When you walk into a church or work your way through its website, you can usually find evidence of whether or not that church has a passion for reaching beyond their own neighborhood, their own city—even their own country—to make disciples among the nations. Surely this passion has to be ignited in a church by the teaching and preaching. And surely it can’t happen if an emphasis on missions is relegated to just a few people in the church or to a certain week of the year.
In this recording of Help Me Teach the Bible in front of a live audience, I asked David Platt—senior pastor-teacher at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C., and founder and president of Radical—to work his way from Genesis to Revelation and demonstrate how a teacher can ignite a passion for world mission from whatever part of the Bible they are teaching.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Nancy Guthrie: Good afternoon. Welcome to this live recording of “Help Me Teach the Bible.” I love getting to sit in this big room here at the Gospel Coalition National Conference to record this episode. I’m Nancy Guthrie. “Help Me Teach the Bible” is a production of the Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway, a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books, and tracts. Learn more at crossway.org. I get to sit here today with my guest, David Platt. David, thank you for being willing to help us teach the Bible.
David Platt: To the extent with which I have anything to offer to help, I’m glad to.
Guthrie: I kind of think you will. David serves as pastor-teacher at McClean Bible Church in Washington DC. He’s the founder and president of Radical, and when we hear that term radical, we think to ourselves, yes, that’s where I’ve heard of him. In fact, this breakout session is sponsored by Radical which is the global ministry of David Platt and TGC is very grateful for their generous support to help make this session possible. And, you can learn more about Radical’s ministry by visiting their booth, it’s number 16 in the exhibit hall or you can go online to radical.net. Radical is also being very generous to all of those who are actually attending this live recording in that, on your way out, Radical is going to give you a free copy of the “Secret Church 14” study guide. So if you’re listening to this online or you’re watching the live stream, you should have been here. You would have gotten it had you been here.
David has written many books besides that foundational book, Radical. He’s written books like “Radical Together,” “Follow Me,” “Counter Culture.” He’s written a number of books in the “Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary” series, but David, you have a brand-new book coming, I understand. Is it out already or is it still coming?
Platt: No, Lord willing in September.
Guthrie: All right. It’s called “Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need.” Can you give us the short version?
Platt: Yeah. Basically, it’s unlike any other books I’ve written. It’s an eight-day trek through the Himalayas where you just come face-to-face with a collision of urgent spiritual and physical need, and I just kind of open up my journal entries in my own wrestling with truths I teach. It’s one thing to ask questions or talk about the goodness of God in the middle of suffering when you’re behind a pulpit on a Sunday morning. It’s a whole another thing when you’re saying the cross from somebody who’s dying of starvation, or a little girl who’s been trafficked to be abused. And so just wrestling with those questions and then wrestling with the ramifications for what this means for our lives if we really believe these truths.
Guthrie: As you may know, this podcast is specifically to help equip people who want to get better at teaching the Bible. And so, I wonder if you might be willing for us to start by telling us a little bit about your own development to becoming someone who stands up front at your church, at conferences like this, to teach the Bible. How did that come about? Are there certain people who were a model to you, a help to you? Just tell us how that developed in your life.
Platt: So, the first thing that comes to my mind was my first sermon. I had a youth minister who really had an indelible impact on my life, and he asked me that… We had like a youth service once a month and he asked me to preach when I was in eighth grade for the youth service and he…
Guthrie: Is there a recording of this?
Platt: I sure hope not. So, I remember the text I chose. I mean, I could preach from any text, I chose Revelation 3:14-21, Church at Laodicea and I don’t know why. So anyway, I did so much study. I had a Matthew Henry commentary and I studied that as much as I could. I had pages everywhere. You know, the text, lukewarm, spewed out of my mouth. So I walk up in front of that group, it’s about a hundred people and I had a water bottle. Before I said anything, I took a sip and I spit it out on the front row and I said, “That’s what God thinks of you if you’re lukewarm,” and so just kind of dove in from there.
Guthrie: Well, that was dramatic.
Platt: So that was the first sermon. So anyway…
Guthrie: Tell me you developed from there.
Platt: Yeah, I hope so. I hope so. So, I would say from there, I definitely had a zeal. I loved studying the word, teaching, and so started a Bible study in my house. And so that just grew, that grew through high school, grew through college, but then where things really took a big turn…
Guthrie: A radical turn?
Platt: …in my own heart was when I went to seminary and I sat in a…first day, I remember where I was, sitting in an expository preaching class and my job was just on the ground thinking, “Have I ever really preached God’s word the way it’s supposed to be preached?” I know my heart was good but like really studying as I ought to, what it means to expose the voice of God, and Jim Shaddix was teaching that class. He became a mentor to me in preaching and just his zeal for, love for, and reverence for the authority of God’s word just totally changed my outlook on preaching from that point. So anyway, it’s pretty awesome privilege that we have to communicate this word, and so I’m not over that. I’m not over that.
Guthrie: You are often, I notice, and anybody who has seen or heard you preach, you are often very emotional, often always very passionate. I was talking to someone this morning about interviewing you today and he put it this way, that there is a visceral element of God’s concern for the lost in you that he hears when you preach. So, will you talk to us a little bit about using emotion and demonstrating passion in our teaching? I think some people fear being too emotional and other people actually express very little emotion or passion and sometimes that’s just out of desire to put really the focus on the text. What would you say about those elements in terms of emotion and passion for those of us who are trying to become more effective Bible teachers?
