-- John Piper, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003. 253 pages.
The classic book that explores “the supremacy of God in missions” is out in a brand-new expanded edition, and it’s definitely worth reading again.
Part 1 deals with the purpose of missions (worship), the power of missions (prayer), and price of missions (suffering). Whether you are a “goer” or a “sender,” consider these chapters to be essential for your spiritual growth.
Part 2 presents Piper’s thoughts on the question, “Is conscious faith in Christ necessary for all people to come into eternal salvation?” He also deals with the concepts of “reached and unreached people groups,” the biblical phrase “all the nations,” the Great Commission, and related topics.
The penultimate chapter demonstrates how “compassion for the lost” directly relates to “passion for God.”
One great addition to this edition is a new chapter on “worship,” where Piper clarifies what that word means and how it relates to “worship services” and worship through daily obedience. The main point—and one that is great news for people working in the realm of ethnodoxology—is that “the New Testament is stunningly silent about the outward forms of worship and radically focused on the inner experience of treasuring God… [It] is a book of vision for missions in all cultures, not a worship manual for how to ‘do worship’ in our culture” (emphasis added).
Piper points out that the primary word for “worship” in the Old Testament is virtually absent from the epistles of the New Testament (read the chapter for details and exceptions). However, when Jesus is “on the scene” in the Gospels and Revelation, we see people bowing down before him left and right. What does this mean?
According to Piper, Jesus “loosens worship from place and form” during his famous encounter with the Samaritan woman as reported in John 4, and connects it directly with himself. In the Epistles, Jesus is not present “in visible glory” as in the narrative passages for people to fall before. Therefore, the early church primarily dealt with worship in terms of a “nonlocalized, spiritual experience” and did not focus on externals.
Scriptural passages and writings of the Puritans, Reformists and C.S. Lewis are brought in to support the author’s thesis. He connects these thoughts with his overarching theme of Christian Hedonism as follows: “Since worship is essentially the experience of magnifying the glory of God, the essence of worship is being satisfied in God in Christ.”
A concluding chapter provides a summary of some of the key theses, and there is a helpful Scripture index at the back.
Piper presents one of the most powerful statements I have seen about worship:
“When our whole life is consumed
with pursuing satisfaction in God,
everything we do
highlights the value and worth of God,
which simply means that
everything becomes worship.”
May it be so, Lord Jesus.
--reviewed by Paul Neeley
Published in Vol.2, No.2 of