The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Friday, April 7, 2023

It’s Friday, April 7th, 2023.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Good Friday, Indeed: The Centrality of the Cross and Resurrection to Christian Hope

This is the day that is known as Good Friday throughout much of the Christian world, and even in the non-liturgical churches that don’t operate out of a liturgical calendar, there is a sense of memory attached to this Friday because of the Christian observation, especially in the Western churches of what is known as the festival of the resurrection, more commonly known, if I think, more accidentally known as Easter.

The fact is that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is not according to Christian tradition, something that comes on one Sunday, one festal or festival Sunday in history of the Christian church every year. No, it is every Lord’s Day. The New Testament tells us that the early believers gather together on the first day of the week every week in honor of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.

But it is not wrong to think in terms of a Christian year, especially with the two great festivals, the festival of the incarnation, which is more famously known as Christmas, and the festival of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and that is more commonly, I say, known as Easter. That actually goes back to a root that isn’t very helpful to Christianity in terms of the word that is now used in the English as Easter, but that pagan background is basically lost.

People do associate the word Easter with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, but there are still signs of cultural confusion when you have Easter eggs and Easter bunnies and all the rest. But nonetheless, I’m not on a crusade against either of those, I am on a platform of hoping to encourage Christians on this Friday, considering what is coming this Lord’s Day, as in a special way, much as when we focus on the incarnation at Christmas, we focus on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.

But here’s where we need to recognize, that the New Testament very clearly presents the events of this week with the detail we do not have correspondingly with the Festival of the Incarnation. As you look at the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, relatively minimal information about how exactly this happened, exactly where people were. The most important thing to know is that it was in an inn, that is as a guest hostel there in the city of Bethlehem, which was the city of David, fulfilling messianic prophecy. Exactly as the Scriptures had foretold, Jesus was there in the city of David, born to a mother who was a virgin.

And just as the angel had instructed, they called his name Jesus, for he did save his people from their sins. But then we fast-forward and we understand that there are two dates in this week as we commemorate the last week of Jesus before his resurrection from the dead. And we recognize that on this Friday, called Good Friday, as a matter of theological irony, why is this Friday that celebrates just in an annual way the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ for our sins in our place?

Why do we call it Good Friday? It is because there is nothing so good in the entire story of humanity than the fact that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life. And it is the New Testament itself, even as Jesus foretold and as the prophets foretold of Jesus the Savior, you have the events leading up to the cross, the events of the cross, and the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And without any hesitation, the apostolic preaching of the Gospel, that is to say the preaching of the apostles sent forth by Christ, makes very clear the centrality of the crucifixion and of the resurrection to the gospel itself, to the good news of how we are saved from our sins.

Now, one classic text above all others I think summarizes this in the New Testament. That text is 1 Corinthians 15, and in that text Paul writes to the church at Corinth and says, “Now, I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received in which you stand, and by which you are being saved if you hold fast to the word I preach to you unless you believed in vain.”

Now, that’s just verses 1 and 2 of 1 Corinthians 15, and you will notice the centrality of belief there. The Apostle Paul says, “This is true. Christians believe these things not only because they are essential to Christianity, but even more basically because they are true.”

Verse 3 of 1 Corinthians 15 picks up on this. Paul says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.’ Here’s where the apostle says, “This is of first importance, these are the most important truths of the gospel.” Listen to this, “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, although some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

Now we’ll look at what follows there, but you need to notice the apostle Paul says two things are to be preached and to be believed as a of first importance. And they are that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. Now, every single one of those words is absolutely essential. That’s true just because this is the Word of God, but it’s also true in a specific way we can recognize here.