Platt: I think it’s a great question. I know we all have different personalities. I think non-negotiable, though, for anybody who’s proclaiming the word is that it needs to be, the text needs to be, internalized in us and so it needs to have a hold of our hearts. And obviously, that’s going to look different in different people, but it needs to have a hold in our hearts. I mentioned Jim Shaddix. I remember one day he and I were going to like tag-team preach and so we were tag-team preparing and just doing preparation together. And, I remember, he said, “All right, let’s start.” But we didn’t start with a bunch of resources. He said, “Let’s get on our knees,” and so we just opened up the text. We read through it, and we just start praying through the text on our knees. I look over, he’s, like, weeping over the text. Like, really just, I mean, emotionally affected by it and that really stuck with me. I thought I want that to be… Yeah, a part of my life and preaching ministry that it’s really affecting my heart. Because the last thing we want to do is like trying to manufacture, kind of, emotion in any preaching or teaching of God’s word. Like, that’s not pleasing to God, it’s not helpful to anybody.
Guthrie: And audience feels manipulated by that.
Platt: Yeah. So I think that’s really unhealthy. But, if the text has affected you, I think it’s going to come out and I would just say to the extent with which it’s possible, the mood of the text should be reflected in the mood of the proclamation of that text. So, if it’s a really serious passage about judgment, it would make no sense to preach that passage with, like, a big smile on your face the whole time. It’s just like, okay, something’s not adding up here. Or if it’s a text about joy and you’re like totally dry, it’s like, okay, that’s not… So we want to reflect the text as much as possible, and I just think the text is glorious and so that should come out in our preaching. I think this is one thing I’ve learned from watching John Piper preach. I think he reflects the mood of the text.
He’s, yesterday, just interacting with the text, and it’s affecting the way he is serious at this point, he’s, like, happy at this point because the text is leading to that. Again, it’ll play out differently in different personalities but, we should be affected by that which we are teaching, and I think that’s going to come out.
Guthrie: Well, we’re here today to talk about teaching that ignites a passion for the world and that’s because that’s something that you have done very effectively in your church in Birmingham and now you’re in D.C. And it seems to me that if we’re going to teach that, that that’s maybe not just like we take one week in the year and we’re going to focus on igniting a passion for the world, but that instead, this might be something that because it’s the heartbeat of God Himself, it would arise and come through our teaching almost anywhere we are in the Bible. We don’t want to artificially do that, but we do want to let it arise when it’s there. So I’m wondering if we could spend our next time, if we could just walk through various parts of the Bible. And, if you might be willing to demonstrate from these various parts of the Bible and the Bible story and different genres, how you might suggest that we go about igniting a passion, for the world, from out of those passages. And we’re going to have to move quickly. So, there’s no time for passionate preaching from you here, okay? But, why don’t we begin in Genesis? I mean, that’s where all good things begin, isn’t it?
Guthrie: In Genesis, we’ve got just this garden especially in 1 and 2 and then 3, everything changes. So when you’re looking right here at the beginning, do you see a passion for the world right in these beginning chapters of the Bible?
Platt: Yes I do. And I’m loving this exercise and I’ll try not to preach a bunch, but…
Guthrie: That’s okay. You can break out a little but I might just reel you back in, if you need it.
Platt: That’s great, that’s great, and I’ll just add this because this was another jaw-on-the-ground moment for me. I remember where I was sitting in a breakout session at a conference in college, and Jeff Lewis, who teaches now at Cal Baptist University and is actually coming on and helping with Radicals and stuff right now. But anyway, Jeff opened the Bible in that breakout session. He walked from Genesis to Revelation and he showed God’s zeal for his glory among the nations, from cover to cover and I just will never forget. It was like, “Whoa, this changes everything.” It was eye-opening for me. So, I’m loving this session.
So yes, Genesis, and so I would say God’s passion for his glory in all nations is going to be in all these texts and we don’t need to try to impose it, but it’s laced throughout the entire Bible. So Genesis 1 obviously is glorious creator. He creates us in His image with the capacity to know Him and then the first command He gives is Genesis 1:28. God blessed them, said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth with my image.” And so from the very beginning, you have this commission to multiply for the spread of God’s blessing and glory in the world. In a way that is then totally neglected, actually disobeyed in Genesis 11:4, “Come let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the earth.” So, it’s a total disobedience to God’s command to multiply, and it’s all about man not the glory of God which then leads in Genesis chapter 12 to that blessing of Abraham, and He says, “No, this is my design. I’m going to bless those who bless you and whoever curses you, I will curse and… Him who dishonors you I will curse and through you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So clearly we see a picture of God’s desire for His blessing to be made known. So, Genesis 1, 11, 12, “His blessing may be known among his people for the spread of his blessing to all peoples.” And we’re 12 chapters in and it’s clear.
Guthrie: So there’s a sense right there at the beginning in Genesis that God’s desire is that the whole earth be filled with His offspring bearing His image, declaring His glory. And, we might think at the fall that there’s going to have to be a shift, that this is not going to happen. And so then when we get to Abraham, we discover, no, He hasn’t forgotten that plan, but it’s going to go about a different way.
Platt: It’s the same plan. From the beginning, God is zealous about His glory, being made known and His image bearers filling the earth with His glory.
Guthrie: So when we do get there in Genesis chapter 12 and Abraham is told, “You’re going to be a blessing,” and in fact, “through you, all the families of the earth are going to be blessed.” Let’s say you were teaching that passage, can you give us a taste of what you would say that would help to ignite that passion in those we’re teaching?
