Missio Dei Part 2

Posted on 01/19/2007

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The Mission of God

             Mission refers to that action of one being sent to fulfill the will of a superior.  In the Bible, it is God who commissions and sends His servants to perform His will.  The mission of God has been from the very beginning of time His plan for worldwide redemption.  God has, “a divine program to glorify himself by bringing salvation to all on planet earth.”[1]


Mission in the Old Testament
 

            From the first pages of God’s Word we are able to see God’s redemptive nature.  The concept of mission and redemption is certainly not germane to just the New Testament.  The New Testament continues the story that began in the Old Testament.   God from the very beginning of His self-revelation has made Himself known as a God who reaches out redemptively to make a people for His very own. 

            One of the first and greatest examples of the mission of God is found in Genesis 12.  The Lord came to Abram and said:

Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make you name great; and you shall be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.  (Genesis 12.1-3)

 Kaiser identifies this passage as the Old Testament “Great Commission:” “This is the earliest statement of the fact that it will be God’s purpose and plan to see that the message of his grace and blessing comes to every person on planet earth.”[2]  Abraham, who is known as the father of the Jewish nation, was given a covenant that had included in it a blessing to, “all the families of the earth…”  The goal of the Old Testament was to show that one day both Jews and Gentiles would come to a saving faith in the Messiah: Christ Jesus.  The plan of God from the beginning was to redeem people from every tribe and nation.  God’s eternal plan was to make salvation possible for all people.[3]

Certainly God called Israel to be His special people.  What is sometimes obscured is the fact that from the very beginning God intended for the Jewish people to be a light and a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.  The purpose of God was to bless
Israel so that He could work through them in such a way that all the nations of the earth would be able to know the one true God and experience the gift of redemption.
[4] 

            Another passage that reveals God’s mission to bless all the people of the earth is revealed in the prophetic message found in Isaiah 42.1,6; 49.6

Behold!  My Servant whom I uphold, my elect One in whom My soul delights!  I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles…

I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles.

Indeed He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

            These messages to the prophet Isaiah reveal that God intended to use Israel to be a blessing to all people.  God’s covenant with Abraham included his immediate offspring but it also included the nations that would see the “light” in God’s relationship with
Israel. Isaiah’s message concerned the futility of believing in other gods.  There is only one God.  The word “justice” in 42.1 is the Hebrew word mispat.[5]  It is a judicial term that literally means a “judgment.”  God is going to make His judgment known.  “Once the ‘gods’ of the nations are shown to be nothing and a delusion, the coastlands, and the wider earth are placed in a position where they might see and receive the mispat that the One God means to be theirs, as offspring of servant Abraham.”
[6] 

In these revelations to Isaiah, the Messiah is clearly presented as a “servant” who has a mission to save not only the Jew but also the Gentile.  The Messiah was going to bring “salvation” to the Gentiles as well as to the Jew.  Hanson points out that, “Since the compass of God’s redemptive activity is the entire created world and its scope is the restoration of all that exists to wholeness, the nations are included in God’s plan.”[7]

 Mission is not just a concept of the New Testament, it has always been part of the nature and heart of the triune God.  The mission of the New Testament is grounded in the teachings of the Old Testament.  The mission that God had revealed in the Old Testament has continued in the New Testament first, in the incarnation of Christ and secondly in the continuing mission of Christ Jesus’ church.


Mission in the New Testament

            The Bible is the revelation of God’s mission to redeem a people for Himself.  At the heart of this message is the person introduced to us in the New Testament: Jesus Christ.  Jesus is presented to us as none other than the eternal God incarnated as a man (John 1.1,14, Philippians 2, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1).  He came to the world which He made, to live without sin, and to die as a substitute for sinners, (Romans 5).  He was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit in power and glory and given a name that is to be above all names: Jesus Christ, the Lord! (Acts 2.24-36, Philippians 2.10-11).  In His death and resurrection Jesus was victorious over sin, death, and Satan.  Jesus is now exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords and is going to come again to judge the living and the dead, (Acts 2.33, 2 Timothy 4.1).  It is by the name of Jesus that all peoples must come before God in repentance and faith to receive the gift of eternal life, (Romans 1.16).  Those who are unrepentant are already condemned and will be punished for their sin and unbelief in a fiery hell (Revelation 20.11-15).   This story of God’s redemptive mission through His Son Jesus, in the language of the New Testament, is called the euaggelion or literally “the good news.” [8]  We commonly refer to the mission of God as seen in the New Testament as the “gospel.”

            This gospel needs to be continually taught and grasped by the local church.  Certainly one can be saved with a simple faith in Christ for the Scriptures teach us, “For ‘whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’” (Romans 10.13).  But if the church does not understand the gospel in the context of God’s missional plan for His church, then it will lose vision of its purpose in the world.  Mark Dever and Paul Alexander aptly warn:

The gospel and its required response, therefore, are the very last things we want to assume that people know—even if some of them insist otherwise.  The human heart is astoundingly deceptive (Jer. 17.9), nominalism (being a Christian in name only) has spread like gangrene, and misunderstandings about the Gospel abound among professing evangelicals, especially regarding its relationship to other religions and its implications for our everyday lives.  People need to hear the Gospel—whether they’re professing Christians or not.[9]

            An ignorance and lack of understanding of the gospel as it fits into the context of God’s mission has produced Christians and churches that have certainly become “nominal” in our world today.  People may know enough of the gospel to have attained their own salvation, but they are ignorant of God’s purpose and plan to reach the world through everybody that has already been reached.  To fully understand the gospel means to also fully understand the means by which God has designed to make the gospel known: the gospel-mission of the church, His people. 


[1] Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Mission in the Old Testament, (
Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000),12-13.
 

[2] Ibid., 7. 

[3]Ibid., 10.  

[4] Ibid., 20.

[5] Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66 (Philadelphia, The Westminster Press, 1969), 95 

[6] The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), 362.

[7] Paul D. Hanson, Interpretation: Isaiah 40-66, (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1995), 130.[8] James Strong, Strongs Concordance,(
Virginia: McDonald Publishing Company), 33.       
 

[9] Mark Dever and Paul Alexander, The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel (
Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2005), 43.
 

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