Passions (Heart) ⇒
3. New Conduct—Bring all of your life into conformity with your new knowledge and passions, making God look valuable in all you do. (Hands)

Study Questions

1. What is wrong with the passions Peter describes in 1 Peter 1:14? You can refer to Ephesians 4:22 for help.

2. In 1 Peter 1:13–16, what is the relationship between knowledge (head) and passions/affections (heart) and conduct (hands)? How do we bring our lives into conformity with God and his word?

3. What does it mean for God to be holy? How would you describe that to a new believer or nonbeliever? What texts might you draw in for support?

Related Resources

• The Distance Between Head and Heart (article)
• The Passions That Prevent Adultery (interview)
• The Lust of Ignorance and the Life of Holiness (sermon on 1 Peter 1:14–16)

1 Peter 1:17–19

Fear Treating God as Trash

October 27, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:17–19
Topic: Pursuit of Holiness

Principle for Bible Reading

Do you fear God? The Bible seems to be confusing about fear. In some places, God calls us to live in fear. Elsewhere, he says he’s delivered us from fear. In this lab, John Piper focuses on 1 Peter 1:17–19, but pulls in lots of verses to help us understand what it means for us to fear God.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:27)

God Calls Us to Fear (02:27–04:03)

1. Peter says very clearly to these Christians, “Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1 Peter 1:17). But isn’t the Christian free from fear in Christ?
2. The truly Christian life will be motivated in some way by fear.
3. The fear comes from knowing that God will judge everyone impartially according to their own works. (1 Peter 1:17)

God Rescues Us from Fear (04:03–06:28)

1. The command to fear in 1 Peter 1:17, though, comes between two glorious statements that should take away fear for believers.
2. The God who judges impartially is a Father to us (1 Peter 1:17). And everything so far in 1 Peter has said that this Father treats us with great mercy and secures us forever.
3. Then, in 1 Peter 1:18–19, Peter says that these believers were ransomed with the blood of Christ, meaning they no longer had to fear.

God Will Judge All (06:28–11:39)

1. What does it mean for God to judge impartially each according to his works? (1 Peter 1:17)
2. Fear unbelief, and let that fear drive you to faith. (Romans 11:20)
3. Work out your salvation with fear, for God is working in you. (Philippians 2:12–13)
4. All will stand before the judgment seat, and therefore we all should fear. (2 Corinthians 5:10–11)
5. In Romans 2:6–7, rendering to each according to his needs means giving those who have some good works (giving evidence for their faith) with eternal life.
6. When Jesus returns, he will repay each according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)
7. Paul warned professing believers that those who continued in sin would be excluded from the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21)
8. We are called to pursue the holiness “without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

The Fear of God (11:39–15:51)

1. Fear ever treating the ransom God paid for you as trash.
2. If cozying up with the sins for which Jesus died is tempting to you, run with all your might in the other direction. Do not let yourself be found in bed with the very things that cost the Son his life.
3. Illustration #1: A daughter ransomed by her father.
4. Illustration #2: A child playing with a big dog.

Study Questions

1. What is the main point of 1 Peter 1:17–19 (look for the main verb)? Why might that command seem strange in light of the immediate context in these three verses?

2. Read Philippians 2:12–13, 2 Corinthians 5:10–11, Romans 2:6–7, and Hebrews 12:14. How do these other passages help us understand what Peter means in 1 Peter 1:17–19?

3. Based on these verses, and any others that come to mind, how would you explain what it means for a believer to fear God? Can you think of any illustrations you might use?

Related Resources

• Will America Be Judged? (article)
• What Does It Mean for the Christian to Fear God? (interview)
• “A Sojourn on Earth in Confident Fear” (sermon on 1 Peter 1:17–19)

1 Peter 1:20–21

Jesus Christ, the Beginning and the End

October 29, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:20–21 and Hebrews 1:1–2
Topic: The Person of Christ

Lots of people identify Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But do they live in way that also says he is their greatest Treasure? In this lab, John Piper uncovers a couple of precious truths about our infinitely valuable Jesus. There are at least two paths in these verses to grow our love for and hope in him.

Principle for Bible Reading

Peter wants us to find hope by highlighting the immeasurable value of Jesus Christ. Focus on each thing Peter notes about Christ, and try to explain in your own words why they highlight Jesus’s beauty or value.

Study Questions

1. What things does Peter highlight about Jesus in 1 Peter 1:20–21? In what ways do those things cause us to live in fear of God (1 Peter 1:17)?

2. Read Hebrews 1:1–2, 1 Corinthians 10:11, and 1 Peter 4:7, 17. How do these verses help us understand “the last times” in 1 Peter 1:20?

3. Who is doing the work in 1 Peter 1:20? What is he doing, and who is he doing it for? Does this reveal anything new for you about him?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–03:13)

Forever Known by God (03:13–05:23)

• Jesus was known by God in eternity past. (1 Peter 1:20)
• God did not look around on the earth for someone to save his people.
• Jesus was brought into the world precisely because he had always existed and been known by God (1 Peter 1:20). God chose him for that.
• Knowing that Jesus existed in eternity past and was always God’s chosen Savior for the world should elevate his value in our hearts.

Made Known in History (05:23–08:10)

• Jesus was known before the foundation of the world, and then brought into the world in the last times. (1 Peter 1:20)
• When Jesus entered the world, he began the last days (“the last times”).
• The coming of the Son marks the beginning of the last days. (Hebrews 1:1–2; see also Hebrews 9:26)
• Something decisively changed when Jesus entered the world. He introduced a new era or age in history. (1 Corinthians 10:11)
• The end times, when God will judge all people, began when Jesus came. (1 Peter 4:7, 17)
• The manifestation of this Jesus in history has inaugurated the end of history, again elevating his infinite worth.

He Came for Your Hope (08:10–10:31)
• Jesus came into the world for the sake of those who hope in God. (1 Peter 1:21)
• God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory so that we would believe in God. (1 Peter 1:21)
• God is working through Christ to make himself our treasure, the object of our faith and hope.
• Everything Peter says about Jesus in these two verses should cause us to live in fear of making Jesus look inconsequential or worthless.

Related Resources

• I Love Jesus Christ (article)
• Don Carson on the Incarnation (interview)
• “Christ Appeared That We Might Hope in God” (sermon on 1 Peter 1:20–21)

1 Peter 1:22–25, Part 1

How God Purifies Our Souls from Sin

November 3, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:22–25, Acts 15:8–9, and 1 Peter 4:17
Topic: Faith

How does the faith in Jesus by which we were saved relate to the new life in Jesus for which we were saved? How do we pursue purity by grace, and not just our own resolve or discipline? In this lab, John Piper tackles a difficult question about obedience, pulling apart the various things that happen when we’re born again.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you come to a difficult question in a text, look for help first in the immediate context, then in the book in which you’re studying, and then lastly to other places in Scripture. Search other places within the book or more widely in Scripture for the same words or phrases.

Study Questions

1. Explain the relationship in Peter’s mind between purity, obedience, and love explained in 1 Peter 1:22. Use your own words, and for the sake of this exercise, limit yourselves to this verse.

2. What does “obedience to the truth” mean in 1 Peter 1:22? What reasons would you give for your explanation?

3. Read Galatians 5:6, 1 Timothy 1:5, Acts 15:8–9, and 1 Peter 4:17. Explain how each might help us understand what Peter means in 1 Peter 1:22.

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:30)

Obedience to the Truth (02:30–05:17)

• The love in 1 Peter 1:22 comes from a purified heart. (1 Peter 1:20)
• The question for those who want love, then, is how we are purified.
• The answer in 1 Peter 1:22 is through obedience to the truth.
• Is that obedience obedience to the law (1 Peter 1:22)? Or is Peter talking about another obedience?
• No, “obedience to the truth” (1 Peter 1:22) is faith and hope in the gospel.

Five Reasons for Faith in the Gospel (05:17–09:58)

1 Love is the overflow of obedience to the truth (not itself obedience to the truth). (1 Peter 1:22, Galatians 5:6, 1 Timothy 1:5)
2 The new birth is another way of talking about the purification of our souls, and the new birth happens through believing the good news. (1 Peter 1:23–25)
3 People “who do not obey the gospel” in 1 Peter 4:17 are people who do not trust in the gospel.
4 Faith unites us to Christ, and faith has a sanctifying and cleansing effect. (Acts 15:8–9)
5 In the verse before (1 Peter 1:21), Peter talks about our faith and hope being in God, and then immediately says, “Having purified our souls …”

Let Your Faith Overflow in Love (09:58–11:29)

• My conclusion is “obedience to the truth” means faith and hope in the gospel. (1 Peter 1:22)
• Our souls are purified through faith by our union with Christ (counted as perfectly pure) and we are purified through this faith because it produces brotherly love.
• Let your faith and hope overflow in love for others.

