Is Missions Biblical?

Introduction to Mission

Throughout the Bible we see the emphasis of God in the active working of salvation for all of mankind. In 2 Peter 3:9 we are reminded “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Not only in the New Testament but also in the Old Testament we see God actively pursuing the nation of Israel as well as the rest of the world. It has always been God’s intention to redeem as many men as will come to him.

Mission Theology in the Bible

In order to show God’s interest in redeeming mankind and the unchanging nature of His mission, it is necessary to look at both the Old Testament, where God was primarily using the nation of Israel in order to perform the evangelistic duties, as well as the New Testament, where God tasked His church to pursue all nations. One of the attributes of God is his unchanging nature. This is seen not only in the New Testament, but also in his dealings with Israel and even from the time when Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden.

From the moment Adam sinned against God, God has promised to redeem His fallen creation and has actively worked for this aim. The very first mention of God’s plan for redemption is found in Genesis 3:15 where God promises “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This is typically considered the first time God reveals His plan of redemption through the seed of the woman (Jesus) while at the same time, Satan will have a momentary victory (the death of Jesus on the cross).

While the Garden of Eden was the first time God mentions His plan for redemption, He plans on using the nation of Israel to reach the world around them. He made a covenant with Abraham to affirm the place of his descendants in history as the chosen people of God. His purpose in choosing Israel is to create a people who are chosen to share the nature of God with those countries around them. A prime example of this is the book of Jonah where God commands a reluctant prophet to reach out to the hostile neighbors of Israel. While Jonah was reluctant, that was not the intention of Israel in God’s plan. “As priests represent God and mediate his word to the people, so Israel as a holy nation was to assume two relations: one towards God and the other towards the nations.”[1]

In the New Testament, the message of redemption comes fruition in the nature of Christ and is spread to the entire world through those who follow Christ.. The most common and clearest example of this is seen in Mathew 28:19-21 which is known as the Great Commission in which Jesus has already defeated death and tells us to “make disciples of all nations.” While the whole commission is a bit longer, this snippet shows the nature of God as it relates to His desire to see the whole world saved. Redemption is only possible because of Jesus’s death on the cross. In order to reach the most people for the kingdom of Heaven Jesus taught about why we need to be saved from the fires of Hell. He gives us the message of the gospel and instructs us to take it to the whole world so mankind can be saved and this is through Jesus’ death on Calvary, the moment in human history on which the ability to have missions revolves for without Jesus’s sacrificial death nothing else matters.

Another important text from the New Testament showing God’s desire to save the whole world comes in Acts 10:15 when Peter receives a vision from God telling him that “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This fits in to a larger story where Peter is summoned to the house of Cornelius and shares the good news of Jesus with Cornelius and his household. This sets in motion the spread of the gospel to all the gentiles. There was no longer anything holding back the followers of Christ that were Jews by birth from sharing Christ with all those around them. They can take seriously the reality of heaven and hell and share with everyone the gospel. We can be like Jesus who “lived with the reality of hell, and He died on Calvary because He knew it was real and coming to everyone who doesn’t turn to God in this life.”[2]

The Nature of God in Mission

There are two main areas in the nature of God that relate to missions directly. The first is God’s compassion and the second is His immutability. God shows us his view of mankind through the prophet Isaiah be showing us the mission of Christ where Isaiah reminds us that, “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). If one knows anything about sheep, it can be known they are not the brightest of the farm animals. In many ways sheep are some of the most helpless animals there are and the most stubborn, but like a good shepherd takes care of his sheep, God takes care of His creation. God has compassion on His creation on those made in His image. For those who have failed, God has made are sins like snow and laid on Christ “the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). God has taken care of the punishment himself, and this allows Him to fulfill the righteous demands of His character and at the same time have compassion on his sheep.

