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Why the Best Missions Sermon Is All About God’s Sovereignty

David Platt’s sermon at the 2012 T4G conference is one of the most powerful calls to the nations in the last twenty years. What made it so compelling? The title of the sermon says it all: “Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions.” It’s the next entry in the Great Sermon Series.

This video is brought to you in part by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can download a free book from Southern and learn more about training for preachers at


Tim: Charles Spurgeon was once asked if he could reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in salvation. With his typical wit he replied, no, I never reconcile friends. That’s a response any reformed Christian loves to hear. We know that far from being a hindrance to passionate evangelism, God’s sovereignty is actually our only hope for effective evangelism. Yet we also know that as long as Calvinism has been around, people have claimed it’s an enemy to evangelism, an enemy to world missions. Those who treasure God’s sovereignty are seen as cold-hearted curmudgeons. They enjoyed the benefits of God’s election but without the burden of God’s compassion. In response, it’s easy for a Reformed folk to hide our theological convictions whenever world missions comes up. When we speak of the great commission, divine election and limited atonement and irresistible grace, they tend to be left unspoken. In this unease, we are a far, far cry from our savior, Jesus Christ, who apparently had no qualms about divine sovereignty meshing with global evangelism. Afterall, it was only after he had said, all authority has been given to me, that he also said, go therefore and make disciples. What if we, like Jesus, began to boldly proclaim both God’s power and the world’s plight? Both God’s election and the world’s responsibility? Both God’s predestination and the world’s need for more laborers? Well, it might look something like this.

David: Our commission is to make disciples of all the nations, of all the people. The sovereign will of God is that people from every single people group will be ransomed by Christ. The sovereign command of Christ is for you and I to make disciples among every people group on the planet. That’s the point of the atonement. Particular atonement is driving global missions here. So, if we believe Revelation 5:9, if we believe that Jesus died to purchase people from every tribe and tongue and nation, then we will go to every tribe and tongue and nation.

Tim: David Platt’s sermon at the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference is one of the most powerful calls to the nations in the last 20 years. So what made it so compelling? I think the title of the sermon says it all. Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions. Let’s take a closer look.

This video is brought to you in part by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can download a free book from Southern and learn more about training for preachers at

David Platt’s zeal for global missions began in college when his wife Heather returned from a Passion Conference with a tape of Jeff Lewis’s God’s Heart for the Nations. From there, he read John Piper’s Let the Nations be Glad. And this convinced him of God’s passion to be glorified through the fulfillment of the great commission. But it wasn’t until a missions trip to Honduras that Platt fully committed his life to the great commission. When he and Heather married, they told each other the only way they would stay in the States is if they were doing more here to effect global missions than over there. In the first few years of marriage, David and Heather thought they would fulfill that calling at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where Platt had earned two masters degrees and a doctorate. As an assistant professor there, he devoted himself to training students who were spreading the Gospel all across the nations. And then they got a call from the Church of Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. Platt was all of 26 years old, but soon he was the lead pastor of a megachurch. Thrust into this new role, he concluded that God was leading him to mobilize the church for evangelism and for mission. Over the next several years that’s exactly what he did. Week after week, he preached the glory of God from the Word of God and called his people to consider God’s call to the nations. In 2010, he wrote Radical, I’m sure you’ve heard of that book, which challenges the church’s embrace of, what’s essentially just the American dream. Listeners to his sermons had come to expect this hard-hitting experience of being brought face to face with God’s Word. So when Platt took the stage at the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference, his audience probably had a hint of what was coming next. There would be passion, there would be conviction, there would be confrontation, there would be a call to sacrifice for Christ. But even those who had heard of Platt’s intensity might not have expected him to start the sermon quite like this.

David: I’ve one overarching truth that I want to communicate as clearly and as biblically as possible. One overarching truth. Here it is. A high view of God’s sovereignty fuels death-defying devotion to global missions.

