Doctrinal Depth and Gospel Advance

Desiring God Community Church

Charlotte, NC

The following is a lightly edited transcript

My wife of 45 years, daughter of 17 years, and I are living for a year just outside Knoxville. I drove over here this morning, which took about four and a half hours. We’re renting a house over there from a cousin of my wife, and on the second floor of the house at the east end, there’s an empty bedroom. It was empty when we got there. I staked claim to it for my study, since there are five bedrooms in this house. On the east wall, I put a table, which I’m using for my desk, and on the north and south walls, I put a bookcase. In the corner, by the east window, I put a little prayer bench that I built in 1975. I’ve had it with me ever since.

On this prayer bench, there lies one book. It isn’t the Bible because I carry that around with me, and I take it to the prayer branch when I go. The book that’s lying on the prayer bench and has been lying there for probably 20 years, is Operation World. If you’re not familiar with Operation World, edited in the seventh edition now by Jason Mandryk (it used to be by Patrick Johnstone), it is 1,000 pages and has the subtitle: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation. It gives vital information on all the countries of the world, concerning the people groups that are unreached in those countries, the political situation of those countries, and the religious situation of those countries. The countries correlate to the days of the year so that in a year you can pray for the whole world.

Two Great Facts

The reason I mentioned that is because I have been through it numerous times, and I’m deeply struck every time I do by two great facts, which are informing what I’m going to say here. One fact is that the work of missions — that is, reaching all of the unreached peoples of the world with the gospel of Christ and planting the church there, so that every people group has its own indigenous force of evangelism and church growth — is dramatically not finished. Seeing how many of you stood for the Perspectives class, I assume that a lot of you in this room know that there are, using the numbers from the International Mission Board (IMB), 11,290 people groups in toto. There are way more if you break them up according to where they land in countries.

But if you strip away all the borders of the world and ignore those, it comes to around 11,000 ethnolinguistic people groups — the kind of groups that you find in Revelation 5:9. He died to ransom people from every tribe, language, people, and nation. All those clusters out there, are about 11,000. Of those, 6,909, according to IMB, are unreached; that is, they are less than 2% evangelical. And of those, 3,010 are unengaged, which is probably the most serious number. It means those who have no one yet implementing a plan to reach them. There are no missionaries there, there are no churches there, there are no evangelizing Christians there that we know of, and nobody has yet implemented the plan to get any missionaries there. There are 3,000 of those groups, and about 300 of those are people groups of over 100,000 people.

That’s the first thing that stands out as you pray through the world every day of the year. We have work to do. It is a great, unfinished task.

The second fact, and this might be more surprising, is that time after time as you read Jason Mandryk’s and Patrick Johnstones’s statements about the condition of the church in all the countries of the world, they say things like, “Superficiality in conversions and inadequate follow up of those who profess faith in Christ.” Or another quote is, “Insufficient leaders for the churches to be able both to teach the believers and to mobilize them for evangelism.” In other words, there is massive nominalism, massive thin-ness of doctrinal knowledge, and a massive void of leaders who can embolden the church and advance the church.

So, while we have made stunning advances in missions among the peoples of the world, there still remains even among the younger reached churches, so much weakness, and so much superficiality and leadership void. Now, my sense is that those two facts, the unfinished task and thin, superficial doctrinal knowledge along with leadership weakness, are connected mainly this way: While we have poured huge energies into planting the church, often that energy has not corresponded to deepening those churches so that in the next 50 years or so they have their own schools, their own seminaries, their own PhDs, and their own people who know Greek and Hebrew, and are able to train churches and mobilize their people. These churches are still dependent 150 years later.

Substance and Steadfastness

Why is this? We can have the notion sometimes, at least I have had this notion, that among the Third World churches in the vibrant global south, there is life, vitality, power, and movement. There’s a sense in which that’s true; there are churches like that in every country of the world. But what you also find is that not long after that crest of the wave, you get the same problem of thin-ness, superficiality, lack of depth, and leadership void. We have the notion in our churches in Charlotte, Minneapolis, and Knoxville, that what’s really needed is the movement of the Spirit by the word to preach the gospel and get people saved, which of course is absolutely right.

But this isn’t always accompanied by the conviction that the blessings that we have here that we just take for granted concerning ongoing theological education for laypeople as well as clergy, won’t just happen. And therefore, where it doesn’t happen, the church remains dependent. And where it remains dependent on outsiders, it’s not going to be fully indigenous and fully engaging its people. Paul said in Ephesians 4:14–16 that the only way Christians cease to be tossed to and fro by the winds of false teaching and by the cunning of men, is if they come to the full manhood in knowledge — the knowledge of the Son of God. And in the context, that’s not just for pastors but for every body. So I think the key question that I want to address is, what kind of knowledge?