Platt: I would just say, I mean, feel the wonder and the weight of what God is saying here to this pagan idolater named Abram. “I’m going to bless you. I’m going to pour out my blessing on you.” This is the pure undeserved favor of God. None of us deserves such grace. Abram didn’t deserve it, none of us deserve it, this is the blessing of God, yet it doesn’t center on Abram. It’s not just for him. It is for, “so that through you,” and your offspring, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So God doesn’t intend His blessing to center on us, He intends His blessing to spread through us, in a way that resounds to His glory, as it spreads through us.
So that’s clear and you see the same thing, Genesis 26:4, Genesis 28:14, the same promises to Isaac and Jacob flow. “I’m going to multiply your offspring like stars of heaven and through your offspring, all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, they’ll spread out to the west and the east, north and south, all peoples on earth shall be blessed through you and your offspring.” Like, it’s clear, it’s unmistakable. God is not just blessing up people, they are intended to be the conduit of his blessing to all the peoples.
Guthrie: Well, that plan seems threatened when we turn the page to the book of Genesis because now, these are people when they are 2 million strong but they are enslaved in Egypt. And, in fact, the Pharaoh is working on his plan to actually wipe out this nation by killing all of the baby boys. But, they emerge from there and God speaks to them and He tells them what He intends for them to be, and what He plans for them to do.
Platt: So key texts along these lines, yes. Well, you just look at his words, God’s words to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:16. “For this reason, I’ve raised you up to show you my power so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” God’s zealous for his glory in the salvation of his people. Exodus 14, obviously after the Passover… I think it’s helpful as we read through these texts and think about these different stages in redemptive history just to ask the question why. Why is God doing what He’s doing? So you get to Exodus 14 when God has led his people out of Egypt. They come to the Red Sea. So why would God… I’m not a military expert, but it doesn’t seem wise to lead your people to a dead end where an army, it’s about to overtake you behind you, why would you do that? And Exodus 14:4 tells us why. “I will gain glory for Myself through Pharaoh and the Egyptians and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”
Basically, God says, “I’m going to split the sea in half, send you through on dry land, and the Egyptians will know that I’m the Lord,” which is a phrase we see… I can’t remember off the top of my head exactly how many times, but over and over and over, “they will know that I’m the Lord, they will know that I’m the Lord.” And even God’s saying, “I’m going to deliver you out from slavery,” for what purpose? “So that you may worship me,” that’s why the whole second half of the book of Exodus is about worship according to God’s word, the law and the tabernacle. It’s all about worship, it all ends with His glory. And, picture it, Exodus 40 ends with God’s glory dwelling on His people but not just stationary, they’re following His glory as this pillar of cloud leads them and it’s a picture Moses will point back to, in his intercession at different points, like the nation’s see your glory leading this people, so you can’t spare them, or you can’t destroy them. Exodus 32, actually where I was reading today and Numbers, Numbers 14, just in my time with the Lord when… Sorry, I’m skipping ahead of Numbers. I apologize.
Guthrie: No, that’s okay. You can go on to Numbers.
Platt: When he’s praying, he says, “You can’t destroy this people because the nations are watching you lead them and you have brought them out not to destroy them, but to save them, to keep your promises to them, to bring them into this land.” Like, he is appealing to the purpose of God among the nations. You have saved them for your praise so you can’t destroy them.
Guthrie: Isn’t there something here when he says…tells them who they’re going to be and what they’re going to do. “You’re going to be a holy nation, a kingdom of priests.”
Platt: Yes. And in this, a demonstration of His grace and His glory as His unique people on display for the peoples to see.
Guthrie: Well, as we move on from the Pentateuch, we get into Joshua. I think this is where it may get a little bit more difficult for us, as Bible teachers, to be working on suggesting God’s heart for the nations because, when we get to the establishment of Israel as a nation, the people are being commanded to move into Canaan and actually destroy. And, it’s very harsh language, you know, defeat, destroy, demolish the Canaanites in the land. And so, we know that for many people, they look at that part of the Old Testament and they can’t even make sense of that kind of God. And they do a lot of things to diminish that. So we don’t want to diminish that, yet it is a challenge for us in regard, maybe, when we’re teaching. So how do we help people understand what is happening there, and how that fits into God’s plan to bless all the peoples of the earth?
Platt: I think without question, like, some of those texts in Joshua and Judges are really, really hard texts to preach. I think mainly because we have a pretty man-centered perspective of sin and… So, I think that we’ve got to step back and even you think about Revelation, I was having a conversation with my son. I know we’re not jumping to Revelation yet but about all the imagery there that’s just… I mean, it’s some pretty frightening imagery, and it’s reality. Well, it’s reality in Revelation but it’s played out in pictures.
So I think we’re reminded in the books of Joshua, Judges that God is… He’s not just the savior of the nations, He’s also the judge of the nations and sin before a holy God, it deserves holy, right, just, wrath. And we see this played out in different… And, as we know, as we walk through the Scriptures, there will be places where that judgment will be poured out even on the people of Israel in their disobedience, and God’s obviously made that clear. Even just some of the ways in Deuteronomy that He said, “If you disobey me, these things will happen to you,” and it’s really frightening language there, but this is where God is… He is the judge of the nations. Again, I think… So, obviously, we preach those texts for what they are and we talk about the seriousness of sin before a holy God. At the same time, I think even this compels us to a missional passion because we know, we know judgment is coming upon the nations. We know judgment is coming upon those who disobey God, who do not trust in the salvation of God. And so preaching these texts should drive us to be all the more zealous to make the good news of God’s grace known, because the nations are under his judgment.