The Christian faith comes down to the fact that Christ died for our sins in our place. And as our substitutionary Savior having paid the penalty for our sin and thus being crucified and buried, the great good news of the resurrection is that on the third day, on the first day of the week, God raised him from the dead. And you’ll notice that that’s exactly how this is described. Christ dying for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures and that he was raised on the third day, he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Now thereafter, what I read points to the appearances that the risen Christ made to his disciples and to a larger group, but the point is the two central facts of the Christian faith come down to the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, that becomes the very heart of the apostolic preaching and even as the apostles preach, they said believe on these things and be saved. And you’ll recall even as you remember verses from both the Old Testament and the New Testament pointing to the meaning and significance of both the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and the empty tomb, the centrality of the Christian message comes with the words, “He is risen. He is risen indeed.”

And the theological significance of the resurrection of Christ from the dead is not merely that Christ having been dead is now alive. It has to do with the fact that even as the resurrection comes raising Jesus from the dead, the reality is that it is also a promise of our own resurrection from the dead that is to come. And it is, the New Testament tells us, the Father’s vindication of the Son. This is the vindication that came as the Father raises the Son because of his perfect obedience and obedience that goes as Paul wrote to the Philippians all the way to the cross.

And so on this festival of the resurrection and even on this Friday that yes, Christians throughout the centuries have dared to call good, not because it is exactly known that this was that Friday, but because it was on a Friday in space, time and history. In Jerusalem, in space, in time, in history, that the second person of the Trinity, the incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, died for our sins on that cross and again in space, in time and history.

This is not merely a narrative. It is true. It is truer than any other truth we know to be true and that’s why we have the joy of the forgiveness of sins and the promise of everlasting communion, even everlasting life with the Father. We have the promise of the coming of the kingdom of Christ in its fullness and of the fact that the saints will reign with Christ. So there is far more always to be said about Good Friday and about the festival of the resurrection, but we need to say these things in order to encourage one another as Christians.

Sometimes people say, “Given all the news of the day, given all the things that Christians have to think about, what gives us hope?” Well, what gives us hope is nothing you can find in the headlines. What gives us hope is what we find in the Scriptures, what we find in the gospel, what we find in the declaration of the Christian church of the good news of Christ crucified and Christ raised from the dead.

Part II

Did Jesus Have Free Will? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

I was very thankful that in anticipation of this annual observance of the church, but also because of the centrality, the resurrection and the crucifixion, to everything we know to preach and everything we know in terms of our testimony to Christ. I was encouraged by so many questions that came in related to these very events and to their meaning for us today.

The first question for today comes from Kirby and he asked this question, “Did Jesus have free will?” He says, “I would think he must have, but if he was completely God, then he can’t deny himself and therefore can’t have done anything apart from that which the Father told him to do. What would be the implications of that when it comes to his substitutionary atonement on the cross?”

I very much appreciate the question, Kirby, and this is where I think we have to change our language just a little bit to make sure we don’t fall into a ditch. And one of the words that I think is most slippery if we try to think of it as the main word in any of these questions is the word will, or you put it together with the word free and you say freewill. Because there are severe limitations to our understanding of what freewill even could mean, and we just see this as an example. For instance, I give assent to the fact that I was born, but I had nothing to do with it. And I was not born because of anything that had to do with my own freewill. And so if you’re looking at something just as basic as when my life began by the gift of God and through the agency of my parents, the reality is I give assent to it, but freewill is an absolutely irrelevant category.

But what’s not irrelevant, Kirby, is the experience of making decisions, of making choices, of choosing between A and B and C and D. This is sometimes theologically described as agency. We have the experience of being agents. And agents, well, we exercise agency, we make choices, but even those choices are within some kind of conscribed range. I can’t choose to be somewhere else other than I am today just by choosing. It just doesn’t happen. I couldn’t choose to be born in the year say 45 BC. It just wouldn’t work. And so we understand there are limitations to this.

But I also understand you’re asking a very real question and that is, let’s put it this way, could Jesus have disobeyed the will of the Father? Could he have disobeyed his Father?

