Matthew 28:19 | Make Disciples of All Nations | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: Matthew 28:19
As you are being seated, you can turn in your Bibles to this morning’s text, Matthew chapter 28.
In seminary sometimes they would play a joke on young preachers and steal their sermon notes just to see if they really knew the passage. Well, it’s a good thing mine were just there on the front row before I came up here.
If you’re new here, we are going through the great commission, and basically we’ve said, the series we’re going to start our church in is the last message that Jesus gave before he left earth to go back to heaven. It is a message that is found in all four gospels. It’s the message that starts the book of Acts, which is the story about the launch of the church, the birth of the church, the spread of gospel.
And so I want to read starting in verse 16 through the end of the chapter just to set this whole message again our mind, and then for this morning we will focus on three words. Matt. 28:16:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Well, we’ve been taking this passage phrase by phrase in order to fully understand everything that Jesus was saying. And so this morning, we come to three small words, three small words which reflect the overall plan of God in human history: “of all nations.” Last week, we looked at what it meant to “go therefore and make disciples.” The rest of that sentence is “of all nations.”
Now, if you’re like me and you grew up in the church—I was not saved but grew up going to church—if you’re like me growing up going to church, maybe your church had something that they called “missions Sunday.” Did any of your churches have something like that, where you walked in the sanctuary and all of a sudden there were all kinds of flags around the sanctuary or outside in the foyer? “Missions Sunday.” And you would come and hear typically from a missionary, and typically these missionaries would dress in clothing a little different than you dress, and they would eat food a little different than you would eat, and really if we’d be honest, you know, we kind of really just prefer our hotdogs and July 4th and go USA.
So missions Sunday was maybe a little bit awkward for some of us. And maybe in your life you’ve even said something like, I’m not really into missions. And if you’ve said that, or if maybe you even think that now, the goal of this message from the word of God itself is to get you to see how that doesn’t match up with the heart of God.
My prayer is that nobody in this body would say, I’m not that into missions. God is into missions. God is most glorified in the salvation of damned, hell-bound sinners all over the world. That’s why his Son came, to save damned, hell-bound sinners. That chiefly gives him glory. It gave him glory when you came to Christ. That’s why Luke 15 says there was a party in heaven. The angels rejoiced. There was much rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.
Christ came to save the world—people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. So if we say missions doesn’t really resonate with my heart—it’s not really my thing—then my hope is that you would know your God a little bit better today and that you would never say that again or think that again, and that this would be a church who is concerned about the nations, not just because God is, but because in this passage—three little words—he tells us to be.
It’s not just that God has a heart for the nations, and so maybe I will. God has a heart for the nations, and he tells us to be concerned about people from every tribe, tongue, and nation hearing and responding to the gospel. It’s a command! Not just his character, but it’s his character, and he’s telling us to have that character in ourselves, to be concerned about the nations.
So for this morning, I want to give you two headings, two headings that will really frame our time this morning, two headings as we examine nations in the Bible.
1. The Heartbeat f God for the Nations.
First heading: We’re going to look at the heartbeat of God for the nations. The heartbeat of God for the nations.
You know the beginning of the Bible. God created the heavens and earth, and then he created man, and he looked at man, and he looked at man and woman, and he said it is very good. And he called man and woman to rule over the earth. They were created in his image, not just that they had his characteristics, but they also had his dominion over the earth. He called them to rule over the earth, and what happened in Genesis 3? Satan called Eve, and therefore Adam, to question God’s word. Adam and Eve fell into sin, and in Genesis 3:15, the first passage about sin in the Bible also became the first passage about grace in the Bible.
Gen. 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” This is God speaking to the serpent, to Satan. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” So Satan would attack one of the offspring of the woman in the future—Eve. Satan would attack one of the offspring of Eve, and he would bruise his heel; but this one, this offspring, would bruise his head, would dominate him at some point in the future. God immediately promises a redeemer for the world. That’s what’s happening here. He promises a redeemer for the world.
And then just a few chapters later in Genesis 12, you find God coming to Abraham and giving him a blessing for the world. But in between those, what happens? So God promises a redeemer for the world, for creation, who would be Christ, in Gen. 3:15, and then Cain, Abel—Seth; not Abel—Cain and Seth go on and have more children, and the world starts to grow, and the world is being spread out, and people are populating the earth, and what do they have in their heart? Sin. They have the sin from their parents.
