This is an article from the November-December 1996 issue: Will the Meek Really Inherit the Earth?

The Supremacy of God “Among All the Nations”

The Supremacy of God “Among All the Nations”

Worship of the Nations

Fod's great goal in and through out all of history is to uphold and display the glory of His name for the enjoyment of His people from all the nations. The question now is: why does God pursue the goal of displaying His glory by focusing the missionary task on all the peoples of the world? How does this missionary aim serve best to achieve God's goal?

The first thing we notice in pondering this question is how the ultimate goal of God's glory is confirmed in the cluster of tests that focus missionary attention on the people groups of the world. For example, Paul said that his apostleship was given "to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of [Christ's] name among all the nations" (Romans 1:5). Missions is for the glory of Christ! Its goal is to reestablish the supremacy of Christ among the peoples of the world. Similarly in Romans 15:9 Paul says that Christ did his own missionary work and inspired Paul's "in order that the nations might glorify God for His mercy." So the goal of Christ's mission and ours is that God might be glorified by the nations as they experience his mercy. Accordingly, the consummation of missions is described in Revelation 5:9 as persons from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation worshiping the Lamb and declaring the infinite worth of His glory. All of this is in accord with the repeated Old Testament calls to "Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!" (Psalm 96:3) Truly, the goal of missions is the glory of God!

Intended and Eternal Diversity

We also need to notice, as we ponder this question, that the diversity of the nations has its creation and consummation in the will of God. Its origin was neither accident nor evil. Its future is eternal: the diversity will never be replaced by uniformity. The evidence for this is found in Acts 17:26 and Revelation 21:3.

To the Athenians Paul said, "[God] made from one every nation of men (pan ethnos anthropon) to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation." This means that the origin of peoples is not in spite of, but because of God's will and plan. He made the nations of men. He set them in their place. And He determines the duration of their existence. The diversity of the nations is God's idea. Therefore, for whatever reason He focuses the missionary task on all the nations, it is not a response to an accident of history. It is rooted in the purpose God had when He determined to make the nations in the first place.

God's purpose to have diversity among nations is not a temporary one only for this age. In spite of the resistance of most English versions, the standard Greek texts of the New Testament now agree that the original wording of Revelation 21:3 requires the translation: "and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, Behold the dwelling of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and they will be His peoples," and not "His people" (singular).

What John is saying here is that in the new heavens and the new earth, the humanity described in Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 will be preserved: persons ransomed by the blood of Christ "from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." This diversity will not disappear in the new heavens and the new earth. God willed it from the beginning. It has always had a permanent place in His plan.

How Diversity Magnifies God

Now, we can ask the question: How does God's focus on the diversity of the peoples advance His purpose to be glorified in His creation? As I have tried to reflect Biblically on this question at least four answers have emerged.

First, there is a beauty and power of praise that comes from unity in diversity that is greater than that which comes from unity alone. Psalm 96:3-4 connects the evangelizing of the peoples with the quality of praise that God deserves. "Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. He is to be feared above all gods." Notice the word "for." The extraordinary greatness of the praise

which the Lord should receive is the ground and impetus of our mission to all the nations.

I infer from this that the beauty and power of praise that will come to the Lord from the diversity of the nations are greater than the beauty and power that would come to Him if the chorus of the redeemed were culturally uniform. The reason for this can be seen in the analogy of a choir. More depth of beauty is felt from a choir that sings in parts than from a choir that only sings in unison. Unity in diversity is more beautiful and more powerful than the unity of uniformity. This carries over to the untold differences that exist between the peoples of the world. When their diversity unites in worship to God, the beauty of their praise will echo the depth and greatness of God's beauty far more exceedingly than if the redeemed were from only one or just a few different people groups.

Second, the fame and greatness and worth of an object of beauty increases in proportion to the diversity of those who recognize its beauty. If a work of art is regarded as great among a small and like- minded group of people, but not by anyone else, the art is probably not truly great. Its qualities are such that it does not appeal to the deep universals in our hearts but only to provincial biases. But if a work of art continues to win more and more admirers not only across cultures but also across decades and centuries, then its greatness is irresistibly manifested. Thus when Paul says, Praise the Lord all nations, let all the peoples praise Him" (Romans 15:11). He is saying that there is something about God that is so universally praiseworthy and so profoundly beautiful and so comprehensively worthy and so deeply satisfying that God will find passionate admirers in every diverse people group in the world. His true greatness will be manifest in the breadth of the diversity of those who perceive and cherish His beauty. His excellence will be shown to be higher and deeper than the parochial preferences that make us happy most of the time. His appeal will be to the deepest, highest, largest capacities of the human soul. Thus the diversity of the source of admiration will testify to His incomparable glory!

Third, the strength and wisdom and love of a leader is magnified in proportion to the diversity of people He can inspire to follow Him with joy. If you can only lead a small, uniform group of people, your leadership qualities are not as great as if you can win a following from a large group of very diverse people.

Paul's understanding of what is happening in his missionary work among the nations is that Christ is demonstrating his greatness in winning obedience from all the peoples of the world: "I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the nations" (Rom. 15:18). It is not Paul's missionary expertise that is being magnified as more and more diverse peoples choose to follow Christ. Rather, it is the greatness of Christ that is magnified. He is showing himself superior to all other leaders.

The last phrase of Psalm 96:3 shows the leadership competition that is going on in world missions. "Declare his glory among the nations... He is to be feared above all gods." We should declare the glory of God among the nations because in this way He will show His superiority over all other gods that make pretentious claims to lead the peoples. The more diverse the people groups who forsake their gods to follow the true God, the more visible is God's superiority over all His competitors!

By focusing on all the people groups of the world, God undercuts ethnocentric pride and puts all peoples back upon His free grace rather than any distinctive of their own. This is what Paul was emphasizing in Acts 17:26 when he said to the proud citizens of Athens, "[God] made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation." F. F. Bruce points out that "The Athenians...pride themselves on being... sprung from the soil of their native Attica ... They were the only Greeks on the European mainland who had no tradition of their ancestors coming into Greece; they belonged to the earliest wave of Greek immigration."

To this boast Paul countered: you and the Barbarians and the Jews and the Romans all came from the same origin. And you came by God's will, not your own; and the time and place of your existence is in God's hand. Every time God expresses His missionary focus on all the nations He cuts the nerve of ethnocentric pride. It's a humbling thing to discover that God does not choose our people group because of any distinctives of worth, but rather that we might double our joy in Him by being a means of bringing all the other groups into the same joy.

Humility is the flip side of giving God all the glory. Humility means revelling in His grace, not our goodness. In pressing us on to all the peoples God is pressing us further into the humblest and deepest experience of His grace, and weaning us more and more from our ingrained pride. In doing this He is preparing for Himself a people- from all the peoples-who will be able to worship Him with free and "white-hot" admiration!


The ultimate goal of God in all of history is to uphold and display His glory for the enjoyment of the redeemed from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. His goal is the gladness of His people because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. Delight is a higher tribute than duty. The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy His glory forever. Since His glory is magnified most in the God-centered passions of His joyful people, God's self- exultation and our jubilation are one. The greatest news in all the world is that God's ultimate aim to be glorified and man's aim to be satisfied are not at odds.

Therefore the church is bound to engage with the Lord of Glory in His cause. It is our unspeakable privilege to be caught up with Him in the greatest movements in history--the ingathering of the elect "from all tribes and tongues and peoples and nations" until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and all Israel is saved, and the Son of Man descends with power and great glory as King of kings and Lord of lords and the earth is full of the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the sea for ever and ever. Then the supremacy of Christ will be manifest to all and He will deliver the kingdom to God the Father and God will be all in all!

This article is a compilation of excerpts from John Piper's book, Let the Nations Be Glad. Reprinted by permission of Baker Books. You may order the entire book from William Carey Library at the discount price of $8.50 ($7.13 when ordering 3 or more). Call 1-800-MISSION when using your credit card.


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