The Gospel is Essential

Is the hearing and believing of the gospel NECESSARY for a person to be save?

That is the question I investigate here. Paul asks the rhetorical question in Romans chapter 10:13-17

 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?
And how shall they hear without a preacher?
 And how shall they preach unless they are sent?
(As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!")
 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?"
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The fact he asks these things rhetorically indicates there should be no question that this is a fact. For one only uses rhetorical questions when what is stated is not in dispute. Thus it was a well excepted fact that a person could not call on the Lord to be saved or believe in Him without first hearing the gospel.

But still this leaves the question as to whether one must believe in the Lord, and thus hear the gospel, to be saved. Or whether hearing and believing the gospel is just one other way to be saved.

One example indicating the gospel is essential to salvation is what Paul said in 1Thess 2:14-16

For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
Here we note that Paul presumed that his preaching was essential for people to be saved. Furthermore even when asked the question, the only option he provides people is belief in the gospel.
"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Acts 16:30,31
In fact how did Paul know that this man had not already been saved by some other means if indeed there were any other way to be saved? It is inherently implied throughout the New Testament, such as this example, that belief in the gospel is necessary for salvation.
Another example is Cornelius. The angel told him, "Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved." Acts 11:13,14
So it was necessary for Cornelius to hear the gospel to be saved. Note who Cornelius was, as an unsaved person:
"At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly." Acts 10:1,2
So here's a man whom God claims is unsaved despite the fact that he was God fearing and generous and devout, praying regularly. Yet he was on his way to hell apart from hearing the gospel. So if Cornelius is not saved apart from the gospel, what kind of a person could hypothetically be saved apart from hearing and believing the gospel? The Bible simply doesn't provide an option for people to be saved apart from the faith that comes from hearing the gospel, no matter how "good" a person has been.

In His parable of the sower Jesus portrays the seed as the gospel and the sower as the messenger. Of those seed which fell on the path Jesus said, "Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved." Luke 8:12 Here again Jesus implies that apart from believing the gospel a person cannot be saved.

In conclusion, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4;12

What are the implications of the hearing of gospel being essential to salvation?

The most significant implication is the urgency of propagating the gospel so that everyone may hear, seeing as salvation is only available to those who hear and believe the gospel.
"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Mr 16:16
Belief in Jesus is necessary for salvation. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:18

This being the case a question arises as to why God made salvation contingent upon faith in Christ, and thus contingent upon the preaching, hearing and believing of the gospel message. Justice being satisfied on the cross, why having any further conditions at all? Or if conditional, then why not make the condition equally accessible to all? For not all throughout history have had equal access to the gospel?

The Bible doesn't explicitly deal with these questions. Though it does comment that faith was the sole condition so that all, having heard the gospel, may have equal access at that point to qualifying for salvation. But it doesn't deal with the fact that not all have equal access to the gospel, nor why any conditions (i.e. faith) were necessary. Thus answers to those issues are somewhat a matter of conjecture.

Such conjectures are much like questions the disciples had about matters of eschatology.

They asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:6,7

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources