Local Church – Global Impact 5: Mission Tightly Defined

This is a continuation of the last post about Biblical Convictions about mission.  What I’m trying to do in that post and this is to lay a foundation from which to build our mission engagement as a church.  And this is where the foundation must come from – the Word of God.

So, what I’m going to do is a little dangerous.

I’m going to give 5 Biblical reasons why the “mission of the Church” should be tightly defined as proclamation based.*  There are certainly folks out there that would disagree.  They may disagree with my reading of the Scriptures.  They may point to other passages that I won’t be engaging.  I am aware of their arguments and positions, but I still believe that as we look at the major thrust of Scripture, we’ll land where Scrivener and DeYoung and others landed in the previous post.  Namely, we’ll see that the mission of the Church is evangelism that leads to discipleship that leads to church planting.

Point 1: The Blessing from Abraham for the Nations (ETHNE) is the Gospel

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” -Galatians 3.8

The choosing of Abraham and therefore Israel is a choosing that places them in a unique role between God and the nations/gentiles.  The Lord has promised to BLESS Abraham and his seed in such a way that all the nations will be blessed.  And that blessing for the nations, according to Paul, is the Gospel.  It’s good news!  It’s news of rescue that must be preached!

Now some will say that the blessing Abraham received was land, offspring, finances, and a great name.  But those things were given SO THAT Yahweh might provide a Savior for the world.  Those circumstantial blessings (name, land, money, offspring) were simply to create a scenario in which the Messiah could come.  With no offspring, the promise breaks down.  With no land, it would be difficult to create a people through whom God might redeem all the other peoples.

Point 2: The Great Commission Fulfills Restoration Promises

Often folks will say, God’s mission is the redemption of the cosmos, not just humanity.  That’s true, but what they fail to see is that the redemption of the cosmos depends on redemption of humanity.  I want to show this in 2 ways.  First, I want to show that Matthew sees the fulfillment of the Great Commission as the fulfillment of land and restoration promises.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matt 28.16-20

The entirety of Matthew’s Gospel is to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises of Yahweh.  That is true all the way until the end.  Here’s the difference, part of Christ’s fulfillment of OT promises comes through the ministry of the Church, particularly as she goes and proclaims the Gospel to all nations, making disciples of all people groups.

It is interested to read Matthew 28.16-20 next to two key OT passages – Joshua 1.6-9 and 2 Chronicles 36.22-23, here:

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’

In both passages, you’ll see significant overlaps.  Look at the Septuagint, for me, makes this even more clear.  You’ll see doubt/fear on the part of those being commissioned with Matthew and Joshua.  You’ll see clear communication on what the goal is (all nations, all the land, a house at Jerusalem).  You’ll see authority being assigned.  You’ll see the expectation of obedience and completion.  You’ll see the expectation that those commissioned will GO and fulfill what they’ve been given.

Why does Matthew pattern the Great Commission after these passages?  It’s not just a commission formula.  It’s FULFILLMENT!  Matthew is saying, “all the promises regarding land, restoration, etc. in the Old Testament will be fulfilled in this way!”  The road to restoration of the cosmos runs through the fulfillment of the Great Commission.  This is particularly meaningful for the 2 Chronicles passage.  They were heading back to the land, back to build the Temple, back to Yahweh.  This was meant to be the restoration, but it wasn’t.  Matthew says, “the Great Commission is!”

Another reason I believe this is Paul’s argument in Chapter 8, namely that the redemption of the creation WAITS FOR THE REVEALING OF THE SONS OF GOD!  Or to sum up, creation will not be redeemed until God has finished redeeming His children.  Creation will grown, waiting in futility, until salvation is finalized.  The road to the redemption of the cosmos is paved with evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

Part 3: The Early Church’s activity

How did the early church respond to the Great Commissions (Matt 28.16-20, Luke 24.44-49, Acts 1.8, John 20.21, and Mark 16.15)?  What did they do?  The preached the Gospel as they went out, discipled new believers, and planted churches.  That’s how they responded.  We see no example of them engaging politically (not that some of them weren’t active in politics because of their professions).  There is some care for the poor, the widow, etc. but those examples are all Christians taking care of Christians.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t wider care.  What I’m saying is that Luke is trying to tell us what the church on mission did.  Because they were simply Christians, they loved the poor, the widow, but this is Christian ethics, NOT missiology.  If you took the entirety of the book of Acts, you’d see a Church busy about proclaiming Christ to the lost.  So, how did they respond to Christ’s commission?  Evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

Part 4: Paul Planted Churches

There were many missionaries, ordained and sent, in the New Testament time.  But, we only get to follow 1 of them around – Paul.  Which means that we should look closely at his activity to discern the work of mission.  Yes, he did collect funds for the suffering churches, but if we take the few references in the NT to that and then argue that it was central to Paul’s ministry, we’d be arguing that 3 or 4 verses are as important as hundreds of others that show Paul preaching, discipling, and raising up churches.  Look at Romans 15.19b-24

19b from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,
    and those who have never heard will understand.”

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

He’s COMPLETED work from Jerusalem all the way to modern day Croatia and Albania.  What had he done in those regions?  Established churches.

Point 5: God Keeps His Promises

Genesis 12.1-13 says that the blessing through Abram’s seed, that is through Jesus (Gal 3.17), will go to all peoples.  It just makes sense that the end would wait for this promise to be kept.  Regardless of eschatology, passages like Matthew 24.14, Romans 11.25, and 2 Peter 3.8-13, should lead all of us to say, “Yes, God will keep His promise.  He is God of ALL nations.”  So, He is waiting and redeeming men and women from all nations.  He’s not waiting for poverty to be demolished (though we should want it to be) or political peace throughout the world (though we should pursue that).  This is the only mission that He’s promised to complete before the end.  And, we know He keeps His promise because we see them in Revelation 7:9 gathered before the throne of God, worshiping the Lamb of God.

OK, I tried to keep that short.  Each point, perhaps, should have had it’s own post.

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