What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

John Piper’s reply to a letter from a 12-year-old about heaven and hell: You asked what happens to people who live far away from the gospel and have never heard about Jesus and die without faith in him. Here is what I think the Bible teaches. God always punishes people because of what they know and fail to believe. In other words, no one will be condemned for not believing in Jesus who has never heard of Jesus. Does that mean that people will be saved and go to heaven if they have never heard of Jesus? No, that is not what God tells us in the Bible. The main passage in the Bible that talks about this is Romans 1:18–23. Here is what it says. Then I’ll make a comment or two. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be

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Getting to the Very Core of Pastoral Ministry

Dave Harvey: Imagine that you want to purchase a new, sturdy, handcrafted kitchen table, assembled from the finest pieces of oak. You happen to live near an Amish community, and you know that the Amish have a well-earned reputation for fine furniture that endures the test of time. So you find an Amish carpenter – we’ll call him “Ezekiel” – and you arrange to meet Ezekiel at his shop. But when you arrive, you notice something very strange: there is not a single scrap of wood in the entire shop. There are tools scattered everywhere but not a single piece of wood to be seen. Ezekiel emerges from the back of the shop and greets you with a firm handshake. “This may be a silly question,” you say, “but where is the wood?” “Oh, I don’t use wood. I’m a wood-less carpenter,” he says. You leave the shop, confused. What kind of carpenter doesn’t use wood? Wood is at the

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Why Hell Is Integral to the Gospel

By Greg Gilbert: I’m sure you were overjoyed to learn that 9Marks has devoted an entire Journal on the topic of hell. In fact, it’s a topic that, if anything, makes us want to avert our eyes and think about something else entirely. For some, the horror of the Christian doctrine of hell—that it is a place of eternal, conscious torment where God’s enemies are punished—has led them not just to avert their eyes and minds, but to deny it entirely. “Surely,” they say, “hell is a fictional construct used to oppress people with fear; a God of love would never allow such a place to really exist.” There’s an emotional power to this argument, to be sure. No one, certainly no Christian, likes the idea of hell.   At the same time, this doctrine isn’t just drapery on the side of the Christian worldview, something with no relevance to the structure of the faith itself. Nor is the doctrine

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Of First Importance: The Priority of the Cross and the Empty Tomb

Al Mohler: The Christian faith is not a mere collection of doctrines — a bag of truths. Christianity is a comprehensive truth claim that encompasses every aspect of revealed doctrine, but is centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, as the apostolic preaching makes clear, the gospel is the priority. The Apostle Paul affirms this priority when he writes to the Christians in Corinth. In the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul sets out his case: 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 preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 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

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Confusing the Gospel with the Fruit of the Gospel

Graeme Goldsworthy: It cannot be stressed too much that to confuse the gospel with certain important things that go hand in hand with it is to invite theological, hermeneutical and spiritual confusion.  Such ingredients of preaching and teaching that we might want to link with the gospel would include the need for the gospel (sin and judgment), the means of receiving the benefits of the gospel (faith and repentance), the results or fruit of the gospel (regeneration, conversion, sanctification, glorification) and the results of rejecting it (wrath, judgment, hell).  These, however we define and proclaim them, are not in themselves the gospel. if something is not what God did in and through the historical Jesus two thousand years ago, it is not the gospel. Thus Christians cannot ‘live the gospel’, as they are often exhorted to do.  They can only believe it, proclaim it and seek to live consistently with it.  Only Jesus lived (and died) the gospel.  It is

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Why There Is No Righteousness Like Christian Righteousness

This Crossway post is adapted from Galatians by Martin Luther. Many Kinds of Righteousness St. Paul sets about establishing the doctrine of faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness. His purpose is that we may understand exactly the nature of Christian righteousness and its difference from all other kinds of righteousness, for there are various sorts of righteousness. There is a political or civil righteousness, which emperors, princes of the world, philosophers, and lawyers deal with. There is also a ceremonial righteousness, which human traditions teach. This righteousness may be taught without danger by parents and schoolteachers because they do not attribute to it any power to satisfy for sin, to please God, or to deserve grace; but they teach such ceremonies as are necessary simply for the correction of manners and certain observations concerning this life. Besides these, there is another righteousness, called the righteousness of the law or of the Ten Commandments, which Moses teaches. We too

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7 Gospel Promises To Embrace Today

