How important is it to get the Gospel right?
"Infinitely important!" said Pastor John Piper as he addressed thousands of people Friday in the Dominican Republic.
The Minneapolis, Minn., pastor was the featured guest speaker at a conference called "Back to the Cross." Organized by Wisdom & Integrity Ministries, the June 3-5 event was aimed at recovering and reinforcing the true essence of the Christian faith among believers throughout Latin America.
"We have to get this right if we're going to be the means of anyone's salvation, including our own," Piper underscored, as his address was translated into Spanish for the listeners.
"We need to be saved because we are all sinners," he said. "There isn't any other way to be saved from hell into everlasting joy than ... [by] hearing and believing the Gospel."
Piper, who is known for his expository preaching, outlined six aspects of the Gospel for the attendees at the free conference. If one is missing, there is no Gospel, he stressed.
Firstly, the Gospel is a divine plan or purpose, he said. "We don't view the death of Jesus as an accident of history. This has been planned," he stressed.
Listing his second point, Piper said the Gospel is a "historical fact" or event.
"Christ died on a cross ... at a moment in history," he explained, adding that the resurrection of Jesus is also a historical event. "The Gospel is not a theory; the Gospel is not a philosophy or an idea; the Gospel is not a way of thinking or feeling. The Gospel is an event in history."
"When we preach the Gospel we don't mainly preach our experience. We don't mainly preach about what has happened to us. That's important and that does come. But the main thing we preach is God has done something in history. He has sent Jesus Christ into the world and Christ died and rose again."
Thirdly, the Gospel is an achievement of God, he continued. Namely, through Christ's death, the record of sins and debts has been canceled for everyone. That record was nailed to the cross, Piper said to applause.
"It's a beautiful picture of how my sins were canceled before I ever existed," he said. "Not only has the wrath of God been removed through this substitution, the guilt of my sins is canceled."
Moreover, "Satan's condemning power has been broken," he added.
"What is the one weapon in the hand of the devil with which he can damn you to hell? That is unforgiven sin. But if your sins have been canceled in the cross, that weapon has been taken out of the devil's hand."
The fourth crucial aspect to the Gospel is that it is a free offer to everyone for faith alone, Piper outlined.
"You are saved through faith, not of works. This is a huge part of the Gospel," he emphasized. "You can't work for it, you can't grow up in a Christian home for it, you can't go to church for it, you can't get baptized for it, you can't keep the Ten Commandments for it."
Explaining the fifth point on how the Gospel applies to "me," Piper explained that instead of wrath and guilt, we now have forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
"When I believe in Jesus I am united to Christ. Therefore, what he did and achieved becomes mine by this union through faith alone. His righteous life is imputed to me. What Christ achieved is counted as mine."
And all of these things lead to one place – "that I might forever enjoy the glory of God," he said, listing his last point.
Piper is currently on an eight-month leave from his preaching role at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and from all ministry works. This is his first-ever break from ministry.
After 30 years of preaching, the influential pastor announced in March that he needed to focus on his marriage and his family and that his ministry-pattern needed a "reality check from the Holy Spirit." He cited "ongoing character flaws" and pride.
The Back to the Cross conference is one of a few speaking engagements Piper and his wife, Noel, agreed to during his leave.