The Greatest Missions Letter Ever Written

The Greatest Missions Letter Ever Written John Piper

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.

Therefore, I have great expectations that, as I try to unfold the message of this book for the sake of the greatest cause on earth — speaking the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:19) to the remaining unreached peoples of the world — some of you will pass from death to life, and many of you will receive decisive guidance for your life.

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Sacred Scripture Inspires the Mission

Paul has given me great encouragement that this decisive guidance for your life — your future in missions — will be given through the preaching of God’s word. For example, in Romans 15:20, Paul speaks of his own divine guidance — his own Spirit-driven ambition — and he roots it not in his blinding encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus road (which won’t be duplicated in this hour), but in the power of the word of God to clarify for him his life’s mission. Here’s what he says in Romans 15:20–21:

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 [and then he gives the foundation of his pioneer-missionary ambition, and it’s not the Damascus road; it’s the word of God in Isaiah 52:15] as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”

The Sign You’ve Been Waiting For

In other words, what took hold of Paul — what shaped and solidified and intensified his holy ambition to speak the gospel where it was not known — was not some physical sensation, or flashing light from heaven; it was the word of God. It was a specific text of Scripture:

That which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand. (Isaiah 52:15)

That is how the holy ambition of his life was formed. And that is how your holy ambition will be formed. Nothing produces a deeper ambition in our souls, and a more durable perseverance in that ambition, than the word of God.

Follow Your Calling

When Paul and Barnabas turned to the unreached Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia in Acts 13, they said they were doing this, “For so the Lord has commanded us.” And then, just like Paul did in Romans 15:21, they didn’t quote a vision or dream or a subjective impression; they quoted Isaiah 49:6: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).

And I believe that is how a deep, holy, durable missionary ambition will be formed and confirmed in you at this conference and in this message. Not all of you. But hundreds of you. God will take some truth, some statement, some purpose of his word, and track you down and lodge it in your soul, so that you cannot shake it off. It will master you. It will hold you. It will thrill and give meaning to your life. It will be confirmed. Your church will see it. It will become your call.

The Greatest Missionary Support Letter

And lest you think that I will be squeezing Romans into an alien form of missions mobilization just because that’s what I have to do at a missions conference, let me draw your attention to this fact: Romans is a missionary support letter — the greatest missionary support letter that has ever been written.

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