So God, because he is just and holy, executes every sinner on the face of the earth except for one family, showing us God is holy, a judge, and God is a savior. That’s what we learn from the flood account. God didn’t need to save Noah and his family. But he did. Because he by nature is a savior.
God saved Noah and his family. And then we read right after the flood account—so, whole new earth, whole new people. Noah, his sons, their wives step out of the boat. Now what do we do?
Gen. 10:32. It starts to list the sons of Noah and the nations that would come from them, and it says this: “These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.” So God had told Noah and his sons, go, be fruitful, and multiply. Have you heard that before? Go, be fruitful, and multiply. So Noah, his sons, and the nations that came from them were to go all around the earth, govern the earth, rule the earth as God’s representatives. Be fruitful and multiply.
Well, do they do that? No, it only takes one chapter before they realize, hey, we can actually become great if we just all stay together. The tower of Babel, Gen. 11:4: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens [and listen to these words], and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” God, we don’t want to go around to the face of the earth. Don’t ever say, I’m not really concerned about missions. It sounds a lot like the people in the tower of Babel. Let’s make a great name for ourselves; let’s build a tower; people will know that we’re great, when God says, go all over the earth.
So what does the Lord do? Confuses their languages, gives them different languages; they all of a sudden cannot build a tower. Have you ever tried to work with someone who doesn’t understand you? It doesn’t go well, especially if you’re trying to build a tower to the heavens. It doesn’t go well. They then are forced to disperse.
But God is still gracious to the nations. Because in the very next chapter, God speaks to Abraham, and he says, Gen. 12:1-3—again, so coming out of the boat, go to all the nations. They say we don’t want to; this is all about us. We want to stay here, much better for us. God judges them and then gives them grace in the very next chapter. Again, undeserving. They don’t deserve the grace.
Gen. 12:1-3: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation [Israel], and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” So God starts Israel through Abram, and not only would God bless a chosen people that he selected—Israel—but through Abram all the families of the earth would be blessed.
Can you see God’s plan for the world? To make him known all over the earth. Africa. Asia. Europe. North America. South America. God’s glory is to dominate the earth, so when people try to stay and make their glory known, there’s punishment coming. But God is gracious. He will still get his glory to the nations, and that’s the message he gives to Abraham. Go and you will be a blessing to all the families of the earth.
And so then what happens between them? Abraham has a son, Isaac, and then we’ve got Jacob, and then we’ve got Joseph, and the timeline starts to follow, and this nation grows bigger and bigger. And where does the Israelite nation end up after Joseph? In Egypt.
God brings this nation to Egypt, they grow significantly, and Egypt, who has them in slavery, is mistreating them, so God sends a redeemer to them—Moses—and takes them out of Egypt to then go to the promised land. So God is building this nation up in order that they would show the nations of the world who God is.
Now, you have to understand that during this time as the nation of Israel is moving about, going through the wilderness, and they’re going to end up in the promised land, most nations had their own gods. This is our god; that nation has their god. The different thing about Yahweh was that he was showing that he was a God above all gods. He dominated the gods.
You hear in the Old Testament stories about the fish god which falls over because Yahweh makes him to fall over, in a sense mocking their gods. Or the prophets of Baal, who are slaughtered when they worship Baal, but God, Yahweh, is the one who truly has the power. God is a God of all the nations, not just one isolated nation. That’s what he’s trying to show.
So in Exodus 19 as they’re traveling through the wilderness, he gives them a law—you’ve heard of the ten commandments—he gives them a law, and he explains, goes on to flesh out the ten commandments and all that it would mean. Ex. 19:5-6: “Now therefore, if you will indeed [this is the people of Israel] obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
God is telling Moses that if these people obey, they will be a kingdom of priests. What does a priest do? Unites people. They would unite people to their God if they would follow his rules, follow his laws.
Listen to Deuteronomy 4. Moses, preaching that famous sermon which is the book of Deuteronomy, preaching that famous sermon to the people, “Keep them [the laws of God].”
Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of all the peoples [so when you keep the law of God, when you do the law of God, people from the outside, the nations, the peoples are going to see this wisdom], who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?
God is saying, if you follow my law, follow my word, and have that relationship with me that I intended, people are going to see that and think, our god is not like that one. There’s something special and different about these people. The intent was that Israel would be a light to the nations, a kingdom of priests.