What kind of doctrinal thickness, rather than thinness, would be helpful for churches to have? Where sending churches that are doctrinally thin, the missionaries they raise up will tend to be doctrinally thin, and the churches planted among the peoples will tend to be doctrinally thin, and the saints in those churches will be doctrinally thin, and thus set out for all manner of false teaching and nominalism in the years to come.

I’ll give a concrete example. When I first visited Cameroon in 1985, I was going to visit my brother-in-law, who was a missionary for Wycliffe. And I was thinking in my head, naively I suppose, that Wycliffe was a cutting edge, frontline, unreached peoples mission. Well, you know what it was in Cameroon? It was a church renewal movement. The church had been there 150 years, yet they had no Bible, and therefore the churches all over were very weak, very vulnerable to false teaching. What had we been doing for these 150 years? What concept of missions results in a church 150 years later, still totally dependent on Western missionaries to staff their Bible colleges?

So ever since that time, I’ve just thought over and over again, something’s amiss here. I know that the solution to this kind of thing is not monolithic. What I’m going to talk about tonight is one piece of it. I know that you would need to have a conference on prayer. I know that you would need to have a conference on language and culture. I know you would need to have one on the Holy Spirit, and reviving, and boldness, and risk, but in the minutes we have together tonight I’m only going to address this issue of doctrinal substance and its necessity for long term, effective missionary activity in reaching the unreached peoples of the world in ways that put them on their feet with the Bible in their hand, able to raise up their own leaders, grow their own churches, and hold their own amid all the challenges that are coming in this century.

Theolgoical Depth

I’ll give you an example in William Carey because when I say doctrinal depth and theological education, I’m not thinking every lay person needs to get a theological degree. William Carey had zero formal theological education — zero. And he was brilliant theologically, and every other way.

He was doctrinally deep. I know people with theological degrees that are theologically superficial, and I know lay men and women who are profound theologians and have never been to any theological school. It has to do with how you read your Bible, what books you read about the Bible, how you think, and how serious you are about knowing God. It doesn’t have to do with degrees at the end of your name, that’s neither here nor there. William Carey, as you know, is the father of modern missions. In about 1793, he headed for India and never came home. He poured out his life there for 40 years, translating the Bible and planting churches in India. In 1797 (he had been there about four years) he was confronted by a Brahmin — a Hindu sage. He had just finished preaching on Acts 14:16 and Acts 17:30, where it says, “God formerly allowed all men everywhere to go their own way, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

After his sermon, the Brahmin stood up and said, “I think God should repent for not sending us the gospel sooner.” Now, if you were Carey, what would you say? I’m going to read you what he said because his answer is absolutely stunning, and it could only be given by somebody who had devoted serious thought to issues in the Bible, not just issues hanging around in theological institutions. This is just not about that. This is about knowing our Bible and thinking about God in the Bible, so that when people in Charlotte, or Shanghai, or Banglaore, ask us a serious question about some issue in the Bible, like the course of redemptive history and why God would focus on Israel for 2,000 years, letting the nations go.

Why is that? Why couldn’t the Great Commission have been earlier, and the Holy Spirit be poured out in Genesis? He didn’t do it that way, and we should ponder these things. Well, Carey had, and here’s what he said.

Suppose a kingdom had been long overrun by the enemies of its true king. And he, though possessed by 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 the 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 the 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.

A Legacy of Rich Theology

That’s an amazing answer. The point right now is not whether it’s a right answer, but rather to show that this man was not a blowoff. He has thought profoundly about the sovereignty of God, and he was ready to talk about it with a Hindu sage, having zero formal theological education. That man is going to plant a kind of church that might have some substance to it. He grew up in an atmosphere where that was the case. Whose theology did he cut his teeth on? Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards had died 40 years earlier, and he had written a biography of David Brainerd who was a missionary to the Indians. That biography inspired Carey, and all the Baptists in England were reading Brainerd’s biography. He then got on the boat to go to India, inspired with this kind of massive God-centered theology of Jonathan Edwards, and on the boat, he wrote in his diary (June 24th, 1793):

Saw a number of flying fish. Have begun to write Bengali and read Edwards sermons and Cowper’s poems — mind tranquil and serene.