Paul Tripp: You may have heard me say this before, but it’s worth repeating again: I’m deeply persuaded that many Christians, myself included, have a big gap in the middle of our gospel theology. Let me break it down and then apply it in a fresh way: I think we have a strong understanding of the theology of gospel past – meaning, we trust deeply in the historical sacrifice of Jesus which paid the penalty for our sins. I also think that we have a strong understanding of the theology of gospel future – meaning, we trust eagerly in the eternal promise of heaven that’s coming. But there’s something missing in the middle. We either don’t understand, or fail to embrace, the theology of the “now-ism” of the gospel. In other words, we don’t take full advantage of all the benefits of the work of Christ today. In this post, I want to briefly outline 7 gospel promises that are

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Three Reasons to Include a Concise Summary of the Gospel in Every Sermon

Timothy Raymond: Among conservative evangelicals, there’s a longstanding, friendly debate over whether or not every sermon should include a concise summary of the gospel message. By this I’m not talking about the use of a gospel-centered hermeneutic which connects every passage of Scripture to the person and work of Jesus, say, the approach to Bible interpretation taught by Graeme Goldsworthy or Edmund Clowney. Instead, I’m talking about inserting, somewhere in your sermon, hopefully in a natural way that connects to the rest of the message, a short explanation of the main truths about who Jesus is and what he has done (in perhaps 2-6 minutes), along with an exhortation to repent and believe. While this approach is admittedly not followed by every conservative, evangelical preacher, perhaps the best-known proponent and model of including a gospel summary in (nearly) every sermon is Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. For a wonderful example of what I’m talking about, consider

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Defending the gospel in the right spirit

Ray Ortlund: When you must step forward and defend the gospel against poisonous teachers, defend it with all the grace that inheres within the gospel itself.  We must do the Lord’s work the Lord’s way. It is not enough for us to identify a misleading voice, and then just do or say whatever feels right. As Jonathan Edwards warned us, “There is nothing that belongs to Christian experience more liable to a corrupt mixture than zeal.” Peter illustrates the folly of misplaced zeal. When the enemies of Jesus attacked, the apostle rose up in defense. His heart was doubtless in the right place. But what did he actually do? He drew his sword, proving not how brave he was but only how foolish (John 18:10–11). Francis Schaeffer used to say that, after debating with a liberal theologian, he hoped the liberal would walk away with two equally clear impressions: one, Francis Schaeffer really disagreed with him; two, Francis Schaeffer really cared about

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A Gospeled Church

Jared Wilson: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus. — Romans 15:5 The gospel cannot puff us up. It cannot make us prideful. It cannot make us selfish. It cannot make us arrogant. It cannot make us rude. It cannot make us gossipy. It cannot make us accusers. So the more we press into the gospel, the more the gospel takes over our hearts and the spaces we bring our hearts to, and it stands to reason, the less we would see those things antithetical to it. You cannot grow in holiness and holier-than-thou-ness at the same time. So a church that makes its main thing the gospel, and when faced with sin in its ranks doesn’t simply crack the whip of the law but says “remember the gospel,” should gradually be seeing grace coming to bear. It works out this way individually. The most

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Do All Paths Lead to God?

Sam Storms: If there is anything clear in God’s Word it is that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. This is not a popular assertion, as it strikes many as arrogant and exclusivistic. But there it is in John 14:6 – “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the “way” to God precisely because he alone embodies and tells the “truth” about who God is and what is needed to be reconciled to him. He alone embodies the true and consummate revelation of the Father. When Jesus says that reconciliation to the Father comes only “through me” we must define what he means in light of the broader context of John’s gospel. And everywhere in John we are told over and over again that you must believe in Jesus. You must trust him alone. You must look to his work on the cross

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Done before Do

By Bryan Chapell, author of Unlimited Grace: The Heart Chemistry That Frees from Sin and Fuels the Christian Life. Getting the Order Right When you see the message of grace unfolding in the Bible a pattern emerges. God is gracious to us, and then expects us to respond. It is never the other way around—we respond in obedience and then somehow God decides to be gracious to us. There is always this order of the “who” and the “do”. We are loved; we are the children of God. Therefore we respond in what we do. God never says, “You obey me and then I’ll love you.” He is always saying, “Because I have loved you, because I have claimed you, you are mine. Now walk in my ways.” This is the pattern of the ten commandments themselves. There are certainly many things we’re told to do in the ten commandments. But before God tells us to do anything he says,

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The Gospel Kind of Christ-Centeredness

Jared Wilson: 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 preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance . . . — 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 To be gospel-centered is to be Christ-centered. But as it pertains to the pursuit of holiness and obedience to God’s commands we may opt more often for the terminology “gospel-centered,” because without more qualifications, “Christ-centered obedience” can be misconstrued to imply simply taking Jesus as a moral example. Jesus is our moral example, of course, but the power for enduring, joyful obedience comes not from trying to be like him, but in first believing that he has become like us, that he has died in our place, risen as our resurrection firstfruits, ascended to intercede for us, and seated to

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What Is the Gospel?