So then we continue on in the timeline of the Old Testament, and you’ve got the covenant with David. So God gives Israel a king because they wanted a king. They wanted someone human because the God that was over them wasn’t enough; they wanted to see one. So God gives them a number of kings that were unfaithful and says, this is what you wanted. But then they’ve got David, and God is gracious to them; he gives them David the king.
And there’s a prophecy about David, and there’s a reason that Christ is called the greater David. You read the Psalms, and you read so many things that David wrote, and David looks like Christ. He is a type of Christ. And so really, it’s a call that Christ is the David. He’s the King David, the full King David.
But Christ gives them a king, gives them David, who in many ways looks like what Christ will look like one day, and in Isa. 11:10 it says this: “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” This is a prophecy that says, the future David—Jesus Christ—will draw the nations to himself.
So in the Old Testament we’re learning that God wanted the Israelites to be a light to the nations, and one day the nations would come to this future David—Christ. That’s what we’re learning.
And then a young teenage girl and the one she’s betrothed to travel to Bethlehem, and she has a baby, and who is it? The King. The future David. No coincidence that he’s born in the city of David. He’s born in the city of David, and they take him to the temple, and Simeon the priest says (I’m paraphrasing), I was told that I would see the Messiah before I died. And they bring him to Simeon the priest, this little baby, the Messiah. And Simeon says this: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation [in this baby] that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Jesus Christ came to rule and to be honored, not just by Israel, not just by American Christians, but to rule and be honored by the nations. That’s the prophecy.
The Old Testament believers should have gotten it, but too many of them were like Jonah. I don’t like those people. They’re wicked. They’re sinners. They kill. And what did God say? Go. Preach to them repentance. Same message. God is by nature a savior, and he desires his glory to be made known to all the world.
So Jesus lives his life, goes first to the household of Israel. They reject him. Takes his gospel to the nations, and then he commissions his apostles in our series to go out to the nations. And if you just picked up your Bible this afternoon and started in Genesis 1, and then let’s say it took you, I don’t know, you read straight through—I mean, someone brought you food so you didn’t have to get up—and you just read straight through your Bible, when you got to Acts 1 and you got to, “go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the uttermost parts of the earth,” you would realize—oh, there’s an added emphasis now.
This command is significant. He wanted Israel to be a light to the nations, and he sent Jonah to one, but mainly the nations would look in on them and say, wow, this God is amazing; they’ve got something amazing. But now after the resurrection, Jesus is launching people out. The speed at which people are to go out now is a little different than it was before. This has really stepped up in its pace. The whole book of Acts.
By Acts 8, you’ve got Philip going to Samaria—remember, Jerusalem, Samaria, Judea—and then in Acts 13 they launch the missionary journey to the rest of the nations, the known world. They’re obeying this thing, and it’s happening pretty fast. And then somehow in the last 2,000 years it’s slowed down.
It can’t be because we’re more faithful to the Lord’s words. It’s in fact the opposite. We’re less faithful. We can get soccer balls and Cokes and Starbucks to third world countries, but for some reason we can’t get the gospel to the nations. And that’s the whole point of this passage. Go make disciples of all nations. Basically, because Jesus Christ is worth it. He deserves it. And people can be rescued from an eternal hell.
I’ll skip the section on the apostles and the church in Acts because I’ll get to that in the second point. I’m trying to show you God’s heart for the nations right now. It started in Genesis 3 when he promised a redeemer for the entire creation. And you know where talk about the nations ends? Ugh, when do we get over this nations stuff? Well, in heaven. Heaven is about the nations worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ, not Americans. It is about Americans worshiping Jesus Christ, but along with the other tribes, tongues, and people groups.
Rev. 7:9: John, saying this:
After this I looked [he’s seeing this vision of heaven], and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.
The Holy Spirit could have just said, I see a multitude in heaven around the throne, with palm branches, worshiping the Lamb. He didn’t say that. He said, a multitude from every nation, tribe, and people, and language. It matters that people in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil would hear the gospel. It matters that people on the streets of London would be introduced to who Jesus Christ is. It matters to heaven. To heaven.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy [this is the reason why it matters that nations would worship the Lord, because he’s 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 [here it is again] a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
You see a lot of similarities between Genesis 1, 2, and 3 and Revelation. His glory was meant to be known around the earth. God has seen to it that he will receive greater glory as people from all nations become worshipers of him. Ps. 96:3: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” Is that hard to understand? It’s not. “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” Verse 7: “Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!” (Ps. 96:7). This is a call for everyone to ascribe to the Lord how great and strong he is.
