Copyright © 2011 Westminster Theological Seminary
The following is an unedited transcription of the audio.
John Piper: One of the most moving books that I've read on missions is the St. Andrews Seven by Stuart Piggin and John Roxborogh, the Banner of Truth Trust, 1985. The reason I mention it here is a couple of reasons. One, it's because this is a seminary. It's a story about how Thomas Chalmers, in the 1820s, a professor at St. Andrews in Scotland, inspired six of his best students to devote themselves to a radical missionary commitment that totaled up to about 141 years of missionary involvement among those guys.
One of them was named [Urquhart], John Urquhart, who died at the age of 18 and had already written two-volume memoirs. And in it, he had a quote that goes like this. "We know of no office in the church of God where the very highest mental attainments can be more beneficially employed than in the office, all despised as it is, of the Christian missionary.
Now, I mention this book and that quote because of the bearing on my life and on this school, I think. Namely that missions has, historically, from the first era to the second era to the third era, in large measure, grown out of a great vision of God and largely out of people who were very doctrinally oriented and very thoughtful and intellectual kinds of people. As Chalmers said, it was a "Vision of the greatness of God in his grand design for the world" that motivated people in the second generation, of which he was a part. And the first generation of modern missions of which William Carey is an example, who went to India and spent 40 years there without a furlough.
And Carey was very intelligent. He had a great Calvinistic theology as a Baptist. And he devoted himself to translating the Bible into, goodness, who knows how many languages? 29 or more.
In 1797, four years after he came to India, he was confronted by a [Brahman]. Now, I'll tell you a little story. Just to give you a little snapshot of the kind of theology that was driving him. The kind of vision of god that was moving him and people like him.
He had just preached, four years after he got there, on Acts 14:16. And had made the case that God formally allowed all men everywhere to go their own way. And now he commands all men everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30. And a Brahman stood up at the end and said "I think God ought to repent for not sending the Gospel sooner to us, if what you say is true."
And William Carey's response to that objection, which is one that you will hear almost immediately if you go to an unreached culture and present the Gospel as the only way of salvation like this, here's the way he responded. I added, "Suppose a kingdom had been long overrun by the enemies of its true king, and he, though possessed of sufficient power to conquer them, should yet suffer them to prevail and establish themselves as much as they could desire, would not the valor and wisdom of that king be far more conspicuous in exterminating them, than it would have been if he had opposed them at first, and prevented their entering the country? Thus by diffusion of gospel light, the wisdom, power, and grace of God will be more conspicuous in overcoming such deep-rooted idolatries, and in destroying all that darkness and vice which have so universally prevailed in this country, than they would have been if all had not been suffered to walk in their own ways for so many ages past."
Now, I quote that just to say "That's an incredible answer theologically." I've never heard an answer like that to the question "Where were you when my grandfather died"? When I went to Cameroon and taught just a few classes in the seminary in Doume, Cameroon, the first hand that went up was "What do you think of our grandparents? Where are they?"
It's the question you will get in every first penetration of a culture. And that answer that Carey gave simply illustrates that he was driven by a profound theology of the sovereignty of God over the history of India. And it was not a typical kind of weak answer.
So, my point is the first generation of missions, the second generation of modern missions, was driven by a profoundly, doctrinally-oriented missionary. Jonathan Edwards was the source of much of this. His doctrinal commitments informed, of course, David Brainerd who fell in love with his daughter Jerusha and would have married her, had he not died at age 29 of tuberculosis.
And Jonathan Edwards thought so much of this young fellow riding around, coughing up blood for six years as he tried to win the Indians to Christ, that he wrote his biography out of his diary in his journals. And that has book has made a greater impact on missions, probably, than any other book besides the Bible. And William Carey talked about being on the boat on his trip the first time over to India. Well, actually, he never came back. He got halfway there and turned around and came back to get his wife.
But after he got there, he never came back. And on that boat, he talked about reading Edwards and reading Brainerd. For example, from his journal June 24, 1793. "Saw a number of flying fish. Have begun to write Bengali. Read Edwards' sermons and Cooper's poems. Mind, tranquil and serene."