Related Resources

• Cherishing Truth for the Sake of Love (article)
• The Key to Christian Obedience (interview)
• “Command of God: the Obedience of Faith” (sermon on Romans 16:25–27)

1 Peter 1:22–25, Part 2

We Cannot Love Without Hope

November 5, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:22–25 and 1 Peter 1:3
Topics: Loving Others, Regeneration / New Birth

Where do we find the strength and attitude we need to truly love the people in our lives? In this lab, John Piper looks at two different verses in 1 Peter that describe our new birth, and the effects it has on our earthly relationships. True love only proceeds from genuine hope, which only comes from the word of God.

Principle for Bible Reading

Sometimes the Bible talks about the same thing in different ways. To our limited minds, it often feels like a contradiction, but when we slow down, we see that it’s possible for both texts to be true, even though they’re saying different things.

Study Questions

1. In 1 Peter 1:22–23, what is the relationship between our new birth and our love for one another? What other texts in 1 Peter might help explain this dynamic?

2. In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter grounds the new birth one way, and in 1 Peter 1:23, he grounds it another way. Why might he explain this reality in two different ways like he does?

3. Practically, why does love proceed from our new birth? What is it about the truth of the gospel and the reality of the new birth that makes us more loving people?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:54)

The Beginning of the New Birth (00:54–03:50)

• There’s a strong connection between our love for one another and our new birth. (1 Peter 1:22–23). Loves comes about by being born again.
• In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter grounds the new birth in history, in the resurrection of Christ.
• In 1 Peter 1:23, Peter grounds the new birth in the living and abiding word of God—the gospel that has been preached to you.

Born Again and Invincible (03:50–06:46)

• Are the differences in speaking about the new birth in 1 Peter 1:3 and 1 Peter 1:23 really all that different?
• In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter says we are born again to a “living” hope.
• In 1 Peter 1:23, he says we were born again of an imperishable seed. Peter wants us to know that we are imperishable, or that our hope is living.
• Peter cites Isaiah 40:6–8 to underline the invincible power of the word of God in our lines.

The Seed of Hope (06:46–09:34)

• I do not know if the “seed” is the Holy Spirit or the word (1 Peter 1:23). In either case, Peter is making the same point.
• If we are born again by this imperishable word of God, we ourselves will never perish. (1 Peter 1:22)
• True love for one another flows out of a living and invincible hope in God, born in us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ explained in the gospel.
• Those born again in Jesus should be the freest of all people, and therefore should love others best.

Related Resources

• The Value of Knowing How God Saved You (article)
• Hope in Eternal Purity, Aim at Daily Purity (interview)
• “Born Again Through the Living and Abiding Word” (sermon on 1 Peter 1:13–15)

1 Peter 2:1–3, Part 1

Spiritual Growth Is Not Optional

November 12, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:1–3 and 1 Peter 1:5
Topic: Sanctification & Growth

God is not done with his work when we first believe and are saved. He intends day by day to make us into what we already are in Christ. Spiritual growth is not optional or marginal in the Christian life. Every person that truly believes in Christ is increasingly transformed into his likeness.

Principle for Bible Reading

The Bible uses hundreds and hundreds of metaphors to help us understand the Christian life. In these verses, Peter talks about “spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2). When you come across a word picture like this, press on it to see all that the author wants you to see about the truth being depicted.

Study Questions

1. Explain the “So” (or “Therefore”) at the beginning of 1 Peter 2:1. How does this first verse of chapter two build on the last verses of chapter one?

2. Explain Peter’s milk metaphor in 1 Peter 2:1–3. What is the milk? And what role does it play in the Christian life?

3. Looking at 1 Peter 1:5, 9; 2:2, explain how Peter is using the word “salvation.” What seems different about the way he is using it, and how would you explain how it fits with other places in the Bible that talk about our salvation?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:48)

Become What You Are (02:48–04:19)

• You are new, and you have an unshakeable hope. (1 Peter 1:22–25)
• Therefore, you should obey (“put away”). (1 Peter 2:1)
• Because you are already new in Christ, be about becoming what you are.

The Pure Spiritual Milk (04:19–06:56)

• When you are born again, do what newborns do. Long for (spiritual) milk. (1 Peter 2:1)
• Peter is not speaking only to new believers, but to all believers. (1 Peter 2:1)
• The “spiritual milk” in 1 Peter 2:2 is the word of God, that is the gospel. (1 Peter 1:23–25)
• The same word that brought us to life sustains us each day.
• A newborn person tastes the goodness of the Lord in this milk. (Psalm 34:8)

The End of the Christian Life (06:56–11:06)

• The one who tastes this spiritual milk grows up into salvation. (1 Peter 2:2)
• Salvation, for Peter, is mainly a future reality. (1 Peter 1:5, 9)
• We are saved now, but we are growing all the time unto a full and final salvation. (1 Peter 2:2)
• The Christian life is not mechanical or automatic. It’s an organic and dynamic process.
• Don’t ever think that growing through the word of God is optional or marginal in the Christian life. Spiritual growth is absolutely necessary for every believer.

Related Resources

• Knowledge Doesn’t Mean Maturity (article)
• Fear, Anxiety, and Growth in Godliness (interview)
• “His Commandments Are Not Burdensome” (sermon on 1 John 4:20–5:5)

1 Peter 2:1–3, Part 2

A Remedy for Envy

November 17, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:1–3
Topic: Killing Sin

The new birth produces love in every true believer in Jesus Christ, and it also weans us off our old sinful desires, like envy. But we have to be able to spot these deadly desires within us. In this lab, John Piper zeros in on several common iniquities, and explains how we wield the word of God against them.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you come across a list in the Bible, stop and examine it. Why did the author include the things he did? Why not include other things? Try and define each item in the list, and look for similarities, differences, and connections between them.

Study Questions

1. Look at the lists of sins in 1 Peter 2:1. Why might Peter have included the sins he did and not others in this case?

2. If we’re going to battle these specific sins, we need to be able to identify them. Take each of the sins and try to define them in your own words.

3. What weapons does 1 Peter 2:1–3 give us for fighting these specific sins? Try to explain practically how the truths Peter highlights wean us off of these sinful desires.

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:42)

The Fruit of the New Birth (02:42–05:33)

• What effect does it have on our lives that we have been born again by the living and abiding word? (1 Peter 2:1–3)
• We already learned that love proceeds from our new birth. (1 Peter 1:22)
• “So” (Therefore) in 1 Peter 2:1 says that the new birth also purifies us from malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.
• This is what it means to “grow up into salvation”—we love more, and are less consumed with wickedness—and that happens as we satisfy ourselves with the spiritual milk of the word of God. (1 Peter 2:2)

Investigating Iniquity (05:33–12:37)

• Slander is the only one that’s an action.
• Malice is a disposition of the heart to want to hurt people. It’s a summary of the other evils we commit against others.
• Deceit is a desire that other people believe what is not true.
• Hypocrisy is a species of deceit that conceals things about ourselves.
• Envy and slander go together in this list. Envy overflows at its worst in slander. (1 Peter 1:20)
• When we’re filled with spiritual milk, we become content with who we are in Christ. The desires for hypocrisy and deceit fade away. (1 Peter 2:1–3)
• The remedy for envy comes from knowing and tasting the goodness and kindness of the Lord (1 Peter 2:3). His mercy and his kindness will make envy seem utterly inappropriate.

Related Resources

• Envy Hunts in a Pack (article)
• Battling Envy (interview)
• “Battling the Unbelief of Envy” (sermon on Psalm 37:1–7)

1 Peter 2:4–8, Part 1

Come to the Man Rejected by Men

November 19, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:4–8 and Matthew 21:42
Topic: The Death of Christ

Those who follow Jesus should expect to be rejected by the world around them. But their rejection will not be the last word. In this lab, John Piper traces a new word picture from Peter and several Old Testament quotations to show why all who come to Christ and embrace rejection with him will also receive eternal life and glory.

Principle for Bible Reading

The authors of the New Testament often quote the Old Testament. In each case, we need to ask questions about why the author went to this particular Old Testament verse or verses to explain or defend their point. What led them here?

Study Questions

1. What change do you notice between Peter’s argument in 1 Peter 2:1–3 and 1 Peter 2:4–8? Why might Peter shift so suddenly?

2. Read Matthew 21:33–44. How does this parable inform how Peter uses the Old Testament in 1 Peter 2:4–8?

3. Based on 1 Peter 1, why would Peter turn to this image when writing to these believers? What is it about them that might welcome this particular metaphor?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–04:30)

In 1 Peter 2:1–3, Peter uses the image of an infant being sustained with milk. In 1 Peter 2:4–8, he abruptly changes metaphors to architecture, building a house with stones.

