Why Is the Glory of God at Stake in Making People Plural?
Grace Agenda Conference | Moscow, Idaho
The following is a lightly edited transcript.
There are huge segments of the English-speaking world for whom the pluralization of the world people would be very strange. It would sound to them like sheeps or mooses because it’s not part of their experience. If you’re one of those, I’m here to change that and if you’re one of those, it’s very likely that your missiology is defective and probably your vision for why God created the universe is defective if the word peoples is foreign to your vocabulary. If you’re not at home with the word peoples, if you don’t use it regularly then probably your defective at serious levels of your thinking and your biblical understanding of why God made the world.
Now, my own pilgrimage to a biblical understanding of God’s global purpose for peoples was slow in coming. I was trying to think as I prepared this when I began to use the word peoples. I can’t remember using it before I was thirty-four. It certainly played no determinative role in my thinking and then after I settled on that fact that it was in my first two or three years as a pastor, at thirty-four and thirty-five, that I began to use it, I ask why. I grew up in a bible-believing, bible-teaching church and a Christian family and can never remember that term being used — peoples. Why was that?
Your Translation Matters
I grew up using the King James Bible. Now, so did a lot of you. If you’re still hung up on the King James Bible, here’s the facts in regard to peoples. The term peoples occurs in the King James Bible twice in Revelation 10:11 and 17:15. “I was told you must again prophesy about many peoples and nations, languages and kings.” “The waters are peoples and multitudes and nations, and languages.” That’s it. The term peoples in the King James Bible never occurs in the Old Testament. In the ESV, peoples occurs in the Old Testament 235 times. It occurs in the NIV 216 times.
Every place, I just discovered all this last week and try to understand why I was defective in my understanding of biblical missiology for all those years. Pull it up on Logos or your Accordance or whatever you use, and you’ll find that every place where the plural peoples occurs in the ESV, you’ll either have in the King James people or gentiles. The word people was not taken to mean multiple ethnicities but plural individuals. That’s very, very misleading. That’s what you got to deal with when you’re working with the King James is that kind of misleading. Now, I have no idea why and I’ll be happy to be taught here why the translators would do that since they know, we know there’s two of them in Revelation. We know they know the word exist, except you might have had a team of translators on the new and a different team of translators on the old, and they didn’t talk to each other.
That’s a possibility. That does happen in bible translation. My first guess as to why I never use the terms foreign to me is that the church I grew up in and my parents, and myself never saw the word in the bible. I just missed it in Revelation those two times, it was used and it wasn’t used in the Old Testament where it occurs hundreds of times and so, I was misled. The Hebrew, as you know, has a singular word, am, for people and a plural word, amim, for people. The translation is good to have peoples. We need it. Laos and laoi in Greek, people and peoples. They’re all over the bible. This is not an English phenomenon. Those distinctions between plural people and plural peoples is Hebrew and Greek base. That’s my first effort at a self-understanding.
Peoples Not Countries
Here’s my second one. Ralph Winter, who was the most influential missionary theorist, statesman in my life and probably the most influential missionary spokesman in the latter half of the twentieth century hadn’t yet begun to make any noise about this when I was young. Even though I had him for a class in 1970, he wasn’t talking this way. The U.S. Center for World Mission which he founded and the bell that he rang in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974, he hadn’t rung yet. You may not know given the way we are today in the missionary world, it was totally different because of Ralph Winter than it was fifty years ago. I grew up perhaps you did maybe you’re still there, only talking in terms of unreached fields.
This is a missionary field. There aren’t any churches there so we need missionaries in this field. That’s the language I grew up on. Nobody talks that way today. Everybody talks about unreached peoples. All the mission agencies in the world used terms like unreached or unengaged peoples. That’s almost entirely owing to Ralph Winter and the Bible being rediscovered. In 1974, I was in Germany doing my doctoral work in Munich so it’s just down the road and my dad went up to the conference in 1974. We were all congratulating ourselves that the Christian movement had penetrated all the countries of the world. Then Ralph Winter spoke.
He talked about why it is that we’re congratulating ourselves on something that the Bible doesn’t even talk about. Here’s what he said.
