My notes from David Platt’s session (paraphrased)
I have one overarching truth that I want to communicate as clearly and as biblically as possible: A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions. Another way to put it, pastors who believe that God is sovereign over all things will lead Christians to die for the sake of all peoples.
I want to show you this in Revelation chapter 5. And I want to be clear on a few underlying premises so you can understand where we’re going and hopefully defuel some objections:
Local mission and local ministry are totally necessary. We should never neglect this at any point. There are hurting people, broken marriages in our churches. We must not neglect local ministry to the body, nor should we to the body. I want to encourage ever member of our body to make disciples in our local community.
Global missions is tragically neglected. I was near Yemen not too long ago—it has approximately 8 million people in the northern part of the country. How many believers are there? They estimate no more than 20-30. There are more Christians in our Sunday Schools than in the entirety of Northern Yemen. They are among the 2 billion people globally who are unreached—they have no access to the gospel. They’re not just lost, they are lost and have no Christian, no Church to share the gospel by which they might be found.
Pastors have the privilege and responsibility to lead the way in global missions. To the pastor belongs the privilege and the responsibility of the missionary problem—George Pentecost. It is the responsibility of the pastor to feel the weight and fan the flame of global missions in every local church.
Pastors love people. They want to see people be saved and worship the living God. That is Global missions.
What drives all of this—rock solid confidence in the sovereignty of God over all these things. And I want to show you that in Revelation 5. From this text, I want to show you four theological truths and four practical applications.
Four Theological Truths
Our sovereign God holds the destiny of the world in the palm of his hand. The palm of his hand contains God’s sovereign decrees for the final glorification of all believers and damnation of all unbelievers. It is all in the palm of his hand. Nature, the sun, the stars—he is sovereign over all. There is not a speck of dust that exists apart from the sovereignty of God. Our God charts the course of countries. He holds rulers in the palm of his hand. Our God is sovereign over every single world leader—over you, me, everyone.
He creates all things, knows all things, has authority over all things. He has all the rights! Christian, you have no rights. God along has all rights. He has the right to save sinners and he has the right to damn sinners.
What about human responsibility? Man makes decisions, God is sovereign over them.
Almighty God, just because He is almighty, needs no support. The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God that is precisely what we see. Twentieth century Christianity has put God on charity. So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God. But the truth is that God is not greater for our being, nor would He be less if we did not exist. That we do exist is altogether of God’s free determination, not by our desert nor by divine necessity. . . . Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God. An effective speaker can easily excite pity in his listeners, not only for the heathen but for the God who has tried so hard and so long to save them and has failed for want of support. I fear that thousands of younger persons enter Christian service from no higher motive than to help deliver God from the embarrassing situation His love has gotten Him into and His limited abilities seem unable to get Him out of. Add to this a certain degree of commendable idealism and a fair amount of compassion for the underprivileged and you have the true drive behind much Christian activity today.
Brothers and sisters, God does not need you, he does not need me. He does not need your church or mine. They all could drop dead and God would still make his name great among the nations. He involves us not because he needs us but because he loves us. But be sure of this, that our sovereign God holds the fate of all things in his hand.
The state of man before God apart from Christ is utterly hopeless. (Rev. 5:2-4) The fate of all things are in these scrolls—who is able to open them? The silence of heaven testifies to the state of man. John is weeping. There is no one apart from Christ who is worthy to open the scrolls. See the need. Apart from Christ, man is separated from God, condemned by God . . . Thomas Watson said thus it is in hell that they would die but cannot. Do you see why John is weeping? This is no casual matter. We say things like “You have a hell of a time” or “you played a hell of a game” and it just shows we have no idea what we’re talking about.
Just pause for a moment and contemplate the state of the unreached in the world. People who exist before God apart from Christ who have never even heard of him. Now they have heard of God, or rather have seen him (Rom. 1). Every unreached person has knowledge of God—even if they haven’t heard the gospel, they have seen him, have knowledge of him and rejected him. People ask me about the innocent man in Africa who never hears the gospel—what happens to that guy when he dies? That’s easy: He goes to heaven. The problem is, there’s no such thing as an innocent man.
There are over 2 billion people in the world whose knowledge of God is only sufficient to damn them to hell. Forever.
They know he exists.