While God, by nature cannot change. If He does change, it makes it so no one can tell anyone about God because any part of Him can change. This is why from the beginning when God tells the serpent that God will strike his head and the serpent will bruise his heel through the offspring of Adam and Eve, we can be certain it will happen. If God chose to fancy a mood we would not be able to count on his blessings and mercy and compassion, much less share that with anyone. It is a crucial part of the gospel…the good news of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Mission Theology in Relation to Christology and Eschatology

When one studies Mission Theology it is easy to see how it relates to other parts of theology such as Eschatology as well as Christology. When looking at the end times, we see Christ will not return until the time is ready and the end times are upon us.

As it relates to Christology, Mission Theology stems from Christology because when we know the character of Christ and study Christology it will directly impact the way we look at missions. When we know what Christ has done and the extent to which the Atonement goes, we will see how we need to spread the message of His salvation to any who will accept it. It is God’s appearing in Christ that “indicates God’s willingness to descend to our level rather than to overwhelm us with the divine glory.”[3]

The other part of theology that mission plays a major role is in that of eschatology. Since eschatology is the study of end things, we will see missions continuing to the time when Christ returns at which point missions will end for everyone will know the fullness of God in Christ. Above all other places in which missions relates to eschatology is that of the timing.  Before Christ comes again, “Peter would grow old and infirm, the gospel would be preached to all nations, and the temple would be destroyed.”[4]

Motifs of Mission Theology

Two of the most important parts of Mission Theology actually relate back to Christology as was previously discussed in Christ specifically. “The Christian Faith is not centered on a book or a set of ideals. It is centered on a person – a person unique in the history of the world, a person who is so important that most of the world splits its reckoning of time around his coming.”[5] The nature of Christ is tied in to this whole motif of mission theology because without Christ there is no Mission for the people to take part in.

Another incredibly important motif in mission theology is that of the church. This is an important facet because the church is the primary means by which God spreads the gospel. In the past, “the church was long understood to be the exclusive place for God’s work in mission. However, although God indeed works through the church, he also works where the church does not yet exist.”[6][i] There is need for people to go to areas where there is no church in order to plant one. Paul, one of the greatest missionaries was a church planter. This is why the church is a main implement of the spreading of the gospel.

Mission Theology for Individuals

When looking at Mission Theology it relates to all peoples whether they are members of a church staff or just Christians. This also obviously relates to Missionaries since there work consists of this theology. For a missionary, their whole life work consists of the theology and how they can best reach the lost in whatever area they are called to. In many ways, missionaries need to know as much as possible about mission theology but often are the victims of trying to live it without knowing what they are trying to listen to. This puts them in a dangerous place unless they pay attention to failing to deliver all the details of Christ and the gospel while trying to show the gospel.

For those not actively engaged as a missionary, there are different applications than for the missionary. For church leaders, the reasons they need to know mission theology is so they can understand how to best support missionaries and those called to plant churches. Church leaders may at some point be called to be missionaries themselves but also to spur the members of their congregation on to support missionaries and go as sent ones as well as being the ones that reach to the lay members of the church for whatever assistance may be necessary for a church plant.

Bibliography

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academics. 1998)

Hall, Christopher. Learning Theology with the Church Fathers. (Downers Grover: IVP Academic 2002)

Moreau, Scott, Gary Corwin & Gary McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. 2004)

Winter, Ralph & Steven Hawthorne. Perspectives On The World Christian Movement. (Pasadena: William Carey Library 2009)

Yohannan, K.P. Revolution in World Missions. (Carrollton: GFA Books. 2004)


[1] Winter, Ralph & Steven Hawthorne. Perspectives On The World Christian Movement. (Pasadena: William Carey Library 2009) 14.

[2] Yohannan, K.P. Revolution in World Missions. (Carrollton: GFA Books. 2004) 93.

[3] Hall, Christopher. Learning Theology with the Church Fathers. (Downers Grover: IVP Academic 2002) 126.

[4] Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academics. 1998) 1200.

[5] Moreau, Scott, Gary Corwin & Gary McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. 2004) 81.

[6] Moreau, Scott, Gary Corwin & Gary McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. 2004) 83.



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