Let the Nations Be Glad

Ligonier Ministries National Conference | Orlando

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

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

Where Christ Is Not Named

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

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

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

Doctrines of Grace

Let’s take the TULIP five points one at a time and just articulate them for what they really are.

Total Depravity

What does total depravity mean? It means all people, everywhere, without exception are fallen, sinful, and spiritually dead and perishing without the gospel and without the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit that comes with the preaching of the gospel alone. In other words, the T in TULIP is a missionary bugle — a cry. Go preach to them. They are dead. They will not live without the spiritual work of the Holy Spirit that comes in attendance on the preaching of the gospel. Go. It is a missionary point.

Unconditional Election

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

Limited atonement

Calvinism goes up to what Arminians believe, and beyond what Arminians believe, in the doctrine of the atonement. Arminians believe that Christ died for all in this sense:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever would believe would not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

And I, a five-point Calvinist, a seven-point Calvinist even, say, Amen. And I don’t put any bar on the “all” or the “world.” Every individual. God loves in that he sent his Son such that if they would believe, they would be saved. That is all an Arminian believes, and I believe every word of it. However, I believe the atonement is bigger than that, stronger than that, more than that, less limited than that, namely, it is a covenant, love-demonstrating work of Christ. I believe that more was accomplished on the cross than simply the purchase of a valid offer for everyone who hears the gospel.

“Jesus died to effectually purchase a bride.”

Rather, also, was purchased the new-covenant promises of “the heart will be taken out of his people of stone, and a new heart will be put in, and he will write his law upon their hearts, and he will cause them to walk in his statues, and he will effectually save them.” The new-covenant promises made to the bride were paid for with the dowry of the blood of Jesus. And it is a tragedy in the churches — which is why I am a Calvinist — among many others, that many Christians don’t know their husband’s covenant love when he suffers for them. When Jesus died, he died to effectually purchase a bride. Therefore, it is a missionary doctrine. In fact, the clearest text, perhaps, on limited atonement — as it is called, or definite atonement — is a missionary text from Revelation 5:9:

And they sang a new song, saying, “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.”

Didn’t ransom every person in every tribe and tongue and people and nation that way. Rather, among every people group, every tribe, every tongue there are blood-bought people. That is a missionary doctrine.

Irresistible Grace

God suffers his saving grace to be resisted. The first objection to the doctrine of irresistible grace is: Of course he can be resisted. I resist him. Or, Acts 7: “You stiff-necked people.” You resist the Holy Spirit all day long. The doctrine of irresistible grace doesn’t mean that the grace of God can’t be resisted. It means God suffers it to be resisted until he decides to overcome the resistance. And when he chooses to overcome the resistance, he saves. He puts in the heart of flesh. He grants, according to 2 Timothy 2:25, repentance. He grants faith according to Philippians 1:29. When he is pleased, he overcomes resistance. Otherwise, I wouldn’t want to pray for the people I love at my church who are not believers. I don’t pray: Make suggestions to them. I pray: Save them. Triumph over their deadness.

And I remember Urbana ’67 with my fiancée Noël. John Alexander stood up and said, “Twenty years ago, I said if I believed in predestination and election and those five points I would never be a missionary.” Now in 1967, twenty years after that, he said to us fifteen thousand folks gathered there, “If I didn’t believe in predestination I could never be a missionary in Pakistan, meaning, when you get out there and you realize how hard the human heart is and how massive the obstacles are and how entrenched the resistance is, if there isn’t a sovereign God to solve this, let’s all go home.” It is a missionary doctrine. Irresistible grace is our hope in missions. It is not a hindrance to missions.

Perseverance of the Saints

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

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

The Most Calvinistic Book in the Bible

Let’s turn to John 10. Open your Bibles, if you are willing and you would like to follow with me, in some exegesis concerning these things. In my opinion — and I don’t think I am alone in this — is that the book of John is the most predestinarian, Calvinistic book in the Bible. That is not an exaggeration. It is not for shock effect. It is the way I read it. I think it is true. I think the key missionary text in the gospel of John is John 10:16, and it is my text for this remaining time.

I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also and they will heed my voice so they will be one flock and one shepherd.

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

“I don’t pray: Make suggestions to them. I pray: Save them.”

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

Now the text is John 10:16. I want to lay background now, theological background from John 10. So let’s make six contextual observations so that we feel the force of this verse 16.

