Let the Nations Be Glad

Ligonier Ministries National Conference | Orlando

The following is an unedited transcript of the message.

I want to talk about missions. Let me begin with Paul’s testimony from Romans 15. He said in verses 18 to 20 that he had completed the gospel from Jerusalem—you know where that is—as far as Illyricum. That is about where Albania is, northwestern Greece. And he had no other room for work there and so he is going to Spain. Now think about that for a moment. There was plenty of room for work there of evangelism, because he wrote the book of Ephesians to saints who needed to open their mouths and witness boldly to unbelievers left in Ephesus which is in that swath. So why did Paul say: My work is done. I have no room for work in this whole region anymore.

And the reason is because missionaries have a unique calling, namely to go where the name of Christ is not named, to plant churches among people groups who don’t have any churches. They don’t have any pastors. They don’t have any schools. They don’t have any literature. They don’t have any testimony to Christ. You can plant the church in a place. It becomes self propagating. There may be tens of thousand of people yet to be converted, but the missionary’s job, the Pauline missionary’s job is done.

So what I am asking is in our reformed churches, are we praying and are we preaching and are we teaching so as to beget frontier Paul type missionaries who believe that there is plenty of that kind of work yet to be done. And there is, hundreds, probably thousands of people groups yet to be reached where Christ is not named and they don’t have any churches and they don’t have any Bible and they don’t have any schools. They don’t have any literature. They don’t have any radio programs. And therefore the task of the church is to go and make disciples among them.

So I am on a crusade now in this hour to recruit martyr heart missionaries for the least reached people groups of the world. And more specifically among reformed churches who believe in the doctrines of grace to plead with you to become what you are, namely sold out for the glory of God among all the nations. And if you are not, then you are a walking, Calvinistic contradiction, because Calvinists of all people should be the most radical, the most risk taking, the most confident, the most joyful missionaries in the world. That is what I want to try to demonstrate doctrinally and exegetically in the next 45 minutes or so.

It is a crying shame that some historically—though I will try to reverse that conception—and many today would call themselves Calvinists and have no vision for the unreached peoples of the world. There are reasons for that. Self absorbed, doctrinal, heartless reasons, but it ought not to be so and it is a contradiction that it is so, because the doctrines of grace are missionary doctrines. All five of the five points of Calvinism are missionary doctrines and I want to try to just summarize that for you as I begin and then take you to the 10th chapter of John to unpack it.

Let’s take the TULIP five points one at a time and just articulate them for what they really are. Number one, total depravity. What does that mean? It means all people everywhere without exception are fallen, sinful and spiritually dead and perishing without the gospel and without the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit that comes with the preaching of the gospel alone. In other words, the T in TULIP is a missionary bugle, a cry. Go preach to them. They are dead. They will not live without the spiritual work of the Holy Spirit that comes in attendance on the preaching of the gospel. Go. It is a missionary point.

U. Unconditional election. Unconditional election means no person, no people group may claim exclusion from God’s purposes because of any race or social class or education or prior creed or religion. If God has chosen whom he will unconditionally, then no conditions can be used to withhold the gospel offer or the word of hope from any people or any person. Unconditional election enforces, therefore, an indiscriminate proclamation of the gospel to all people unconditionally. The U is a missionary mandate not to exclude anybody on any condition from the proclamation of the gospel.

L. Limited atonement. Calvinism goes up to what Arminians believe and beyond what Arminians believe in the doctrine of the atonement. Arminians believe that Christ died for all in this sense, John 3:16. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever would believe, whosoever believes would not perish, but have eternal life. And I, a five point Calvinist, yea, a seven point Calvinist, say: Amen. And I don’t put any bar on the all or the world. Every individual. God loves in that he sent his Son such that if they would believe they would be saved. That is all an Arminian believes and I believe every word of it. However, I believe the atonement is bigger than that, stronger than that, more than that, less limited than that, namely, it is a covenant love demonstrating work of Christ. I believe that more was accomplished on the cross than simply the purchase of a valid offer for everyone who hears the gospel.

Rather, also was purchased the new covenant promises of the heart will be taken out of his people of stone and a new heart will be put in and he will write his law upon their hearts and he will cause them to walk in his statues and he will effectually save them. The new covenant promises made to the bride were paid for with the dowry of the blood of Jesus. And it is a tragedy in the churches—which is why I am a Calvinist, among many others, that many Christians don’t know their husband’s covenant love when he suffers for them. When Jesus died, he died to effectually purchase a bride. Therefore, it is a missionary doctrine. In fact, the clearest text, perhaps, on limited atonement—as it is called or definite atonement—is a missionary text from Revelation 5:9. Though was slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and people and tongue and nation. Didn’t ransom every person in every tribe and tongue and people and nation that way. Among every people group, every tribe, every tongue there are blood bought people. That is a missionary doctrine.