No wonder he had something to say to the Brahmin; he was reading the sermons of Jonathan Edwards on the boat for inspiration and for tranquility of mind. In other words, there’s a certain kind of concern in his heart and in his head. That was the keynote of all the missionaries during this time — Andrew Fuller, Samuel Pierce, John Sutcliffe, and William Carey. The generation after them had the same theology — David Livingston, Adoniram Judson, Alexander Duff, and John Patton. They all embraced this massive, deep, rich, doctrinally laden, biblical theology. And so, that’s what I think we would do well to recover and go deeper with; it’s what I want to give my life to until the end.

Doctrine for the Sake of Missions

I want to take you to John 10. All that I just said was to try to persuade you that the kind of theology that’s in John 10 is important, missiologically important. John 10 is an absolutely stunning place to go from missions. I invite you to open up your Bible to John 10. We’re going to focus most of our attention on verse 16, but we’re going to put it in context for a little while, and then we’re going to draw out four lessons from it. I think this is the great missionary verse of John’s Gospel. John 10:16 says:

And 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.

Now to feel the full force of what he’s saying there, I want to point to six contextual facts. As I point to them, what you will see emerging is a building theology of salvation in John’s Gospel. These are just contextual observations from John 10 about this verse and the way it’s expressed.

1. Jesus calls himself a shepherd.

Verses 11 and 14 say:

I am the good shepherd.

Now, what is he referring to when he calls himself the good shepherd? Is it anything in particular? Is he just self-identifying with a metaphor that he’s a shepherd? It’s more than a metaphor. He’s likely referring to Ezekiel 34:22–24, which says:

I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.

So I think when Jesus said, “I’m the Good Shepherd,” after Ezekiel said, “I’m going to set up a shepherd, the servant, the son of David,” he was saying, “I am that shepherd.” That’s the first contextual observation.

2. Some sheep are Christ’s, and some are not.

He said he was going to distinguish between sheep and sheep back in Ezekiel, and now look at John 10:3–4. It says:

…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.

Or, John 10:14 also says:

I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me.

So not all the people in Israel were Christ’s sheep. They’re sheep but they’re not Christ’s sheep. They don’t belong to him. Some were his and some were not.

3. The reason some sheep belonged to Jesus, so that he could call them his own, was that the Father had given them to the Son.

John 10:29 says:

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

This is John’s way of talking about the doctrine of election. God has chosen some, and he gives them to the Son. He gives them to Jesus. John 17:6 says the same thing. Jesus says to the Father:

I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

Or, in John 6:37 he says:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

So the Father has them and he gives them to the Son, and if he gives them to the son, they come to the Son. If they come to the son, he won’t cast them out. We see emerging here a doctrine of salvation. The Father has chosen them and they are his. He gives them to the Son. The Son accepts them.

4. Since Jesus knows those who are his, he calls them by name and they recognize his voice and they follow.

Again, John 10:3–4 says:

The sheep hear his voice, and 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.

John 10:27 also says:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Be sure you see the thrust of these verses. Being one of Christ’s sheep enables you to respond to his call; it’s not the other way around. I grew up thinking it was totally the other way around. The thought was, if I respond to his call, I become his sheep. But here it says that they are already his sheep — “The sheep hear My voice.” He calls his own sheep by name and he 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. He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

That’s how they recognize the voice of the shepherd; they’re his sheep. When they hear his voice they say, “That’s my shepherd.” How did you recognize his voice? How did that happen? You heard a sermon one day or your mom shared the gospel with you or you heard a message by Billy Grahm or you heard a rap song maybe, and then, suddenly, you knew that was your master talking. He’s real. How did that happen? This is what this text is about. Look at John 10:26. It’s the most shocking of all to make this point:

but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.

In other words, the final arrogant boast of unbelief is nullified because he’s saying, “You can’t boast in your unbelief. The reason you don’t believe is due to the fact that you’re not my sheep.” It’s not the other way around. He is not saying they’re not his sheep because they don’t believe; it’s the reverse — they don’t believe because they’re not his sheep.

5. He lays down his life for the sheep.

That’s not all he does for his sheep. He doesn’t just call them. In John 10:11, he says:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Or, John 10:14–15 says:

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

So now we’ve built upon election, through the Father giving them to the Son and the Son calling them, then belief in the Son, following the Son, and the Son dying for the sheep. Things are starting to pile up now, so let me put it in some order. What struck me, and the reason I’m sharing this with you, was that when I started to create this, I did not plan to relate it to Romans 8:30. I had no intention to do that whatsoever. The passage states:

Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

That’s what’s happening here. Listen to the order: Whom the Father had made his own, he gave to the Son, and whom he gave to the Son, the Son called by name. Then, those whom he called, he laid down his life for and justified.