Now Jesus himself repeatedly, just think of the Gospel of John, said he has only one will and that is to do the will of the Father. And here we’re also looking at one of the mysteries of the incarnation, one of the mysteries of the Trinity, and we’re talking about Christ as one person. We’re talking about two natures. He is, the way it’s often put is fully human, fully divine. Fully is actually not the right word there; truly human, truly divine without any conflict, without any mixture.

To cut to the quick here, Kirby, I think we just need to say that Jesus is presented as having the very real experience of temptation. So much so that the New Testament tells us he was tempted as we are in every way yet without sin. Now that’s impossible for we sinners to imagine because temptation is mixed with sin for us. We can give ourselves to temptation, we can enjoy the temptation, we can tempt ourselves with temptation. None of that was true of Christ, but “he was tempted in every way as we are.” But those last words are so important, “yet without sin.”

The most important thing to realize here is that Christ was tempted to sin, but he did not. He was sinless and thus we are saved. His substitutionary atonement would not have been efficacious for sinners and for all of our sin had he himself been a sinner, but he was sinless indeed. It’s not the right verb. He is sinless. In his incarnation and forever throughout eternity, he is sinless. His perfect obedience is what the Father honored in the resurrection and raising him from the dead and in giving him the people to whom the church is now his sacred possession because he bought us with a price, the very price of his own shed blood.

I appreciate the fact that you link Christ’s obedience to substitution because again, that is right out of a text like 1 Corinthians 15 where we just turned. So again, thanks for the question Kirby.

Part III

Did Jesus Sweat Blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, or Were His Tears Merely Like Drops of Blood? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

The next question is from one of the most common names given to all of humanity or at least by which human beings are identified. This question comes from anonymous, so we’ll simply take it that way and I appreciate it all the same. This listener writes in about Jesus shedding tears of blood. The question is: “What about Jesus’s prayer in Gethsemane before he went to the cross. Do you think he really sweated blood or do you think his sweat was as thick as drops of blood?”

Well, I appreciate the question and also the kind comment that is in the question and with the question, but I’ll simply say this, I think there’s no reason to take the Gospel of Luke 22:44 as anything other than a literal expression of Jesus sweating blood. There’s actually a medical word for it, and that’s hematohidrosis, and it just refers to the fact that even in terms of physiology and anatomy, the sweat glands and blood vessels are very close together and under an intense situation of physical anguish, well, you could have something like this, but we’re not really reliant here on a medical explanation.

The fact is that given the centrality of the blood atonement to the gospel and the centrality of blood to the atonement, it makes sense that in this prayer, as Luke tells us that there were sweat drops of blood, there’s no reason to believe it was anything other than exactly what is presented here. And so I just want to affirm that.

I also want to thank you for your question, but we are saved by his blood shed on the cross for the remission of our sins. But it’s also a reminder that the saving work of Christ relates not only to the cross, that’s where it is ultimately fulfilled, but in his perfect obedience in the incarnation as well. And so you put all this together and it really underlines why we use that word “good” in front of Good Friday.

Part IV

What Are Your Thoughts on Andy Stanley’s Apologetic Method of Focusing on the Resurrection of Christ Apart from Scriptural Authority? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Speaking of Easter, speaking of the festival of the resurrection, the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, Steve wrote in and asked the question, and this was a little pointed, but I think it’s very timely and important.

Steve asked, “I was wondering what your thoughts are on Andy Stanley’s comments and teachings that the most important aspect of apologetics is the resurrection of Jesus to the exclusion of the use of the Bible, especially the Old Testament.” This writer goes on to say, “It seems like his approach to the Bible has led to a lot of issues lately. Are all of these issues related?”

Well, Steve, I want to say yes, they’re all related and I stand in a very different place than Andy Stanley and my conflict with him on these issues has been public now for a very long time. I do not disagree with him about the centrality of the resurrection, the preaching of the resurrection and the truth of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, the centrality of the resurrection to the gospel.