The Cornerstone of the Old Testament (04:30–07:49)

• Peter read his Old Testament on the look out for stone imagery. (1 Peter 2:6–8)
• In 1 Peter 2:6–8, Peter quotes from Isaiah 28:16 (1 Peter 2:6), Psalm 118:22 (1 Peter 2:7), and Isaiah 8:14 (1 Peter 2:8).
• Peter likely looked for stone imagery in the Old Testament, because Jesus quoted in Matthew 21:42 (the parable of the tenants).
• Peter likely looked for stone imagery in the Old Testament, because Jesus quoted Psalm 118 in Matthew 21:42 (the parable of the tenants). Peter learned from Jesus that the rejected “stone” is Jesus.

Rejected with Christ (07:49–10:28)

• Peter is writing to embattled sojourners and exiles. (1 Peter 2:11)
• Peter calls Christians to live in a way that puts them out of step with the world, which will eventually lead to rejection. (1 Peter 4:3–4)
• Peter knew he was asking people to follow Jesus in a life of rejection so they might also enjoy a life of glorification.
• That’s why he uses the rejected stone imagery. He wants us to see that our rejection is like Christ’s, that it’s authored by God and will lead to glory.

Building a Spiritual House (10:28–15:27)

• Peter pleads with all to come to Christ, the rejected one. (1 Peter 2:4)
• As you come to Christ, participate in the life of the rejected stone (“as living stones”). (1 Peter 2:5)
• God is fitting us together as living stones into a place of worship. (1 Peter 2:5)
• First, we are together a spiritual house of worship. Then, we are together a priesthood who makes sacrifices to God. (1 Peter 2:5)
• The sacrifices we make here are sacrifices of obedience, putting away the desires and passions of the flesh. (1 Peter 2:1)
• C—obedience is not adequate to a God who expects perfection, but our lives are made acceptable to God through Christ. Christ’s rejection on our behalf covers all the inadequacies of our acts of obedience.

Related Resources

• Rejected by Men, Even Our Friends (article)
• Do My Sufferings Complete Christ’s? (interview)
• “Why God Laid a Stone of Stumbling” (sermon on 1 Peter 2:4–8)

1 Peter 2:4–8, Part 2

They Were Destined to Disobey God

November 24, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:4–8, Matthew 21:42, and Acts 4:27–28
Topic: The Doctrines of Grace / Calvinism

God predestined some, in his infinite mercy, to hear the gospel and believe. And he predestined others, in unspeakable mystery, to disobey and reject the good news. In this lab, John Piper leads us carefully word by word into one of the most difficult verses and truths in all the Bible, ending with nine summary thoughts.

Principle for Bible Reading

Many of the truths in Scripture are deeper and weightier than we can completely comprehend. As we approach verses like these, we need to do so carefully and humbly, pleading with God to show us as much as he wants us to see and to keep us from pride, presumption, and error.

Study Questions

1. Peter lays out two kinds of responses (two kinds of people) to Jesus in 1 Peter 2:4–8. Note as much as you can from these five verses about the two kinds of responses/people.

2. 1 Peter 2:8 is one of the heaviest verses in all the Bible. How would you understand it, and then how would you explain it to someone?

3. Read Matthew 21:42 and Acts 4:27–28. How do these passages effect how you read 1 Peter 2:6–8?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:50)

Two Responses to Jesus Christ (01:50–05:03)

• Peter draws out two kinds of responses to the living stone Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:6–8)
• The first kind of person believes the word, and receives honor. (1 Peter 2:6)
• The second kind of person rejects the word and stumbles in unbelief toward destruction. (1 Peter 2:7–8)
• It looks like believers are being rejected (they are in this world) (1 Peter 2:4), but they will receive honor with Christ in glory. (1 Peter 2:7)

Predestined to Disobey (05:03–10:25)

• To “disobey” the word is to refuse it or not believe in it. (1 Peter 2:8)
• They were predestined by God not to believe in the good news. (1 Peter 2:8)
• Piper’s translation of 1 Peter 2:8: “They stumble, disobeying the word, unto which they were appoint.”
• Some say the “stumbling” that was predestined is the punishment, and not the disobedience. In that scenario, God would not be responsible for their lack of faith, but for rightly punishing their lack of faith.
• The problem is that stumbling here is the disobedience itself. (1 Peter 2:8)
• Jesus had already said that God planned for some to reject the cornerstone. (Matthew 21:42)
• Again, we see that God predestined some to do sin, including killing the Son of God. (Acts 4:27–28)

Summary Thoughts on Predestination (10:25–13:15)

• This is the other side of the coin in Peter’s calling the Christians “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1).
• The mystery is how God rules over sinners without sinning, not that he does. (Acts 4:27–28)
• God can and does will the sinful unbelief of those who reject Christ. Yet …
• There are no personas who want to be saved and are prevented against their will.
• Every person who perishes willfully rejects the knowledge of God.
• There are no persons who are not morally responsible for their unbelief.
• There are no persons whose judgment will be unjust.
• All of us were hopelessly sinful, and none of us deserves to be delivered.
• Take heart, embattled exiles, none of your adversaries can thwart God’s plans.

Related Resources

• Five Reasons to Embrace Unconditional Election (article)
• Ten Reasons to Revel in Being Chosen (article)
• Do We Have Free Will to Choose Christ? (interview)
• “Why God Laid a Stone of Stumbling” (sermon on 1 Peter 2:4–8)

1 Peter 2:9–10, Part 1

God Treasures You, But Not Because of You

December 3, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:9–10 and Deuteronomy 7:6–8
Topic: The Nature of the Church

When a person becomes a Christian, they take on an entirely different identity, the pinnacle of which is being God’s prized possession. In this lab, John Piper looks at two of the most explicit and most profound verses on Christian identity. What we learn should humble and inspire every believer.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you get a list of metaphors like we do in 1 Peter 2:9, stop and examine each item in the list. Ask questions to understand why the list was compiled like it was. Why did the author include the word pictures that he did? Why did he include these, and not others? What significance do the adjectives play in the list?

Study Questions

1. Take each of the metaphors in 1 Peter 2:9–10, and explain in your own words how each explains a Christian’s identity. Why does Peter include these particular metaphors?

2. What does the phrase “chosen race” specifically say about race and ethnicity? How should it shape or reshape our understanding of these distinctions?

3. If you learn that you’ve been chosen by God, what affect should that have on you emotionally and psychologically? What might God want you to feel when you realize you’ve been chosen by him?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:44)

A Precious Truth for Persecuted People (01:44–05:02)

• These verses offer one of the most profound and dense descriptions of the church’s identity. (1 Peter 2:9–10)
• Remember that Peter is writing to a suffering and persecuted minority. (1 Peter 1:1)
• 1 Peter 2:7–8 talked about those who rejected Christ and stumble in their disobedience.
• 1 Peter 2:9–10 turns to talk about those who receive Christ and make him the cornerstone of their life and hope.

Chosen by God (05:02–08:20)

• You are chosen. (1 Peter 2:9)
• This choosing is not owing to anything in you. (Deuteronomy 7:6–8)
• By quoting this passage, Peter is saying that the Israelite distinctives are now enjoyed by all who believe in Jesus.
• Why does the Lord love you? Because he love you. (Deuteronomy 7:7–8)
• Therefore, election should be a humbling doctrine (not a prideful one).

Set Apart by God (08:20–12:14)

• You are a chosen race. How do you become a new race?
• We became a new race by being born again according to God’s mercy. (1 Peter 1:3)
• There are only two races in the world: the first born (naturally) and the born again. (1 Peter 2:9)
• Our ethnicities are precious distinctions, but they are not the essential identity of any Christian anymore.
• We are a royal priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices, and we belong to the household of the King. (1 Peter 2:5, 9)
• “Holy” (holy nation) communicates the holiness of our status with God. (1 Peter 2:9)
• Finally, we are God’s own prized possession. (1 Peter 2:9)

Summary (12:14–14:05)

Related Resources

• Ten Reasons to Revel in Being Chosen (article)
• Is Election Divine Favoritism? (interview)
• “Christian Identity and Christian Destiny” (sermon on 1 Peter 2:9–10)

1 Peter 2:9–10, Part 2

Why You Exist in the World

December 8, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:9–10, Isaiah 43:20–21, and Ephesians 1:4–6
Topic: Christian Hedonism

Can you explain why you exist in the world? When God created you, and then saved you and made you new, why did he do it? The Bible gives us unbelievable clarity. In this lab, John Piper explains the purpose of your life. We exist not to call attention to ourselves, but to God and his glory.

Principle for Bible Reading

The Bible is filled with purpose clauses (“that”, “so that”, or “in order that”) that are wonderfully helpful in understand an author’s argument. They explain reasons for all kinds of things, especially in this case for why God works the ways he does and for why you exist.

Study Questions

1. How does 1 Peter 2:9–10 explain the purpose of your life? Put it into your own words.

2. Read Isaiah 43:20–21, Isaiah 60:21, Jeremiah 23:11, and Ephesians 1:4–6. What do you learn about God’s purposes in the world and in you?

