This is the question that keeps many well-meaning Christians up at night. The question that different passages of Scripture can be seen to answer. The question that divides denominations, friends and sometimes the entire church. It is a question that John Piper, in this relatively slim book, seeks to answer. And, in true Piper style, he goes in all guns blazing, right at the core of the issue.
The book is organised into seven long-ish chapters – each addressing a different angle of the Question. Some of the questions that Piper asks in these chapters are ones which many Christians ask, either instead of or as part of the leading question.
Chapter 1 asks “Is Jesus the Only Way of Salvation”, and explores how this is really three questions in one, and that there must be a sense of urgency applied to good Gospel proclamation.
Chapter 2 asks the ‘question du jour’ – “Will Anyone Experience Eternal, Conscious Torment under God’s Wrath?”. Piper answers this with genuine Reformed humility, a pastors heart, and an evangelists zeal. He looks at the fact that there ARE mysteries in this area, at the nature of hell, at the idea that it would have been better for some not to have been, at the role the devil and his angels play, and the notion of eternal judgement. For those so inclined, Piper humbly but clearly engages with Stott’s view of annihilationism. The penultimate section of this chapter is the exegetically-faithful “No Escape from the Texts”. Piper’s conclusion is not lightly made.
Chapter 3 asks “Is the Work of Jesus Necessary for Salvation?”. Looking at the link between Adam and Christ, the necessity of one mediator, the Lamb purchasing a people from all nations, the One remedy for Universal Unrighteousness: Justification in Jesus – Piper offers a powerful defence and proclamation of the Christ-focused Gospel of salvation.
Chapter 4 asks an interesting question: “Is Conscious Faith in Jesus Necessary for Salvation?”. Piper deals with some big issues – most notably why there was no full blown mission to the nations before the incarnation. For Piper, this question hinges on which side of the Incarnation (the coming of God in the person of Christ) one is standing – his conclusion is fairly titled “Taking the Turn in History Seriously”. Chapter 5 asks the same question – this time looking exegetically at the story of Cornelius and his family. This is a good case study for Piper’s theology here, and seems to be convincing.
Chapter 6 continues the question of chapters 4 and 5, referencing Peter’s Sermon “No other name”, differences between key reformed commentators Hodge and Murray, and the wonderful penultimate section “Calling on the Lord Jesus is Essential – Hence the Beautiful Feet of Missionaries”. Piper advocates mission strongly throughout this book – not out of some American Christian Imperialism, but out of a genuine love for Christ.
Chapter 7 deals with this question again – as it is the route of so many of these questions, and looks at Paul and his mission, before making the necessary point that “God Himself is the Great Evangelist”. After examining what John tells us about the ingathering of Jesus’ sheep, Piper closes the chapter with a great explanation of what Jesus means by “I Am the Way, the Truth and The Life, No-One Comes to the Father Except through Me”.
The conclusion of this book is a glorious defence of Christ’s exclusive death and resurrection. Of Christ’s total salvific sufficiency. Of The necessity of Jesus. Of the global call and mission of the Gospel. Of the urgency of the Church’s mission to the nations, but most of all to the glorious Grace of God in the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is a book that answers difficult questions – but it answers them well, with the greatest Truth the world has ever known – and who you can know personally. I hope this review has been of use.