  Greg Gilbert: A Message from God What exactly do Christians mean when they talk about the “gospel of Jesus Christ”? Since the word “gospel” means “good news,” when Christians talk about the gospel, they’re simply telling the good news about Jesus! It’s a message from God saying, “Good news! Here is how you can be saved from my judgment!” That’s an announcement you can’t afford to ignore. Why Is the Gospel Good News? So, what is the good news about Jesus Christ? Since the earliest Christians announced the good news about Jesus, it has been organized around these questions: Who made us, and to whom are we accountable? What is our problem? What is God’s solution to our problem? How can I be included in his solution? Christians through the centuries since Christ have answered those questions with the same truth from the Bible. We are accountable to God. Our problem is our sin against him. God’s solution is

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You Know You’re Really Preaching the Gospel When…

Dave Harvey: When two pastors meet for the first time, the same question always comes up: How big is your church? And I get it. How else is a pastor supposed to determine if he’s a success or failure? Pastoral ministry isn’t like sports, in which even the most obscure statistics (average yards per carry on third downs after 3:00 PM) are quantified and assigned value. Ministry isn’t like business either, with a bottom line that is either distinctly red or distinctly black. Ministry isn’t like manufacturing, which is often boiled down to the how many you sold and how much you made on each sale. No, ministry is much more nebulous. Earthly equations for determining a pastor’s success or failure are much more difficult to come by. Because of it’s nebulous nature, some pastors desperately try to find some measurement or number that will help them determine if they are successful. They want to be assured they are doing

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Your Testimony Isn’t About You

Jordan Monson: We live in an age of narcissism. It is the era of self-actualization, the relentless race to perfect the self. Time magazine reported in 2013 that “Narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their twenties as for the generation that’s now 65 or older. . . . 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.” As the West has become more narcissistic, so have the people in our churches. We see it on social media. We hear it over coffee. We see it when young people break away from living and breathing social groups to snap a selfie. We also see it in our evangelism. A decade or two ago our evangelism still pointed outward. We spoke of the existence of God, objective truth, and the historical reliability of the resurrection. Now, swaths of churches have moved on to leading with personal testimonies. This contextualization isn’t

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The Gospel Past and The Gospel Future Make Your Gospel Present

Jared Wilson: The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi: “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!” (Malachi 1:1-5) There is past tense and then future tense. There is “I have loved you” and there is “Your own eyes shall see . . .” God through Malachi is addressing a half-hearted, spiritually

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What Does “Simul Justus et Peccator” Mean?

In this excerpt from his teaching series, “Luther and the Reformation,” Dr. R.C. Sproul shares the very heart of the gospel as he explains Martin Luther’s latin phrase, “Simul Justus et Peccator.” R.C. Sproul: Perhaps the formula that Luther used that is most famous and most telling at this point is his formula simul justus et peccator. And if any formula summarizes and captures the essence of the Reformation view, it is this little formula. Simul is the word from which we get the English word simultaneously. Or, it means ‘at the same time.’ Justus is the Latin word for just or righteous. And you all know what et is. Et the past tense of the verb ‘to eat.’ Have you et your dinner? No, you know that’s not what that means. You remember in the death scene of Caesar after he’s been stabbed by Brutus he says, “Et tu, Brute?” Then fall Caesar. And you too Brutus? It simply means and. Peccator

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D. A. Carson on the Power of the Gospel

D.A. Carson: We tend to overlook how often the gospel of Christ crucified is described as “power.” Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, he declares, “because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Writing to the Corinthians, Paul insists that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). He takes painstaking care not to corrupt the gospel with cheap tricks like manipulative rhetoric, what he dismissively sets aside as “words of human wisdom”—“lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1:17). The “incomparably great power” that is working in those who believe is tied to the exercise of God’s mighty strength when He raised Jesus from the dead (Eph 1:19–20). There is superb irony in all this, of course. When Jesus was executed in the first century, the cross

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What Does the Word “Gospel” Mean in the New Testament?

R.C. Sproul: The gospel is the possession of Jesus, but, even more, Jesus is the heart of the content of the gospel. We use it so glibly in the church today. Preachers say they preach the gospel, but if we listen to them preach Sunday after Sunday, we hear very little gospel in what they are preaching. The term gospel has become a nickname for preaching anything rather than something with definitive content. The word for “gospel” is the word euangelion. It has that prefix eu-, which comes into English in a variety of words. We talk about euphonics or euphonious music, which refers to something that sounds good. We talk about a eulogy, which is a good word pronounced about someone at his funeral service. The prefix eu- refers to something good or pleasant. The word angelos or angelion is the word for “message.” Angels are messengers, and an angelos is one who delivers a message. This word euangelion, which means

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