Let the Nations Be Glad! - Book Review
This is my second book review. A detailed explanation of what the sections below are intended to accomplish can be found here.
Title: Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions
Author: John Piper Year
Published: 1993, 2003, 2010
Tags: Frontline missions, Jonathan Edwards
Priority: 5 - every Christian should read this book!
This book is Piper’s grand treatment of the what, why, how, and for whom of missions. It would be best to let Piper explain the book himself: “Let it be clear: This book is not just for missionaries. It is for pastors who (like me) want to connect their fragile, momentary, local labors to God's invincible, eternal, global purposes. It's for laypeople who want a bigger motivation for being world Christians than they get from statistics. It's for college and seminary classes on the theology of missions that really want to be theological as well as anthropological, methodological, and technological. And it's for leaders who need the flickering wick of their vocation fanned into flame again with a focus on the supremacy of God in all things” (pg. 12).
Piper writes well, and it is evident he puts much effort into crafting the structure of his arguments and the forms of his sentences. But this strength is also the book’s weakness. In many places, Piper aims to cut off every conceivable contrary conclusion other than the biblical one (i.e. salvation through Christ alone, eternal judgment in hell, the primacy of preaching, etc.). Yet, in doing so, it can become so tedious that one can get lost in the argument and forget the original point. Thankfully, Piper gives helpful reminders to the readers, but still, for the average reader it will take much patience and good reading skills to understand him clearly.
This is a category 5 – all Christians in America should read this book, for two reasons: (1) it addresses fundamental issues of our day that destroy the impetus for missions (such as a finite hell, annihilationism, universal salvation, salvation apart from the gospel message, Christ-less Christians, the prosperity gospel, comfortable Christianity, the social gospel, missions without preaching, and cultural imperialism), and (2) it has become the classic for understanding missions biblically that God has used to raise up an entirely new generation of God-enthralled goers and senders.
John Piper has famously said, "There are only three kinds of Christians when it comes to world missions: zealous goers, zealous senders, and disobedient." And his aim in this book is to encourage the first two categories and eliminate the last.
If your zeal for the Lord and His mission is, by His grace, strong and growing, you will be immensely encouraged by book. If you are failing to be a zealous goer or sender, then this book will be a fatal axe blade to apathy. By methodically and systematically walking through missions, cutting off any conclusion other than the one that comes from the Scriptures, Piper raises a biblical standard of missiology that is both exhilarating and solidly grounded in the Word. No missiology would be complete without it.
John Piper does a good job of explaining his Christian philosophy — that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him — throughout this book, as he does in all his books. Those who are familiar with it may find it repetitive, but it is not too burdensome, even for those that choose to use different language and terms to explain a God-glorying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, Word-saturated faith.
Chapter 5, titled, 'The Supremacy of God among "All the Nations"' has become infamous for its technicality and difficulty, and has been the reason why many do not finish this book. Do not be deterred! In it, he explains to what extent God has promised to propagate His gospel; in other words, it explains what "nations" means in the Bible, and thus what critical texts like Revelation 7:9-10 mean.