1. Jesus Is the Shepherd

Verse 11: “I am the good shepherd.” Verse 14: “I am the good shepherd.” So we have a shepherd and we have a flock of God. Now the flock of God is Israel in this context. The sheep are Israel. But be careful, for some sheep are sheep, and some sheep are not sheep. We will see that in a moment. The first observation from verses 11 and 14: Jesus is a shepherd.

2. Not All Sheep Belong to Jesus

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

3. The Father Gives the Sheep

The reason that some of the sheep belonged to Jesus and some did not is because the Father gave them to him. Verse 29: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Now this is Jesus’s way of talking about the doctrine of election. The Father had some sheep in Israel. He takes those sheep, and when Jesus sounds the voice of the good shepherd, the sheep recognize the voice, and the Father through that recognition, which he enables — that is called the effectual call, or irresistible grace — he gives them to the Son.

Let’s see that confirmed in John 17:6: “I have manifested your name, Father, to the men whom you gave me out of the world. Thine they were and you gave them to me. And they have kept thy Word.” So, you see? The Father has them. He has chosen them. Now the Son comes and announces the gospel and the Father gives the sheep to the Son, so that now the Son says: They are my sheep. I have my own. Or go with me to John 6:37 to see it stated again. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and him who comes to me I will I no wise cast out. So, some sheep belong to Jesus and some don’t. Why? Ultimately, God has them. They are his, and he gives them to the Son. Thine they were. Thou hast given them to me.

4. The Sheep Know the Shepherd’s Voice

Since the Son knows those who are his, and he calls them by name and they are already his, they follow. Back to verses 3 and 4: The sheep hear his voice — the good shepherd. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. The other sheep don’t recognize his voice. Verse 27: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.”

Now be sure you see the thrust of what is being said here. Being one of Christ’s sheep enables you to respond to the call. Responding to the call does not make you a sheep. Being one of God’s own, and, therefore, one who is given to Jesus, is what enables you to hear and recognize the voice. Hearing and recognizing the voice is not what makes you a sheep.

Now this is startling. Very few evangelicals believe this in America. You do, I presume, many of you, anyway, because you are here at this reformed oriented conference. But this is startling to most people, and very offensive to our self-sufficient ways by which we think we have — and should have — the ultimate right to veto God’s rulership of the world in our case. But there is a verse in this chapter — and I direct your attention to it — which is absolutely shattering to the final boast of unbelief, namely, the boast that I will frustrate the designs of God to save me. Verse 26: Jesus says, “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep.” That just takes the breath away. Almost all evangelicals reverse that clause and say: You do not belong to me, because you do not believe.

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

5. Jesus Dies for His Sheep

Verse 11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Verses 14 and 15: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. As the Father knows me and I know the Father I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Now I don’t know if you hear what I hear in these words that I have been giving you so far in these five observations, but I hear Romans 8. Those whom the Father has given to the Son. And those whom he gave to the Son he called through the voice of the shepherd. And those whom he called through the voice of the shepherd he justified by laying down his life for them. Sound familiar? It is not an accident. Paul knew his Jesus.

6. The Life of the Sheep Can Never Be Taken

On the basis of this sacrifice of laying down his life for the sheep, he gives them eternal life and it can never be taken away. Verses 27–30:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me is greater than all. And no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

Jesus Has Other Sheep

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

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

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

The History of Frontier Missions

And then, early American Puritans began settling it, becoming secure in their chosen status as the new Israel in the Northeast, and God raises up — Jesus calls out — to John Elliot: “I have other sheep that are not of this Puritan fold among the Algonquin Indians. Go, preach to them.” And good-old John Elliot at age 42 begins to use (learn) that impossible language. Same thing with David Brainerd. “David, I have other sheep that are not of this congregational fold. Go to the Susquehanna people.”

Then the particular Baptists, fifty years later, begin to get a little ingrown, and a little bit self-satisfied, and a little bit sordid in their theology, and God, Jesus, has to come to Carey and say: “I have other sheep that are not of this British, Baptist fold and they are in India. Go.” And then the mission agencies and the churches begin to be a little bit self-satisfied that they have dotted all the coastlands with mission stations. Jesus comes to Hudson Taylor and says: “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. They are inland.” And so the China Inland Mission is formed. It comes to David Livingstone, and he goes to inland Africa. And then, in the twentieth century, Western Christendom begins to take pride in the churches in every country — all 213 or so countries. They are there. The flag has been planted and God comes to Cameron Townsend and says: “There are about six-thousand people groups who don’t have a shred of Bible in their language.” And then in 1974 Ralph Winter reaches up and grabs a hold of the bell and pulls on it and rings it, and it has changed every mission agency that has any ears in its head at all in the last twenty-five years because what he said was:

“The sheep hear his voice and follow. That it is a great missionary teaching.”