I. Irresistible grace. God suffers his saving grace to be resisted. The first objection to the doctrine of irresistible grace is: Of course he can be resisted. I resist him. Or Acts seven. You stiff necked people. You resist the Holy Spirit all day long. The doctrine of irresistible grace doesn’t mean that the grace of God can’t be resisted. It means God suffers it to be resisted until he decides to overcome the resistance. And when he chooses to overcome the resistance, he saves. He puts in the heart of flesh. He grants, according to 2 Timothy 2:25, repentance. He grants faith according to Philippians 1:29. When he is pleased, he overcomes resistance. Otherwise I wouldn’t want to pray for the people I love at my church who are not believers. I don’t pray: Make suggestions to them. I pray: Save them. Triumph over their deadness. And I remember Urbana 67 with my fiancée Noel. John Alexander stood up and said: 20 years ago I said if I believed in predestination and election and those five points I would never be a missionary. Now in 1967, 20 years after that, he said to us, 15,000 folks gathered there: If I didn’t believe in predestination I could never be a missionary in Pakistan, meaning when you get out there and you realize how hard the human heart is and how massive the obstacles are and how entrenched the resistance is, if there isn’t a sovereign God to solve this, let’s all go home. It is a missionary doctrine. Irresistible grace is our hope in missions. It is not a hindrance to missions.

Finally, P, perseverance of the saints. God can and will sustain his missionary saints through suffering so that they go on trusting him and serving him. And he will see to it that they keep believing the gospel and therefore that the gospel will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all peoples and then the end will come. That is a irreversible and irrevocable promise, Matthew 24:14. The new covenant promise that I said was purchased by the definite atoning work of Christ, those glorious expression, I know of the new covenant is Jeremiah 32:40. I will make with them an everlasting covenant that I will not turn away from doing them good. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from me. That is the only way any missionaries survive. That almighty God is pleased to put faith, repentance, fear, love and perseverance in the heart of the saints blood bought by his own Son and awaken it afresh every morning no matter what, that is the only reason the great commission can be finished is the perseverance of the missionary saints.

So every one of them, T, U, L, I, P means every Calvinistic church should be the most radical, risk taking, daring, mighty, joyful, confident missionary church on the face of the globe. And if your church isn’t, repent. Go home and do what you can do to change it. We are all tangled up in trying to get everybody to dot there I’s and cross their T’s at the front end of their Christian life. Be patient with people. Get them in love with the nations while you move them from three points to four points to five points to six points to seven points.

Let’s turn to John 10. Open your Bibles if you are willing and you would like to follow with me in some exegesis concerning these things. John chapter 10. In my opinion—and I don’t think I am alone in this—is that the book of John is the most Predestinarian, Calvinistic book in the Bible. That is not an exaggeration. It is not for shock effect. It is the way I read it. I think it is true.

I think the key missionary text in the gospel of John is John 10:16 and it is my text for this remaining time. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also and they will heed my voice so they will be one flock and one shepherd. That is power. I have got other sheep out there. They are going to hear me. They are going to come. And there will be one completed flock. That is authority. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go. Do this. Become the secondary means without which I will not do it. Lo, I am with you. I will tell you. If you want to be inspired about how to get close to Jesus... You tired of not being close to Jesus? Leave your job and become a missionary in a hard place. You’ll get close to Jesus. John Patten sitting in a tree while the enemies on the island of Tana were trying to kill him, where he would serve faithfully for four years and had a believer. He sat in that tree wondering if they would find him. Said when he was in his seventies: I had the most sweet communion with Jesus that I have ever known. Lo, I am with you always to the end of the age. You feel it. You would feel it in that tree. You would feel it.

The reason we don’t feel those kinds of sweet promises is because they were made to risk taking, lay down your life missionaries. That is who they were made to. And we are so cozy, so comfortable, so security bound that we deny ourselves the enjoyment of the sweetest promises of Christ.

Now the text is John 10:16. I want to lay background now, theological background from the 10th chapter of John. So let’s make six contextual observations so that we feel the force of this verse 16. Number one, Jesus calls himself a shepherd. Verse 11. I am the good shephed. Verse 14. I am the good shepherd. So we have a shepherd and we have a flock of God. Now the flock of God is Israel in this context. The sheep are Israel. But be careful, for some sheep are sheep and some sheep are not sheep. We will see that in a moment. The first observation, verse 11 and verse 14, Jesus is a shepherd.