Guthrie: And I think the text does demonstrate God’s grace for us. If we think about the book of Joshua, perhaps that’s why we have that story there of Rahab. She’s this one who is outside of Israel, and yet she’s heard about their God and how He’s given them victory. And, she takes hold of them and by that really she’s taking hold of their God. She wants to be one of those people who experiences that blessing, and it’s a beautiful picture, I think, of grace for those who will turn toward God and take hold of Him by faith.
Platt: Absolutely. And then there’s powerful pictures like Rahab, Ruth, a Moabite, a people under curse for sin, and yet God redeems and we see this powerful picture. And obviously, with Rahab and Ruth, both that will appear in the line that leads to Jesus. It’s pretty powerful.
Guthrie: And it’s good news for us, I think, about Paul when he says, “For you were once foreigners, strangers, aliens to the promises of God and now you have been brought near.” Beautiful picture of that. All right. They move in to the land and we go through the period of the Judges and then God is good to give His people the kind of King He wants, a king after His own heart, kind of king He wants for His people. And we see this picture in 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 Kings of David establishing a kingdom. It tells us in chapter 8 of 1 Samuel, He’s ruling…or in 2 Samuel, he’s ruling in justice and righteousness. And then we get the picture of Solomon, his son, and you see all these nations of the world and even this Queen of Sheba, and she’s coming, and she wants to find out what’s going on there. So, those might be a couple of things we could do from that. How else could we use that period of these historical books to show God’s heart for the nations?
Platt: Again, I’ve been mentioning, even that last one. So 1 Kings 10, when I think about, again, asking that question why. Like, why was Solomon so wise? Well, this pagan queen comes, sees his wisdom, sees the blessing of God in his life, and here’s a pagan queen giving glory to God for His grace in Solomon’s life. And this is what God is doing. God is blessing His people for the sake of His praise among all the peoples. In the establishment of the Davidic Kingdom, even the picture of His promises to David, and then the fulfillment of those promises, even in the building of the temple, construction the temple. I mean, this is a picture of the glory of God dwelling among His people but we know. There’s a court of Gentiles in that temple, and so God desires, and we’ll see this all throughout scripture, the nations to come and worship Him. That it’s never just about this people.
So yes, there’s unquestionably a covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel and a special relationship in that. But, they are always, ever since the beginning, they’re still intended to be a conduit of God’s blessing to the nations. And so we see that in the establishment of the kingdom and the promises that flow from that.
Guthrie: Then we move into this time of the divided kingdom, and when we read the prophets like the prophet Isaiah and some of the others, a lot of them have a lot to say about other nations and countries. It can be a little bit confusing, I think, because we’ll read in one place about all this judgment that’s going to come down on all of these nations, and then other places where there’s hope that some of these nations will actually come in and take part of the kingdom. So, I wonder if there might be a particular place in the prophets or something more general from the prophets that you would help us make sense of those things, if we’re someone who gets confused when we read both of those things.
Platt: Sure. You know, are we going to go to the Psalms at all?
Guthrie: We are. We’re going to come back to that.
Platt: Okay, sorry. I was just thinking, “Oh no. Kingdom. David, Psalms, like, it’s so glorious.”
Guthrie: I skipped to the Psalms. I’m not going to skip the Psalms.
Platt: All right. It’s great. So the prophets. Yes, I think picture blessing and judgment, these are themes that we see all throughout on both the people of Israel and the nations and so we see evidences of both… I mean, you think about Jonah would obviously be a perfect example of a pagan nation that God says I’m going to destroy but God sends a prophet from His people to proclaim “repent, and be saved” and God does it, and it’s a reluctant prophet. There’s obviously so much there, but then even just… I just think about Isaiah 43, Isaiah 66, Ezekiel 36, I mean, we can go on and on. I’m trying not to preach different sermons but all right we’ll just do Ezekiel 36:22-23. When God says to His people, “It’s not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I’m going to do these things but for the sake of my holy name which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, the name you have profaned among the nations, and the nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the sovereign Lord, “when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.”
Like God just said to His people, and all that He’s doing in disciplining them, sending them in exile, bringing them back, He said, “I’m doing all of this not for your sake but for the sake of my holy name which…” So that’s a very God-centered picture of God. “I’m not doing this for your sake, for the sake of my holy name among the nations where you’ve gone, the nations will know that I am the Lord.” Like, it couldn’t be any clearer what is on the heart of God here, His own glory among the nations even in His saving His people, in His judging His people. And so that’s, kind of, the theme we see woven throughout the stories of the divided Kingdom and the prophets who are proclaiming in there, and looking forward to eschatological hope, even.
I mean, I just think about Zechariah 8:22-23, like the people will grab the garments of those who are coming to the temple, and the nations will come and gather for worship. Even Isaiah 56, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations,” which we know Jesus will quote from, in the temple, but why would He quote from Isaiah 56? Well, because the temple… and why he was overturning tables? I mean, there’s multiple reasons, multiple things that were going on there, but one of them is they had set up shop. Not in the court of Jewish men or the court of Jewish women, they’d set up shop in the court of the Gentiles, the court of the nations.
