9Marks at Southern discusses nature of the gospel
Leading evangelicals discussed the nature and consequences of the gospel at the 9Marks at Southern conference, Feb. 27-28. The conference featured Mark Dever, founder of 9Marks and pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“The integrity of our claim to love God is intended to be confirmed by our membership in the local church,” said Dever in a session on the local church’s role in proclaiming the gospel. “Lose the church, lose the gospel.”
The gospel is not simply a message the church proclaims, it will affect the way Christians live, Dever said.
“The church has a responsibility to live as the people of God they supposedly are,” Dever said. “The congregation’s life reflects God’s character as doctrine reflects his holiness.”
Dever encouraged pastors to guard carefully their church’s doctrine. “Liberal doctrine kills churches, and churches indistinct from the world will lose their hold on the gospel,” he said.
Closing the first day of the conference, Mohler preached on the ethics of ministry from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13 by demonstrating the necessity of boldness when preaching the gospel.
“Paul is bold to stand up in a public context or any private conversation and declare the gospel. He is ready to state it as a truth claim,” Mohler said.
Mohler said that preaching must not simply express the doctrines of Scripture but persuade people to come to Christ.
“Paul understands the sovereignty of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, he understands effectual calling, and he understands the necessity of preaching and declaring the Word of God with an aim to persuade,” Mohler said.
Mohler ended his message reminding pastors to understand that they do not preach their own words, but the Word of God.
“If God glorifies himself in our ministry by allowing this to happen, it just may be that when people hear us preach they will not hear it as words coming from us, but as the very Word of God,” he said.
The conference also featured messages from Trip Lee, a hip-hop artist and pastor in Atlanta, Georgia; Dave Gobbett, lead pastor of Highfields Church in Cardiff, Wales; Ligon Duncan, chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary; and Ray Ortlund, lead pastor at Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
Lee spoke on shame and the gospel from Romans 1:16. Lee has released five studio albums and is a member of the 116 Clique, a Christian hip-hop collective named after Romans 1:16.
“There are good things to be ashamed of but the gospel is not one of them,” Lee said. “The gospel is not bad news for anyone, whether they recognize it or not.”
Understanding that the gospel is for all should motivate Christians to evangelize, he said.
“If the Lord answered all your prayers, how many people would be saved?” Lee asked. “There is nothing more shameful than fearing an awkward conversation more than eternal damnation.”
“The gospel gives us zero reasons to be ashamed, and infinite reasons to have confidence,” Lee said in closing his message.
Gobbett preached from 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 on finding security in the gospel. Gobbett said that the resurrection of Jesus should bring security for Christians.
“The whole future for Christians is changed by the bodily resurrection of Jesus,” he said.
Paul writes the resurrection was in accordance with the Old Testament, Gobbett said, and Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection should fill Christians with awe about the grace of God and erase any doubts about God’s love for them.
“Jesus was never more lovely for the church than when he was most deformed for the church,” Gobbett said. “The gospel of God is secure from top to bottom, so take hope in it and live.”
Preaching from Romans 8:32, Duncan said pastors who preach on the cross should emphasize four truths: the Father’s love, the Son’s worth, wrath’s weight, and grace’s substitute.
“In this verse, Paul is answering the question if God is for us who can be against us,” Duncan said. “These things must be the backdrop of our gospel proclamation.”
The cross was a gift from God the Father to his people. The Father loved humanity so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own Son.
“Jesus is on the cross as a gift, because the Father loves his people,” Duncan said. “As we preach the gospel we must emphasize the Father’s love, because that is what Jesus wants to bring us into.”
Duncan also emphasized that the cross is ultimately a gift of grace because humanity did not deserve a savior.
“Sinless savior as sin bearer makes no sense, and is the most unjust thing that has ever happened,” he said. “At the cross the wrath of God struck the one place in the universe it had no right to strike.”
In the final session, Ortlund preached from Galatians 2:11-21, warning pastors not to forsake the gospel by their actions.
“Poor conduct in the gospel nullifies the doctrine of the gospel,” Ortlund said. “It is possible to deny with our lives the doctrines we claim to hold to.”
Ortlund offered a solution for those who forsake the gospel through their actions.
“The essential remedy for all our problems and every hypocrisy in our churches is the felt love of Jesus,” he said. “There is no remedy to be found outside of grace, it can only be found by pressing further into grace.”
Audio and video from 9Marks sessions and panel discussions will soon be available at www.sbts.edu/resources.