Sunday, July 15, 2012

Theology of Missions: Part 4 - Mission Theology and Other Aspects of Theology

Mission Theology and Other Aspects of Theology
        Through the centuries, Christians have done a good job in their messianic reading the Scriptures but have done a very poor job of our missional reading of them.[1] When Christians read the Old Testament messianically, we can easily see the Christological and eschatological fulfillment of the text in the person of Jesus Christ. However, in the quest to note the fulfillment of certain Old Testament prophesies, Christians fail to go any deeper in our study because we have failed to properly understand the missional importance of the Messiah.[2] A missional reading of Scripture, therefore, is necessary to understanding God’s mission for Israel for the blessing of all nations.
        A simple definition of Christology is the study of the person and work of Jesus Christ.[3] The Apostle Peter first noted that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah (Matt. 16:16; Mark 8:29) which is at the heart of Christianity. However, it was John who begins his gospel with the preexistent Logos who was with God and was God (John 1:1-2). Using the Old Testament concept of Logos (Word) and wisdom, John identifies Jesus as the agent of creation (John 1:1-3; cp. Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:6-9), the agent of revelation (John 1:4; cp. Gen. 12:1; 15:1; Isa. 9:8; Jer. 1:4; Ezek. 33:7; Amos 3:1), eternal (John 1:1-2; cp. Ps. 119:89), and the great agent of redemption (John 1:12; cp. Ps. 107:20).[4]

        To say the Bible is all about Jesus Christ should not inspire Christians to find Jesus in every single passage in the Old Testament through some creative reading of the text. Most scholars would agree that this would simply be poor biblical hermeneutics. What this should stir Christians to understand is that the person and work of Jesus Christ is the hermeneutical key to the text of both Testaments.[5] Simply put, Christ provides the lens through which the whole Bible should be read.

        The same is true of the mission theology of the Bible. A missional reading of Scripture does not mean there is something relevant to missions in every verse we read. There is a deeper, missional meaning of the Bible. The Bible is rightly seen in its entirety that begins with the very existence of the Bible itself as a revelation of God and the story about who God is, who His people are, the whole world and the future. In short, the Bible is missional in nature and should be read as such.

        The biblical doctrine of last things, eschatology focuses on the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the age, the coming judgments, the kingdom of God, the nature of the glorified body, and the eternal destiny of mankind.[6] Eschatological material abounds throughout the Old Testament. This is especially so if one considers all of the messianic prophesies to be eschatological in nature. Isa. 9:6-7; Dan. 9:25; Ez. 36 – 48; and Zech. 13:1 are but a few passages of Scripture in the Old Testament that are clearly eschatological.

        In the New Testament, Jesus personally tells of the end times. The Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24 – 25) and a discourse known as the Little Apocalypse in Mark 13 capture a great deal of what Christ had to say about the devastation and upheavals to come in the end times.[7] Additionally, the Apostle Paul touched on eschatological issues such as the glorified bodies the saints will receive (1 Cor. 15) God’s program with the Jewish people in the last days (Rom. 9 – 11). Then there is the book of Revelation which is eschatological from almost the beginning of the book.[8]

        As with Christology, the fact that eschatological themes abound throughout both the Old and New Testaments does not mean that every passage of Scripture has an end times meaning waiting to be discovered by the reader. Rather, the missional nature of the Bible and the fact that human history is unfolding in a way that will conclude with the end times should inspire Christians to take up the missions challenge and go to the farthest reaches of the world to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. The purpose of these eschatological texts is to provide the church with hope as we continue missional efforts until the second coming of Jesus (Titus 2:13).[9]

[1] Wright, Christopher J. H. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 30-31.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Elwell, Walter A., and Phillip Wesley Comfort. Tyndale Bible Dictionary. (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 266.
[4] Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, and Archie England et al. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 285.
[5] Wright. (2006), 31-32.
[6] Brand, Draper, and English et al. (2003), 503.
[7] Ibid, 504-05.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid, 505-06.

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