Basically, they had said, “We’re going to make profit here and do our business here and to hell with the nations,” and that’s why He quotes from Isaiah 56 because, no, God desires the nations to come and worship Him. So, it’s just blessing and judgment on His people and on the nations, that we see woven throughout the divided Kingdom and prophets.
Guthrie: Well, let’s go back to Psalms now because I really do want to land there for a while. It’s, to me, a beautiful thing. If we think of the Psalms as being divine words God has provided to us to sing and respond to Him. It’s a beautiful thing to me that He puts on our lips a song to sing of joy over His intentions to save a people for Himself from many nations. So, what are some of the Psalms that you just love to use to demonstrate this?
Platt: Yes. The reason why Psalms… I was thinking about it the other day. Like, the fact that we have like a whole 150 chapters, a whole hymn book that is written for the glory of God, I was thinking, “What if I went to my wife and said, ‘Babe, I wrote 150 poems about how great I am, and I want to give them to you as a gift and I just want you to say them to me? It’s going to be so good for your heart.'” That feels like… But this is what God is… So, God is God-centered and it is good for our hearts to sing praises to Him. He’s very different from us. It’s Psalms we love, like Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me, guides me in paths of righteousness.” Why? “For His name’s sake.” For His name’s sake. Like it’s everything He does, He is such a good shepherd to us, and He does it for the sake of His name, and it’s for the sake of His name among the nations. I forgot that exact number of Psalms that reference the nations, but it’s all throughout. I mean, certainly in Psalm 96, “Declare his glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all the peoples.” Like, the praise of God is, according to Psalms, clearly is not intended to be confined to His people. It is intended to be spread among all the peoples.
I think about Psalm 67, “May God be gracious to us, bless us, make His face to shine upon us.” This is what I pray over my kids every night. “May God be gracious to us, bless us, make his face to shine upon us so that His way is going to be known on earth and His saving power known in all nations.” Like, why would God be gracious to us, bless us, make His face shine upon us? So that His way can be known on earth, His salvation known among all nations. That’s why He blesses us, for the sake of His praise among the nations.
Psalm 66 right before that, “Shout to God all the earth.” Psalm 68 right after that, it’s like God on the move. “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered” and we see just this picture of the glory of God spreading in the world through His people. We could go on and on with the Psalms.
Guthrie: Beautiful, thank you. Well, why don’t we make our way into the New Testament, into the Gospels? I think most people would think that’s actually where the story of God’s mission began, and you’ve convinced us otherwise, but there is certainly some key things here. So in the Gospels, how do we teach the Gospels in a way that ignites a passion, for the world?
Platt: I think it’s really helpful in the Gospels to show, in Jesus’ ministry, the focus on not just the Jewish people which, obviously, there is a unique relationship there, but the way He goes to Gentiles, the way He interacts with Gentiles, there are so many examples of that. Even just in the very beginning of His ministry in Matthew 4. I mean, as we’re opening things up, it’s interesting, we don’t just see Him focused on Jewish people. From the very beginning, we see him broadening to Galilee of the Gentiles. Like, it’s a picture that then is woven throughout and in a way that, well, I mean, we could just look at story after story but then it’s not a coincidence that at the end of Matthew, make disciples of all the nations. Like we need to feel the, I guess, unique nature of that.
I mean, people may have been expecting a Jewish Messiah for the Jewish people. For Him, His last words in this very Jewish focused book of Matthew to be, “make disciples of all the ethnic, all the peoples.” And then, of course, Mark 16:15, “Preach the good news to all creation.” Luke 24:47-49, like, “Jesus died so the repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached in all nations beginning at Jerusalem.” And so it’s clear in Jesus’ example and then it’s clear in his commission in the end. And so clearly Jesus is, in the flesh, doing what God has been about since the very beginning of creation.
Guthrie: You touched Matthew, Mark, Luke there. I’m thinking about John, “I have many sheep who are not of this fold and they must come in.”
Platt: Yes. I think it’s just really helpful. I don’t want to impose anything on any text. But, this book is written in the context of mission and by that I mean a global purpose of God to save people for the sake of His praise, from among all the peoples. And to, sort of, make sure we preach it as such.
Guthrie: Well, it seems to me we get a big basket of possibilities, for teaching in this way, handed to us in the Book of Acts. What are some of the passages that come to mind to you that you would really want to make the most of?
Platt: I mean, Acts 1:8, obviously, “witnesses… to the ends of the earth” and just in the way that unfolds. Acts 2, all these nations hearing the wonders of God in their own tongues. And then, so you’ve got a picture of the spread of the gospel then starting there in Acts 2 and flowing. But then you get to… It’s interesting, right? Jesus had said, “You’ll be witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, the ends of the earth.” When you get to chapter 7, the gospel is still stuck in Jerusalem and so it’s martyrdom of Stephen that actually leads to the gospel spreading to Judea and Samaria. So Stephen’s martyred, Acts 8:3-4, Now those who are persecuted with the stoning of Stephen scattered, preaching the gospel everywhere they went. Then you see Philip and Ethiopian eunuch actually reading from Isaiah 56, not coincidentally, in Acts chapter 8. So this Ethiopian eunuch just so happens to be reading a passage about how God’s blessing is for all the nations.