Second observation. Some sheep in the flock of Israel are Christ’s and some are not. Verse three, second half of the verse and verse four. The good shepherd calls his own, his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all of his own, he goes before them. Now verse 14. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. In other words, not all the sheep in the flock of Israel are Christ’s sheep. I know my own. I call them. They come. They follow me.

Observation number three. There reason that some of the sheep belonged to Jesus and some did not is because the Father gave them to him. Verse 29. My Father who has given them to me is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. Now this is Jesus’ way of talking about the doctrine of election. The Father had some sheep in Israel. He takes those sheep and when Jesus sounds the voice of the good shepherd the sheep recognize the voice and the Father through that recognition which he enables—that is called the effectual call or irresistible grace—he gives them to the Son. Let’s see that confirmed in John 17:6. I have manifested your name, Father, to the men whom you gave me out of the world. Thine they were and you gave them to me. And I or they have kept thy Word. So, you see? The Father has them. He has chosen them. Now the Son comes and announces the gospel and the Father gives the sheep to the Son so that now the Son says: They are my sheep. I have my own. Or go with me to John six verse 37 to see it stated again. John 6:37. All that the Father gives me will come to me and him who comes to me I will I no wise cast out. So some sheep belong to Jesus and some don’t. Why? Ultimately God has them. They are his and he gives them to the Son. Thine they were. Thou hast given them to me.

Fourth observation. Since the Son knows those who are his and he calls them by name and they are already his, they follow. Back to verse three and four. The sheep hear my voice or hear his voice, the good shepherd. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own he goes before them and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. The other sheep don’t recognize his voice. Verse 27. My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.

Now be sure you see the thrust of what is being said here. Being one of Christ’s sheep enables you to respond to the call. Responding to the call does not make you a sheep. Being one of God’s own and, therefore, one who is given to Jesus is what enables you to hear and recognize the voice. Hearing and recognizing the voice is not what makes you a sheep. Now this is startling. Very few evangelicals believe this in America. You do, I presume, many of you, anyway, because you are here at this reformed oriented conference. But this is startling to most people and very offensive to our self sufficient ways by which we think we have and should have the ultimate right to veto God’s ruler ship of the world in our case. But there is a verse in this chapter—and I direct your attention to it—which is absolutely shattering to the final boast of unbelief, namely the boast that I will frustrate the designs of God to save me. Verse 26. Jesus says: You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep. That just takes the breath away. Almost all evangelicals reverse that clause and say: You do not belong to me, because you do not believe. It says: The reason you do not believe... let me just ... I love this dramatization of the Scriptures. Let me do my own here.

Say you have got a Pharisee who is detecting some Calvinism coming through the Lord Jesus’ mouth. And he looks at him and says: Do you think God rules the world? Do you think God can triumph over anything? Well, I will have you know that I will defeat the counsel of God in my own case and I won’t believe. There. Tell your God that is how much power he has in my case. To which Jesus responds: You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. In other words, his last boast is removed.

Observation number five. Jesus dies for his sheep, verse 11. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Verse 14 and 15. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. As the Father knows me and I know the Father I lay down my life for the sheep.

Now I don’t know if you hear what I hear in these words that I have been giving you so far in these five observations, but I hear Romans eight. Those whom the Father has gave to the Son. And those whom he gave to the Son he called through the voice of the shepherd. And those whom he called through the voice of the shepherd he justified by laying down his life for them. Sound familiar? It is not an accident. Paul knew his Jesus.

Observation number six. On the basis of this sacrifice of laying down his life for the sheep, he gives them eternal life and it can never be taken away. Verses 27 and 30. My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me is greater than all. And no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

So let me sum up these six observations. The Father has his own and he gives them to his Son. The Son dies for those sheep. Third, he calls them by name. Fourth, he gives them eternal life. Fifth, he keeps them save forever. And I suppose I could have added: They follow him after number three. So I will say them again. The Father gives them to the Son. The Son dies for them. The Son calls them with an inimitable shepherd verse. The sheep hear his voice and follow. He gives them eternal life. Nobody can take them. That is a great salvation. That is a great God wrought, God centered, God secured salvation and it is a great missionary teaching as we will try to see now by pointing out a danger.

As soon as the Church starts to get close to truth, the devil sees what is happening. And if he can’t triumph over the drawing close to the truth, he quickly trumps it with a distortion of the truth. It is called hyper Calvinism. Now this pride shattering doctrine of the five points is to our utter dismay often taken as a click defining us no more inward grown self congratulatory banner flying over my teeny little church. That is a tragedy.