They’ve rejected him.
They deserve his wrath.
And that’s where their stories end.
They exist before God apart from Christ and they are utterly hopeless in their state.
But there is hope.
The greatest news in all the world is that the slaughtered Lamb of God reigns as the Sovereign Lord of all.
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Branch of David has come and he has conquered and we need weep no more. Men have come, women have come, generation after generation, every single man and every single woman succumbed to death. But then came another man, unlike any man before or after. This man did not fall prey to sin. This man was not enslaved to Satan, this man would crush that snake.
How has he conquered? Isaiah prophecies that the Lion would suffer as a Lamb, being crushed for our sins. He is the slaughtered Lamb of God and yet he stands. He has not only defeated sin, but he has defeated death. The one who has defeated death bears the marks of death.
In verse seven we are astonished to read that he is the one to take the scroll from the hand of the one who sits on the throne. Jesus walks up and takes the scroll. The slaughtered Lamb rules as the Sovereign Lord over all. God doesn’t share the spotlight with just anyone—he only shares the spotlight with himself.
[Jesus] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:7-11 ESV)
The atonement of Christ is graciously, globally and gloriously particular.
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,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 ESV)
He has ransomed you—he has purchased you.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)
Christ purposed to purchase you—you! Don’t forget this. Before the sun was even formed, before a star was even put in the sky, before mountains were ever established on the earth, almighty God on high set his sights on your soul and he purposed to save you. He sent his Son according to the purposes of his will to save you.
We’re talking about unreached people—and we need to remember that you and I had nothing to do with where we were born. God the Father purposed that we would be born in a nation where we would be reached.
It is gloriously personal, but it’s also globally particular. There are over 11 thousand people groups in the world—and God has purposed to save men and women from among all of them. The atonement is globally particular. Matthew 28:19-20 is a command to make disciples of all the nations. And if there are people groups that are unreached, then we have missed the point of the atonement. Particular atonement is driving global missions.
If we believe that God has purposed to reach people from among all people groups, what drives passion to reach them? Guilt? No, it’s glory–it’s our belief that God has purposed to reach people from all people groups!
In his sovereignty he has ordained to make for himself a kingdom of priests from all peoples and nations. (Rev. 5:11-14)
This is what we live for, this is what we die for.
Four Practical Applications
Let us lead our churches to pray confidently for the spread of the gospel. God’s sovereignty does not negate prayer. God’s sovereignty necessitates prayer. Pastors, let’s teach our people to pray, “Your Kingdom come!” Tell them about Matthew 24:14 and tell them to pray for that! Show them how to pray for Saudi Arabs and the Brahman of India and assure them that every one of their prayers is piling up at the altar of God and one day God will bring about his kingdom.
Let us lead our churches to give sacrificially. Christians in North America give about 2.5 percent of their income to their local churches and the local church gives about 2 percent to global missions. That means that for every $100 we earn, 5¢ are given to global missions. By all estimates, we are the richest people to ever live—why? I’m convinced Psalm 63 has the answer. The Sovereign God has ordained that we be wealthy so that he may be glorified in the world.
Let us lead our churches to go to unreached peoples. We must lead our people to do wise short-term missions, mid-term and long-term missions. There’s no question that in the New Testament that we see Timothy-types and Paul-types. There are men and women in your church whom God is calling to pack their bags and spread the gospel through unreached people groups. Are you encouraging them? Are you taking time to speak specifically to them, leading your church to fast and pray for them and just waiting until he answers? Are you listening to see if he’s calling you to this?
Let us lead our churches to die willingly for the spread of the gospel to all people. Pastors with a high view of God’s sovereignty will lead people to die for the spread of the gospel. We’ve already seen how the gospel compels us to go, but we are also confident as we go because we know that nothing can happen to us apart from the sovereign will of our good and gracious God.
Do not dread suffering, God has ordained suffering. We must embrace suffering. We should not seek suffering, but we should embrace it. How did the gospel spread from Judea to Samaria? Through the stoning of Stephen. Satan’s attempts to stop the Church only serve to spread the Church.
Will we lead people in our churches to embrace suffering as God’s means for spreading the gospel? Will we lead them to die willingly?
Pastors, let us be finished and done with puny theology that leads us to paltry approaches to global missions.