6. He gives the sheep eternal life.

On the basis of that sacrifice, he gives them eternal life. John 10:27–29 says:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will 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 the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

So here’s the sequence again, putting all the pieces together: Whom the Father has chosen for himself, and thus possesses as his own, he gives to the Son; whom he gives to the Son, the Son calls by name; those whom he calls by name, he lays down his life for; and those for whom he lays down his life, they come to him and recognize his voice; and those who come have eternal life, and nobody can take it away. This is a great salvation. It’s profound. It’s weighty, and the whole world needs to know it.

For Lambs to Wade and Elephants to Swim

Isn’t it funny that the gospel of John is the first book we put into the hands of baby believers because it’s so simple? That is so right and so wrong. I would do that. I would put John in the hands of any baby believer because John said that’s why it’s written.

These [things] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31).

Yet, John is the one of the most profound books in the Bible. Isn’t it remarkable? There is layer upon layer of insight, so that the simplest reader can love it. Who doesn’t love John 3:16? And yet, John 10 takes us into eternity in both directions, into the depths of the heart of God. It’s really amazing.

However, the theology that has just emerged here — this massive, sovereign grace, saving from eternity to eternity, conquering the so called free will of man, and drawing the sheep to the Savior so that we boast in nothing but the grace of God — is fraught with danger.

A Cause for Joy or a Ground for Pride?

Historically, the danger has been there all along. The danger is that a doctrine of salvation that is intended to strip us bare of all self-exaltation, all self-reliance, and all boasting, can be twisted around because of the remaining corruption in our hearts and made the ground of pride. So that we say, “Oh, I’m one of his own. I’ve been chosen. I’ve been given to the Son. My eyes have been opened. This is for me and for us, and we have our little church, and the rest of the world can go to hell.”

That’s why verse 16 is in the chapter. Just when the Jewish people were experiencing that kind of “us” mentality, Jesus said, “I’ve got other sheep.” Actually, I think he’s probably saying it more for his disciples’ benefit. You know how long it took them to get on to Jerusalem, even though he told them they would be witnesses to “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

He had to bust them up with Stephen’s death in order to make that happen because they didn’t listen to his words — “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” He’s saying, “Don’t you take this doctrine and make it the ground of some kind of little club. Let it be the ground of all your sacrifices to find my sheep. They are everywhere — in Charlotte and every unreached people group of the world. So, all down through the centuries, the truth has been accompanied by the abuse of the truth. It won’t be any different in Charlotte.

When my father-in-law found out that I was a Calvinist, the reason he had real misgivings about letting me marry his daughter was because he grew up in Barnesville, Georgia, where the only version of so-called Calvinism that he knew was the Primitive Baptist church, who didn’t believe in missions. I didn’t blame him for not wanting me around, but he changed his mind after a while.

Come Over and Help Us

Remember that the Puritans come to America as the chosen people. They were on an errand, as the coins from the Massachusetts Bay Colony had inscribed on them, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). That’s what was printed on the coins in the first Puritan colonies, which meant they saw their coming to the new land as a missionary enterprise to establish the New Jerusalem and the new Israel among a new continent, and to rescue the savages that were over there. However, when they got here, what kind of Indian evangelism happened? None.

They were thinking, “It’s just us. We’ve got our land. We’ve got our new Geneva,” until God said to John Eliot, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold, they’re called the Algonquin. They have words that are 26 letters long, and I want you to translate the Bible into their language.” And Eliot said, “I’m 42 years old.” And God said, “That doesn’t make any difference.” From that time until he was 80, he translated the whole Bible and established Bible schools. One of the greatest tragedies in American history is the disappearance of that Indian Movement. We don’t have a very good track record in this land for how we have handled the native folks. But God said, “I have other people on this continent, and it isn’t just the Puritans.”

The same thing happened with regard to William Carey. Just when we were starting to feel especially good about ourselves, the Particular Baptists in England, God broke in and said, “I have other people that are not of this fold, I want you to go to India and find some of them.”

Then, just when the coastlands had been reached with all these coastland missions, and the church was feeling pretty good about itself, God said to Hudson Taylor, “I have other people that are not at this fold in the middle of China, not just on the edges of China.” So the China Inland Mission was formed. Africa Inland Mission was also formed because we were all getting satisfied with our little coastal colonies, and ignoring the vast, inland peoples there, so God had to shake it up again.

