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Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton
Crossway Books & Bibles / 2009 / Hardcover
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* God's heralds have paid dearly to bring the gospel to those living in darkness. Read the gripping stories of William Tyndale, who died because he translated God's Word into English; Adoniram Judson, whose mission to Burma paved the way for worldwide missionary mobilization; and John Paton, who led the hostile to Christ in the New Hebrides. 144 pages, hardcover from Crossway.
Volume five in Piper's acclaimed The Swans Are Not Silent series powerfully illustrates through the lives of Tyndale, Judson, and Paton that the gospel advances through the sacrifices of Christ's ambassadors.
JOHN PIPER is pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His many books include the others in The Swans Are Not Silent series: The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (Augustine, Luther, Calvin), The Hidden Smile of God (Bunyan, Cowper, Brainerd), The Roots of Endurance (Newton, Simeon, Wilberforce), and Contending for Our All (Athanasius, Owen, Machen).
Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ, the fifth installment in John Piper's excellent series of biographical sketches, looks at the lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton. The book's title is taken from Colossians 1:24 where the apostle Paul says that he rejoices in his suffering, "filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." Piper makes clear at the outset his contention that suffering, and ultimately martyrdom, are not just the result of obedience to spread the gospel, but that it is one of Gods explicit, intentional strategies for making Christ known to the world. He explains that Paul was not saying that there is anything lacking in the worth of Christ's suffering, but in the extent to which they are known and trusted and loved among the vast majority of the world's population. More than that, he contends that God's purpose is "for the afflictions of Christ to be presented to the world through the afflictions of His people."
The first biographical sketch is of William Tyndale. Before his death in 1536 by strangulation and burning at the stake, he gave the world the first English translation of the New Testament, and a good portion of the Old Testament. His translation of the New Testament was the first to be made from the Greek text rather than the Latin. Piper examines the theological climate in which Tyndale lived, and discusses the parallels between Tyndale and the Roman Catholic scholar Erasmus, and looks at why the established church of that day was so hostile to the idea of having the Bible available in English.
The story of John Paton, Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides beginning in 1824 A.D., is a story I heard often in my youth from my pastor. Piper chooses to highlight Paton's courage: courage to overcome criticism at home and false accusations; the courage to continue after the deaths of his wife and children; and the courage needed to face the threats to his life from hostile native people and tropical illness. Piper then examines both the source and results of Piper's courage.
If a seasoned missionary advised you not to go to the foreign field to which you believed God had called you, would you still go? This is the situation Adoniram Judson faced when William Carey told him not to go to Burma. But the twenty-four-year-old and his young bride did go, staying until his death thirty-eight years later. Piper focuses attention on Judsons faith in God's sovereignty throughout a life of suffering: "If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings." Such faith was not only a legacy from his godly father, but also a result of his own absolute confidence in the Bible. It was this faith that enabled him to endure seventeen months in prison; to bear the loss of two wives and several children; and to persevere in completing a translation of the Burmese Bible and a dictionary.
The book concludes with Piper's characteristic pastoral exhortation. After a brief outline of current ethnolinguistic statistics, the reality of martyrdom in the work of spreading the gospel, and the question of the importance of suffering and martyrdom in world evangelism, Piper writes: "My hope for this book is that our hearts and minds have been shaped more deeply by the work of the Spirit, so that when the crisis comes, we will be guided more by the ways of God and less by the worldly assumptions of security and comfort. . . . And let us resolve to set our faces like flint on the path of obedience and never turn back. And with a full grasp of the possible cost before us, and with full courage because of Christ, let us walk softly to every unreached people that remains." Highly recommended. Pamela Glass, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
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