And so then, of course, you get to 9, Paul’s conversion, for the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. I’ve saved you for the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. You get to chapter 10, Peter, Cornelius, big, big turning moment in the early church where they realized this gospel isn’t just for us, it is for all the peoples. Then you get to chapter 11, those who were scattered because of the persecution with Stephen are preaching the gospel in Antioch and some of them preached to Greeks. Also, a great number of them believed in the Lord. You have the founding of the church of Antioch which then becomes, in Acts 13, the base of missionary sending. So you have the first missionary journey going out from there and Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13 who are now spreading the gospel in places where it’s not gone. First missionary journey back to Antioch. Jerusalem conference thinking, “What do we do with all these Gentiles that are coming in? What kind of rules or laws do we hold them to?” And they’re sent out on their second missionary journey, Acts 16. Then third missionary journey, obviously, at that point, Paul knows he’s not going back to Antioch because he wants to get to Rome. So, he writes a letter to Romans. And the whole reason he wrote the letter to the Romans…
Guthrie: You guys can do that with Acts too, right?
Platt: It’s just glorious, right? Like it’s on every page and…
Guthrie: And over and over again, the word of the Lord spread, the word of God spread.
Platt: They glorified the word of the Lord. The Gentiles who were appointed to eternal life, believed. The Gentiles glorified the word of the Lord. That’s Acts 13:48 and…
Guthrie: Yeah. And that whole book follows that pattern that Jesus had left them with, to the Jew first, and to Judea, and to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. That’s the shape of the Book of Acts, isn’t it?
Platt: Yes. And then you get to the end, and the kingdom of God is being proclaimed without hindrance. As Paul’s now on his way to Rome and the whole reason why wanted to go to Rome was… Well, we’re about to get into epistles.
Guthrie: Yes, let’s get to the epistles. All right. A lot of the epistles are speaking to churches in various places that are being planted around the world. So, are there certain places in the epistles that you really lean toward for this?
Platt: Yeah. I think that one of the keys with the epistles is to remember that context. This is a church-planting context. The Gospel’s going forward into new places. Churches are being planted in new places and that’s the letters that are written, are to encourage churches that have just been planted that are in new territory. I mean, it’s all in the context of mission, I guess, is the main thing to remember. And then, of course, so Romans, I would maintain that part of the purpose of the book of Romans was to persuade and encourage the Church of Rome to help Paul get the gospel to Spain because the gospel had not had gone there. It’s like a missionary-support letter when you look at Romans 15. He goes through, my ambition is to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named. That is why I’m writing this to you so you can support me on my journey there. So it’s not just… Romans 1-8 isn’t just like glorious pictures of the gospel just so we have it. Like, it’s glorious pictures of the gospel, yes, to encourage us, but also to motivate us.
“People in Spain have never even heard this,” Paul says, “They’ve got to hear it.” He’s writing this from Corinth. He knows Antioch is not the best place to help him get to Spain, so he writes this letter to Rome to say, “Help me get the gospel to Rome.” And then you’ve got the fledgling… yeah, whether it’s the Church of Corinth and other churches struggling with this or that, that he’s obviously working for the purity of the gospel and in the way that plays out in the church. But, even when you see Paul, like, in Galatians when he says in 1:15-16, for God “was pleased to reveal his son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.” Paul, why was God pleased to reveal Jesus to you? “So that I might preach Him among the nations.” His salvation was equated with mission in those verses.
And then you look at even just the Gospel message itself, is a message for not just one type of people. You get to Galatians 3:14, this is a key verse when Paul’s talking about Jesus became a curse for us, and not just for this people but so that all peoples will be blessed. It’s the same language we’ve seen from the very beginning, and all that Paul’s doing there, kind of talking about old Covenant and so it’s for the purpose. And then you get to Ephesians 2 and it’s the Jews and Gentiles coming together in the church. So, this is a new man, it’s a new body that’s not just one type of people. So I don’t know if we should keep going through all the letters. But anyway, it’s… So through you, Thessalonian church, the Gospel’s resounding around the world.
So just among all these different peoples, it’s creating all kinds of problems and challenges as the gospel goes to Gentiles, not just Jews, and those are those are challenges that are real, and anybody who works in cross-cultural settings around the world, but this is the beauty. When you look at the church, not even just around the world, I think about the church that I have the privilege of pastoring, like there’s over 100 nations represented in this church. There’s only one explanation for why all these people from all these different nations are together in this room, on a Sunday, and it’s because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like, if it’s found that He’s not alive, he’s not been risen from the dead, our community makes no sense. And that’s what we’re seeing on the pages of the Epistles in the New Testament.
Guthrie: Beautiful. All right. Now, the best part of the story and it’s all headed toward here. Right? The consummation, which is so beautifully pictured in the book of Revelation as John is given a vision. Tell us about some of the beautiful things that we can anticipate in terms of how God is going to bring this whole story, of his plan for the nations, together that we discover in Revelation.
Platt: I mean, the obvious texts are Revelation 4 and 5, the vision’s there and Revelation 7. I mean, worthy are you Lord. You have purchased people for God from every nation, tribe, tongue, language. Jesus has purchased people from all the ethnic and so he said in the beginning, “All peoples are going to be blessed through you and your offspring.” In the end, all peoples are blessed. Like Revelation 7:9-10, “A multitude no one can count from, every nation, tribe, town and people, gather around the throne of God signing praise and salvation belongs to our God and the Lamb who sits on the throne.” Like, all of history is headed toward that day. And so if that’s where history’s headed, if that’s where the train of history is headed, then I want to call people to get on that train. Live for that day. Like, let your heart beat.