Why is this fact not more widely known that four out of five non-Christians are still cut off from the gospel because of barriers that are cultural and linguistic not geographic. Why is this fact not more widely known? I’m afraid that all of our exaltation about the fact that every country of the world has been penetrated has allowed many to suppose that every culture has now been penetrated. This misunderstanding is a malady so widespread that it deserves a special name. Let us call it people blindness. That is blindness to the existence of separate peoples within countries.
A blindness I might add which seems more prevalent in the U.S. and among U.S. missionaries than anywhere else. It took me then about ten for this to trickle down into my thick skull that this is massive. It’s massive not simply missiologically but theologically. It’s massive for the glory of God. It’s massive for why God created the universe. It’s just huge and I had missed it.
Unreached People Groups
The Joshua project today says there are 16,804 people groups in the world. Now, if you go to IMB, if you go to the mission team at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, you’re going to get different numbers ranging from about 12,000 to 16,000. The reason is counting distinctions. If some of them count a people as one, even though they have different expressions in different countries with slightly different dialects or cultures, and those count as one, others are counted as three, and so that’s why you get different numbers.
The numbers are always moving around. Of those 16,804 people groups in the world 7,289 are classified as unreached. The technical definition when they talk like that is that fewer than two percent are evangelical. They estimate that two percent is about what it takes for them to then get on with the business of evangelism inside the culture, so that you need foreign missionaries anymore for the church to catch on and spread. That’s the flash point of reached. Whether that’s completely accurate, it’s good to make an effort at what you’re definitions are.
Unengaged People Groups
Of those 7,289 unreached peoples, 3,167 are classified at the IMB center, International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Church which carries on the most cutting edge research, 3,167 are unengaged. Now, that’s the number that should most burden us. Unengaged means nobody’s even targeting with them with a plan yet.
3,167 peoples, we’ll get to whether there’s a biblical concept or not in a minute. Peoples, no missionaries on the ground, no Christians on the ground. No plan in any agency to get Christians on the ground so that they could even hear the gospel. If that doesn’t bother you, then you’re defective. You’re defective Christian. Defective in your understanding of the glory of God and why he made the universe. If your church isn’t burdened for unreached peoples, it’s defective. One of my callings, I believe, is to awaken churches to that. Of the unengaged peoples over one hundred thousand, it’s only 401. Not to give the impression that those have fewer than one hundred thousand don’t matter, but progress that has been made.
Reformed Theology Fuels Missions
In fact, I consider myself living in a stunning period in history where this rediscovery of peoples has been made so that the entire missionary enterprise is doing the research necessary. Mobilizing the young people necessary, pressing with all our might, get to the peoples. Get it done. I’m part of a little group that’s putting on a conference called Cross at the end of the year just because we’re so burdened that the reformed church is those who share this massive glorious vision of how God saves sinners sovereignly are on the cutting edge of making this happen with young people.
Nobody can ever say, “Those reformed people didn’t believe in missions.” All the great movers and shakers of the modern missionary movement were reformed. The reason for that is because it flows directly from the purposes of God to glorify himself in the world among all the ethnicities that exist. If he doesn’t get them, his glory is not going to shine as brightly as he needs it to shine. If reformed people don’t care about that, we’re not reformed. We’re not what we ought to be. I woke up to that in 1983 along with Tom. We both looked at each other, in the fall of 1983, and we said we love the glory of God.
That’s what we’re about here: God-centeredness. Magnifying Christ and God in everything. We don’t ever talk about missions. Absolutely contradictory. Tom wept half the night listening to a song by John Michael Talbot about the nation’s, when God was stirring me up in my sermon series on desiring God. Chapter 9 became “Missions: The Battle Cry of Christian Hedonism” and my life was turned around until ten years later, there’s a book about it all. I thank God for that decade of discovery.
The Glory of God and the Nations
I am eager to make this point that the glory of God hangs on the pluralization of the word people. That’s what we’re talking about. Here’s my thesis point: God created the world to receive glad-hearted worship from the entire panorama of peoples that he himself brought in to being for this purpose. The glory that he means to have from the peoples is directly related to their corporate diversity of language and culture, as well as location.
He created the world to be glorified in the glad-hearted worship of all the peoples and the “allness” of it is constitutive of the glory that redounds to his greatness. That’s my thesis. I think that among all the other focuses of your church, the focus of reaching with the gospel of the glory of Christ, the unreached peoples should be a big one, a big focus along with all the other good focuses.