So, the point is, the theology that was informing this first era of modern missionary movement with William Carey and the second era with Chalmers and his six and the others was a theology of the supremacy and centrality of God. And a great, majestic view of his right to lay claim on the nations for himself. And the others who followed, David Livingstone, Adoniram Judson, Alexander Duff, John Paton, they all shared that theology. There's a great historical tradition of reformed thinking across denominational lines that informed the early missionary movement in the world.
Now, what I want to do is try to torch the glacier again tonight with another text. And show you the supremacy of God from John's theology of missions, from the Gospel of John. And specifically, from Chapter 16. And I want you to turn there with me, if you have a Bible. I mean, John 10, not John 16. And I want us to read some verses. One verse, in particular, and then see it in its wider context.
And the verse is I think is the most important missionary verse in the Gospel of John. And you'll see why, historically, and I hope you'll see it exegetically before we're done. Verse 16 of John 10. Jesus says "I have other sheep, that are not of this fold. I must bring them also and they will heed my voice, so there shall be one flock and one shepherd." I think that's the greatest missionary text in the Gospel of John. I think David Livingstone thought it was, too as we'll see in a few minutes.
I want us to notice six things about the context that will help us bring it into sharp focus and see its missionary import. Number one, Jesus calls himself a shepherd in the context here. Verse 11, "I am the good shepherd." Verse 14, "I am the good shepherd." So, the flock of God is the people of Israel. And Jesus sees himself as the shepherd over that flock. And outside that flock of the people of Israel, he says there are other sheep, namely gentiles, out there. So, he's a shepherd, he has a flock. The messiah has a flock in Israel. And beyond that, there are other sheep.
Number two, "Some sheep are Christs and some are not." Verse 3 and 4, starting in the middle of Verse 3. "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he has brought out all his own, he goes before them." And look at Verse 14. "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me."
In other words, not all the people the flock of Israel are of Israel. By the way, Paul put it in Romans 9:6. Not all of Israel is Israel. Jesus says "I know my own sheep. They hear my voice, they follow me. But not all the sheep in Israel are sheep." So, here, you have a different kind of language than "sheep and goats." In the synoptics, you have sheep and sheep. "My own sheep and those who are not my sheep."
Number three, third observation from the context. The reason that some sheep belong to Jesus and some don't, some are his own, is because the father gave them to the son, 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." This is Jesus' way of talking about the doctrine of election in the Gospel of John. John is probably the most Calvinistic book in the New Testament, ironically, because it is often quoted in some of its parts as being otherwise.
But Jesus says that God has chosen some sheep for his own and he now gives them to his son. Let me quote Chapter 17, Verse 6 so that you can hear this. "I have manifested your name," Jesus says, "to the men, father, whom you gave me out of the world." Thine they were, before he gave them to Jesus, they were God's. "Thine they were," that's election. "And thou gavest them to me." That's the irresistible pool of people to the son. Nobody comes unless they're drawn.
"Thou gavest them to me and they have kept my word." Or Chapter 6, Verse 37. "All that the father gives to me will come to me. And him who comes to me, I will not cast out." So, Jesus can speak with confidence that some of the sheep in Israel are his definitely, because they once belonged to the father. And the father now gives the sheep to the son. "Thine they were and thou gavest them to me." That's why they are his.
Fourth observation. "Since Jesus knows those who are his, he can call them by the name because they follow him." Verses 3 and 4, again. "The sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out," from among the others. "When he has brought out all of his own, he goes before the sheep and they follow him for they know his voice," or Verse 27. "My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me."
Now, notice something here. Being one of Christ's sheep enables you to follow his call. Not the other way around. It's not the other way around, responding to his call makes you a sheep. Not in John's theology. Because you are his sheep, you hear when he calls. There's something in you that triggers when the voice of the master calls. He says "Oh, yes. Because you are one of his sheep." Now, that's very startling to most people in the Gospel of John. And it's very offensive to a modern, contemporary, self-centered, self-sufficient, unbelieving heart.
Because what it reveals is the presumption of thinking that you ultimately have the final say in who you are. We would like very much to believe we have the final say in whose we are. And Jesus will not allow the human heart to have that presumptuous claim that you have the final say in whose you are.