John 10:16 is the answer. Here the Jewish disciples, perhaps, beginning to feel like they are the elect heirs of Abraham and no others. And Jesus appears: I have other sheep that are not of this fold, he means among the Gentiles. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. So stop thinking in terms of your own private privileges here and start thinking of the capaciousness and the greatness and the expansiveness of my heart for Sudan and for all the peoples of the world. Join me in the bigness of my heart. If you love my God wrought, blood bought salvation, lay down your life to show how glorious it is among those who have no access to it. Otherwise, I don’t believe you love it and my glory.

And then, early American Puritans began settling it, becoming secure in their chosen status as the new Israel in the northeast and God raises up, Jesus calls out to John Elliot: I have other sheep that are not of this Puritan fold among the Algonquin Indians. Go, preach to them. And good old John Elliot at age 42 begins to use... learn that impossible language. Same thing with David Brainerd. David, I have other sheep that are not of this congregational fold. Go to the Susquehanna people. Then the particular Baptists, 50 years later begin to get a little ingrown and a little bit self satisfied and a little bit sordid in their theology and God, Jesus has to come to Carey and say: I have other sheep that are not of this British, Baptist fold and they are in India. Go. And then the mission agencies and the churches begin to be a little bit self satisfied that they have dotted all the coastlands with mission stations. Triumph. Jesus comes to Hudson Taylor and says: I have other sheep that are not of this fold. They are inland. And so the China Inland Mission is formed. It comes to David Livingston, inland, Africa. Africa Inland. And then the 20th century western Christendom begins to take pride in the churches in every country, all 213 or so countries. They are there. The flag has been planted and God comes to a Cameron Townsend and says: There are about 6000 people groups who don’t have a shred of Bible in their language and then in 1974 Ralph Winter reaches up and grabs a hold of the bell and pulls on it and rings it and it has changed every mission agency that has any ears in its head at all in the last 25 years because what he said was: Though we are in every country, there are two billion individuals outside the reach of any intelligible gospel witness culturally, meaning nobody is thinking in terms of peoples, but only in terms of political entities called nations. That is not what nations meant in the Bible. Hittites, Jebusites, Susquehanna, Cherokee, that is what we are talking about with nations and peoples. And there are thousands of them and they speak peculiar dialects, peculiar languages and they have peculiar thought forms and cultures and they need Paul type missionaries to reach them. And we think we have done the job because the Church is in every country and we are nowhere near finished with the job that the Lord died to empower us to do. And so many missions today have rethought their strategies to finish the Great Commission by reaching the peoples of the world.

John 10:16. I have other people, the other sheep that are not of this fold is the great missionary text of the gospel of John.

Now it is more than a goad. It is more than a goad. I am goading right now to get you to leave. I want a lot of you to become frontier missionaries. And you don’t have to be young. You can do it as a second career. Be a great finisher. There are many 50 something and 60 something people in this room who are red hot for God and don’t need to make any money any more. What are you going to do with the last 20 years? Tell me. What are you going to do with them to meet King Jesus? How are you going to get ready? How are you going to write the last chapter? Oh, may you not think in terms of retirement. May you think in terms of a brand new dream on that pad you have built. Now stand on it and die to spread the gospel.

So, rather than just goad you, let me close with four mighty confidence building observations from verse 16 itself. Number one. Christ has a people besides those already converted is a mighty encouragement. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I say this is encouraging. And the reason I know it is encouraging is not only because of my experience in reading biographies, but because of Acts chapter 18 and the experience of the authority of the apostle Paul. It came to Paul in a dream. He was frightened in Corinth. The Lord said to Paul one night in a vision: Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, for I am with you. And no man shall attack you to harm you. For I have many people in this city. That is just a paraphrase of John 10:16. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I didn’t send you here to waste your time. I have sheep in Corinth. I have other sheep in Corinth. Now get up and go in there and become a secondary means of my reaching my sheep with the gospel. I will save them. You preach. And that mightily encouraged Paul and it ought to mightily encourage you.

Observation number two for confidence building from this verse. The other sheep, I think, by implication in this verse and explicitly elsewhere in John are scattered outside. I have other sheep that are not of the fold. They are scattered. They are lost. It is made explicit in John 11:51. He did not say this—speaking of the high priest—of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Isn’t that just a paraphrase of I have many people in this city or I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I die in order to gather the children of God. It is Revelation 5:9. Thou hast ransomed for God people from every nation and tribe and tongue. They are scattered. They are all over the place. I believe they are in ... I don’t think there is any people group, any Hindu people group, any Buddhist people group, any Muslim people group, any secularist, post Christian European people group you can go to and say with any warrant: There are no elect here. You can’t say that. They are scattered. The children of God are scattered everywhere.