A Burden for the World
One of the biggest challenges of a pastor’s life is we are burdened, burdened, burdened. You got this divorce and that death, and this kid acting out, and here comes John Piper saying, take on the world. I’ve been trying to say it in ways that are burden-lifting for a long time and boldness-producing, energy-giving so that it doesn’t deplete you from the others. It makes sense out of the others, gives global scope to the others. I spent years trying to figure out what’s the relationship between domestic ministries and frontier missions to the unreached peoples. What’s the relationship between those two? That’s what you have to figure out. I’ve written lots to try to help but we all need to have a cluster of people. I think every pastor should pray, God give me a cluster of people who consider it their passion to wave this flag incessantly.
They’re just waving his flag. There they are, those are the frontier mission crazies over there and they’re waving their flag, and they mean to wave it in this church every chance they get and the pastor likes them. That’s what I think they want to happen because you got to have a pro-life team doing the same thing. Got to have a homeless team doing the same thing, got to have a racial harmony, racial diversity piece on the local scene doing the same thing and a hundred other special interest groups where somebody’s got a burden given by God to kill this abortion thing.
You’re not going to put them down. You’re going to exhort them to press on because there’s no pro-life effort among the unreached peoples for Jesus’ sake. That’s how you talk. That’s how you talk to lift the burden of they’re not going. You exist here to get people ready to do that there. You people who are going there, you don’t feel superior because all you’re doing is exporting what’s important to do here. You wanted to do it there, make everything possible there. We love here. You got to do this pastor. You can do this. It’s the thrilling calling to awaken people to that vision.
Take Joy in the Greatness of God
Here’s the thesis again: God created the world that he might be glorified, that he is worshiped with glad-hearted worship. There isn’t any other kind. Come back to that.
Glad-hearted worship by a redeemed people from the all the peoples of the world. That’s the more careful statement. I’m going to say it again. God created the world to be glorified in glad-hearted worship by a redeemed people among all the unreached peoples of the world. What I’ve learned over the years is that in leading people into this joy, it is better to talk about the greatness of God than the details of missions. I’ve talked to so many pastors. How do we get our people fired up for foreign missions? I said, Well stop talking about it. You’re just making it sound like another thing to do. Get into God. Get in there because God did this. God need to do this.
Get these people so up there blown away by the global purposes of a glorious all-able God that well, of course, we’re going to go to the nations. That’s the way to fire up the people rather than constant details about this and that missiological phenomenon that’s out there. At least that’s been my experience and it’s happened. I’ve seen it happened in conferences and I’ve seen it happened at our church. I don’t think people at Bethlehem view missions as an onerous thing but as the outgrowth of the most thrilling vision of God there is. You want boldness awakened, not burdens created.
Why God Created the World
Here’s the thesis again. You’re going to get it. God created the world to magnify his glory in the glad-hearted worship of a redeemed blood-bought people from all the peoples of the world. I’m going to take that a piece at a time now.
Images Reflect the Creator
Genesis 1:27, “God created man in his own image and the image of God, he created him, male and female.” He created them so there his image and the reason you make him a Jesus of yourself is to draw attention to yourself. If you put an image of yourself up in the town square, you mean for people to think about you. He puts seven billion of them on the planet. This is clearly very God-centered. God is into God in total. He means for himself to be manifest everywhere. That’s what images do. They image God. If they rebel and try not to, well, they’re going to pay. The reason they were made is to demonstrate how God is, how glorious God is. Then you read, “Bring my sons from afar, my daughters in the ends of the earth, everyone whom I created for my glory.”
Then, you read Isaiah 48:9–11 about the patience of God with Israel. “For my namesake, I defer my anger. For my namesake and for the sake of my praise, I restrain it.” Then you have Jesus come into the world. I’m skipping about a hundred texts at that point. Most of them are on pages 35–40 in the book. Here comes Jesus to do it. You’re going to do the decisive work of purchasing the peoples. Now, why did he come? On the night before he gave his all, this is what he said in John 12. “Now, is my soul troubled, what shall I say. Father save me from this hour but for this purpose, I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven, I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.”
The Center of History
Then, a few hours later maybe, minutes, I don’t how long it took to get from chapter 12 to chapter 17, he prayed to his father. “Father, the hour has come, glorify your son. That the son may glorify you. That’s why I’ve come.” This is decisive. This is the center of history. This is why he made the universe. Then we get our sins forgiven because of what he did and we say things like I or God says, “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake.” I will not remember you seeing this. For your own namesake oh, Lord, pardon my guilt and then, you get Paul saying, “Do everything. Do everything to the glory of God.” That’s why the Son came to die, that’s why your sins are forgiven to make God look glorious and magnificent.