Tim: This thoroughly alliterated point is the foundation for Platt’s sermon. God’s sovereignty is not an excuse for neglecting world missions. Instead, it’s the very fuel on which world missions runs. How so? Platt shows us four theological truths from Revelation chapter 5. First, he says, our sovereign God holds the destiny of this world in the palm of his hand. When we’re convinced that God’s sovereign hand rules the entire world, we will boldly go out into the world for his sake. Platt shows us why.

David: God is sovereign over it all. He’s sovereign over all nature, the wind blows at the bidding of God. The sun’s heat radiates according to His commands. Every star in the sky comes out at night because He calls them each by name. There is not a spec of dust on the planet that exists apart from the sovereignty of our God. He’s sovereign over all nature, and He’s sovereign over all nations. Our God charts the course of countries and He holds the rulers of the earth in the palm of His hand and this is good news.

Tim: Second, he says, the state of man before God, apart from Jesus Christ is hopeless. This belief in the exclusivity of Jesus Christ has often been challenged with the question, what about the innocent man or woman who has never heard about Jesus? Platt gives a sobering, truthful response.

David: People ask me what about the innocent guy in Africa whose never heard the Gospel? What happens to him when he dies? And the answer to that is easy. He goes to heaven without question. The only problem is, he does not exist. There is no innocent guy in Africa. If there was, he would not need the Gospel because he’s innocent. He’d go to heaven because he has no sin. The problem is there are no innocent, unreached people in the world. Every unreached person in the world stands guilty before God. That’s why they need Christ.

Tim: Third, he says, the greatest news in all the world is that the slaughtered lamb of God reigns as the sovereign Lord of all. Platt shows how the praise given to Christ in Revelation 5 and his authority to take that scroll is one of the most clear demonstrations of His divinity.

David: Oh, you may say, well, I thought God was sovereign, but now you’re saying Jesus is sovereign? Yes. Is there any clearer picture of the divinity of Christ than His authority to accomplish the sovereign will of God while angels praise His name? God doesn’t share the spotlight with just anyone. God only shares the spotlight with himself.

Tim: And finally, the fourth theological truth is, the atonement of Jesus Christ is graciously, globally and gloriously particular. In this, Platt highlights what may be the most controversial component of Reformed Theology, which is limited atonement. He says that from Revelation 5, we can be sure that God’s elect contains people from every tribe and every tongue and every nation. So, what should we do with these truths? Platt tells us.

David: So pastors, let us be finished and done with puny theology that results in paltry approaches to global missions in local churches. Let us believe deeply in the sovereign God of the universe who holds the destiny of the world and our lives in the palm of His hand. Let us see the hopeless state of man, before God, apart from Christ, and let us lead our churches to pray, give, go to unreached peoples with the greatest news in all the world. We have been saved by a graciously, globally, gloriously particular sacrifice. So let us lead our churches, let us give our lives, let us lose them, if necessary, for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom and the accomplishment of Christ’s commission, and let’s not stop until the slaughtered lamb of God and the sovereign Lord of all receives the full reward of His sufferance.

Tim: Four years after this sermon, in 2014, Platt was elected as president of the International Mission Board, where he began to mobilize people to the nations full time. Between traveling from country to country and visiting IMB missionaries, Platt continued to preach on God’s sovereignty and the urgency of global missions all across the United States. In February 2018, Platt announced that his time with IMB would soon be coming to a close and he would again devote himself to the full time pastoring, this time at a church in Virginia. At this point, we can only speculate about what motivated Platt’s move from the IMB back to the local church. Whatever the reason for the move, after watching this sermon, we know this at least; Platt’s move away from the IMB is not a move away from his devotion to global missions. He’ll continue to do what he did at the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference and what he’s done ever since, preaching God’s Word to God’s people and passionately calling us all to God’s mission.

If you’re passionate about preaching like I am, I want to tell you about a seminary I’ve grown to trust and appreciate because I know they care deeply about preaching the Word of God. I’d encourage you to visit Southern Seminary, which has been under the leadership of Al Mohler for decades now. Southern is absolutely committed to training pastors to know and defend and exposit the precious Word of God. If you visit their site, they’ll give you a free book that can serve as a resource to help you with the kind of bold preaching that we’ve been talking about here today. Simply visit

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