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In order to believe on Christ, you must hear the gospel of the grace of God in Christ (v. 14; 17). — “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” It is impossible for sinners to believe in Christ until they have heard the gospel of Christ. The word “heard,” as it is used in this text, is to be understood loosely, in a very wide sense. It is not merely listening with the ear; but you must, by some means or other, come to a knowledge of the truth. You cannot believe what you do not know. And you cannot know what you do not hear, or read, or by some means learn. You must come to know the gospel. Otherwise, you can never believe in Christ (Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 1:21).
There is but one gospel, and that is the gospel of the grace of God in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). There are many things taught plainly and clearly revealed in the gospel. But particularly there are three vital points.
1. Grace Alone! — Salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). The grace of God is eternal, sovereign, effectual, and immutable.
2. Christ Alone! — Salvation has been accomplished by Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:30). The gospel of substitution is the only gospel there is. No man preaches the gospel who fails to plainly declare “how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” He died voluntarily, by his own sovereign will and purpose. He died vicariously, in the room and place of his elect, his sheep, the people he came to save. And he died victoriously, fully accomplishing all he died to accomplish. He put away the sins of his people. He obtained eternal redemption for his elect. He justified all for whom he died.
3. Faith Alone! — Salvation is received by faith alone (Romans 3:20-31).
The hearing of the gospel is necessary for the salvation of sinners. —“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” There are many ways in which you might hear the gospel; but the primary means employed by God for the salvation of sinners is preaching, the public ministry of the Word. The Eunuch in Acts 8 could not understand Isaiah 53, except some man show him the meaning of Isaiah’s words. So God sent Phillip to preach the gospel to him. Lydia could not believe until God sent Paul to open the Scriptures to her. And when he opened the Scriptures to her, the Spirit of God used his preaching of the gospel to open her heart (Acts 16). Onesimus was providentially brought to Rome, just at the time Paul was a prisoner there, that he might hear the gospel from the mouth of God’s servant and be saved by his grace.
If you are interested in your immortal soul, make it your business to hear the gospel. Be sure that what you hear is the gospel. The more often you hear the better. And beg of God that he may, by the gospel of his free grace, give you life and faith in Christ, by the effectual power of his Holy Spirit.