Now get on eating and drinking for his namesake, for his glory. Make him look great. Don’t make food look great. Make him look great in the way you treat food. Then, he comes again, second coming, why? They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord, from the glory of his might when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at. Why is he coming back? He’s coming back to be glorified. He’s coming back to be marveled at. That’s why he’s coming. That’s why he came the first time. That’s why he’s coming the second time. That’s why created the universe. That’s why he forgave your sins. That’s why he gave you pizza and diet coke. This is why he does everything he does is so that you can make him look great. God is into making statues of himself and replicas of himself, and pointers to himself everywhere. That’s why the universe exists and that’s why redemption happens in Christ so that God will get glory from a redeemed people, a blood-bought people.
Then, the eternal state looks like this. John 17, “Father I desire that they also whom you’ve given me, maybe with me where I am to see my glory. That I have given you, that you have given me because you love me before the foundation of the world.” That’s the highest prayer, I think Jesus could pray for me. Father, let John Piper see me forever way better than he does now, with ever growing pleasure. Or head back at 2:14, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover sea.” Therefore, to that end, is a world full of worshipers. To that end, Jesus came representing the father’s search for worshipers. John 4:23, “The hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the father in spirit and in truth for the father is seeking, seeking such people to worship him.”
The Worship Crusade
God is on a worship recruitment crusade, seeking worshipers among all the peoples of the world. Among women who’ve been married five times and others. I’m looking for people. I want worshipers. That’s why I made the world. That’s why Jesus came. That’s why the holy spirit fell. That’s why I gave the mission to the church. I am after worshipers in the world. Now, my definition of worship, when I say that God is looking for worship to happen or that he created the world in or that he might be glorified in the glad-hearted worship of a blood-bought people, I don’t mean worship services. I gave my whole life to worship services and believe in with all my heart, unique things and glorious things happen in the gathered people of God in the worship of God.
I do not mean services. That’s way too limited to what God means about worship and what I mean by worship. What I mean by worship is that God is being treasured by our hearts gladly above all things. That’s worship. The words and the feelings, and the actions that display that worth, that treasure that’s part of it too but the essence of worship is right here. These other things, saying things, liturgy, doing things, going to the prison, those aren’t worship unless this is happening. In vain, do you worship me. Lips, lips, lips, no, this is a heart of worship and what is it? It is a treasuring of God above all things. An embrace of God as worthy such that it satisfies your soul like a treasure hidden in a field for which you sell everything you have.
That’s worship. God created the universe to be glorified in the glad-hearted treasuring of God among all the peoples of the world. Then, out from that treasuring will come some services and service of every kind imaginable which will also point to his infinite worth. If they come from that kind of heart and not otherwise. The key, it’s what I talked about last night, the key to God not being an egomaniac in saying, I’m going to have worshipers. I need worshipers, worshipers, worshipers, worshipers. The key to his not being an egomaniac is that worship is satisfying our souls with God.
Glad-Hearted Worship Is the Goal
Therefore, when he seeks to be worshiped, he seeks your satisfaction to its uttermost. Therefore, glad-hearted worship is the goal for the glory of God. God gets the glory, we get the joy or as I love to say, God is magnified in the soul that is satisfied in God, which means missions is a summoning of the nations to be glad in God. That’s a quote from the bible. I didn’t make that up out of my Christian hedonist theology. Psalm 67:3, “Let the peoples praise you, oh God. Let all the peoples praise you. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.” That’s the title of the book. The heart of my theology. Go tell them. Recruit joy. Recruit happiness from the nations. Tell them. Show them the gospel. Show them this infinitely admirable God and tell them, there’s no higher joy than admiration of what is supremely admirable especially when he loved you enough to send his son to have you for himself. Tell them among all the peoples of the world.
Recruit joy. That’s what we’re after. We have the best news in all the world. Why wouldn’t we want to tell every people group to be a part of this joy? “Everyone who thirst, come to the waters.” Imagine you go to an unreached people. You learn the language. You cross the culture. “Everyone who thirsts, come to the water. You who have no money, come buy and eat. Come buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why would you spend your money on that which is not bread and labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me and eat what is good, and God will make with an you everlasting covenant of David.”