Verse 26, this is just an amazing verse in Chapter 10. "You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep." Turn around, "You do not belong to my sheep because you do not believe." It's "You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep." And the point of saying it is to blast the pride of the Jewish leaders who think that they can have the last say to say "Well, at least we have the power and right to frustrate your plans by not believing in you."
And Jesus says "You're not making that choice. You don't believe in me because you're not one of my sheep. God has his sheep and he gives me whom he will." You may as well abandon that presumption right now. That you have the uppity heart to think that you can frustrate the plans of the father.
Fifth observation. Verse 11. He not only calls his sheep, he dies for his sheep. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." Or Verses 14 and 15. "I am the good shepherd. I know my own. My own know me as the father knows me and I know the father. I lay down my life for the sheep."
Now, I love it when I see profound thought structure unity between very disparate Biblical authors like Paul and John. Let me paraphrase this in a way that should ring a Pauline text to your mind. It goes something like this. "Those whom the father has made his own. He gave to the son. And those whom he gave to the son, the son called. And those whom the son called, he justified by laying down his life for them." Sound familiar? It ought to.
There's a profound, deep theological unity between Johannine theology and Pauline theology, Romans 8 and John 10. And if you just think over these profound things. I doubt that they ever read each other. But they were operating on the same inspiration and had the same powerful insights into the realities of God's sovereign work in salvation.
The sixth observation in the context and last one before we get down to business in Verse 16 is this. "Jesus not only calls them and they hear his voice and follow him. He not only lays down his life for them, but now he gives them eternal life." Verses 27 to 30. "My sheep hear my voice. I know them. They follow me. I give them eternal life. And they shall never perish and 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 just sum up and carry you through the glorious, God- wrought salvation in this chapter. "The father gives his sheep to the son. The son dies for the sheep. The son calls them by name. They hear and irresistibly follow. They know his voice and the sheep follow him. He gives them eternal life. He lays down his life for them and he keeps them safe forever and ever." It is a great salvation.
And at this very point, a tremendous danger arises. A practical, theological danger arises for people who have seen such a glorious, sovereign, God-wrought salvation for the sheep of God. And the danger is the plausible distortion that Satan has caused to rise up again and again in history, that turns a pride-shattering doctrine of salvation by sovereign grace into an in-house, elitist doctrine for the private few. With an indifference to the sheep who are not of this fold.
For example, let me just take you through the steps where that distortion has emerged in history. The Jewish disciples of Jesus start to feel like "We're it. We're the true seed of Abraham." And Jesus strikes in John 10:16. "I have other sheep that are not of this fold. Do not pride yourself on being part of this fold with an indifference to the sheep outside."
Early American Puritanism starts settling in to its chosen status as the new Israel in New England and Jesus strikes through John Elliott and tells him "I have other sheep that are not of this Puritan fold among the Algonquin Indians." 100 years later, he strikes when the congregationalists are starting to feel very self-content with the kingdom that they are building there. And he says to David Brainerd "I have other sheep that are not of this fold. This congregation will fold among the Susquehanna," down in New Jersey.
Just when the particular Baptists in England, about 70, 80 years later, we're starting to be frozen out by a kind of hyper- Calvinism that says "We are it. And the only people you can talk to about salvation are those in whom you see the warrants of election." And he comes and he sees William Carey and he strikes again. And William Carey says "I have other sheep that are not of this particular fold, but are an Indian."
Mission agencies 100 years later, Hudson Taylor and David Livingstone. "We start to feel self-content that we have reached all the continents of the world and all of them are lined on the coast lands with these mission agencies." And Hudson Taylor hears the voice of God "I have other sheep inland that are not of this coastal fold." And he founds the China inland mission. And David Livingstone "I have other sheep that are not on the rim of Africa, but inland." And he goes inland.
More recently, when we start to pride ourselves and write our little articles and say "The Christian movement is in every country in the world." God raises up a Cameron Townsend and says "Well, yes. But there are about 5,000 languages we have not penetrated and they don't have the Bible in them." And then he raises up a Ralph Winter in 1974 at Lausanne in Switzerland and says "By the way, they're about half the population of the world that are outside the reach of the presently-existing mission." Even if we are in all the countries because we're talking peoples, not geographic political entities here.