Observation number three to build our confidence in missions. The Lord has committed himself to bring his sheep home. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also. It is one of those Greek constructions with that famous word it is necessary. Let’s do this. This is a necessity. I must bring them. I must bring them. I will bring them. I will bring them. So the confidence is that the Lord himself says: You go. You preach. I will bring them. I must bring them also.

Now he won’t do it without us and, therefore, he will see to it that enough of you are called into missions to get the work done. He is not wringing his hands about whether there will be enough troops. The Lord of the harvest knows what needs to be done and he will see to it that it gets done. So you are crucial in the equation. John 20 verse 21: As the Father has sent me, so send I you. Or John 17:18. Jesus is praying for those sheep who are not yet saved. I do not pray for these—right around me, these sheep, this fold—I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word. Oh, the implications of that for the ministry of the Word.

The good shepherd calls his own. They hear his voice and they follow. They will believe on me through your Word. Get it? When you preach the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit the shepherd is still calling. The voice of the shepherd is authentically being heard and when his voice is authentically heard, the dead are raised and a call is effectual and his own sheep follow him and you become the mouthpiece of the shepherd. This is an encouraging thing for every missionary, indeed, for every Christian who wants to be a mouthpiece of the gospel.

My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. Paul said it like this. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win the obedience of the Gentiles. Paul opened his mouth and spoke, but Christ wrought it through him and brought them to the obedience of faith.

Finally, number four. They will come. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them. They will heed my voice. None of Christ’s sheep will fail to heed his voice in due time. So know this. Jesus Christ has other sheep besides the fold in this room, besides the evangelical fold in America or the Christian fold in America. He has other sheep besides Christendom. There are ... who said it? I think R. C. said it. Maybe Doug said it. Everything is tying so well together I don’t know who said it. Maybe somebody else said it. But here is what they said. Did you refer to the 144,000, Doug, and then the... Ok? When you said... this is one of your gifts. You didn’t just say: Innumerable. That is what I would have said. That is no good. You said: Nobody can count that high. That is how many there will be. And they are still out there, millions of them, I believe, are out there. And if you love the glory of God and if you love people you have three possibilities. Go. Send. Or Disobey. And if you are not a conscious goer or a conscious sender, you are disobedient to the glory and to love.

I close with a story. Peter Cameron Scott founder of Africa Inland Mission went in 1867 to Africa full of hope and was laid low with malaria as so many were. You know, they took their coffins, many of them. They took their goods in their coffins. Well, he didn’t die, but he came back to England broken, stricken and had to heel. And then he went back and this time with great hope because his brother John went with him. And within a matter of weeks he buried with his own hands his brother John who succumbed to the fever. And then his own health broke a second time and he went home.

Now picture yourself. Don’t you want to get mad at God here? That is what most 20th century evangelicals would do. They put God in the dock. Say: ... and that is not the way that the early, strong, God centered missionaries thought. They never put God in the dock. They looked for the purposes of God in their suffering. So while he was healing and dreaming and struggling and thinking, he decided he needed some inspiration. And I am going to read here now From Jerusalem to {?} by Ruth Tucker what happened. He needed a fresh source of inspiration and he found it in the tomb in Westminster Abbey that held the remains of a man who had inspired so many others in their missionary service to Africa. The spirit David Livingston seemed to be prodding Scott onward as he knelt reverently and read the inscription—you can read it today, I believe—the inscription on Livingstone’s tomb. Other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them I must bring. And that inspired him to go back the third time. This time God having done his sanctifying, strengthening, stripping, wounding, humbling work blessed and made him fruitful so that to this day tens of thousands of Christians belong to churches associated with AIM.

So my prayer for you and me now is that God might deepen and broaden the biblical foundation of missions in our lives. The first wave of modern missions was born with William Carey and the others in a decidedly doctrinal kind of Christianity. It is a great offense to God and a great tragedy that we get so absorbed with the refinement of our doctrine that we do not give ourselves to the reaching of the lost close and especially to the peoples who are without the gospel far. So my prayer is not that you will become odd doctrinally. My life is devoted to rejecting that bifurcation, that unnecessary dichotomy in life. A second prayer would be that he open our eyes not only to the fields that are white to harvest, but to the majesty and the splendor of sovereign grace as a missionary incentive. Don’t let anybody pull the wool over your eyes or distort the five points of Calvinism into anything other than a great missionary mandate. And everywhere you go, make a case for your doctrine because it is a missionary doctrine and, thus, expresses the heart of God for the unreached nations of the world.