3. Isn’t God vain or selfish to bring us into being or save us for his own glory? How would you answer someone who raised that objection?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:32)

Why You Exist (01:32–04:47)

• 1 Peter 2:9 explains why we’ve been chosen. Everything good that is given to us in the gospel was given to us for a reason.
• Our reason for being as a believer is to proclaim God’s glory (in word and in deed). (1 Peter 2:9; 3:15; 2:12)
• We exist not to call attention to ourselves, but to God. (1 Peter 2:9)
• What specifically do we proclaim? God’s excellencies—beautiful things about him. (1 Peter 2:9)

How You Came to Be (04:47–07:28)

• God called us out of darkness into marvelous light (how we come into being). (1 Peter 2:9)
• You came into being as a believer by being born again (same reality in different terms). (1 Peter 1:3)
• Another way to describe this is with calling, like Jesus calling Lazarus from the tomb. The call creates the life.

His Purpose Is Praise (07:28–10:10)

• We exist to proclaim the excellencies of a mercifully calling and regenerating God. (1 Peter 2:9)
• We come into being for God, that is for his praise. (Isaiah 43:20–21)
• God plants people to make himself look glorious. (Isaiah 60:21)
• We exist to be a praise and glory to the one who created us and called us out of darkness. (Jeremiah 23:11)
• He chose us “to the praise of his glorious grace.” (Ephesians 1:4–6)

Does This Make God Vain? (10:10–12:48)

• Isn’t God vain or selfish to bring us into being for his own glory?
• No, because this calling (to proclaim his excellencies) is the consummation of our own joy in the highest beauty that exists (God himself).
• We’re called to bring our pleasure in God to consummation by spilling over and admiring or praising him to others.
• God is not a megalomaniac because his glory is our greatest, longest lasting satisfaction.

Related Resources

• The Eighth Decade of Life and the Ultimate Purpose of God (article)
• How Do I Know God’s Calling for My Life? (interview)
• “Proclaiming the Excellencies of Christ, Not Prosperity, Among the Nations” (sermon on 1 Peter 2:9–10)

1 Peter 2:11–12, Part 1

Your Old Passions War Against You

December 10, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 5:6–7, 1 Peter 2:11–12, and Matthew 7:17–20
Topic: Killing Sin

There are desires inside of you that want to destroy you. They will try and lure you to anything and everything except God and his glory. In this lab, John Piper teaches us to fight remaining sin in our own hearts. He end by giving two strategies for abstaining from the passions of the flesh.

Principle for Bible Reading

When the Bible uses a metaphor, in this case war, we need to slow down and ask questions about the specific ways in which the word picture teaches us about the spiritual reality. Every metaphor is limited, but there are often precious things to be seen between the two things being compared (e.g. war and sinful desires) that are not immediately apparent at first sight.

Study Questions

1. 1 Peter 2:11 says that our passions wage war against our soul. Based on the immediate context (and anything else you can think of in Scripture) how do those passions fight? What do they do to harm you?

2. What are ways Christians might misunderstand or dismiss the command in 1 Peter 2:11? How would you help them understand it rightly?

3. What strategies can you think of from Scripture for abstaining from the passions of the flesh? Where would you take someone wanting to fight sin in their own heart?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:50)

Become Who You Already Are (01:50–05:25)

• Peter urges these believers to abstain from passions of the flesh. (1 Peter 2:11)
• He warns them to do this because these passions are warring against their souls, hoping to destroy them. (1 Peter 2:11)
• Peter just explained who we are as believers (identity), and then comes to how we ought to live. Because of who you already are, be who you are. (1 Peter 2:9–11)
• Some will get this wrong by thinking these kinds of commands are not necessary for believers, because they’ve already been saved. Others will get this wrong by thinking we abstain so that we can be saved. Both are seriously wrong.
• The text tells us who we are, and then gives us the command (so that we increasingly become who we already are). Those who walk in love and destroy their sin (not perfectly) are showing they have already been made new through faith.

Confirming the Command (05:25–07:57)

• The same pattern shows up in 1 Corinthians 5:6–7. Be about becoming something new, because you already have been made new.
• 1 Peter 2:9–10 declare who we already, and then 1 Peter 2:11 says how we ought to live in light of that reality.
• You don’t become a good tree by bearing good fruit. You show that you are a good tree by bearing good fruit. (Matthew 7:17–20)
• When you abstain from the passions of the flesh, you’re not making yourself God’s chosen people, but revealing that you already are God’s chosen people.

How Do Passions Destroy You? (07:57–10:54)

• How do you passions war against you and try to destroy you? (1 Peter 2:11)
• You exist (were made) to proclaim excellent things about God. (1 Peter 2:9)
• The passions of the flesh are any passions that cause you to stop marveling most in the excellency of God (1 Peter 2:11). They dim and destroy your passions for God.
• They do this by making other things look brighter and more beautiful than God. (1 Peter 2:11)
• The passions of the flesh strip you of the power to do the thing you were created to do: to proclaim God’s excellencies.

How Do You Abstain? (10:54–13:25)

• One option is to “cut off your hand” and “gouge our your eye” (TEXT). You feel the desires, but deny them.
• A second option (we always do both) is to replace your old passions with new passions. (1 Peter 1:13)
• Develop new and increasingly intense longings for God’s word. (1 Peter 2:2–3)
• As you abstain from the passions of the flesh, you preserve the very reason for which you were created, namely to savor God’s glory.

Related Resources

• Satan and Sodomy: Understated and Inflammatory Words (article)
• How Do I Know God’s Calling for My Life? (interview)
• “The War Against the Soul and the Glory of God” (sermon on 1 Peter 2:11–12)

1 Peter 2:11–12, Part 2

Silence the World with Good Deeds

December 29, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:11–12 and 1 Peter 1:14
Topic: Evangelism

Many Christians today cannot stand being maligned, and so they cave to what the world wants. In this lab, John Piper helps us win the world by living differently.

Many Christians today cannot stand being maligned by the world, and so they cave to what the world wants. They ignore the Bible and do whatever society does. In this lab, John Piper helps us win the world by living differently. He explains how our changed lives are one of the most powerful witnesses to the worth of Jesus Christ.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you read commands or arguments in the Bible, like in 1 Peter 2:12, think of the ways that command or argument might be abused by someone. How might it be taken out of context or warped to serve another purpose? Then develop a way to answer or correct that wrong interpretation or application with support from elsewhere in the Bible.

Study Questions

1. Look back at 1 Peter 1:14, and explain how it relates to 1 Peter 2:11–12. What are the relationships, according to Peter, between our knowledge, our desires, and our behavior?

2. What is the ultimate purpose of 1 Peter 2:12? How do the other parts of these two verses relate to or support that one main purpose?

3. Can you think of your own example for what this might look like? How might 1 Peter 2:12 really happen, how might we win the world, without compromising our Christian faith and convictions?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:22)

Made New with Truth (02:22–03:55)

• Ignorance produces sinful passions and desires. (1 Peter 1:14)
• And those sinful passions lead to conformity to sin.
• Peter is striving to replace their ignorance with new truth, that will change their desires, and eventually their behavior.
• Peter must have that process in mind here again in 1 Peter 2:11.

The Power of a Changed Life (03:55–06:39)

• The call is to keep your conduct honorable or beautiful in the world. (1 Peter 2:12)
• Peter wants these Christians’ lives to make Christ look beautiful.
• The purpose is to confront and end slander from nonbelievers. (1 Peter 2:12)
• How do we silence slander from our opponents in the world?
• We silence them by doing good deeds. (1 Peter 2:12)

Win the World, Don’t Let the World Win (06:39–08:52)
• This does mean that we do whatever it takes not to be maligned by the world.
• We are not going to continue to do what the world wants us to do, no matter what they say. (1 Peter 4:3–4)
• 1 Peter 4:4 says the world will be surprised when you stop acting like them, and they will malign you. It does not say go ahead and do what the world wants.
• 1 Peter 2:12 suggests there are certain good deeds that even some in the world will recognize, respect, and admire.

An Example: The Pro-Life Movement (08:52–11:01)

Related Resources

• Why Would the World Ask About Your Hope? (article)
• Is God Only Glorified by People Who Love Him? (interview)
• “Good Deeds and the Glory of God” (sermon on 1 Peter 2:11–12)

1 Peter 2:11–12, Part 3

Will Others Worship God Because of You?

December 31, 2015
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:11–12, Acts 15:14, and Luke 1:68
Topic: Evangelism

The Bible says that some will be saved through the witness of our faithfulness. But how does that happen? What makes our living in line with the gospel compelling to nonbelievers? In this lab, John Piper explains how our good deeds win others to Christ.

Principle for Bible Reading

Often the biblical authors create or mention a series of steps for the Christian to learn and practice. When you come to a series of actions, stop and think about the differences between the steps, what order they should be in, and any relevant relationships between the steps.

Study Questions

1. Look at 1 Peter 2:12 and separate the different steps Peter mentions (John sees four steps). Put the steps in order, and explain how they relate to each other.

