This is part 7 of my series reading, highlighting, and commenting on David Platt’s book Radical. I’m going chapter by chapter, picking out the highlights (direct quotes from the book in italics) and offering some comments of my own.
In this chapter, Platt is exploring the urgency of the command to share the gospel, even and especially in “unreached” areas and groups.
In this [typical contemporary American] system of thinking [that in a world where different people have different religious views, all such views should be treated as fundamentally equal], faith is a matter of taste, not of truth.
This line of thought has pervaded American Christianity in two particular ways. On one hand, many professing Christians have embraced the universalistic idea that religion is merely a matter of preference or opinion and that in the end all religions are fundamentally the same… On the other hand, while some professing Christians have rejected universalism intellectually, practically they may end up leading universalistic lives. They claim that Christ is necessary for salvation, yet they live their Christianity in silence, as if people around them in the world will indeed be okay in the end without Christ.
More than 4.5 billion people in the world today are without Christ. As if this were not serious enough, more than a billion of these people have never even heard the gospel.
- All people have knowledge of God
- All people reject God
So [for a person in a culture with no exposure to the gospel] does worshiping the sun god count as good enough? The answer is no, according to Paul in Romans 1. People don’t get credit before a holy God for worshiping gods they create or imagine… Only God deserves worship.
I think this is probably the point at which we seem to struggle most. It’s incredibly humbling and convicting to think of all people rejecting God, even people who realistically have no idea what it means to accept the gospel. It seems unjust on its face, sure.
- All people are guilty before God
- All people are condemned for rejecting God
Paul concluded his teaching on the sinfulness of human beings by saying, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
- God has made a way of salvation for the lost
Not a way, but the way. And this is good news—the gospel.
- People cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ
If people cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ, and if more than a billion people have never heard of Christ, then a serious and eternal problem exists. This problem leads us to the final assertion in the book of Romans:
- Christ commands the church to make the gospel known to all peoples
The heaviest conviction comes when contemplating the link between points 2 and 7. It’s almost as though their eternal problem is our fault. Theologically speaking, it isn’t but there’s a weighty tension to understanding the fate of those who never heard the gospel—who have never been told what it means to reject God—but have rejected God.
God sends his servants. -> His servants preach. -> People hear. -> Hearers believe. -> Believers call. -> Everyone who calls is saved… There is only one potential breakdown in the progression—when servants of God do not preach the gospel to all peoples. We are the plan of God, and there is no plan B.
God has clearly decided to use the church—and only the church—as the means by which his gospel will go to the ends of the earth.
The church, the whole church, and nothing but the church. The personnel, spiritual and economic resources required for the great commission are obviously enormous. Part of the sense of urgency is not that we need a small team of wholly devoted and well-resourced people, but that we need a massive movement with everyone in the church pitching in. I think the biggest improvement that might be due is to get every church member to consider how he or she might participate, set a goal and pursue that goal. Not everyone’s participation will look the same, but having everyone participate by the power of the Holy Spirit is necessary for the progress and completion of the wildly ambitious project.