I’d love to unpack for the next half hour. What does it mean to be in the Davidic Covenant? This is our mission. To recruit glad-hearted worshipers from all of the peoples. Missions is not the most important thing in the world. It’s not the ultimate goal of the world. Worship is the ultimate goal of the world. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. If you are worshiping, they should have that opportunity. To be glad in that news, revel in those thoughts.
God created the world that he might be received glad-hearted worship from a blood-bought people. Then, the last part is among all the peoples of the world. Two pieces that we haven’t said much about, blood-bought and peoples. When I say God created the world to be glorified, I don’t mean generically glorified. I mean glorified ultimately for his grace shown in Jesus. I say that because of Paul’s logic in Ephesians 1:5–6 about you were predestined to be adopted through Christ unto the praise of the glory of his grace.
The Capstone of Grace
Grace evidently is the capstone of glory because glory is God’s fullness of all perfections and when it spills over for our enjoyment, we call it grace. Nobody deserves that spillover. The spillover is a manifestation of a fullness. As it washes over us with in your presence is fullness of joy and in your right hand are pleasure forever more, we praise the glory of the grace which is the spillover of the fullness of glory. I mean very specifically, God created the universe for the praise of the grace bought by the blood of Jesus for sinners. Jesus is a center of the reason for existence, the center of the universe and here’s one of the reasons you know that: Revelation 13:8, “All who dwell on earth will worship the beast. Everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of the life of the lamb who was slain.”
The Book of the Lamb
There’s a book before the world existed. There’s a book and it has a name. It’s called the Book of the Life of the lamb who was slain before there was a fall which means it’s all planned, which means the slaughter, that’s what the word slain means, the slaughter of the son of God was the plan. They titled a book after it before the world was made. My blood-bought condition was the plan. Or 2 Timothy 1:9, “He saved us. God saved us and called us to a holy calling not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace which he gave us in Christ before the ages began.”
I, in God’s sight received undeserved blood-bought grace before the ages began. What’s it all about? It’s all about Christ magnifying grace, redeeming a people for himself so that God would have a redeemed praising people from glad-hearted worshipers. That’s what the universe is for. I’ll state it again: God created the world that he might be glorified in the glad-hearted worship of a redeemed blood-bought people from all the peoples of the world. He died and redeemed the people, not simply that we would in missions declare his glory. Psalm 96:3, “Declare his glory among the nations.” That’s just a great title for a missions conference. “Declare his glory among the peoples of the world,” but it also says, let the nations be glad and sing for joy so that when Christ bought us, he removed every obstacle to our enjoyment of a holy God without being incinerated.
The Ransomed from Every People Group
That’s what we commend to the nations now. Last piece, from all the nations for all the peoples of the world. Main point, God created the universe to be glorified, magnified from a glad-hearted worshiping blood-bought people gathered now, last point, from all the peoples of the world. Revelation 5:9, “They sang the new song saying, worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals for you were slaughtered. By your blood, you ransomed a people for God from every tribe and language, and people, and nation. You have made them a kingdom and praise to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Christ died not simply to ransom sinners but to ransom a particular group of sinners from every people group on the planet. If you don’t have an s on the end of the object of redemption, you miss it. I didn’t have an s for 34 years. I just thought he died to save a lot of individuals. The death of Christ did not relate to the peoples in my mind. Missions was go get some more individuals saved. This is why, by the way, the businessman argument who’s thinking in terms of dollars and pay off for his book says, “Look, it cost all our money to take somebody over to Japan, not having a lot of fruit there. Got a lot of unbelievers down where I work, just forget that and do this.” That just is a totally compelling argument without peoples.
If God died to have Japanese in the kingdom and all the other sixteen thousand people groups, that argument doesn’t work anymore. There’s a lot of people who think that way. If he died to have a people, then we say to every young person or finisher like me who ventures into the unreached peoples of the world, we say the encouraging words of Acts 18:10. Jesus talking to Paul, “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking. Do not be silent for I am with you. No one will attack you to harm you for I have many people in this city.” I died for them. Go find them. All you do is wave my flag, my sheep know my voice. Speak it. Gather the sons of God from all the peoples of the world. I have bought them, they will come. Go. You cannot fail.