2. How does someone go from seeing our good deeds to glorifying God? What moves them from observing our good deeds to worship? Look at 1 Peter 2:15 and 3:16 for help. What massive thing has to happen before anything else (mentioned in the first verses of the letter)?

3. Peter says they will glorify God on “the day of visitation.” What do you think that means and why? Where in the Bible would you go to support your answer?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:20)

A Path to Glory (01:20–03:34)

• First, we are slandered. (1 Peter 2:12)
• Therefore, we should do good deeds—positive, proactive engagement for the good of the world. (1 Peter 2:12)
• Then, the world sees your good works. (1 Peter 2:12)
• Finally, having seen, they glorify God. (1 Peter 2:12)

Awakening an Unbeliever (03:34–05:59)

• How does the world go from seeing our good works to worshipping God?
• One way is that the good works might silence their unfair criticism or slander. (1 Peter 2:15)
• Another way is that they might be put to shame and repent. (1 Peter 3:16)
• However God chooses to do it, he must cause them to be born again. (1 Peter 1:3)

The Day of Visitation (05:59–08:55)

• Peter says some in the world will glorify God because of your good works “on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11). When is that day?
• It might the day of the second coming, or it could be the day that God causes them to be born again and believe.
• God “visits” the Gentiles to save them through faith. (Acts 15:14)
• Again, God “visits and redeems” his people in the coming of Jesus (the first time). (Luke 1:68)
• Therefore, Peter probably is not thinking mainly of the second coming, but of their conversion through the witness of your good deeds.

Related Resources

• How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God (article)
• How Does It Glorify God to Predestine People to Hell? (interview)
• “How to Do Good So That God Gets the Glory” (sermon on 1 Peter 4:10–11)

1 Peter 2:13–17, Part 1

Live on Earth as Citizens of Heaven

January 5, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:13–17 and Philippians 3:21
Topic: Government

Christians live in and are citizens of some nation on earth, under some government, but their final authority is in heaven. So what did God intend for human governments to do? And how should we respond as believers in Jesus? In this lab, John Piper explains how to live as exiles and refugees.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you see a biblical author repeating a theme in a book or series of books, stop and look at the verses that deal with that particular theme. Often phrases or ideas in one verse will bring light and clarity to another verse.

Study Questions

1. Review 1 Peter 2:11–12. What kind of people is Peter writing to with this letter? Who are they and what is there status in this world? How does that inform his call in 1 Peter 2:13–14?

2. Read 1 Peter 2:13–17, 18; 3:1, and 7–8. How does this effect your understanding of 1 Peter 2:13–17? What theme is Peter building on throughout this letter, specifically in these verses?

3. One important word appears in 1 Peter 2:14 and 1 Peter 2:15. What does Peter’s use of that word in both verses reveal about God’s intention for Christian witness and the local government?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–03:12)

A Call to Refugees (03:12–05:58)

• Remember that Peter is writing to Christians who are sojourners and exiles in this world, like spiritual Syrian refugees today. (1 Peter 2:11)
• We are citizens in heaven (Philippians 3:21), and therefore aliens on the earth.
• Peter calls these sojourners and exiles to live honorably in the world, to do good deeds, in order to silence their opponents and critics. (1 Peter 2:12, 15)
• You are exiles or refugees here, but do not ignore the governing institutions where you live. (1 Peter 2:13)

A Call to Submission (05:58–09:22)

• How do we relate to our American government (or the authorities wherever we live or work)?
• We submit to “every human institution.” (1 Peter 2:13)
• Submission is a major theme in 1 Peter. Peter speaks to submission as citizens (1 Peter 2:13–17), as employees or even slaves (2:18), as wives and as family (3:1–7), and as believers one to another (3:8).
• We could apply this to the police, or the military, or to teachers and professors, and to a hundred other institutions.

A Call to Governors and Citizens (09:22–12:34)

• Specifically, Peter calls Christians to subject themselves to the emperor and the governors (to the governing authorities in the land). (1 Peter 2:13–14)
• The emperor and his governors (those in power) are called by God to “punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” (1 Peter 2:14)
• The good that governments are to praise is the same good Christians are to excel in. (1 Peter 2:12, 14–15)
• There’s an overlap between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of Christ so that the reign of Christ can be seen in the world.
• As Christians, one important role we play in this equation is to in help elect rulers who do what God intended them to do, namely punish what is evil and praise what is good.

Related Resources

• Live Homeless, Homesick, and Free (article)
• Pilgrims and Patriots (interview)
• “The Hope of Exiles on the Earth” (sermon on Hebrews 11:13–22)

1 Peter 2:13–17, Part 2

Obey as People Who Are Free

January 7, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: Mark 12:17, Matthew 17:24–27, and 1 Peter 2:13–17
Topic: Government

How do servants of the King live and serve in a world with kings? In this lab, John Piper reveals the wonder of Christian freedom and the witness of being subject to human authorities. To help, he draws in an encounter Jesus and his disciples had with tax collectors.

Principle for Bible Reading

Often the Bible creates tensions that appear to be contradictions to our limited perspective (e.g. freedom and subjection in 1 Peter 2:13–17). Some mysteries are above our human minds, but some of the most beautiful and profound things we can learn about God, and life, and ourselves are found in working hard to understand how these tensions are not contradictions.

Study Questions

1. What might it mean to subject yourself to the government “for the Lord’s sake” in 1 Peter 2:13? Identify a couple of options and decide which one you think Peter intended.

2. Peter says to “live as people who are free” (1 Peter 2:16) in the same passage he calls these believers to “be subject” (2:13) and to be “servants” (2:16).

3. Read Matthew 17:24–27 and Mark 12:17. What do these passages bring into your understanding of 1 Peter 2:13–17?

Introduction/Prayer

Subject Yourselves to the Government

• How does our subjection to every human institution stand out as peculiarly Christian? (1 Peter 2:13)
• We are to subject to every human institution “for the Lord’s sake.” (1 Peter 2:13)
• That means we exalt the Lord over our rulers as we subject ourselves to those same rulers.
• It also means being subject because the Lord sent us to be subject to human institutions. (1 Peter 2:13)

Subject Yourselves as Free People

• Live (and be subject to every human institution) as people who are free. (1 Peter 2:16)
• We are supremely subject to God as our highest authority (“servants of God”). (1 Peter 2:16)
• This frees us from our earthly rulers’ authority ultimately. We don’t owe them anything because of them. We subject ourselves to them because our King has sent us into the world to obey our human institutions for the Lord’s sake.

An Example from Jesus’ Ministry

• Jesus confronted these issues with his disciples before the tax collectors in Matthew 17:24–27
• If God is your Father, and he’s the King over this world, and you’re the sons of the King, you don’t owe anything to anyone here because of their intrinsic authority. (Matthew 17:26)
• You only owe anyone anything on this earth if your God, with all of his authority, tells you that you do.

Render to Caesar

• Live as free people who are servants of God sent by God into to the world to be subject to human institutions.
• Once you are subject to God in everything, you will be able to discern what to render to Caesar. (Mark 12:17)
• You are servants of God, and everything belongs to him. And he sends you to subject yourself to every human institution and obey those authorities for his sake.

Related Resources

• Fare Well, Liberty Bell (article)
• Does Romans 13 Prohibit All Civil Disobedience? (interview)
• “Subjection to God and Subjection to the State,” Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 (sermons on Romans 13:1–7)

1 Peter 2:13–17, Part 3

Fear God, Not the Government

January 12, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: John 18:36–37 and 1 Peter 2:13–17
Topic: Government

What does freedom in Christ look like in subjection to a human government? In this lab, John Piper explains five key principles. He touches on our attitude toward one another, toward hardened criminals, and to ungodly government rulers. He ends with Jesus being confronted by Pilate as one paradigm for all believers.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you are studying a passage of Scripture that deals with a particular subject or topic (e.g. government, or marriage, or spiritual gifts), try to see all that the biblical author says about that topic in that passage, not just the main thing or the thing you see first. Then work to see how the various things you’ve seen relate to each other.

Study Questions

1. What might it mean to “honor everyone” (1 Peter 2:17)? How would a Christian honor a rapist or a murderer?

2. Why does Peter include, “Love the brotherhood,” here in 1 Peter 2:13–17? How does that command fit with the wider purposes in this set of verses?

3. Read Jesus’s interaction with Pilate in John 18:36–37. How do Jesus’s words help us make sense of 1 Peter 2:13–17?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:58)

1. Fear God. (02:58–04:16)

• You do not fear the emperor. You fear God. (1 Peter 2:17)
• Godly submission to a government is marked by a fearless fear of God.
• Our only ultimate fear in this life is to dishonor our Maker, the King over every earthly king.