This is not an isolated theme in the Bible. This is the purpose of God in the world, therefore the purpose of God in our life. And then all the way to… I mean, even in Revelation 22 when we see those bookends and so the garden picture from the very beginning and no longer is there any curse and you shall have the tree that reappears in Revelation 22, but now no longer any curse, because it’s tree, its leaves are for the healing of the nations. Boom. Drop the mic. Revelation 22, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, like, bring it about, the day where the nations, all the nations, find their healing in Christ.” So, that’s where it’s all going.
Guthrie: We look forward to that day. Don’t we look forward to that day? Come quickly Lord Jesus? Well, what you’ve done is just take this theme of the nations or God’s mission for the world.
You’ve traced it from Genesis to Revelation, and I hope you won’t mind if I just insert a little plug here for some workshops that I’m going to be doing around the country beginning next September through May of 2020. I can’t tell you a lot yet but on May 1st, I will announce them. I’m going to be doing some biblical theology workshops for women in 15 cities, and my aim is going to be to train women to trace themes from Genesis to Revelation, kind of, like David just did. So if that interests you and you want to know what cities those are, check my website, nancyguthrie.com after May 1st and you’ll have all that information there.
But David, when we are teaching and we know… and we have as this aim, we want people’s hearts to catch on fire, with a passion for the nations, anytime we teach. No matter what we’re teaching. We have to anticipate objections from our audience and in our teaching, address them. And I wonder if you could talk to us about some of the personal objections, perhaps ideological objections, practical objections, even theological objections, that we might expect from people we are teaching when we’re calling them to have a passion for world mission.
Platt: I think the biggest one is just a mentality that as soon as they hear… As soon as many people hear the word mission or nations, they just kind of check out and that’s like, oh, that’s for those people in the church, like, this compartmentalized program in the church for a select few people who were, like, called to that kind of different… And it’s really sad that we’ve taken, like, the global purpose of God in history and turned it into a compartmentalized program in the church, for a select few people who were called to that. So, that’s where I’ve constantly got, in my mind, just trying to undercut that, trying to just show, like, this is not just for a few people, this is for all of us. Like we have breath for the spread of God’s glory in the world.
I think about just couple Sundays ago I was preaching on… You know, we’ve been walking through Exodus and so we were talking about the spread of God’s worship that being the part of the point in Exodus, He delivered… not part of the point, the point. He delivered them for the sake of His worship, for the spread of His glory, and as soon as I said that, like, “God’s people are saved for the spread of His glory in the world and for the spread of His glory among the nations,” then I said, “Now, I know. I see thought bubbles around the room right now, like, you’re thinking, ‘Not everybody’s called to go to the nations.'” And so I said, “So I want to speak to those thought bubbles.” And just said, “Yeah, I’m not saying everybody’s supposed to… So the takeaway is not everybody’s supposed to pack up and move to another country for the spread of the gospel, but you were created, every one of you, you were created and you have been saved by God for the spread of His glory in the world. And your life is His to be spent toward that end. It’s a blank check before Him, how do you want to use me for your glory in the world? Like, this is for every Christian.”
So that’s what I’m after. I’m after, like, if the Spirit of Christ is in you, the Spirit of Christ wants the world for Christ. So every single follower of Christ wants the world for Christ. Like our hearts should beat for the spread of God’s glory among the nations because, that’s what God’s heart beats for, if I could use that terminology, but for His glory in the nations. That’s the why, the big why in scripture, it’s the big why of our lives. So that’s why I’m just constantly looking for opportunities to just… I just want the framework in which people see their lives to see it in the context of God’s big-picture global purpose. And then what will happen is they’ll just start to see it woven through the Bible, at all kinds of different points. And that’s where I do want to encourage pastors or just anybody who regularly teaches the Bible to… Yeah, refuse to just preach a mission sermon every once in a while. Like, show this theme of God’s zeal for His glory in all nations in the way our lives are part of that. Just show that every time it comes up, and it will come up all the time if you’re sensitive to it. I mean, this is why Jesus died, so that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached among the nations.
I would argue in a sense, it’s a core part of the Gospel message is that this is not salvation for a people, it is salvation for all peoples. And so, I think we’ve just got to… There’s a lot of work to be done and speaking to those thought bubbles that come up whenever you mention mission, nations, etc.
Guthrie: So, one thought is, okay, that’s for those people in the church who are kind of missions-oriented. I wonder if another resistance area comes from people who have been very influenced by our culture. And, I think our culture says, how arrogant are you to go to another part of the world and tell them to worship another god, and completely change the focus of their cultural heritage? And, just added to that, it makes me think about like… If there’s something in the news about someone who’s a missionary, I notice that the general media, they are quick to talk about a missionary, that missionary has to be doing, like, medical work or work with the poor somehow for them to receive any kind of esteem because, the world sees going in to actually proclaim the Gospel as, I don’t know, arrogant. Maybe there’s some other words for how they would perceive it. So how do we help those we’re teaching, kind of, get over that hump?
Platt: That’s a great question. On objections like this, I say we hit them head-on in our teaching. So, kind of like the thought where I was like, “Okay, so some of you were thinking that sounds pretty arrogant.” And I’m tracking with you like, “All right, for me to go… Think about northern India, 600 million people, tiny percentage, smallest percentage of Christians, followers of Christ, most Hindu, many Muslim.” So, whatever the percentage is. You got hundreds of millions of people who you’re going over there and saying, “If you don’t believe what I believe, you’re going to spend an eternity in hell.” That feels really bold and arrogant, unless it’s true. But, if it’s true, if it’s true, then the most arrogant thing I could do is sit back here and never think about how to get to northern India with this message. And if it’s true, arrogance is building church budgets and living Christian lives that turn a total deaf ear to the unreached people groups in India. That is arrogant. The most humble thing… If this gospel message is true, the most humble thing we can do is give our lives proclaiming it and spend our resources in the church in getting this good news to those who’ve never heard it. That’s humility. That’s, in many cases, a sacrifice. So, it all hinges on whether or not the gospel is true.