I’ve told this to some of you before, but as Michelle and I were driving into Prescott the very first time, we were going to meet our new friends in September. We drove in, and we were praying about where the Lord would send us and hopefully use us. We just wanted to be useful to him. And we were driving in through Highway 69, and in Los Angeles you don’t have a lot of clouds. You have one, and it’s brown. Here, you’ve got beautiful clouds. We’ve got beautiful clouds.
And we came in, you know, 5,000 feet high, seeing the clouds, and we had a song that we would play over and over in our car around this time, and one of the lines said, “May these hallelujahs,” so the hallelujahs that Michelle and I would sing praises to the Lord, “May these hallelujahs be multiplied.” And it talks about this offering being spread across the skies. May these hallelujahs be multiplied, and we just prayed over and over—I can’t tell you how many times I prayed—may any little thing I do be multiplied, not just in Prescott, but then from Prescott to the nations.
Because I believe that’s the heartbeat of God. I just showed you how he has a concern that the nations would view him as glorious. All throughout the Old Testament and even into the New and even into heaven, it matters that the nations hear about him.
We can’t be like the people trying to build the tower of Babel—make our name great and forget about the rest of the world. We can’t be like Jonah, who sees murderers and rapists and people who mistreat the young and say, God judge them; I’m not going to those people. What makes us think we’re better? He saved us, and he gave us a message to go to the nations and to preach repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Because he is by nature a savior.
Now, the more you love someone, the more you appreciate someone, the more you’re interested in what they’re interested in, generally. So if I was walking down by the courthouse square and someone said, hey, do you want to read this book on being a unicyclist? I’d say, I’m good, thanks. Got other things to read, thank you. I’m sure it’s fun, but thank you. But now if my wife was into unicycling—she’s not—but if she was, and she wanted to talk to me about unicycling, or it was fun, she got up early to do it, I’d know a little bit more about it. Why? Because I think it’s wonderful and great? No, because she’s wonderful and great. So I’d learn a little bit more about what she’s into.
Well, if God has a particular passion for something, should we not also have that same passion just because he has it? How much more when he commands us to be about that mission? And that’s what he does in Matt. 28:19. Go make disciples of all nations. Jesus Christ came to seek and to save those who are lost. Jesus Christ is the lamb worshiped by all the nations in the future in heaven. So it’s not just that because he is interested in this, okay, I’ll be interested. It’s because he’s interested in it, and he commands us to be about this work.
2. The Heartbeat of the Godly for the Nations.
So we’ve seen the heartbeat of God for the nations. Now secondly, let’s look at the heartbeat of the godly for the nations. The heartbeat of the godly for the nations.
I’ve told you the book of Acts is basically showing us the obedience the apostles had to this commission. They immediately—Acts 1:8 tells them to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the uttermost parts of the earth. Acts 2: they start speaking in the languages of other people who are in town for the festival, and these people are hearing the words of God in their own language, showing that, wow, Jesus was serious about this whole thing. As soon as the Holy Spirit came, people from other nations started hearing his gospel. Really fast.
And then as I told you these apostles go out, and Philip goes to Samaria. Paul and Barnabas go to Antioch, the uttermost parts of the earth. This starts to get out; this starts to go out. And then we come to Paul—Paul, a murderer, converted by God. And God gives Paul a mission to go to the Gentiles.
And I want you to turn to the book of Romans. Turn to Romans chapter 1. And I want you to see an example of the heartbeat of a godly person for the nations. Rom. 1:14. Paul says this:
I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes [notice] to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
So to the Jew first and then to everyone else. And Paul says, I’m under obligation to get the gospel to the Greeks, so the highly sophisticated philosophers of Greece, and to the barbarians, the people who weren’t highly sophisticated and who were not philosophers. His point? He wanted to get the gospel to everyone. The learned, the unlearned. The Jews and the Greeks. To everyone. That’s why he was there.
