I remember when Beth & I were in Bible school, I became frustrated at how much Missions was “pushed” on us. It seemed like every chapel we were challenged in, every class we sat in, every conversation we found ourselves in centered on the topic of worldwide missions. It was frustrating for me to say the least, and on more than one occasion I fought the idea. Eventually, I came to realize that it was not the school that was “pushing” missions on us, but the Holy Spirit convincing our hearts of the need to be a part of what the He is doing in the world.
The purpose of this particular article is to present a God-centered biblical basis of missions: God centered in that it stems out of who God is and what He is doing in the world around us.
The Need for the Scriptures
Before we begin, one clarification needs to be made. All of us come together from varying frames of reference. Regarding the topic of missions, we all have preconceived ideas about this concept. Whether biblical or unbiblical, we need to reign in our thinking and allow the scriptures to define our understanding of missions. We should never read our thinking into scriptures, but rather allow the scriptures to shape our thinking. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states that All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
God is a Missionary God
“The missionary enterprise is no human conception undertaking, no modern scheme or invention, no mere philanthropy even of the finest kind. It did not originate in the brain or heart of any man, not even William Carey, or the apostle Paul. Its source was in the heart of God Himself.” (Robert Hall Grover)
God is a missionary God, and the Bible is His missionary textbook. We see this in three ways: He has a mission field, a mission message, and a mission method.
His Mission Field: Mankind
- The Original Plan: Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-18
- The Fall: Genesis:3
Our perfect God created a perfect place for mankind to dwell under His perfect care. Mankind’s response to God was to be one of trust & obedience. However, as we know all too well, the story doesn’t end there. Mankind chose to believe the lies of the serpent over the promises of God, and acted in disobedience by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil. From that point on, mankind has experienced separation from God, the righteous judgment of a holy God on sinful man. We also know that God in His grace made a way for restoration of this broken relationship. This is the fundamental starting point of God’s mission in the world from then until now: reconciliation to Himself.
(No mere proof-text will suffice to present the fullness of this concept though it is truly biblical in nature: the Old Testaments covenants & sacrificial system, the coming of the Promised Messiah, the finished work of the Promised Messiah, the new position of those in Christ, the commission of the church, etc.)
I say it is the starting point, because as we will see mankind’s existence is not limited to solely culminate at reconciliation to God, but rather continual relationship with God, for the eternal glory of God.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” -Ephesians 2:4-7
His Scope: All the Nations
- Genesis 12:1-2; 18:8; 22:17-18; 26:24; 28:12-14
- Exodus 9:14-16
- Exodus 19:6 o
- Numbers 14:21 o
- Deuteronomy 4:6-8 o
- 1 Samuel 17:46 o
- 1 Kings 8:41-43, 59-60 o
- Psalm 2:7-10; 18:49; 46:10 o
- Isaiah 45:22 o
- Ezekiel 36:22-23 o
- Micah 4:2 o
- Malachi 1:10-11
- Matthew 24:14 o
- Matthew 28:19-20 o
- Mark 13:10 o Acts 1:8 o
- Romans 16:26 o
- Philippians 2:10 o
- 2 Peter 3:9,12 o
- Revelation 7:9
His Mission Message: the Glory of Himself- an Invitation to Intimacy
At first glance, we may bring to the table a preconceived perception of the idea of God’s desire to receive glory that may convey a sort of selfish pride or inappropriate self-love. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The word “glory” is defined literally as weight (Hebrew: kabod/Greek: doxa), splendor, honor. The essence of the biblical concept of glory is truly the revealing of God Himself, who He is (His attributes), what He does (His actions) that when properly grasped brings men to their knees in continual worship. God’s desire is to be acknowledged for who He is and what He does in all His magnificence & splendor; to be trusted & obeyed in light of it. This is what worship truly is: a right response to a right understanding. (Again, no single proof-text can bring to light the fullness of this thought. The biblical basis for saying this is based upon the verses provided in the previous section)
This has been God’s mission throughout the whole of scripture: to be given the place, in the heart of all mankind, His creation, that rightfully belongs to Him. Instead mankind has turned its back in rejection of the light. Though there certainly is a context to consider in the following verse, see an example of what the response has been, as opposed to God’s desire:
- Romans 1:21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
His Mission Method: People reaching People
Our discussion of how God has chosen to use people to reach people will be further established in a later article, but for the time being, we can summarize this particular methodology by dividing it into two historical time-periods: then & now.
Then: The Nation of Israel
- Exodus 19:6- …a kingdom of priests and a holy nation… (Read 1 Kings 10:1-9)
- The nature of God’s work through the nation of Israel was more indirect. When it came to knowing God, the expectation was probably that the non-Jew would look to Israel for how to have a relationship with Him. By seeking out the Jew, one may find out the basic truths of humankinds standing before God: God is holy and just; mankind is sinful and condemned because of it, separated from God; only by God’s grace could anyone be saved, through faith that God would meet the necessary requirements needed to be in a right relationship with Himself. This right standing, though unclear at the time, would be provided by the future sacrifice of the promised Deliverer, Jesus Christ.
Now: The Body of Christ
- 2 Corinthians 5:18 …gave us the ministry of reconciliation…
- The nature of God’s work through the Body of Christ is more direct. Believers today are told to go out and take the good news of the promised Deliverer to the ends of the earth. This good news includes: God is holy and just; mankind is sinful and condemned because of it, separated from God; only by God’s grace can anyone be saved, through faith that God has met the necessary requirements needed to be in a right relationship with Himself. This right standing, clear at this time, was provided by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross, His death, burial, and resurrection three days later.
God has chosen to use His people to reach people. Could he have chosen to use angels or even rocks to take the gospel to the ends of the earth? Absolutely. Yet He has chosen to use people. We may not understnd why God has chosen it to be this way, but nevertheless, we trust that God is loving and all-wise. God has chosen to make our personal involvement in this task imperative.
How Then Should We Live?
A God-centered biblical basis of missions stems out of who God is and what He is doing in the world around us. It is imperative for us to draw our understanding of the missionary enterprise in the world today from an understanding of what God is doing in the world as we speak, that He Himself has a mission field, a mission message, and a mission methodology. We must see His mission field as our own mission field, His mission message should be at the heart of the message we bring to the world, and His methodology demands our personal commitment.
When it comes to the will of God, are we to expect God to show us personally what He wants us to do, or are we to observe what He is already doing and choose to take part in it?