And so I think that’s where to hit those kind of objections head-on, and to just bring gospel light to bear because, we have a very warped way of thinking. I mean, one of the other things… People won’t say it, but we’re just a pretty ethno-centric people. We’re drawn to people who look like us, who think like us. We’re not drawn to go to… And so to really challenge that, God has not just died to save people… Jesus did not just die to save people who look like you. And he’s actually died to save people who are your enemies. We’re calling people, in mission, through the Bible to go to really hard places, especially when we’re talking about unreached people. Like, nations where the gospel is not yet gone where Christ is not been named, to use Romans 15 kind of language. I mean, there’s a reason why it’s not gone there. There’s resistance to the gospel getting there. It’s hard to get there, it’s dangerous to get there. All the easy people groups are taken.
And so when we’re calling people to go to the nations, we’re calling them to go to West Africa in the middle of Boko Haram, or the Horn of Africa, and al-Shabaab, and ISIS in the Middle East. And so, just to say, some of you think… I was talking with somebody who teaches at a Christian university, recently, and they said, they were telling me that trustees at the school have forbade students from taking trips to North Africa and the Middle East because it’s too dangerous. And I said, “So the trustees don’t want to be a part of the accomplishment of the great commission?”
And they said, “Well, their problem’s not really the trustees, it’s more the parents because the parents don’t want their kids to go,” and it’s like, “We don’t want our kids to be a part of the accomplishment of the great commission.” This is where we’ve got to go straight at these… Like, this is why we’re on this earth for the spread of the gospel to the nations. We’ve been given a clear command, and so just to go right… And it just goes totally against the way we’re wired to think, not just in America, but in many of our churches in America. We’ve just got to think differently. We’ve got to think so differently and that’s why… That’s another reason why it’s so important I think that we show this in the word, just over and over again at all ages. Like children seeing this, students seeing this, men and women seeing this. So that it’s not just this thing on the side, it sort of makes sense for a child to grow up hearing this Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.
This is one of the things that excites me most about pastoring is kids who grow up in the church hearing this week after week after week and so when it comes time to decide what to do with their lives, are like, “Well, how can I make God’s glory in all nations?” Like, I want that to be their heartbeat, when they’re making that decision, and parents to be raising their kids along those lines. I just think it changes the fabric of the church when we are focused on the glory of God among the nations. And they’ll only give their lives… Sorry, I’m kind of going off. They’ll only give their lives to this if God’s word compels them to. Like, I don’t want to like convince somebody to go…move to the Middle East or North Africa and difficulty just because I said it was good idea. I only want them to go because they’ve seen it. They’ve got conviction that my life is worth spreading the glory of God among the nations, and this is where all history’s headed and that I know Jesus has died for people in that people group and so I’m going to go. The Gospels going to compel me to go because Jesus died for me when I was an enemy rebelling against them, so it just makes sense for me to give my life doing the same for people in al-Shabaab over here. Like, it just makes sense, the gospel compels that. That’ll only happen when they’re seeing in the word, week after week after week, and I pray that’ll be the fruit of our teaching of the word.
Guthrie: One more objection or thought bubble someone has, all right? They think, “You know what? There’s lots of need right around me and our church is more oriented toward the city. We want to reach our city and meet the needs around us.” What do you think?
Platt: I would say, “Okay, so where in scripture is it like just focus on your city and don’t think about the nations?” So, biblically, even from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth, and we have been given… So just think about Jesus’ command to us in the great commission, make disciples of all the nations, of all the people groups, that’s a clear… It’s not just a general command to make disciples among as many people as possible. That is a specific command to make disciples of every people group in the world, every ethnic, however we define those. We have done our best to try to define them. So how are we getting the gospel to all of them? We have a clear command. Like, it is incumbent upon us in this room to work together to get the gospel to those who have never heard. And so, yes, make disciples right where we live. No question. And our church is in Washington DC, your church is, wherever it is, for the spread of the gospel in that city, without question. But there are more believers at this conference than there are in Turkey. Like we’ve been given a command to take the gospel to all the peoples. Like, somebody’s got to go to Turkey for the spread of the gospel there. More people, many, many, many more laborers got to go there, and all kinds of other places. And, the great commission won’t be accomplished if we just make disciples where we are right now.
Yes, there’s always need around us. The other thing I would say there’s often times a spiritual smokescreen. Like, we’re not really doing that much for needs around us, but even if we were, even if we were, then we’ve been given a clear command not just… The great commission won’t be accomplished, that’s what I’m saying, if we’re just making disciples right where we live. That’s where I’m actually…I want to be careful even in language talking about missionary, not just to say, “Everybody’s a missionary,” which means we’re on mission right where we live. Like, yes, that’s absolutely true. At the same time, if we just go on mission right where we live, two plus billion people will continue to be born and live and die, without ever even hearing the gospel. At some point, somebody’s got to leave where they are, they live, to go where the gospel has not yet gone, and the Bible compels us to do that.
Guthrie: David Platt, thank you for your passion for the world that ignites a passion in us. Will you thank David Platt?