Though we are in every country, there are two-billion individuals outside the reach of any intelligible gospel witness culturally, meaning nobody is thinking in terms of peoples, but only in terms of political entities called nations. That is not what nations meant in the Bible. Hittites, Jebusites, Susquehanna, Cherokee, that is what we are talking about with nations and peoples. And there are thousands of them and they speak peculiar dialects, peculiar languages, and they have peculiar thought forms and cultures, and they need Paul-type missionaries to reach them. And we think we have done the job because the Church is in every country and we are nowhere near finished with the job that the Lord died to empower us to do.

And so many missions today have rethought their strategies to finish the Great Commission by reaching the peoples of the world. John 10:16: “I have other people, the other sheep that are not of this fold” is the great missionary text of the gospel of John.

The Call to Frontier Missions

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

So, rather than just goad you, let me close with four, mighty confidence building observations from verse 16 itself.

1. Christ has a people besides those already converted.

“I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” I say, this is encouraging. And the reason I know it is encouraging is not only because of my experience in reading biographies, but because of Acts 18 and the experience of the authority of the apostle Paul. It came to Paul in a dream. He was frightened in Corinth. The Lord said to Paul one night in a vision: “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, for I am with you. And no man shall attack you to harm you. For I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10).

That is just a paraphrase of John 10:16. “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” I didn’t send you here to waste your time. I have sheep in Corinth. I have other sheep in Corinth. Now get up, and go in there, and become a secondary means of my reaching my sheep with the gospel. I will save them. You preach. And that mightily encouraged Paul, and it ought to mightily encourage you.

2. The other sheep are scattered outside.

“I have other sheep that are not of the fold.” They are scattered. They are lost. It is made explicit in John 11:51:

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

Isn’t that just a paraphrase of “I have many people in this city” or “I have other sheep that are not of this fold”? I die in order to gather the children of God. It is Revelation 5:9: “Thou hast ransomed for God, people from every nation and tribe and tongue.”

They are scattered. They are all over the place. I believe they are in . . . I don’t think there is any people group, any Hindu people group, any Buddhist people group, any Muslim people group, any secularist, post-Christian European people group you can go to and say with any warrant: “There are no elect here.” You can’t say that. They are scattered. The children of God are scattered everywhere.

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

“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.” It is one of those Greek constructions with that famous word it is necessary. Let’s do this. This is a necessity. I must bring them. I will bring them. So, the confidence is that the Lord himself says: “You go. You preach. I will bring them. I must bring them also.”

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

“You go. You preach. God will bring them.”

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

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

4. The sheep will come.

“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them. They will heed my voice.” None of Christ’s sheep will fail to heed his voice in due time. So know this: Jesus Christ has other sheep besides the fold in this room, besides the evangelical fold in America or the Christian fold in America. He has other sheep besides Christendom. And if you love the glory of God, and if you love people you have three possibilities: Go. Send. Or Disobey. And if you are not a conscious goer or a conscious sender, you are disobedient to the glory of God and to love.

“Them I Must Bring”

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

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

So my prayer for you and me now is that God might deepen and broaden the biblical foundation of missions in our lives. The first wave of modern missions was born with William Carey, and the others, in a decidedly doctrinal kind of Christianity. It is a great offense to God and a great tragedy that we get so absorbed with the refinement of our doctrine that we do not give ourselves to the reaching of the lost who are close, and especially to the peoples who are without the gospel who are far.

So my prayer is not that you will become odd doctrinally. My life is devoted to rejecting that bifurcation, that unnecessary dichotomy in life. A second prayer would be that he open our eyes, not only to the fields that are white to harvest, but to the majesty and the splendor of sovereign grace as a missionary incentive. Don’t let anybody pull the wool over your eyes or distort the five points of Calvinism into anything other than a great missionary mandate. And everywhere you go, make a case for your doctrine because it is a missionary doctrine, and, thus, expresses the heart of God for the unreached nations of the world.