All Peoples from the Beginning
God was planning from the beginning to have the nations. Abraham, I will make you a great nation and I will bless you, and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you, I will curse and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. That’s pretty small category. All of them. The Old Testament is strewn with exhortations. Clap your hands all peoples. Bless our God all peoples. Ascribe to the Lord O, families of the peoples. Oh give thanks to the Lord. Call on his name. Make known his deeds among the peoples. Praise the Lord all nations. Extol him all peoples so exhortations to the peoples abound so do promises for the people.
The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you. Peoples gathered together and kingdoms to worship the Lord. On this mountain, the Lord of host will make for all peoples a feast of rich foods. These I will bring from all the holy to all holy mountain and make for them a joyful house of prayer for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples, so promises abound for the peoples in the Old Testament. Not just for individuals, for peoples or prayers for the peoples. Let the peoples praise you, O God. Let all the peoples praise you. May all the kings fall down in all nations serve him. May his name endure forever. All nations will call him blessed and not only prayers and exhortations, and promises but praises.
The psalmist praises God among the peoples for this I will praise you, O God among the nations. I will give thanks to you O Lord among the peoples. I will sing praises to you. I will give thanks to you O Lord among the peoples. I will sing praises to you among the nations which is why Jesus said, go make disciples of all the nations. And for 30 plus years, I thought that meant Germany, Switzerland, America, Argentina, China. It doesn’t at all mean that. Panta ta ethne. Ethne means ethnic entities. 16,000 of them. Barbarian, Scythian, Roman, Greek, Jewish, they didn’t know many of them in those days but they named the ones they knew.
Why is this essential? Our mission as a church, as churches must carry this and wave this flag to finish this. Get to the peoples. Why? I have four quick reasons for why they are essential to the glory of God.
1.There is a beauty and a power of praise that comes from unity and diversity that is greater than coming from unity alone.
Choirs know this right. There is something powerful about unison but whoa, when it breaks into parts! There is greatness in having not just a Jewish people but all the choir of sixteen thousand cultures. That’s number one.
2. The fame, and the greatness, and the worth of an object of beauty increases in proportion to the diversity of those who recognize its beauty.
For example, if you have a piece of art and a little cluster of artists who all think the same, love it. It’s great and nobody else does. It’s probably not great but the wider that sense of greatness spreads, and the more diversity of people recognize its greatness, you’re on to something really deep. You’re on to something really deep and Jesus has the sorts of depths of beauty and greatness that he will be recognized for what he is among all the peoples. Nobody else is going to be in that category.
3. The strength and the wisdom and love of a leader is magnified in proportion to the diversity of people he can inspire to follow him.
If you’re a leader and you got five thousand people following you and they all look just like you. No great leadership there, but if that following becomes increasingly diverse from all kinds of languages, all kinds of cultures, recognizing in you somebody worthy of following. You’re pretty great. Jesus will be the leader who is recognized as worth following by all the peoples of the world. Finally, number four. This one gets right to the heart of everything. By focusing on having all the peoples for himself, not just two thirds of them. Not just seven thousand but all of them. He is saying he is undercutting all ethnocentric pride.
He is putting free grace on magnificent display because of the diversity. Listen to Paul, one of the most profound statements on the relationship between justification by faith alone, apart from works and ethnicities of the world. Romans 3:28–30, “We hold that no one is justified. We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law or is God the God of the Jews only.” What’s the logic there? “Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the nations of the peoples? Yes, of the peoples also since God is one who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” What in the world does that mean? Including every ethnicity, circumcise, uncircumcised, barbarians, Scythian, slave, free is one of God’s ways of killing ethnocentric self-reliance which we think might possibly commend us higher to God than others.
He just cuts it to pieces with the doctrine of justification by faith alone. By saying, I will have all the peoples for myself because they’re all common on the same basis. There will be no ethnocentric pride here. Nobody will be able to boast in their race or their language, or their culture. None of it. It’s all gone. What has become of boasting? It is excluded because my son is the righteousness that will be magnified in this worshiping people.
4. Making people plural and making unreached peoples a priority in the church clarifies the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
It exalts Christ as the only ground of global acceptance. Humbles us and strips us of all ethnocentric pride and makes the glory of grace more clear and more precious than anything else could. I think getting the s on the end of this word is massive.