And then this passage. Romans 1:18-19:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
Now these are people who have never heard about Jesus Christ. Never heard about him. He’s talking about people over all creation, and he’s saying that the wrath of God is on them because of their ungodliness. And now he’s making an argument saying, what can be true of God is being shown to them. Rom. 1:19-20:
What can be known about God is plain [verse 19] to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Basically, what he’s saying is, there’s no such thing as atheists. You look around, and you know there’s an explanation to this. You can see, he says, God’s eternal power and divine nature. There’s something beyond me that did this. People can know that just by looking at creation, and they are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Basically, people will worship everything other than God. They will build idols with their own hands and worship them. They will worship other people. They will worship animals. They will worship creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
What do we learn about this? People around their world and their knowledge of God is only enough to damn them. They know about God, and they are born in sin. Why do they murder and try to hide it? Why do they rape in their villages in secret? Why? Because Romans 2 will go on to say they’ve got a conscience that tells them what’s right and wrong. They know that they are doing what’s wrong. But they don’t know about Jesus Christ.
Some people might say at this point, well, that doesn’t seem fair. Be careful. We don’t want fair. Fair has all of us right now in hell, right now. We’ve received grace.
God is a just and holy God and punishes evildoers. But he’s also a Savior, and he’s telling his church, there are people around the world. He’s telling the church at Rome and he’s telling us today, there are people around the world who only know enough about God to damn them, and they’re wicked people. They know that they’re wrong (Romans 2); they’ve got a conscience.
And some might say—and I take this from a pastor who has used this illustration—he says, people ask, what about the innocent guy in Africa? What about him, if he’s never heard about Christ? And he says, ah, that’s an easy answer. The innocent guy in Africa when he dies immediately goes to heaven. There’s only one problem. There’s no such thing as an innocent guy in Africa.
That’s the message of what Romans is saying, Romans 1-3. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. They want their sin.
So, before we start to question God and say things like, is that unfair, or well then, what’s going to happen to them, see the passage that we’re going through for seven weeks. This is his answer. I came to be a light to the world. Matthew 5—you are the light of the world. I came, lived a perfect life, died, rose again; I’m going to heaven; you go everywhere.
God has been gracious enough, and he calls us to be used to get the message about Jesus Christ to the nations because this is them in Romans 1. We pray that they would be in Romans 5, reconciled to God the Father. How does that happen? Through us. We're a kingdom of priests. The Bible in Revelation 5 now calls all believers a kingdom of priests. We unite man and a holy God.
Go to Romans 10. Paul keeps going through his letter talking to the Romans. Rom. 10:14-17:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? [So these people we are talking about that only know enough about God to be damned.] And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Paul gets our question. Paul gets our question after reading Romans 1, and we say, well, how are they all going to hear about Christ? And he says, of course, how are they going to hear? How are they going to hear without someone going to preach to them? And how are they going to hear, or how are they going to preach unless someone sends them? And then he says, how beautiful are the feet of those that go and preach the good news! He is basically saying, this is our responsibility. Paul’s saying, this is my responsibility. Now you see why he uses the word obligated in Rom. 1:14? I’m obligated to go. He needs to go.
Go to Romans 15. Rom. 15:16: Paul, talking about why he’s here, “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” He’s calling himself a priest, and he’s saying, I’m going to the Gentiles, and I’m uniting them to God as an offering to the Lord.
When people get saved, it’s not just so that they would be out of hell forever, but it’s so that God would get glory forever from their lives. That’s why people need to be saved and rescued. Because he deserves it. Do they escape hell and judgment? Yes, but primarily, he deserves their life forever. And Paul’s saying, I’m a priest to unite them to God so that they would be an offering to the Lord.
That’s why missions needs to matter to us, because God’s glory matters to us, and he gets more glory when more people are saved. We got that? That’s so key. He gets more glory when more people are saved. That’s why missions needs to matter to me. Because it’s about him.
Rom. 15:20: “and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’” (Rom. 15:20-21).
There are a lot of things to do as a missionary. A lot of missionaries do a lot of different things. A lot try to bring food and clothing and medical care to some countries—and I know a number of those, have some friends who do that—and it’s a noble thing if the overall purpose is to bring the gospel to people. It’s one thing to bring clean water to people, but it’s more important to show them the living water, the eternal life.
So when you think about missions, let’s kind of give a timeline to missions. Let’s say there’s a people group out there that’s never heard of Christ—and there is; there are 7,050 today as we speak, 7,050. Let’s say there’s a people group out there; what do we do for them? Well, first we need someone that can get this into their language. Some of them don’t even have a written language. No alphabet. No nothing. So we get them the word of Christ. Romans 10. We get them the word. They need the word; they need the message of the gospel.