Chapter Titles & Quotes
Part 1 Making God Supreme in Missions: The Purpose, the Power, and the Price
1. The Supremacy of God in Missions through Worship
Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. pg. 17
2. The Supremacy of God in Missions through Prayer
Now we can say again, safely and stunningly, what the awesome place of prayer is in the purpose of God to fill the earth with his glory. Not only has God made the accomplishment of his purposes hang on the preaching of the Word, but he has also made the success of that preaching hang on prayer. God's goal to be glorified will not succeed without the powerful proclamation of the gospel. And that gospel will not be proclaimed in power to all the nations without the prevailing, earnest, faith-filled prayers of God's people. This is the awesome place of prayer in the purpose of God for the world. That purpose won't happen without prayer. pg. 66
Do you ever cry out to the Lord, "How long, O Lord? How long till you vindicate your cause in the earth? How long till you rend the heavens and come down with power on your church? How long till you bring forth victory among all the peoples of the world?" Is not his answer plain: "When my people cry to me day and night, I will vindicate them, and my cause will prosper among the nations." The war will be won by God. He will win it through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel will run and triumph through prevailing prayer-so that in everything God might be glorified through Jesus Christ. pg. 70
3. The Supremacy of God in Missions through Suffering
You cannot show the preciousness of a person by being happy with his gifts. Ingratitude will certainly prove that the giver is not loved, but gratitude for gifts does not prove that the giver is precious. What proves that the giver is precious is the glad-hearted readiness to leave all his gifts to be with him. This is why suffering is so central in the mission of the church. The goal of our mission is that people from all the nations worship the true God. But worship means cherishing the preciousness of God above all else, including life itself. It will be difficult to bring the nations to love God from a lifestyle that communicates a love of things. Therefore, God ordains in the lives of his messengers that suffering severs our bondage to the world. When joy and love survive this severing, we are fit to say to the nations with authenticity and power: Hope in God. pg. 101
Part 2: Making God Supreme in Missions: The Necessity and Nature of the Task
4. The Supremacy of Christ as the Conscious Focus of All Saving Faith
Therefore, the church is bound to engage with the Lord of glory in his cause. Charles Hodge is right that "the solemn question, implied in the language of the apostle, how can they believe without a preacher? should sound day and night in the ears of the churches." It is our unspeakable privilege to be caught up with him in the greatest movement in history-the ingathering of the elect "from all tribes and languages and peoples and nations" until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, all Israel is saved, the Son of Man descends with power and great glory as King of kings and Lord of lords, and the earth is full of the knowledge of his glory as the waters cover the sea forever and ever. Then the supremacy of Christ will be manifest to all, he will deliver the kingdom to God the Father, and God will be all in all. pg. 154
5. The Supremacy of God Among "All the Nations"
This chapter shows that God's call for missions in Scripture cannot be defined in terms of crossing cultures to maximize the total number of individuals saved. Rather, God's will for missions is that every people group be reached with the testimony of Christ and that a people be called out for his name from all the nations. I believe that this definition of missions will in fact result in the greatest possible number of white-hot worshipers for God's Son. But that remains for God to decide. Our responsibility is to define missions his way and then obey. pg. 157
Part 3: Making God Supreme in Missions: The Practical Outworking of Compassion and Worship
6. A Passion for God's Supremacy and Compassion for Man's Soul: Jonathan Edwards on the Unity of Motives for World Missions
Edwards was always asking about the ultimate end of things, because once we know and embrace the final and highest reason that we and the church and the nations exist, then all our thinking and all our feeling and all our acting will be governed by that aim. …Edwards was absolutely clear on the ultimate question of why all things exist, including you and me and the church universal and the nations and history. He was absolutely clear on it because God was absolutely clear on it. Edwards wrote a book called ‘The End For Which God Created the World.' In my own thinking, it is the most important thing he ever wrote. Once we understand what he wrote there, everything-absolutely everything-changes. His answer to the question, What is the ultimate goal of creation and history and redemption and your life and everything else? is this: "All that is ever spoken of in the Scripture as an ultimate end of God's works, is included in that one phrase, the glory of God." pg. 203-204
The first great passion of missions, therefore, is to honor the glory of God by restoring the rightful place of God in the hearts of people who presently think, feel, and act in ways that dishonor God every day, and in particular, to do this by bringing forth a worshiping people from among all the unreached peoples of the world. If you love the glory of God, you cannot be indifferent to missions. This is the ultimate reason Jesus Christ came into the world. Romans 15:8-9 says, "Christ became a servant to the circumcised ... in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." Christ came to get glory for his Father among the nations. If you love what Jesus Christ came to accomplish, you love missions. pg. 208
7. The Inner Simplicity and Outer Freedom of Worldwide Worship
So I believe it can be shown biblically that all our behavior should he motivated by a deeply freeing taste of God's goodness and a thirst for- more and more satisfaction in God. …When our whole life is consumed with pursuing satisfaction in God, everything we do highlights the value and worth of God, which simply means that everything becomes worship. May God make himself-manifest fully in Jesus Christ-that precious to us.
That is what I am referring to when I say, "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is." Our goal is to see that experience happen among all the peoples of the world. May the power of the gospel waken the dead, bring them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they see him and savor him with all their hearts. And may they be so radically satisfied in him that they are freed from the fears and pleasures of this world and follow Jesus on the Calvary road of love. Then others will see their good works and give glory to their Father in heaven-and the Word will go on from glory to glory. pg. 230
Let There Be Books
This book is part of the Let There Be Books idea that I started. Let me know if you’re interested.