So, all the way along this sentence, "I have other sheep. Do not rest. Do not be content with where you are and what you've accomplished in your little pocket of coastal or inland or countries." There's always sheep to be reached that are not of this fold.
Now, the great foundation in this chapter for doing that, for penetrating beyond is this Verse 16. We've hit it again and again. Let me draw things to a close here by noticing four tremendous, hope-giving things. I think the great need today in the movement of Christianity, is hope. That's why I love Ralph Winter. He's on an absolute crusade against pessimism.
Every time somebody stands up and gives some awful statistic about how fast the world is growing or where there's setbacks, Winter just spews out 18 reasons for hope. I love to be around people like that. God wants you to feel hope. Because He can't lose. I mean, pessimism is unbelief, it's practical atheism. This Gospel will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come. He's not a liar. You can't lose.
People that sew pessimism with statistics and manipulations of what's happening in one country are people that just ought not to be listened to. I got so tired in the mid-'80s, when I was starting to get into this. I got so tired of reading statistics about "By the year 2000, 80-some percent of the countries will be closed countries," or "creative-access countries" or whatever you want to call them.
I went to the ACMC Conference in Denver and broke a microphone, I think. I hollered so loud "How do they know? What kind of fatalism is this sociological mumbo-jumbo that by 2000, we know that 'X' number of countries will be cut off from the Gospel." And do you know God vindicated that shout one year later? And blasted Europe into smithereens in a way that no sociologist, no politician, no [missiologist] ever dreamed what would happen in the USSR.
I stood up in my church again and again and said "Albania, you're coming open." And just yesterday was Albania's day in Operation World and it's open. One guy from our church is there now. And I remember those awful statistics. This is just seven years ago, eight years ago. "With great sophistication of missiological prowess, we know that the only way we will get into countries by the year 2000 is blah, blah, blah," as there was no God in heaven who could do anything he wants to. China or North Korea or Cuba, it's coming open. It's coming open.
He's going to do His work. Or He'll get enough martyrs to do it without it coming open. It's going to get done. And this text drove the missionary movement for 100 years. And I want it to drive you after tonight. So, let me just make four observations about Verse 16.
Number one. Christ has people besides those already converted. "I have other sheep that are not of this fold." Now, in that context, I believe that meant beyond Israel. I think he's talking about way beyond what you think the messiah is going to do. I've got people out there.
I've got them out there. I've chosen them. This is the doctrine of election. Now, there will always be people, you'll meet them in every church you start or go to who say "If predestination is true, then missions make no sense. Why go do missions if God has already chosen these people"? There will always be people who say that.
The fact is, that predestination is not a problem for missions, it is the foundation of missions. John Alexander in 1967, when I went to Urbana with my fiancee and had a great time and got all lit up to start with. Under [John Stott] and George Verwer and some others. I remember George Verwer. The bookworm, he's always got books under every arm and he holds them up every conference he goes to.
And he held up the two-volume work of Martin Lloyd Jones on the Sermon on the Mount. "Greatest book this century," and I read it that summer and my juices were flowing. But John Alexander, the president of InterVarsity at the time stood up and he said "20 years ago, I said 'If I believed in predestination, I'd never be a missionary to Pakistan.' Today I say, 'If I didn't believe in predestination, there's no way I could be a missionary to Pakistan.'"
Now, why did he say that? In Acts 18, when Paul was discouraged about Corinth and its utter, pagan hardness. I mean, do you think the Muslim world is hard today? So was Corinth. Here's what God did in a vision in the night, Acts 18, 9 and 10. 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. No man shall attack you to harm you, for I have many people in this city. I have other sheep that are not of the Ephesian fold."
That was his hope. They're out there. And when I preach the Gospel, the heart of Lydia in Philippi is going to be opened by the Holy Spirit and she's going to be brought in. When I preach the Gospel, some of the seed will land on the ground prepared by God and the sheep will come. It's the foundation, not the obstacle, to missions. This great belief that God has sheep out there.