So we get them the word. So someone needs to know Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Someone. Some Christian—and Christians do. Someone needs to know that, translate this, get it to their language. Then, Lord willing, we get it to their language—and that often takes years—we get it to their language, and then what happens when we preach the gospel? God saves. He saves.
And then what happens when he saves people? They form a church. And so, leaders need to be trained in the word of God, how to lead people—1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Corinthians, books about ministry and what is means to minister the word of God.
So, you’ve got translation of the Bible; people actually become saved now that they hear the gospel; they’re growing; there’s believers; they have a church; now they have leaders that can teach them the word of God week in, week out, day by day by day by day. So that’s what we’re trying to do in missions.
And then what happens then? Well, then the hope is that it wouldn’t just be some American or some guy from Britain or some guy from Canada that has to go and preach to this group in the Amazon jungle as their pastor. Lord willing, one of them can come up and be their own pastor of their own people. That’s the idea. That’s kind of the timeline of what a good missions program would be about. Those things.
Is there a place for medical care and clean water? Absolutely, there’s a place. We want to minister the common grace of God to the people. But it’s all rooted in that gospel endeavor. That’s what Paul’s trying to say here. I’m trying to get the gospel everywhere.
Now, well, that’s great for Paul. He was an apostle. I’m an engineer in Prescott. He wanted to go to Spain. I don’t. I came here to retire. That’s fine. And I’m not saying you have to go. But if you don’t go, you have to send. And if you don’t go, you have to pray. Where do I get that from? Romans.
Go to Rom. 15:22-24. Paul expects the church at Rome to be with him in partnership.
This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain.
So, I love me some Romans; I love the Roman people, but I’m coming just kind of as a rest stop because I need to get the gospel to Spain. Spain hasn’t heard of Christ. So I’ve been delayed, but now I’m coming to you, the people in Rome, and I want to go to you and be with you and bring the gospel to you—Romans 1. I want to bear some fruit among you—Romans 1. I want to see you, I want to see you, I want to see you, but because I need help going to Spain.
Verse 24: “I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while” (Rom. 15:24). Paul assumed that the church in Rome would think that what he was going to do in Spain was a good thing. And he assumed that they would want to help him.
I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
So he’s saying, for me to get to you isn’t going to be easy. Will you pray with me that I can get to you? And then when I get to you, will you help me on my way? Because remember the end goal here for me: Spain. Spain. Got to get the gospel to Spain.
So right there, Paul is making missions not about just one guy. He’s making missions about the entire body. We’re in this together.
Col. 4:2-4: Paul tells the church at Colossae,
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us [What should we pray for Paul? What should we pray for someone trying to get the gospel somewhere else?], that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
So Paul is saying, pray for me as I preach Christ to people. Missions are all about Christ. People knowing Christ. Pray for me as I try to get Christ to people.
The famous missionary William Carey who went to India—he had this desire to go to the nations. He actually, as he was a young man, just made maps and put maps on his wall and just studied maps, knew maps. He wanted to go somewhere to bring Christ somewhere. He knew multiple languages, and he wanted to get to one people group to get the gospel to them. William Carey. And he said to his friend, Andrew Fuller, I will go down into the pit if you will hold the rope.
So if you’re not a goer, you’re a rope holder, through prayer, financial support. But listen, both of those people have a heartbeat for the glory of God to be seen among the nations, not just the missionary but the supporter of the missionary, because the supporter of the missionary gets the great commission and gets God being glorified by all people groups. And that’s us.
Most of us won’t go. But all of us need to hold the rope. Because that’s the expectation of the New Testament church. And again, lest we think that evangelism is just something for apostles or preachers, we might not go to the nations, but we might go to our neighbors. We might go to our coworkers. We might go to our families.
Col. 4:5-6: After he says pray for me that a door would be opened, he says this: “[You] Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
1 Pet. 2:9: Peter, writing to the churches, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” While Paul expected that some people would be senders in the church, he expected that all of them would at least go in their communities. He expected that.
Now, I’ve given you a picture of people whose heart beat for the nations, godly people whose heart beat for the nations. There is a ministry, a website, called the Joshua Project, and you can go and find some amazing stats on the Joshua Project. And if you go to the Joshua Project website and you read these numbers, you will come up with one conclusion. The apostles did not finish the mission. The apostles did not finish the mission. They finished their mission. The Lord called them home after a life, most of them martyred for the gospel. But they didn’t finish the mission.