The point here is that what Andy Stanley represents and what he’s now promoting is the idea that somehow independent of the Bible, we can establish some historical case for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. And that salvation comes simply by giving intellectual ascent to the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead, or that Jesus having been dead is now alive. And that something happened such that the tomb having been occupied by the dead body of Jesus is now empty. Now, that is all true. The point is we know it’s true because of the Scriptures.

And you’ll notice I’m claiming the authority of the Apostle Paul here, and I did not foresee that I’d be talking about this question when I spoke directly from 1 Corinthians 15, but you’ll recall that in 1 Corinthians 15, the biblical text to which I pointed, both times the apostle Paul says that he preached… What was a first priority? That Christ died for our sins. What came next? According to the Scriptures, and that God raised him from the dead according to the Scriptures. So I’m going to stand with the Apostle Paul, according to the Scriptures, and say the independent of the Scriptures, we have no apostolic preaching of the gospel.

Now to be honest, my theological differences with Andy Stanley go far, far beyond this. Ecclesiology, yes. What it means to preach the gospel, yes. And most importantly, sanctification and necessary obedience to Christ. Andy Stanley is making the case that the gospel comes down to offer of salvation to those who give intellectual ascent to the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

And I think that’s a severe and unbiblical reduction of the gospel itself. I think it is a distortion of Christianity and I think it will lead to many people believing they’re Christians when according to the New Testament, they are not Christians. But I think that’s why Andy Stanley has to say that he wants to make his case independent of the Scriptures. And again, as you say in the question here, especially when it comes to the Old Testament.

But it’s Jesus who pointed to the Old Testament and said, “These are they that testify of me.” That was not some evangelical theologian saying that in the midpoint of the 20th century, that was Christ himself speaking of his own identity as witnessed by the Old Testament prophets. And you could say the entirety of the Old Testament. Jesus pointed to the Old Testament, Torah law, and he said that he was the fulfillment of all that had been contained in the promises of old.

The other issue I want to point to here is the lopsidedness of this even beyond the huge questions, inescapable question when it comes to biblical authority. It’s also the fact that if you’re talking only about the resurrection and not the crucifixion, then you’re leaving out half of what the Apostle Paul said was to be preached to first priority. You’re leaving out half of the apostolic preaching of the gospel. You can’t get to the resurrection unless you bear full witness to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ and his obedience even unto death.

At this point, I want to mention one other Bible verse that I think is absolutely crucial. It’s one of those summary verses that just takes the entirety of the gospel and compresses it into a very short, succinct sentence. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, the Apostle Paul says this, “For our sake, he,” meaning the Father, “made him,” meaning the Son, “to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Now of course, when you have Paul giving testimony here to the saving work of Christ, you’ll note that the resurrection is just as essential as is the crucifixion. But you’ll notice that what he centers in is the crucifixion and the substitution that took place in that crucifixion when he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, in order that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

So on this one, I’ve discussed that issue with Andy Stanley before. It has recently arisen again, I think because of lectures he gave at Dallas Theological Seminary. You put all this together and you recognize this is something that we have to get right or we’re getting the gospel wrong, and if we get the gospel wrong from a Christian perspective, we get everything wrong.

So I appreciate the question, Steve, and I think it’s extremely timely. I didn’t recognize that it was going to come even as it comes at this point on this Friday before the festival the of resurrection, but I can’t imagine a time in which it’d be more timely to take on this question.

Part V

Why Did Jesus Not Have to Stay Dead For Eternity? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Another question related came from Austin.

Austin says this, “If the wages of sin is eternal separation from God and the doctrine of substitutionary atonement says that Christ takes the full penalty of our sin and wrath of God when he died in our place, how is it that only three days of his death satisfies that eternal sentence?” And he gets right to the point with this sentence, he says, “In other words, why did Jesus not have to stay eternally dead?”

Now, I want to be very clear. Austin celebrates the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. But he’s asking a question, and there’s actually a very good answer to this question, Austin, and I’m very thankful for that with you. The answer is that if we had died and we sought to pay for the penalty of our sin with our death, we’d have to be not only eternally dead, but there could be no possibility even in the span of eternity for us to undo or pay the penalty for our own sin, much less for the sin of the world.

