International missions is a huge theme in the life and ministry of John Piper. That word missions has appeared 250 times on this podcast alone. The church has global aspirations. Our ongoing prayer is the prayer of the psalmist: “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Psalm 67:4). “Amen! Let the nations join the chorus of joyful praise to our God, through Christ! And use us, Lord, in that process.” And so we pray regularly here at Desiring God that the Lord would bless our global outreach and translations efforts and our international travel.
But you may be like Pastor John and myself — we live in large cities in the United States. And here, it’s very easy to be buffered from the needs of the world. And yet, we too are called to feed global aspiration in our own lives and in our own churches. Missions was woven into the fabric of the church from its inception. It’s why our Savior told his very first followers in John 10:16: “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Here’s Pastor John, in a 2011 sermon, to explain why we need these words in America today.
I am praying that John 10:16 will fill you with a confidence that the saving, global, worldwide, all-peoples-including purpose of God — and your place in it — cannot fail, will totally succeed. That’s the last thing I want to try to make plain. You might say, and you’d be right, “We’ve already seen that. I mean, if he sovereignly saves as effectively as you say he saves his sheep, he can’t fail.” Right. So I could close the book.
But we’re not going to stop because there is so much in this verse I have not said yet that is so massively important for your life and for the mission. I want you to feel now the thrust of the words “not of this fold.” Are you with me? “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” And then the other thing I want you to focus on is “one flock” and “one shepherd.” Those are the two things we’re working with for the last few minutes of this sermon.
‘Not of This Fold’
“I have sheep. They’re not of the fold that’s already in existence.” In that case, a Jewish fold. I could say here, “Okay, here we are, fold or gathering. Here’s Bethlehem. He has other sheep besides us. And he must bring them, not necessarily to Bethlehem, but to himself.”
“Jesus has other sheep besides us. And he must bring them.”
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold” — that is, they’re not of ethnic, Jewish Israel. “I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock” — that is, from all the ethnic groups. You may think, “Well, that’s an overinterpretation.” It would be if I didn’t have a lot of John’s other statements in mind, which I’ll show you. “So there will be one flock” — from all the other ethnic groups around the world, with the Jewish sheep — in one fold, in “one shepherd” (John 10:16).
So what we spent the whole sermon doing so far is emphasizing the magnificent, sovereign salvation that God has worked to save his sheep. He chose us from before creation. He sent his Son into the world to lay down his life for them. He brought them to himself by his voice.
Christ’s Humble Sheep
Now, here’s the reason for emphasizing this second confidence. You would think (I hope you would think) that such a salvation — such a lopsided, God-dependent salvation that depends on nothing in me for being chosen, nothing in me for being called — would make me humble, wouldn’t you? You would think that the humblest people on the planet would be Christians. And it isn’t necessarily so, is it?
Because we’re sinners, here’s what’s happened. It has proved often in history that the church has become ingrown, indifferent to the world, and that our chosen-ness, our chosen standing, has been wickedly woven into the fabric of ethnocentrism and racism and nationalism. All you have to do is think about Nazi Germany and all the complicit Christendom in the hatred of the Jews, American race-based slavery and how Christian it all was, and the conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, just to pick three where Christians wove their chosen standing into the horrors of ethnocentrism and racism and nationalism.
And that’s what this verse is about. Jesus saw it in his day. Gentiles were hated. “To unclean, catfish-eaters and uncircumcised? We’re not going to even enter their house.” Jesus saw it coming, and it’s been there every century of this blood-soaked globe of ours. And he gave this razor-sharp warning to all of his flock. “I have other sheep. Don’t you dare become ingrown. Don’t you dare become ‘us few, us chosen few.’ I must bring them. It will cost me my life, it may cost you yours, and there will be one flock, with one shepherd, from every ethnic group on the planet.”
Every Tribe and Tongue
Now at that point, you have to say, “Aren’t you going beyond the text?” Yes, I am. I’m going all the way to chapter 11. Is that a huge jump? So go with me to John 11:51–52. John records a prophecy of the high priest, named Caiaphas, about the death of Jesus and what he would accomplish in his dying, and here’s the way he says it — different language than sheep, but exactly the same point: “[Caiaphas] prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only” — good, good, good; “I have other sheep; I have other sheep” — “but also to gather into one [flock, in different terminology] the children of God who are scattered abroad.”
He could have said, “the sheep”; he said, “God’s children are scattered.” And I’m just focusing on the word scattered here. Like, “Oh, well maybe they’re all in Minneapolis.” I don’t think so. “Maybe they’re all in America.” I don’t think so. “Europe?” No. “Africa?” No. “Asia?” No. “South America?” No. Every people group.
“The bloodline between you and your brothers and sisters in Jesus is a thicker bloodline than runs in your family.”
Now, aren’t you going beyond that text? Yes, I’m going beyond the text. I’m going all the way to Revelation 5:9, because John wrote Revelation too. Okay. So let’s finish it off, nail it down exegetically. In Revelation 5:9–10, the saints, the twenty-four elders, the four living creatures are just belting out this song over the Lamb who was slain to say why he was slain. Why was he slain? Here it is: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom” — one kingdom — “and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” And that’s enough for me. Now I know what he means when he says, “I have other sheep. I must bring them also.”
Death of Our Disdain
If you agree with me now, you’re seeing that he’s got a global purpose here for this people. “I have other sheep.” Must. It is a divine necessity, which means not only will you make it to heaven; this mission is going to succeed. He died. He ransomed people for God from every tribe. He died for them. The Father gave them to him. He’s going to speak over them. How? Missionaries, or whatever you want to call them, who cross a culture, learn a language, let the voice of Jesus be heard, and the sheep hear, and they come. Don’t you love to read those stories? You go into some utterly unknown people group. You take a few months, you try to make get it plain, and suddenly lights go on, and a church happens. Why? “I must bring them.” That’s why.
So we, Bethlehem, must not disdain potential brothers and sisters anywhere in any group. Oh, there is so much racism, so much ethnocentrism left over in America that thought we finished it all forty years ago. We didn’t, and you know we didn’t. It’s in your heart. It’s in my heart. It’s in black and white and red and yellow. It’s in every heart. And the word that needs to go out continually is this: “I have other sheep.” They’re in all of those groups. Don’t you dare look on any of those groups with disdain, as though you don’t have a brother there that’s closer to you than your mom (if your mom is not a believer). The bloodline between you and your brothers and sisters in Jesus is a thicker bloodline than runs in your family.