Today, 7,050—as we speak today—7,050 people groups are unreached. So a people with a common language, common culture, common identity, have no access to who Jesus Christ is. 7,050. The world population is 7.25 billion. The population in these unreached groups is estimated to be 3 billion. 41.4%, therefore, of the earth has never heard of Jesus Christ.
And just remember all that I have been talking about. He sent Jonah, told Israel to be a light to the nations. He sent the apostles. He’s sending us. This isn’t the responsibility of some missions organization. This is the responsibility of every Christian, to be part of this commission.
My goal this morning with the people who I love—and that’s you—my goal is to help you love what God loves, and to obey what he calls us to obey. I’m very excited about what the Lord’s going to do in this body. Just knowing you is such a privilege. Being a pastor is a huge privilege.
We went back to this conference last week, and all kinds of people were saying, doesn’t it feel good to be home? And it’s not my home. You’re my home, and I don’t want it any other way.
And there are so many good desires that you have in your heart for the Lord. My hope is that what drove Jesus Christ would drive you and I, together. That whether we go down into the pit—and some of us might be goers—or whether we’re senders, that we would do all of those things so that the Lord would be known around the earth.
I’ve given you some ways to maybe help be obedient to this in your worship guide there, maybe being committed to being a more faithful pray-er for the nations. If you go to the Joshua Project, there will be an unreached people group of the day. You can read about them; you can see prayer requests for them. So maybe you’d do that and pray more faithfully for the nations.
Maybe you’re a sender, and in the coming months, Lord willing, we will have more of a concrete plan on how we want to help support people who are going to the nations.
And maybe you’re a goer. We’ve had people in our church already come to me and say that they want to go to the nations. For good. This is the heartbeat of God, to reach the lost from all nations.
We just got back, like I said, from the Inerrancy Summit. And one thing we were reminded of there is that every single word is important in here. Every single word. I preached on three little words this morning—of all nations. My hope is that you see those aren’t little words. Those little words reflect the character of God and what he is doing in human history. So we can either erase them from our Bibles, ignore them, or strive to obey them for his glory as a church.
There’s a church in Tempe—Tempe, Arizona. A church not much bigger than ours. And they for years have prayed about one region of the world. The Finisterre Mountains in Papua New Guinea have a group of people who do not know about Jesus Christ. They’re one of the 7,050. This church has prayed that the gospel would get to this people group. And just a couple months ago, this church sent two families to live there. Two families with kids packed up, went to get the gospel to those people in their language.
And the goers are certainly spiritual heroes, but for me, some of my spiritual heroes are the people in that church, praying and sending, and praying and sending, and praying and sending. They’ve got a mission as a church to get the gospel across that mountain range, and they’re in it together. All of them. The people there, and the people here.
That’s one church. How many churches are there in the United States? How many evangelical churches are there in the world? Certainly more than 7,050. What if every church adopted one people group? Talk about finishing the mission. And that’s what the Lord wants. And that can be us. And let me say this, if we get who God is, it should be us. Let’s pray.
Father, your Son deserves to be known and worshiped by every person who has ever lived and who will ever live and is living right now. And you’ve given us the ability to make him known. You’ve blessed us with your Holy Spirit. We praise you for the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes, who gives us knowledge, who gives us the words to speak in the right time, who gives us boldness to speak when we might be tempted to be fearful. Thank you for your Holy Spirit.
Thank you for your word. We’ve got the written word which points to the incarnate Word. We’ve got your word, the word of Christ, which saves people from their sin. God, please, please, please make this our heartbeat, that you would receive more glory because the nations know of you.
Give us wisdom in the coming months as we determine what’s the best way to get to the nations, how we send, how we pray, how we go. Father, let us never say missions isn’t our thing. We just want to be faithful. And we ask that you would answer these prayers according to your Son’s name and for his glory. Amen.
More in The Resurrected King Gathers His Disciples
March 29, 2015Matthew 28:20 | Empowered on the Mission | Andrew Gutierrez
March 22, 2015Matthew 28:20 | Teach Them Full Obedience | Andrew Gutierrez
March 15, 2015Matthew 28:19 | The Baptism of a New Disciple | Andrew Gutierrez