What is Most Needful in our Pulpits?

by R.C. Sproul

“First, we need to know which pulpits we are talking about. The world is full of “pulpits” that are filled by men and women who are missing the most important thing- the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That is, the pulpits in mainline churches are not truly “ours” for they are marked by fundamental unbelief. This is why J. Gresham Machen wisely titled his great work Christianity and Liberalism, affirming that they are two different animals, and that there is no such thing as liberal Christianity.

So perhaps we would be better to ask what is most needful in evangelical pulpits. The first most needful thing, of course, is the evangel. And our pulpits will be filled with the evangel when they are filled with the Bible. We need sermons that are expositing the book of the good news of the work of Christ on our behalf.

There is, however, yet one thing lacking- courage. It is safe to say that most church members in most evangelical churches have at least heard the good news that Jesus came to save sinners. It is even more certain that everyone attending the preaching of the Word in an evangelical church is well aware that he is a sinner. It is absolutely certain, however, that no one at the service is sufficiently aware of the depth, the scope and the power of his sin, nor sufficiently aware of the depth, the scope and the power of the grace of God. We know not what we have been saved from nor to what we have been saved.

Which is why we need courage. We need shepherds who walk into their pulpits having seen and used the Bible as a mirror to his own sin. We need shepherds who by God’s grace come to see their own sin for what it is, and who preach confident in the knowledge that his flock is neither more nor less sinful than he is. Knowing his sin, he preaches against his sin. He does not shy away from it, but lays it out for all to see. Because he is speaking to his own sins, others can hear him. Because his sins are the same as those under his care, he speaks to the sins of others.

The courage to speak to our sins, however, is grounded in gospel confidence. A pastor is able to look straight into his own heart of darkness because of the light of the gospel. He can face what he is insofar as he is able to embrace the fullness of the gospel promises. We need pastors who are not merely relieved that their sins are covered, but that are overjoyed to know that they have been adopted. We need pastors who not only know they have by His grace escaped the fires of hell, but who know they will see Him like He is, and so will become like Him.

The church needs preachers who have the courage to believe not only the glories of the gospel, but the sufficiency of the gospel. We don’t need more word studies. We don’t need more scholarship. We don’t need more stories. We don’t need more homiletic genius. We need more courage to preach more gospel. Because Jesus changes everything.”

-R.C. Sproul Jr.,  http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-most-needful-our-pulpits/

Do All Those Who Die in the Womb Go to Heaven?

I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say.  It is certainly possible that they do. It is also possible that they don’t. It is, in turn, possible that some go to heaven when they die and some do not. Christians have, over the years dealt with this heart-wrenching question a number of different ways.

Some suggest that such children have no need to be saved from the wrath of God because they do not stand guilty before Him. While most of these would agree that even the youngest are tainted by sin (see Psalm 51:5), a few go so far as to suggest that the very young are without sin. Both positions suggest that the Bible leaves room for what they call the “age of accountability,” an unknown time (some suggest age 13 on the basis of the practice of bar mitzvah, when a Jewish boy becomes a man) when children do become responsible before God for their sin. The closest supportive text here is II Samuel 12:21-23.

Some suggest that the children of believers are welcomed to heaven, and leave open the question of the end of the children of unbelievers. The best text in defense of this position is I Corinthians 7:14, where the children of at least one believing parent are said to be “holy.”

Still others take the position that the elect among those dying in the womb go to heaven, and leave open the question of whether or not all or only some such children are elect. Finally, some take a mildly agnostic position, suggesting that “the God of heaven and earth will do rightly.”

I, though I agree that all and only the elect will enter into heaven, and that the judge of all the earth will do rightly, embrace none of these positions. In the end I believe that the texts cited do not warrant the conclusions drawn from them. Thus my bold response- I don’t know. What I am persuaded of is this. All humans, from conception, are sinners and stand guilty before a holy God. Their only hope is the work of Christ applied to them. That work is applied always and only through faith, and that only the faith of the one saved.  Babies in heaven are there not by virtue of their age, nor their election, nor their parents. They are there by virtue of Christ, applied to them by their Spirit-given faith.

But can unborn babies believe? Not by themselves, just like you and me. It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to make that happen.  Do we have reason to believe that He sometimes makes that happen? II Samuel 12:21-23 suggests He might. I Corinthians 7:14 suggests He might. Add to that John leaping in the womb at the presence of Christ (Luke 1:41) and we have reason to hope.

This could, of course, include all children dying in the womb. It could include none of them. Either way the Judge of all the earth would have done rightly. This is, clearly enough, an emotional issue. It is not, in my own life, merely abstract. My wife and I lost seven children to miscarriage, and have one precious 14 year old with the capacities of a one year old.  Our emotions, however, should not lead us to add to the Bible, nor to muddy the precious saving waters of the work of Christ given to us by faith. Our hope for them is the same as our hope for anyone. We are all sinners, and all without hope save for the work of Christ. But praise be to His name, He came into this world to save sinners.

-R.C. Sproul Jr., http://www.ligonier.org/blog/do-all-those-who-die-womb-go-heaven/