2. Honor all people appropriately. (04:16–06:54)

• We honor all people appropriate to their role (“Honor everyone.”). (1 Peter 2:17)
• We subject ourselves to the emperor in one way and to governors in another way. (1 Peter 2:13–14)
• How do honor a rapist or a murderer? Certainly not in the same way you honor a teacher, a boss, or a friend.

3. Reserve special affection for believers. (06:54–07:49)

• “Love the brotherhood.” (1 Peter 2:17)
• Alongside all the honor you show to all people, there’s a special love and affection we show each other as believers.
• This is crucial in days when the emperor and governors may not be supportive of Christianity.

4. Overflow in good deeds. (07:49–10:05)

• Peter returns to this theme again and again in 1 Peter. (1 Peter 2:20; 3:6, 10, 13, 16–17; 4:19)
• We are not subject to human institutions by simply keeping the minimal requirements (e.g. speed limits), but by looking for every possible way to bless our communities.
• No unbeliever is impressed by minimalist Christian ethics that simply avoid bad things. What impresses the world are good deeds overflowing way beyond normal expectations.

5. We silence the ignorance of the foolish. (10:05–10:39)

• By the abundance of good deeds, we silence ignorant opposition to Christianity. (1 Peter 2:15)
• The people in the world who slander Christians are ignorant of the truth.
• We want that to change, and Peter says that happens as they see us do good deeds.

Bear Witness to the Truth (10:39–13:39)

• Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world. He did not come to be installed as king, yet. (John 18:36)
• If his kingdom was here, his servants would fight to install him as king or emperor now (John 18:36).
• This is Jesus’s world. He will take it back, and rule as King over this world.
• Jesus was born not to rule now as king now, but to “bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). And the truth is that he will return and be King over everything.
• We submit to every human institution so that the world might see our good deeds, as we bear witness to the truth, and give glory to God. (1 Peter 2:11–12)

Related Resources

• Render to Caesar the Things That Are Caesar’s (article)
• What Oppressive Governments Cannot Do (interview)
• “Slaves of God: Free from All to Honor All” (sermon on 1 Peter 2:13–17)

1 Peter 2:18–20, Part 1

Slaves, Obey Your Masters

January 14, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7:21–24 and 1 Peter 2:18–20
Topic: Social Issues

Slavery is a sensitive topic with a horrific history. So what does the Bible say for slaves? Or does the Bible say “so little”? In this lab, John Piper explores one place where freedom is found, looking at a couple key passages that address the tragedy of human slavery.

Principle for Bible Reading

Some topics are so sensitive and painful, we have a hard time slowing down enough with the texts in the Bible that deal with them. For instance, the horror and destruction cause by human slavery. As issues like this one remain relevant in our society and world, we have to study very carefully all that God has said about slavery and freedom, about Christian hope and witness, looking for every principle we can find.

Study Questions

1. Look through 1 Peter for passages similar to 1 Peter 2:18–20. What can you say about this theme in Peter’s letter? For help, start in 1 Peter 3:9 and 4:19.

2. As we read Peter’s counsel for Christian slaves, we have to keep in mind relevant encouragement or counsel from elsewhere in 1 Peter. How do 1 Peter 2:13 and 2:16 inform our understanding of 1 Peter 2:18–20?

3. Now, read 1 Corinthians 7:21–24. How does this effect your reading of 1 Peter 2:18–20 and your understanding of slavery in the Bible?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:11)

A Theme Throughout 1 Peter (02:11–03:32)

• The theme of submission to authority with good deeds, even to unjust authority, is not new in 1 Peter 2:18–20.
• Just as slaves are told to good and suffer, we are all told to do good and suffer. (1 Peter 4:19)
• We are not to repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but instead to bless or do good. (1 Peter 3:9)

Free Slaves for the Lord’s Sake (03:32–06:26)

• What makes these slaves’ submission to their masters Christian?
• All Christian submission to any human institution is submission “for the Lord’s sake.” (1 Peter 2:13)
• We must remember general principles for submission as we come to more specific circumstances of submission. (1 Peter 2:13, 17)
• Another overarching principle is that Christians are free (1 Peter 2:16). That applies to every Christian in every position in society.
• God sends us into every human institution as free people for his sake (“for the Lord’s sake”).

A Second Text on Slavery (06:26–08:49)

• Christians have far bigger issues to worry about than slavery (1 Corinthians 7:21). We don’t ignore it or condone it, but it’s not our first and primary concern.
• Paul does encourage slaves to gain their freedom if they can. (1 Corinthians 7:22)
• Any slave who is a believer is a freedman in the Lord, and a slave of Christ. (1 Corinthians 7:22)
• Slaves submit to their masters as men and women who have been bought and freed by Christ. They submit now to their earthly masters because of their Master’s authority and purpose. (1 Peter 2:18)

Related Resources

• How Paul Worked to Overcome Slavery (article)
• Why Did God Permit Slavery? (interview)
• “The Horror and Hope in Slavery” (message on 1 Peter 2:18–20)

1 Peter 2:18–20, Part 2

Trust God When You Are Mistreated

January 19, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:18–20
Topic: Social Issues

What happens when someone is mistreated for doing good? In this lab, John Piper teaches us how to respond to and endure injustice. He takes Peter’s words about slavery to call all of us to fear God and to persevere in loving and serving others for His sake, even when it brings hardship.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you come to a question or stumbling block in a particular verse, it is often helpful to read the verse or verses immediately before and/or after the one you’re currently studying. Reading the verse in context might help clarify the author’s meaning or purpose.

Study Questions

1. Read through 1 Peter 2:18–20. How many principles do you see that make a slave’s life, in subjection to someone else, distinctly or manifestly Christian?

2. Peter says that slaves should subject themselves to their masters “with all respect.” Respect could also be translated “fear.” Do you think Peter is speaking here of respecting or fearing the master or God? Why?

3. If this slave is submitting or complying (1 Peter 2:18), why are they suffering (1 Peter 2:20)? What does that say about the relationship between the call to submit and the call to do good?

Introduction/Prayer

Live and Serve with Fear

• Slaves, be subject to your masters “with all respect (or fear).” (1 Peter 2:18)
• Is this respect for the master or for God? Is the fear of the master or of God?
• Peter exhorts his readers to fear God in the previous verse. (1 Peter 2:17)
• A verse later, he encourages them to be mindful of God. (1 Peter 2:19)
• This is not a cowering or slavish fear, but a fear of treating God has though he were not worthy to trusted as a loving Father (1 Peter 1:17). This is a positive fear.

Suffer for Doing Good

• Why does this slave/servant suffer (1 Peter 2:20) if he’s submissive and complying (1 Peter 2:18)?
• Maybe someone lied about him or her? No, because Peter says he or she is suffering for doing good. (1 Peter 2:20)
• The master rejected the good deed and punished the slave for it. (1 Peter 2:20)
• Therefore, subjection is not the highest priority here. Doing good is the highest priority. (1 Peter 2:18)

Related Resources

• What Christians Do About Modern-Day Slavery (article)
• Slavery, Oppression, and America’s Prosperity (interview)
• “How To Suffer for Doing What Is Right” (message on 1 Peter 2:18–20)

1 Peter 2:18–20, Part 3

God Will Reward Every Wrong Endured

January 21, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: Luke 6:32–36 and 1 Peter 2:18–20
Topic: Suffering

Jesus says that those who follow him will suffer, and many of you will suffer for doing good. In this lab, John Piper reminds us of God’s love for us in every trial, and uncovers the promise that one day he will make every wrong right.

Principle for Bible Reading

When you comes across a word or phrase in the Bible that could have several different meanings (e.g. “a gracious thing”), it helps to search for that word elsewhere in the Bible. It’s especially helpful if you can search in the original languages, but often still useful to search and English text for the same or similar words.

Study Questions

1. Peter is motivating Christians to suffer for doing good in 1 Peter 2:19–20. Explain how he is motivating them in your own words.

2. Peter is speaking to slaves in 1 Peter 2:18–20. Do we have any reason to try and apply what he is saying here to ourselves and our circumstances? How does 1 Peter 3:14–17 effect your answer?

3. What specifically does Peter mean by “a gracious thing” in 1 Peter 2:19–20? The same word is translated “benefit” in Luke 6:32–36. How do Jesus’s words help us understand what Peter might mean?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:29)

A Gracious Thing Before God (01:29–03:03)

• Twice Peter uses the phrase “a gracious thing” to talk about suffering unjustly for doing good. (1 Peter 2:19–20)
• What you are experiencing as you do not return evil for evil is a beautiful thing in the sight of God.
• When you suffer unjustly for doing good, be mindful of God and his favor toward you.

Can We Identify with Slaves? (03:03–04:50)

• Is it legitimate for us to see ourselves in 1 Peter 2:18–20 when Peter is talking about slaves?
• Yes, because Peter speaks the same way to all people in other places in this letter.
• The same kind of arguments, for instance, are used in 1 Peter 3:14–17 to speak to all Christians. “If you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed” (1 Peter 3:14).
• This means we can read Peter’s words to slaves and look for general Christian principles for our lives and relationships.

A Reward for Every Wrong (04:50–08:31)

• What does it mean that suffering for doing good is “a gracious thing” (1 Peter 2:19–20)? Is it just beautiful? Or does it imply some kind of tangible reward or benefit?
• Jesus uses the same word (“gracious thing”) in Luke 6:32–33, translated “benefit.” He also mentions a “reward” in this passage (Luke 6:35).
• This makes me think Peter has benefit or reward in mind in 1 Peter 2:19–20. Good is coming to those who suffer for doing good.
• He says the same thing in 1 Peter 3:9, “… that you may obtain a blessing.”
• Christian, if you suffer for doing good, you will be lavishly rewarded by God in the end.

Summary (08:31–9:40)

• When you are suffering unjustly, keep God’s favor in view.
• And, you should keep in mind that it will all be made up to you someday.

Related Resources

• Great Losses, Severe Mercies, Tearful Joy (article)
• What Pains Here Bring Greater Reward in Heaven? (interview)
• “Liberated for Love by Looking to the Reward” (message on Hebrews 11:23–28)

1 Peter 2:21–25, Part 1

Jesus Suffered to Keep You from Sinning

February 9, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: Romans 12:19–20 and 1 Peter 2:21–25
Topic: The Death of Christ

Jesus promised us that his followers would suffer unjustly for bearing his name. In this lab, John Piper explains how we return good for evil, even when it seems like evil is winning. He shows that Jesus died for you in more ways than one, and demonstrates how each way speaks into the opposition we face from the world.

Principle for Bible Reading

People with different theological convictions will latch on to key texts in the Bible that support their school of thought and worldview. It is wrong and dangerous, though, to allow certain truths in Scripture to silence others. Good theology is about finding the (often difficult and mysterious) harmony in all of Scripture. 1 Peter 2:21–25, for example, bring together two important truths about Jesus that have often been set against each other in church history and practice.

Study Questions

1. In 1 Peter 2:21–25, Peter gives us two main reasons from the life of Jesus to be willing to suffer unjustly for righteousness’s sake. What are they?

2. If you believed one motivation, but not the other, what would go wrong in your theology and life? Answer for both motivations.

3. Looking specifically at 1 Peter 2:22–23, how does Jesus’s example as a sufferer help us to suffer injustice ourselves?

Introduction/Prayer

All Christians Are Called to Suffer

• We are called to suffer unjustly for two reasons. (1 Peter 2:21)
• First, because Christ suffered for you (substitution), that is, for your sins. (1 Peter 2:21)
• Secondly, because Christ left an example for you (illustration) in his suffering. (1 Peter 2:21)
• If you abandon the second, you’ll be a nice conservative evangelical who neglects the exemplary example of Christ who teaches us to suffer righteousness’ sake.
• If you abandon the first, you become a nice, liberal Christian, neglecting the most important thing, Christ’s death for sinners who could never do enough good to atone for their sin. (1 Peter 2:21)

Christ Left Us an Example

• The illustration is unpacked in 1 Peter 2:22–23, and the substitution is unpacked in 1 Peter 2:24–25.
• Christ committed no sin on his way to the cross (1 Peter 2:22). We should never sin to get ourselves into suffering.
• When Christ was treated badly or unfairly, he did not respond with the same (1 Peter 2:23). Likewise, do not return evil for evil.

The Power to Suffer Well

• How do we find the power to respond like Christ when it feels like injustice is being done?
• Christ could have come off of the cross and killed them all, and it would have been perfect justice. But he didn’t in order to bear our sin and set us an example.
• In the midst of a sea of injustice, Christ entrusted himself and his cause to his Creator (1 Peter 2:23). He knew justice would be done.
• Paul tells us not to avenge ourselves, but to surrender justice and vengeance to God, and to love and serve our enemies. (Romans 12:19–20)

Related Resources

• Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves? (article)
• Do My Sufferings Complete Christ’s? (interview)
• “Christ Died for Our Sins That We Might Die to Sin” (message on 1 Peter 2:21–25)

1 Peter 2:21–25, Part 2

By His Wounds You Have Been Healed

February 11, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 2:21–25
Topic: The Death of Christ

The Bible says that when Jesus went to the cross, he bore our condemnation and purchased our healing. What does his sacrifice mean tangibly for a life now lived for the glory of God? In this lab, John Piper explains what kind of healing and transformation we experience through faith.

Principle for Bible Reading

Whenever the New Testament quotes or alludes to an Old Testament text or story, it is likely you will learn something by going back to reread the passage being quoted in its original context. The New Testament authors often have that context in mind as they quote the text.

Study Questions

1. Jesus died for you as an example or illustration (1 Peter 2:21) and he died for you as a substitution. Describe what it means for Christ to be a substitution for us? Refer to 1 Peter 3:18.

2. In 1 Peter 2:24, Peter quotes from Isaiah 53. Read Isaiah 53. What light does it bring to your understanding of 1 Peter 2:21–25?

3. When Peter says, “By his wounds you have been healed,” what is the healing that happens here? What kind of healing is this?

Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–02:13)

Christ Died in Your Place (02:13–05:37)

• Jesus died for you in two ways, as an illustration or example and as a substitution. (1 Peter 2:21, 24)
• In terms of substitution, Christ bore our sins, our condemnation, when he died on the cross. (1 Peter 2:24)
• Christ suffered on the cross, “the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” With his death, he bridges or overcomes the chasm between sinners and a holy God. (1 Peter 3:18)
• Our sin (1 Peter 2:24) is our failure to follow in Jesus’s steps (1 Peter 2:21). Christ died for our sin (substitution) so that we might live like him (illustration).

Die to Sin and Live to Righteousness (05:37–08:42)

• Jesus bore our sins “that we would die to sin and live to righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:24)
• “By his wounds you have been healed,” (1 Peter 2:24) is a quotation from Isaiah 53:5–6, specifically verse 5.
• Peter’s phrase, “Bore our sins” (1 Peter 2:24), comes from Isaiah’s line, “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
• The wounds of Christ have healed us. (1 Peter 2:24)
• The healing is a restored and renewed fellowship with God (returned”). (1 Peter 2:25)
• Peter says the same thing in 1 Peter 3:18, “that he might brings us to God.”

Healing and Transformation (08:42–10:30)

• How does Christ’s bearing our sins relate to our dying to sin and living to righteousness?
• When he bore our sins, he healed us.
• That healing was a transformation that restored us to sweet fellowship with and satisfaction in God.
• That transformation breaks the power of the attractiveness of sin.

Related Resources

• It Is Finished (article)
• Did Christ Die for the Whole World? (interview)
• “The Beast, the Book, and the Beauty of the Lamb” (message on the death of Christ)

1 Peter 3:1–6, Part 1

To Wives with Unbelieving Husbands

February 18, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:1–6
Topic: Marriage

Some women are exiles within their own marriage. They want to follow Jesus, but their husbands have rejected the gospel they love. In this lab, John Piper wades into very delicate situations, asking what the Bible says about submitting to unbelieving husbands. He will show how the example of marriage relates to other relationships and institutions in our lives.

Principle for Bible Reading

Some phrases in the Bible can come across ambiguous, either because of a difference in the English language or because a couple thousand years have passed since this Book was written. For instance, what does Peter mean here by the phrase, “does not obey the word” (1 Peter 3:1)? We can often find an answer by searching for those same words elsewhere in the author’s writing (or more widely in the Bible if we do not find anything within, say, Peter’s letters).

Study Questions

1. Explain the “Likewise” at the beginning of 1 Peter 3:1. What in the previous verses is Peter comparing the current situation to and why?

2. Why would Peter say, “Be subject to your own husbands,” here (1 Peter 3:1)? What distinction is he making, and how does that relate to what he was doing in 1 Peter 2:13–14?

3. What does Peter mean when he says the husband does not “obey the word” (1 Peter 3:1)? What are the possible meanings, and what do you think Peter meant? After you’ve decided, look to 1 Peter 2:7 and 4:17 for help.

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–03:03)

A Series on Christian Submission (03:03–06:17)

• “Likewise” tells us this is a continuation of a sequence of instructions, first to all Christians, then to slaves, and now to wives. (1 Peter 3:1)
• In this letter, Christians are sojourners and exiles on the earth away from their home in heaven. (1 Peter 2:11)
• Peter wants Christians to suffer unjust persecution and slander in a way that wins unbelievers to faith in God. (1 Peter 2:12)
• Then, he tells all Christians to be subject to “every human institution,” knowing that some of those institutions will be broken and unjust. (1 Peter 2:13)
• And then, he tells Christian slaves to be subject to their masters, “not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” (1 Peter 2:18)

Wives, Be Subject to Your Husband (06:17–07:57)

• With those other examples in mind, wives are now called to be subject to their own husbands. (1 Peter 3:1)
• The wives are not called to be subject to all men in this way, but to their “own husbands.” (1 Peter 3:1)
• We see the same distinction earlier when Peter talks about the government. We don’t submit to the emperor (“as supreme”) the same way we submit to other people. (1 Peter 2:13–14)
• So how would the principles of submission Peter is applying in various ways apply specifically to a wife and her husband?

An Exile in Her Own Marriage (07:57–11:03)

• In this case, a wife is a sojourner and exile even within her marriage. Why? Because her husband does not obey the word. (1 Peter 3:1)
• Does that mean the husband is a Christian who sometimes doesn’t obey, or is the “word” here the gospel and he is not a believer?
• Peter uses the same phrase, “disobey the word,” in 1 Peter 2:7. There, it clearly means to not believe (or obey) the gospel. He also uses the phrase, “those who do not obey the gospel,” in 1 Peter 4:17.
• Therefore, we should take that to mean that these husbands are not believers (not obeying the gospel). That makes this believing wife a Christian exile within her own marriage.

Related Resources

• Three Ways to Love Your Imperfect Husband (article)
• Hope for Hard Marriages (interview)
• “Women of Valor for Non-Promise Keepers” (message on 1 Peter 3:1–7)

1 Peter 3:1–6, Part 2

The Saving Power of a Fearless Wife

February 23, 2016
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:1–6
Topic: Marriage

What hope does a wife have of saving her unbelieving husband? In this lab, John Piper explains how fearlessness and purity might make all the difference for her husband’s faith. As is often the case in the Bible, the principles applied to wives here can and should be applied to all of us.

Principle for Bible Reading

Just because the Bible addresses a particular group of people, for instance wives in this case, it does not mean other groups of people should ignore the wisdom and relevance of those instructions for themselves. Very often, the biblical authors expect all Christians, for instance husbands, to read and obey the principles being applied to others.

Study Questions

1. Read 1 Peter 3:1–2 and 1 Peter 2:11–12. What similarities do you see between the two passages, and what might that mean for how we apply Peter’s instructions to wives?

2. What might it mean for a wife to win her husband “without a word” (1 Peter 3:2)? How does 1 Peter 1:23–25 inform or effect how you read that phrase?

3. “Respectful” (1 Peter 3:2) can be translated literally “in fear.” How do you understand the phrase “in fear” here, in light of texts in 1 Peter like 1 Peter 1:17, 2:17–18, and 3:6?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:06)

Words for Wives—And Everyone Else (01:06–05:47)

• The wife’s godly conduct or behavior or witness is a means of winning or saving the unbelieving husband. (1 Peter 3:1–2)
• The same word for “conduct” (1 Peter 3:1) is used in 1 Peter 2:12. The principle is applied generally to all in 1 Peter 2:12, and more specifically to wives in 1 Peter 3:1.
• The same word for “see” (1 Peter 3:2) is also used in 1 Peter 2:12. In both places, it is an unbelieving person seeing a Christian’s life and being won to faith by it.
• Because the instructions for wives in 1 Peter 3:1–2 can be applied more generally (1 Peter 2:11–12), husbands (or anyone else) should also try to apply the instructions to themselves.

Can She Win Him Without a Word? (05:47–08:23)

• What does it mean for a wife to win her husband “without a word” (1 Peter 3:2)?
• It does not mean the husband does not need to hear the gospel. 1 Peter 1:23–25 says that every new birth happens “through the living and abiding word of God … And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”
• Therefore, the husband needs to hear the good news before wife’s Christian behavior can win him.
• “Without a word” means without an excessive word or a nagging word or a manipulative or pressuring word. (1 Peter 3:2)
• Once this husband has heard the gospel in which his wife believes, her conduct might make all the difference in his salvation.

The Power of Fear (08:23–10:34)

• “Respectful” should be literally translated “in fear.” (1 Peter 3:2)
• This fear is not toward the husband, but toward God. (1 Peter 1:17; 2:17–18)
• Peter tells these women very clearly not to fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:6)
• A godly wife’s greatest fear would be to displease her supreme master, God.
• In the fear of God, a wife is sent back in to be subject to her husband.

The Power of Purity (10:34–11:46)

• This new conduct that the wife lives before her husband is pure. (1 Peter 3:2)
• She is not inclined to be dishonest in anything, or to participate in any sexual illicitness.
• Her husband, therefore, finds he has a pure and trustworthy wife.
• And therefore, without a word, knowing her husband knows the gospel, she will not badger him, but will trust and hope in God for his salvation.

2 Peter 1:3–4

Precious and Great Promises

August 26, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: 2 Peter 1:3–4
Topic: The Bible

Principle for Bible Reading

When studying a paragraph of the Bible, break it down into individual propositions and ask questions about how each line relates to the one before it and after it. Focus in particular on connecting words (e.g. “for”, “so that”, “by”, etc.).

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:57)

Observations (00:57–06:36)

1. God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
2. [“through”] A knowledge of God is the pathway of godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
3. [“by”] Because God is glorious and excellent, he has given us “precious and very great promises” (2 Peter 1:4).
4. [“so that”] God’s promises are the means of our becoming like God (2 Peter 1:4).
5. God’s promises make us more like God by combatting sinful desires in the world (2 Peter 1:4).

Summary (06:36–8:58)

The Power of God ⇒
The Call to Glory ⇒
God’s Promises ⇒
Escape from Sinful Desire ⇒
The Divine Godliness

Application (8:58–9:51)

How do we pursue godliness?

1. Know your calling to glory and excellence.
2. Treasure and meditate on God’s promises.
3. Battle sinful desires with superior pleasures.

Study Questions

1. Based on this passage, what role does knowledge play in our growth in godliness?

2. According to these verses, why has God given us promises?

3. How are God’s promises working to make us more godly? How do they battle sinful desires still in us?

Related Resources

• Four Keys to Satisfying Your Starving Soul (article)
• The 8 Steps of Christian Obedience (interview)
• Liberating Promises (sermon on 2 Peter 1:1–4)

1 John 5:1–4

The Victory That Overcomes the World

September 23, 2014
by John Piper
Scripture: 1 John 5:1–4
Topic: Faith

Principle for Bible Reading

There are two major ground clauses (“for” or “because”) in 1 John 5:3–4. Pastor John focuses in on these two for’s to see the relationship between our love for God, our love for others, and our obedience to God’s commands. In doing so, he uncovers our victory in Christ.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:41)

Observations from 5:1–2 (00:37–06:04)

1. New birth precedes and is the enabling power behind our faith (1 John 5:1).
2. Believing that Jesus is the Christ always involves loving the Father, that is, finding him beautiful and desirable (1 John 5:1).
3. And if one truly loves the Father, he or she also loves the children of God (1 John 5:1).
4. Loving God’s children means loving God and obeying his commandments (1 John 5:2).

Observations from 5:3–4 (06:04–09:40)

1. When the commandments of God are not burdensome, that is, when they are received and obeyed with joy, we are loving the children of God (1 John 5:3).
2. The world is anything that makes God’s commandments feel burdensome (1 John 5:4).
3. Our victory in Christ is that we see the world as unsatisfying and receive and obey God’s commandments with joy and hope (1 John 5:4).

Recap (09:40–12:04)

New Birth ⇒
Faith OR Love for God (one in the same) ⇒
Victory over the World ⇒
Obedience to God’s Commandments ⇒
Love for Believers

Study Questions

1. From 1 John 5:1, what is the relationship between faith in Christ and the new birth?

2. Again, from these verses, what does love for other believers look like?

3. Why are God’s commandments not burdensome to born again Christians?

4. What is it about faith that gives us victory over the world?

Related Resources

• Teach Believers What Happened to Them in Conversion (article)
• The Key to Christian Obedience (interview)
• Regeneration, Faith, Love: In That Order (sermon on 1 John 5:1–5)

Piper, J. (2014–2015). Look at the Book Labs (2Chr 16,8–1Joh 5,4). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.

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[…] Visual filters, on first glance, look like a lot to keep track of. Here are the textual features you can turn on and off in the ESV, for example: (Your screen may look a little different depending on whether you have Logos Now, any notes and highlights documents, or reading plans.) But if you will go try three or four or five of my top filters right now, you’ll remember next time you need it that you can use these tools. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all the visual filters available; just use my top five—or establish your own. Want to learn how to use even more Logos features in your Bible study? Take our free 30-day training course. (Don’t worry, be happy. Start Your own bible study and take part of our LOGOS movement. Pls mfeel free to read the german language book of Archbishop Dr. Uwe Rosenkranz: ebook ROSENKRANZ – TEMPLEROFFENBARUNG ) […]

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[…] Want to learn how to use even more Logos features in your Bible study? Take our free 30-day training course. (Don’t worry, be happy. Start Your own bible study and take part of our LOGOS movement. Pls mfeel free to read the german language book of Archbishop Dr. Uwe Rosenkranz: ebook ROSENKRANZ – TEMPLEROFFENBARUNG ) […]

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