Thursday, July 05, 2012

Theology of Missions: Part 2 - Scriptures Related to Missions

Scriptures Related to Missions
From beginning to end, the Bible is a missionary book telling the story of God reaching into human history to reconcile a fallen people to Him.[1] This amazing collection of inspired writings has much to say about all facets of human living, worship, and telling others about the Author. The Scriptures that relate to and support missions are many. Here two of the key passages from both the Old and New Testaments are identified.
Old Testament
        The Lord had determined to reach out to a rebellious people through the covenant with Abraham. In Genesis 12:1-3 God sends Abraham to a land that would be shown to him and that through him God would bless all of the peoples on earth. God makes three promises of blessing to Abraham. The first is tied to the land to which God calls Abraham where he will be made into a great nation. The second promise is to make Abraham’s name great. The third promise is that God will bless all of the people of the world through Abraham.[2] It is through this series of promises that the Lord expresses concern for His creation which includes everyone and not simply a select group. Salvation of all people has always been the desire of our Lord.

        That all nations would share in the salvation to come is remarkable especially when one considers the Jewish view of the gentiles in antiquity. Yet it is clear that this is exactly what the Lord planned all along as evidenced in Psalm 47:9.[3] Of course, God reigns over all of creation and sits on His throne but the claim that the princes of the peoples will gather and worship at God’s throne just as the people of Abraham do is amazing. God’s exclusive use of the nation of Israel to accomplish His universal goal of blessing the nations is on full display in these verses.
New Testament
        The need for salvation and that God has a plan to accomplish this has been briefly established with the selection of the Old Testament passages previously mentioned. Now our attention is turned towards two key passages in the New Testament where it is appropriate to begin with the example set by Jesus.[4] In Matthew 9:35-36, Jesus looks upon the people in need of salvation and had compassion on them. He sees us as sheep without a shepherd, helpless and being harassed.[5] It is this example that should be one of the primary motivators for missions in our churches today. Like Christ, when we look out across the world and even parts of our own nation, the helplessness we see and the tremendous need ought to move Christians to compassionately reach out to them, address their physical needs, and share the good news of Christ with them. As love is one of the workings of the Holy Spirit in us, it should be expected that Christians will be motivated to mission by this compassion.[6]

        We are also assured that our missions activity is not in vain. In Matthew 24:14 Jesus tells us that the gospel will be proclaimed as a testimony to all of the nations. There can be no mistake as to the meaning of this passage. The gospel will be proclaimed throughout the entire world before the Lord returns. As this is the case, the church should confidently prepared individuals and resources for mission with the understanding that we are instruments in fulfilling God’s plan for the nations of the world.[7] This verse is of particular importance as it marks the move from the ministry of Jesus to the post-resurrection ministry of His disciples.[8] As in the Old Testament, the universal nature of God’s plan is evident.

[1] Ott, Craig, Stephen J. Strauss, and with Timothy C. Tennent. Encountering Theology of Mission: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 3.
[2] Moreau, Gary, and McGee. (2004), 31.
[3] Moreau, A. Scott, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 707-08.
[4] Peters, George W. A Biblical Theology of Missions. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1972), 132.
[5] Ott, Strauss, with Tennent. (2010), 177.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid, 186.
[8] Tennent, Timothy C. Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 136.

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