Make Your Life Count
The Greatest Missions Letter Ever Written
(excerpt from message given by John Piper at Missions Conference in January, 2019)
3 Part Message
Today, Part 1
Paul’s epistle to the Romans is the greatest letter that has ever been written in the history of the world.
Greatest because it contains the most outstanding unfolding of the condition of the world, the work of God to save it, and the way God’s people are to live in it.
Greatest because it is the very word of God, inspired by his Spirit, and more comprehensive than all the other inspired letters.
Greatest because it bears the marks, and carries the fullest message, of the greatest theologian and missionary who ever lived, after Jesus Christ.
Greatest because no other letter has given greater challenges to the greatest minds in history.
Greatest because no letter in the history of the world has had a greater effect on the formation, and reformation, of the doctrine and life of the global church of Christ.
And greatest because of all the inspired letters of the New Testament, and of all the uninspired letters of history, Romans has been used by God to save more sinners than any other. As David Platt, at a previous CROSS Conference, recited from memory the first eight chapters of Romans, God caused people to be born again as he spoke. At least one individual could actually specify the very chapter when the miracle happened.
Four Reasons to Go and Send
We only have time to hear Paul make four great things explicit and clear from his letter to the Romans.
1. Every person faces God’s righteous wrath.
The greatest peril facing every person in every ethnic group in every place on earth and at every time in history is the righteous wrath of God against guilty sinners, leading to everlasting suffering, unless God himself rescues us from his own judgment.
Poverty, hunger, disease, war, crime, climate change, addictions, homelessness, ignorance — these may bring great global suffering. But they pale in comparison to the peril of being under the wrath of God. They are all tragic. But they are all temporal. They may last a lifetime. But the wrath of God lasts forever. One of the pillar convictions of this conference is that Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering. Paul makes six things clear about the wrath of God.
1.1. THE WRATH OF GOD IS TERRIBLE AND ETERNAL.
To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he [God] will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:7–8)
There are two alternatives: eternal life or eternal wrath and fury. We know Paul means eternal wrath because he makes it even more explicit in 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9:
The Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven . . . in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
1.2. THE WRATH OF GOD IS PRESENT. IT HAS BEGUN.
The wrath of God is revealed [now!] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)
The depravity of human hearts and human relationships in 2019 are not just storing up wrath; they are wrath.
1.3. THE WRATH OF GOD IS COMING IN THE FINAL JUDGMENT.
Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5)
1.4. THE WRATH OF GOD IS OWING TO OUR SIN, WHICH EXCHANGES THE GLORY OF GOD FOR THE GLORY OF MAN.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
[They] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:23)
All . . . are under sin. . . . None is righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:9–10)
Therefore, every mouth is stopped, and the whole world is accountable to God (Romans 3:19). (con’t next 2 days)