But this is where the sinlessness of Christ, the perfect obedience of Christ, the fact that Christ is indeed truly man and truly God, this explains how his death on the cross in our place is sufficient for the salvation of all who would come to faith in him and of all who would believe. And how in his death as a singular death, he made full atonement for all the sin of all the redeemed throughout all the ages to the everlasting glory of the Father.

So you look at this, and I will simply say the shortest answer to your question is why did Jesus not have to stay eternally dead to pay the price for our infinite sin? And the answer is because he was absolutely sinless, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Frankly, that’s an understatement. It makes all the difference in the world and throughout all eternity. And so that’s the good news of the gospel, and I’m thankful to have that opportunity to clarify it.

Part VI

Why Is the Shed Blood of Jesus So Important? — Dr. Mohler Responds to Letters from Listeners of The Briefing

Finally, a question that comes from James, and he points to Hebrews 9:22, where we are reminded without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness or no remission of sin.

And he asked the question, “If Jesus would’ve come and died without the shedding of his blood, there would be no salvation. In other words, would there be no salvation?” And the answer is yes. There would’ve been no salvation. How’s that for twisting the language? In other words, salvation comes only because of the blood atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So even as you’re looking at that text in Hebrews, you could go back to Leviticus, “Without the shedding of blood there’s no remission of sins.” Now, why the blood? Well, you’ll recall that in the Old Testament, under the Old Covenant, animals were sacrifice according to Scripture, and their blood was shed and demonstrated, by the way, before the people. And you asked the question why. And by the way, the result of that was not full atonement for sin in the Old Testament.

Under the Old Covenant, there was no final forgiveness or remission of sins. There was instead a holding back of the wrath of God and the blood of the animal was necessary for that. But the blood of an animal, as the writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us, the blood of an even number of animals could never atone for the reality of human sin, even just for my sin or your sin, much less for the sin of all the redeemed. And so in this case, the sacrifice is the ultimate sacrifice of the very Son of God who was sinless, goes back to the previous question.

And so just looking at this and the necessity of the blood atonement, this is not some invention of the evangelical church in say, the 19th century. This is not an invention in the New Testament. It is a continuation of the witness to the centrality of blood to God’s purpose of atonement in the Old Covenant and in the New Covenant. Even down to our practice of the Lord’s Supper in which even as we take the fruit of the cup, we are reminded that that is symbolizing, as Jesus told his disciples, his blood, shed for the remission of sins. That’s how central it continues to be.

Now, theological liberals have always hated blood atonement. You go back to the 19th century, you go into the 20th century, theological liberals have always said, “That’s crude, that’s mechanical, that’s animalistic, it’s horrifying.” And you know what, the blood is to point to the fact that sin is horrifying. And the blood is in the blood atonement, the Scripture tells us is also blood because there is life in the blood. The stakes of life and death in the matter of sin and salvation are graphically demonstrated in blood. Now you understand thus why blood is so central to our understanding of the gospel, to our understanding of the covenants, both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

And thus, we are reminded that when in a hymn we sing a question such as, “What shall wash my sins away?” And we answer, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” That is not mere poetry, that is not merely the lyric to a hymn, that is no mere emotionalism, and it is not merely a graphic picture. It is God’s purpose of salvation, ultimately realized in the covenant of redemption, realized in Jesus Christ our Lord, in his perfect obedience, in his crucifixion in our place, and in his resurrection from the dead.

I wish for every single one of you a most blessed Friday of remembrance of the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of our sins and a most blessed festival of the resurrection on the first day of the week, we dare to call Sunday.

And then Lord willing, we’ll be back with you on Monday for The Briefing.

Thanks for listening. For more information, go to my website at You can follow me on Twitter by going to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to

I’ll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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