John Piper: The heart of God in the call to proclaim #TGC13


My notes from John Piper’s session at TGC13′s World Missions’ pre-conference, “God’s Love Compels Us.” (All notes are paraphrased.)

Missions is not he same as local evangelism. Missions is the specialized calling of te church to plant the church and make disciples in areas where the church has yet to go.

There are approximately 3100 unengaged people groups in the world.

There are 98,000 evangelicals for each of the unengaged people groups of the world.

3100 people groups is small. We can do this of we will. The world, the devil, war against the will of the church to do this.

If this will is to be sustained, it will be by faith–and hearing by the word of Christ.

My job today is to strengthen your faith and your will and perhaps strengthen your call to this task.

Verses one through ten of chapter five ate additional reasons for by you should not lose heart in this ministry of the word and in the cause of missions.

You should have a joyfully serious courage in the cause of world missions. And this text gives four reasons for that–four foundations for real joyful courage.

Realism (5:1-5)

Few things are discouraging than shattered expectations–based on unrealistic expectations. And so Paul gives us clay pot expectations.

Four evidences of realism:

  1. We live in a tent not a building. He calls the body a tent, not a castle or a building. The point of calling it a tent is that tents aren’t very good against harsh weather. Therefore since this is where you live, you should be free of the expectation of escaping transience. We do missions in our bodies–they are frail and temporary.
  2. This tent may be destroyed. Not just shattered or wasting away but destroyed.
  3. Destroys the subjective grounding of the tent. We groan. Be burdened. All the time. While you live in the tent it’s going to groan. It has nerve endings and limits.
  4. Calls the Holy Spirit a down payment. It’s a guarantee. This word is right but only half right. It only gets half the meaning of the word. The point is it really is a down payment and only a down payment. We will someday have the rest of the down payment. But not now. Get used to it.


Same five verses. Paul is proclaiming a redirection body–a building, not a tent. He ponders in these verses that he might die before the redirection and he doesn’t want that to happen. Unclothed refers to dying before the resurrection. The point is not release but resurrection.
What will it be like?

It will be a building not a tent. We have a building from God. A God-built building.

It’s like a house not made with hands. That’s very strange. Why would he say that? Not made with hands? It doesn’t come out of nowhere, it comes from Jesus. The word destroy and the word not made with hands is used in Mark 14:58—”I will destroy this temple made with hands and in three days make another not made with hands.” I think Jesus is saying Jesus built a temple when he was raised from the dead and Jesus will build us new bodies.

It’s eternal in the heavens. An eternal body, you’ll never ever be without a body when you get your resurrection body. It’s risky being a missionary in a tent. This is such a wonderful promise for us because if you have to watch people being thrown to the lions in the Colosseum or if you’re a missionary who watches her husband’s head cut from his head… We have a resurrection hope!


If we must die before the resurrection, we will be reunited with Christ. He was here in the flesh, we will be there with him in the flesh, though naked and unclothed and not in our final destination—but that, Paul says, is better than death. “We would rather be away from the body and be at home with the Lord.” Without verse eight we would almost certainly misunderstand verse four.

In verse eight, Paul says we don’t want to be unclothed. You might get the impression in the first five verses that bodiless existence is preferred to living within the body. But verse eight prevents us from going there. It’s only preferable as a step toward the final goal of being within the resurrection body.

You do not have to labor under the sadness that the dead are in an inferior position. Paul, choosing between three options—live in the tent, live bodiless with Jesus, live in the resurrection body—chooses “B” when he can’t have “C.” His choices are C, B, A. And they should be ours as well.


We’ve seen Paul trying to help us with joyfully serious courage with realism, resurrection and reunion and now finally reward. The reason I’ve put the word “serious” is because of these verses (2 Cor. 5:9-10). I’m saying that makes a person serious in his joy. Really serious. Paul draws the inference from these verses from 5:11 of fear—I’m saying “serious.” He’s saying “fear.”

Knowing the fear of the Lord we persuade men. We get about our mission and ministry—with a trembling in our hearts—joyfully and seriously. This fear is fully compatible with the joyful confidence we have in the rest of the chapter. It in no way prevents Paul from saying “we would prefer to be away from the body with the Lord.”

The judgment of believers awakens a kind of fear in Paul, one that doesn’t push him away from Jesus but toward him. He embraces it—because it’s the path to Jesus.

If you right now are feeling “that doesn’t make sense to me—it sounds like double-talk, nonsense—confident, don’t lose heart, fear of Jesus”—you need to change.
At 67, I feel these immature emotions as I read the Bible because I’m not where I ought to be. Too many people feel like this, feel like there are these things that don’t fit with our emotional structures and so they drop them. Don’t do that! Assume you’re the problem. You’ve got to change, not the Bible. I come to the Bible a broken sinner, an emotional wreck. I come to be fixed, not to tell the Bible what it can tell me how to feel.

Peter described this fear in the same connection as perfectly compatible with calling God “Father.” I have a Father who is going to judge me according to my life—and I’m going to walk before Him in confidence.

Could it be that part of our problem is that we have only known the comfort of the Holy Spirit—and we don’t understand the fear of the Lord? Paul calls it the fear of Christ, a sobering exception of judgment and it’s embraced as good and empowering. Missionaries know how to embrace the fear of God and have a confidence—missionaries who get the job done have roots in a sovereign God who doesn’t let us fall and doesn’t let us lose heart.

What is it about the judgment that is so serious or produces this fear in verse 11 that makes it so motivating for holiness in a right, godly, not legalistic kind of way?

What is it that makes it so serious? Verse 10 tells us—that each will receive what is his due, whether for good or evil. That deserves a sermon, but it’s going to get another three minutes then we’ll be done. The best commentary on this verse is in 1 Cor. 3, referring to Paul himself and Apollos. There he says that there’s labor that’s built on the foundation that’s good and labor built on the foundation that’s bad—foul, perishing, evil. Here’s his explanation 1 Cor 3:12-15:

“…If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping the fire.”
Each one will receive what is due, whether good (reward) or evil (loss). From this awesome scene, Paul says we make it our aim to make it our aim to please him. Without faith it is impossible to please God—and what is done in faith will be rewarded, and what relies on self will be lost.


What Paul is doing in this passage is undergirded in chapter four—that we do not lose heart. He gives us four reasons for why we can be joyfully and seriously courageous in our mission. We are realistic about our mission and our situation. Resurrection, whether eaten by lions or worms, we will have a resurrection body that will shine like the sun. And if you die before the resurrection, you will be reunited with Jesus, which is still far better than dwelling in the tent. And there will be a great deal of trembling before Jesus, and justification will be at play there, and you will be rewarded for all that you do—and you will experience loss for everything that is not done in faith. And that loss will fuel our joy for spending our eternity with Jesus, who we will enjoy forever and ever.

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