Observation number two. The sheep are scattered outside the present fold. I think when he says "I have other sheep out there," the implication is, they're not just pocketed in Samaria or in Judea. They're all over the place to the ends of the earth. Now, I draw that from the Johannine context from Chapter 11, Verses 51 and 52. This is a real important text for the atonement and for missions, all kinds of doctrinal things in John going on here.
But in 11:51, he says "He did not say this." He's talking about the prophecy that Caiaphas gave. He did not say this 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 scattered abroad. Now, that's just another language for "I have sheep that are not of this fold."
Christ died to gather into his one family, the children of God that are out there that are not yet gathered in. Paraphrased in Revelation 5:9. "Thou hast ransomed men for God from every people, tongue, tribe and nation." You see the connection? Same author, you'd expect it to connect.
Revelation 5:9 and John 11:52. "He dies to gather into one the children of God scattered abroad." Revelation 5:9, "Thou hast died and by thy blood, hast ransomed men for God from every people and tongue and tribe and nation." It's the same thing going on in those two verses.
It's the world evangelization is the in-gathering of the sheep or the in-gathering of the children of God. And they are scattered everywhere. Among every people and tongue and tribe and nation. Which means, I believe, that's there's no people group you can go to in which there are no candidates to hear the Gospel.
You have no warrant ever for being hopeless and saying "I just don't think there are any elect out there to hear my word and to respond." They are out there and they have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, according to Revelation 5:9. And they are to be gathered in from their scattered position among all those nations, according to John 11:52.
I think people group-thinking is radically biblical. And that little green book that's out there, called Let the Nations be Glad. I've got a chapter in which I wrestle with this whole issue of whether all this missiological talk about people groups is biblical. Or is it just strategically useful. And I am persuaded that is profoundly biblical. And texts like Revelation 5:9 are right at the core of why that is.
Observation number three. The Lord has committed himself to bringing these lost sheep home from all of those people groups. It says in Verse 16 "I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also." Now, that's a sovereign statement. That's a promise. That's a divine commitment. Jesus Christ must bring them. He will bring them.
Now, the hyper-Calvinists of Carey's day said "And therefore, you don't need to go." Non-sequitur. Theologically stupid. Un- biblical. It is absolutely stupid to say, since God ordains to save his elected among all the peoples. Therefore, you don't need to pray for it and therefore, you don't need to evangelize them.
He's going to do it with his people and you can either be on board in the process or you can be left behind in the process. But you can't call into question, his process of using humans to accomplish his sovereign purposes to gather the elect. I mean, prayer, I might talk about prayer tomorrow morning. I'm going to go home tonight and pray. I've got about three message possibilities that I've made up my mind about tomorrow morning. Where are these people and what should I talk about?
But prayer is so unbelievably crucial. Does it boggle your mind that the Lord of the universe, who knows infinitely more than you do about how to run the world and do his mission, should say to you, in Matthew 9:38 "Pray, the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
You're telling me to tell you to send our laborers into your harvest? You know what you need? You know what it takes to get it done. Why are you telling me to tell you what to do? I mean, does that boggle your mind? If any text should shatter the thought of any kind of hyper-Calvinism that puts you out of commission in God's achievement of His purposes, that text ought to do it.
Pray to me or pray to the father, the Lord of the harvest, that is the owner of the farm who knows exactly how many laborers he needs and who they are. Pray and tell him to send them out. The mystery of prayer is just mind-boggling. That God should tell you "I'm not doing it without your prayers. Not going to do it." It will get done. And therefore, I'm going to see to it that you pray, but I won't do it without your prayers. And if you resist on that, I just might pass you by and let somebody else be the triumphant prayer.
Let's go to this little widow and have her get on her knees and get the victory in Guinea, from Minneapolis. And you want to theologically quibble with me about that, then you can just go play somewhere.
Chapter 17, Verse 20. Jesus prays like this. "Father, I do not pray for these disciples only. But for those who will believe on me through their word." There it is, now. The other sheep are going to be gathered and they're going to be gathered through the word and not without it. They're going to be gathered through prayer, they're going to be gathered through the word. And that's why he said in Chapter 20, Verse 21 "As the father has sent me, so send I you."
