Why Should We Take Matthew 28:19 Seriously?

In David Platt's book, Radical, he points out 7 biblical truths from the book of Romans that help us understand what Scripture teaches about people who have never heard of Jesus. Radical has drastically changed my perspective on Christianity and has helped me truly understand the call of Christ on my life. Despite my endless encouragement for you to read his book (it will rock your world), I know only a few of you will. I will share his 7 biblical truths here in hopes that you will at least read my blog :)

Truth 1: All people have knowledge of God

Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

By creation alone, God's glory is revealed to all people - to me, to you, to the man in the African jungle or in the remotest desert - to all people.

Truth 2: All people reject God

Romans 1:21-25, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools... They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised."

All people have rejected God. We are inherently sinful which naturally causes us to rebel against the knowledge and the glory of God.

Truth 3: All people are guilty before God

Romans 3:10-12, "As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

The truth presented in these 3 verses is clear - all people, regardless of religious, cultural or ethnic background, stand guilty before God. Paul says in verse 19 "every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God."

Platt presents the following question in reference to people who have never heard the gospel, "What happens to the innocent guy in the middle of Africa who dies without ever hearing the gospel?" He responds, "the reality is, the innocent guy in Africa will go to heaven because if he is innocent, then he has no need for a Savior to save him from his sin. As a result, he doesn't need the gospel. But there is a significant problem here... the innocent guy doesn't exist... in Africa or anywhere else."

He points out the uncompromising truth that "there are no innocent people around the world just waiting to hear the gospel. Instead there are people all over the world standing guilty before a holy God, and that is the very reason they need the gospel."

Truth 4: All people are condemned for rejecting God

Romans 3:20, "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."

As evidenced by Truth 3, all people are guilty before God. In the words of Platt, "the default eternal state of humankind is not heaven, but hell."

He says, "if people will go to heaven precisely because they never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus, then the worst thing we could do for their eternal state would be to go to them and tell them about Jesus. That would only increase their chance of going to hell! Before we got there, they were going to heaven; now that we've told them about Jesus, they might go to hell."

Besides the fact that there is no biblical truth to the above ideal, there is no practical implication either.

The confusion comes when we question then if God is just into condemning people for not believing in Jesus even when they never had a chance to hear about him. But we have to remember, "people are not ultimately condemned for not believing in Jesus. They are ultimately condemned for rejecting God" whose glory has been revealed to them through Truth 1.

So far this is where we stand - all people know God, all people reject God, all people are guilty before God and all people stand condemned for rejecting God.

Truth 5: God has made a way of salvation for the lost

Romans 3:21-24, "But now righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known... This righteousness is given by faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe... For all of sinned a fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

Jesus died on the cross and rose from grave, and through him we can stand righteous before a holy God assured of eternal life. God has made a way of salvation for the lost. Not a way, but the way. This is the gospel.

Truth 6: People cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ

Romans 3:28, "For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law."

Romans 5:1-2, "Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into his grace in which we now stand."

Faith in Christ is the only means by which we can be saved. Platt points out, "obviously if people can't come to God apart from faith in Christ, this truth is not encouraging for those who have never heard of Christ."

We want to believe God in his love would not allow those who haven't heard of Jesus to go to hell. But this would mean there is something else they could do, apart from faith in Christ, to get them into heaven. Not only does this undercut the entire message of the gospel, it would be like saying to Jesus, "Thanks for sacrificing your life on the cross, but we really didn't need you."

All of Scripture supports this definitive truth - faith in Christ is imperative for salvation.

Platt states, "If people cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ, and if more than a billion people have not heard of Christ, then a serious and eternal problem exists."

Truth 7: Christ commands the church to make the gospel known to all peoples

Romans 10:13-15, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?"

Platt calls these verses "a clear picture of God's redemptive plan." God's design for taking the gospel to all people is right there in those 3 verses.

God sends servants.
His servants preach.
People hear.
Hearers believe.
Believers call.
Everyone who calls is saved.

What happens if his servants don't go? What happens if his servants don't preach? We, the church, are the plan of God. There is no other plan of salvation.

From Platt, "There is not verse in the book of Acts where the gospel is advanced to the lost apart from a human agent. God has clearly and decisively chosen to use the church - and only the church - as the means by which his gospel will go to the ends of earth."

Matthew 28:19, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Too often in the church today, especially the American Church, we teach that not everyone is called to foreign missions, that for some of us it's enough to pray for those who are and give them some money every once in a while. And usually the money we do give is what's leftover and is at no sacrifice for us.

Platt asks, "But where in the Bible is missions ever identified as optional?" In Matthew 28:19, Jesus himself has not only called us to go to all nations, he has created us and commanded us for this very purpose - to go to all nations and to show his glory to the world.

Platt suggests, "we have taken this command and reduced it to a calling - something that only a few people receive." He points out, "we take Jesus' command in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations and we say, 'that means other people.' Then we look at Jesus' command in Matthew 11:28, 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,' and we say, 'now, that means me.' We take Jesus' promise in Acts 1:8 that the Spirit will lead us to the ends of the earth and we say, 'that means some people,' but we take his promise in John 10:10 that we will have abundant life and we say, 'that means me.'"

He concludes we have "assigned the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all." We choose to send off other people to carry out the global purpose of Christianity while the rest of us sit back because "we're just not called to that."

Despite our different gifts, different skills, different passions and different callings from God, we are all intended to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth. This is why God gave us his Spirit and why He gave as all the same plan: make disciples of all nations.

All people know God, and all people reject God. All people are guilty before God, and all people are condemned for rejecting God. God has made a way of salvation for the lost, and people cannot come to God apart from faith in Christ. Christ commands the church to make the gospel known to all peoples.

Platt concludes, "If more than a billion people today are headed to a Christless eternity and have not even heard the gospel, then we don't have time to waste our lives on an American dream. Not if we have all been commanded to take this gospel to them."

Revelation 7:9-10, "After this I looked, and before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'"

One day every nation, people, tribe and language will be represented around the throne of Christ. Every people group is going to hear the gospel preached, and someone from every group is going to trust in Christ for salvation.

Don't you want to be a part of it? Don't you want to effect eternity? 

I do. 

My prayer and my heart is that people both here and around the world see God's glory in me.

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