Then he did it again in the 20th century. We were starting to get really self satisfied that we had reached every country of the world, within and on the coast. We thought, “Every country in the world has Christians in it,” and then God said to Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe, “Those countries are made up of peoples representing about 7,000 languages, and guess how many have the Bible? You can count them on two hands.” And everything changed.

God did the same thing with Ralph Winter in 1974. My dad was at the first Luzon conference in Switzerland, and there was a lot of upbeat, excited optimism because we were in all the countries of the world at last with the Church of Jesus Christ. Then good old Ralph Winter messed everybody up. He stood up and rung the bell that changed the face of missions for the next 50 years by saying, “There are 17,000 people groups (that’s the number he used in those days). Well over half of those are unreached, and 90% of our missionaries are with the reached peoples.” The whole place changed, and that concept of unreached peoples has become the watchword of almost every mission agency since then. It’s all owing to Jesus saying, “I have other people that are not of this fold.”

In other words, every time I find myself, in Minneapolis as a pastor for 33 years, starting to feel really good about something God might be doing at Bethlehem, I think, “There’s two million people I can drive to within 30 minutes.” When I left from that role there were about 50,000 Somalis, with maybe six believers among them. All the rest were Muslim. And I’m supposed to feel really good? Christ is saying to me, “I have other people, other sheep that are not of this fold. I must reach them.”

Fuel for the Cause of Christ

Let me close now with these four applications, or ways of looking at verse 16 that will, I hope, charge you, whether as a sender or a goer. You know there are only three kinds of Christians: senders, goers, and disobedient. So whether as a sender or a goer, you’ll be charged with this verse. It’s just loaded with theological freight that needs to be prayed over, and thought through, and lived out.

1. Christ has a people besides those already converted.

This is very simple. You know this. It might seem strange to say it but I’ll repeat Jesus’s words:

I have other sheep that are not of this fold.

Now, you’re not stupid; you know that lying behind the theology that I just articulated is the doctrine of predestination and election. If God has sheep that he’s chosen for himself, and he gives the sheep to Jesus, and because of this they recognize the voice of Jesus, then we know this is God’s sovereign movement. You know as well as I do that many people have said, “I hate that doctrine because it kills missions.”

In 1967, I was of that mind more or less. I was a senior in college that year and went to the Urbana conference. I was not at all a Reformed person; this theology was not in my mind or on my radar. They had Q&A from the floor in those days. There were about 9,000 students and they had an open mic. They put the senior executives of the mission boards up there, and one of them was John Alexander from Intervarsity.

He said that he went to Pakistan first because he did not believe in predestination, and if he had believed in it he wouldn’t have gone. I remember thinking to myself, “That makes sense to me. It seems illogical. If God has chosen the people then why would you need to go out there?” And then he said, “After 20 years of serving in the hardest place in the world, now I wouldn’t go unless I believed in predestination.” That’s what he said to me, among those 9,000 students, and I just thought, “Wow, really?”

Awakening the Dead

If we think that we can awaken the dead, we have another thing coming. You can’t raise the dead. This teaching, that God has sheep among the peoples, is a dream-builder and a hope-giver, and the reason I say that is not because of any logic; I say it because of texts like Acts 18:9-10. When Paul was discouraged in Corinth, and he was afraid because he was about to be attacked again, this is what the Lord said to him in a dream at night:

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

To which Paul did not say, “Well, if you’ve got them I’m heading for Athens.” Nobody gets saved without the preaching of the gospel. Nobody gets saved, but by hearing. Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the gospel (Romans 10:17).

So Paul was emboldened to know, “I won’t preach here in vain. There are sheep. They will hear the voice of the master in the gospel. I will preach the gospel with boldness because God has the people, and he will call them.” And that’s the way Luke sums it up, isn’t it? In Acts 13:48, Paul finishes preaching and he goes out, and a few people attach to him. Luke summarizes this and says, “as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.”

That’s triumph. He got some of them. There were probably more people in there whom the Holy Spirit was still working on. He was willing to lay his life down, over and over again, to reach the sheep. So that’s the first thing; there are people that belong to Jesus out there, and they will not be saved if they don’t hear the gospel.

2. The sheep are scattered outside the fold.

I’m going to underline the word scattered and apply it. The reason I say scattered, even though that word is not used in verse 16, is that he does use this word in John 11:51-52. John epxlains a word of prophecy from the high priest, Caiaphas. He didn’t know what he was saying, but John says he meant this:

He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

What does it mean when Jesus says, “I have other sheep”? He calls them children of God here. They’re scattered all over, and he is going to die to gather them. Does that remind you of any text in Revelation? John is the writer of Revelation and says in Revelation 5:9 what he says here in John 11:51:

…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 and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.

So, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold,” combined with Jesus dying to gather the children of God who are scattered in John 11:51–52, along with Revelation 5:9, shows us that they’re everywhere. The sheep are everywhere.

I was talking to the brothers from India who are here. India is just loaded with people groups. If you go to the north there is a very dense Hindu population. It’s very dangerous and hard to reach, and also very inhospitable in some places. It’s the same thing in all the Muslim lands of the crescent. It’s the same thing in communist North Korea and Vietnam. There are people groups out there, thousands of them, and when you get there, if you herald the blood of Jesus, the children will respond.

Do you remember the story of Zinzendorf and the Moravians? The Moravian missionaries decided to get on a boat up in the Port of Hamburg, sailing never to return to the South Sea Islands. The last thing their relatives heard them say when as they were sailing away was:

May the Lamb receive the reward of his suffering.

That’s a quote from Revelation 5:9. He died to ransome people from the New Hebrides.

3. The Lord has committed himself to bring his lost sheep home.

“I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also.” That’s worth several hours of meditation. Isn’t it the same thing he meant in Matthew 16:18, where he said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”? They’re out there, they’re scattered all over, but he must bring them. He is the shepherd. He says, “I will be with you to the end of the age, go make disciples” (Matthew 28:18–20). You might say, as hyper-Calvinists have mistakenly said, “William Carey, sit down. If God wants to reach the peoples of India, he will do it without you.”

That’s the way a hyper-Calvinist talks, which is unbiblical through and through. Because when Jesus says, “I must bring them,” he doesn’t mean without you, he means through you. In John 20:21 he says:

As the Father has sent me, even so send I you.

Or, in John 17:20 he is praying and says:

I do not pray for these only, but for those who will believe on me through their word.

There are those who will believe through their word. When we speak the gospel, Christ speaks, and he calls his own. So he will bring them. This is a sovereign word, from our sovereign risen Christ: “I must bring them. My sheep will hear my voice. I know them. I will bring them.” You’re only an ambassador, which is why Paul said in Romans 15:18:

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience.

That couldn’t be clearer, could it? Through us, Christ is winning obedience from the Gentiles, because he said, “I must bring them.” I hope you are on fire to be one of these instruments. There isn’t anything more amazing in the world than to be the instrument of the Almighty among the unreached peoples of the world, or for that matter, to be an instrument for one unreached person in your neighborhood. It’s the same dynamic.

4. None of Christ’s sheep finally reject his word.

Since he promises, “I will bring them,” they will come. It’s the last phrase in the verse. He says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice.”

None of his sheep fail to hear his voice. That’s what it means to be his sheep. What else is going to keep you going in the hardest places in the world after seven or eight years of risking your life, and your children’s lives, to speak the gospel in a hard, resistant, place? What’s going to keep you going but the promise, “They will heed my voice”?

Sustained with a Word

Let me close with a story of how one great missionary found life-giving, life-sustaining, ministry-sustaining encouragement in John 10:16. The person I’m speaking about is Peter Cameron Scott. He’s the founder of Africa Inland Mission. The story, read backward, looks stunningly successful; but if you read it frontward, it came close to being nothing.

He went to Africa, got sick with fever, and he had to come home. He was very discouraged. Then God strengthened his hand, he went to Africa again, got sick, and had to come home again. At that point he wasn’t sure he could do it another time, but his brother was willing to go back with him this time. His name was John. So Peter and John Scott went to Africa together, and in the very inscrutable providence of God, John got a fever and died.

Peter buried his brother with his own hands, and stood by his grave, rededicating himself to the cause, and then he got the fever and had to go home again. How would you be doing at this point? We’re not talking airplanes here. These are long interruptions in life. There was a lot of time to think on the boat. How would you do?

Physically he recovered and he went to Westminster Abbey. Some of you know how this story turns out because you’ve read the book that I read — From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth Tucker. That’s where I got this story.

He went to Westminster Abbey because he knew there was a grave there that just might inspire him, but he didn’t know what was on the grave. The grave was of David Livingstone, buried there. When he walked in and went up to the front of the stone, there written on the stone, were these words:

Other sheep I have that are not of this fold, them I must bring also.

The story goes that he knelt down, and he said, “I’m going back.” This time, God gave him health and life, and thousands of churches exist because of it.