I will not finish the great commission without human preaching. And I will not finish the great commission without human praying. And I have committed myself as I live to finish the great commission and therefore, I will see to it that you preach. And I will see to it that you pray. And you can be on board or you can go and do your own thing and be left behind.
The wonder of the Gospel. When it is proclaimed truthfully and in the power of the spirit, is that it is Jesus today speaking. They know his voice. The people among the unreached groups, when they hear the Gospel, they know his voice and they follow him. My sheep hear my voice and I know them. And they follow me and we preach in Christ's stead saying "Be reconciled to God."
That's why Paul said in Romans 15:18 "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience through the gentiles." The same Christ that was saying to his disciples "I have spoken. You've heard my voice and you've recognized the shepherd and followed me." Now through your word, echoing my word in the power of the spirit, I will be heard through you. So, that what happens through you is the hearing of the voice of Jesus, the calling of the sheep. And you will say with Paul "I will not speak of anything except what Christ, the living Christ is still accomplishing through us in the world."
Final observation, number four. They will come. They will come. "I have other sheep that are not of this fold." We're still on number 69, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them, also. And they will heed my voice." No question about it. They will heed my voice.
And I think that's the kind of confidence you need when you pull up stakes and take your family to Cairo. Or to Kabul. And you work year after year in a hard and fruitless place. What's going to keep you going? The confidence that they will come. They will hear my voice. I will call them. And they will come.
Let me just close with a story. Some of you have heard of Peter Cameron Scott, the founder of Africa Inland Mission. I don't know if you know how he got started. But he grew up in Glasgow, 1867. And he headed for the African coast. Wanted so bad to be a missionary. He got malaria right off the bat. So sick, he had to turn around and come home. Now, that really discourages a missionary. It's not like today when you can be flown home in 24 hours, take a few pills and get it all fixed and go back in, you don't even have to come home.
You're on a boat, it takes two to three months to do what you need to do and your life seems to be going through your fingers. The second attempt after he got well was to go with his brother, John, to Africa. And they were so happy to minister together and not be lonely. Until John got the fever and he died. And Peter, all by himself, digs the grave, puts his brother in the grave, covers him over and stands there alone.
I mean, just imagine the wave of discouragement. But he resolves he's going to go on. But he gets sick again. I mean, how much can a man take? "God, I'm trying to obey you, I'm trying to do your will. I want to reach the African people." He gets so sick, he has to go home again. And you would think "Well, that's it. That's just too discouraging. That's too much."
And as he gets better, he goes to Westminster Abbey. And you know who's buried in a crypt at Westminster Abbey is David Livingstone. And he goes to this tomb and he sees written on the tomb "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold. Them also, I must bring." And it fires him. And he goes back and this time, the Lord preserves him in health and he establishes the Africa Inland Mission which, today, is a very strong and stable mission 130 years later.
My prayer for me is that the Lord will give me that kind of perseverance and you. We need a strong, theological underpinning to hold us through times like that. What do you do when you get sick and you have to go home? And you go back and your wife dies or your brother dies. And then you get sick and you have to go home. What do you do if you don't have a massive theology of sustaining grace and sovereign love underneath you?
So, I pray that this confidence of John 10:16 will carry you over all obstacles. And that you will realize that he has redeemed and he means to gather a people for himself of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And you cannot lose if you devote yourself to that cause. Whether at home, in mobilization or whether overseas in evangelization or not necessarily overseas, but cross-culturally into Philadelphia. Let's pray.
O Father, I pray that you will come. And that you will take John 10:16 and seal this awesome, sovereign promise of the living Christ to our hearts, now. And cause it to burn like it did in Peter Cameron Scott and David Livingston and William Carey and John Paton and Alexander Duff and Adoniram Judson and David Brainerd. Just burn so that they would let themselves be poured out. And like we heard earlier read 'Become a seed that is willing to die. That it might bear much fruit.' Lord, do that in our hearts, I pray now. In Jesus' name. Amen.