Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions. By John Piper. Nottingham, England: InterVarsity Press, 1993. 239 pp. Paper, $15.00.
The goal of missions, John Piper contends, is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. The ultimate goal of the church is not missions. Worship is. Missions exist because worship does not. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. Worship is not only the goal of missions; it also fuels missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. As the title indicates, Piper exalts the greatness of God in missions, a proper and necessary emphasis. It is entirely possible to get lost in the task of missions and forget the ultimate goal, which is to bring glory to God.
The book is divided into five sections. The first is God’s supremacy through worship. The second is God’s supremacy through prayer as the One who sustains and empowers the whole process. The third section is God’s supremacy through suffering, which He uses to advance His kingdom and purposes on earth.
The fourth section deals with Christ’s supremacy as the conscious focus of all saving faith. Here he deals with pluralism, inclusivism, and annihilationism. He asks and then answers three questions in the affirmative: 1) Will anyone experience eternal conscious torment under God’s wrath? 2) Is the work of Christ the necessary means provided by God for eternal salvation? 3) Is it necessary for people to hear of Christ in order to be eternally saved?
In the fifth section Piper defines “all nations” in Matt 28:19 as all people groups in the world as opposed to all individual Gentiles or countries. He also has a good discussion as to what it means to be “reached” in terms of missions. Biblically a country can be said to be reached when the message is proclaimed in an understandable way (Matt 24:14; Mark 16:15). However, in Matt 28:19 (and Rev 5:9 and 7:9-10) a response is included. Missions leaders define a people as “reached” when there is an indigenous church capable of evangelizing the group. Leaving a permanent witness behind to continue evangelizing a people is an important task in missions.
The book does have a few weaknesses. In the section on prayer the author discusses how our lives on earth are a war that we must fight while praying. However, one of the elements included in this war is the laying hold of eternal life. He never defines “eternal life,” but considering his Reformed background it most likely means going to heaven. While we agree that life is a war and we must continue to fight prayerfully, we don’t agree that we do this to lay hold of heaven.
Let the Nations Be Glad is well worth reading for the perspective that it gives to the Godward orientation of missions.
R. Michael Duffy