No Greater Love

John 3-16Theology of Missions

by Cassandra L. Wood[1]
The purpose of this paper is to articulate a biblical and theological basis for global mission.  This paper will discuss the biblical foundation of missions, the nature of God in relation to missions, mission theology in relation to Christology and Pnuematology, the missionary themes of the Holy Spirit, universal salvation, and reconciliation; and mission in relation to missionaries, leaders, and non-leaders in the church.

Biblical Foundation of Missions

            The biblical foundation of missions begins with God and ends with God. God is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.[2] After the fall brought on by the sin of Adam and Eve, God went about the work of restoration, the reconciliation of all things unto Himself. His purpose and will was to restore the status quo, the way things were supposed to be from the foundation of the world. As Moreau states, “God’s missionary heart is evident as He begins the process of rolling back the kingdom of darkness and seeking His lost creation.[3] In God’s wisdom, He chose to manifest His divine power, grace and sovereignty by choosing a people group, or nation. This nation would be how He would manifest Himself. God chose a man named Abraham. He told Abraham to
                        “. . .Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you. Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name.”[4]
God told Abraham to “go out from” – leave your country, your relatives, your family. God’s intent was to make Abraham His, exclusively.  Abraham was called and had to be taught to trust God completely. In Genesis 12:1-3, the call of Abraham, we see that God, to manifest His divine will, chose first an individual. This individual was the seed through which God would create a nation. That nation is the nation of Israel. Kaiser notes that “Israel had always been responsible for communicating the message of God’s grace to the nations.”[5] Israel is called a light to the nations: “I, the Lord, officially commission you; I take hold of your hand, I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people and a light to the nations. . .”[6]
             Israel is the nation through which the Word of God came: “Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My Nation: for law will proceed from Me, and I will make My justice rest as a light of the peoples.”[7] Through God’s commandments as manifested through the administration of Moses, God set forth His standards. The written standards or commandments of God were given to us as a schoolteacher, a holding place, as it were, until the better standard came.
            Israel is the nation through whom God Himself came. It is as though God, being a holy God, had purposed from the beginning that in order to restore man unto Himself, He alone would do it. Knowing that He was going to manifest Himself on this earth, He wanted to make sure that the race of people, the nation through which He would manifest Himself, would be sanctified, that is, a nation set apart from all the other nations of the world. This sanctified nation, Israel, would be the nation through which He would be manifested.
            God’s gracious deliverance of Israel from Egypt was the time in which He told them that they would be is His special possession, His holy nation, and a kingdom of priests:  “. . .you will be my special possession out of all the nations, . . . and you will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”[8]  God’s purpose to reach all people continued into the New Testament when He became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.
            Jesus, full of Holy Spirit, went into the synagogue and fulfilled Isaiah 42:6. Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me to  preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”[9] The wonderful progression of God’s missionary plan plays out from the Gospels, though the book of Acts, through the writings of the Apostle Paul and the disciples who were with Jesus, finally concluding in the book of Revelation.
In the New Testament, God instituted a New covenant. God expressly decrees that there now is one people of God with one purpose.[10] The Gentile believers are declared by God to also be a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own. . .”[11] It is clear that all who believe and have the faith of Abraham are the sons and daughters of God. God’s plan from the beginning was not limited to just the nation of Israel. God told Abraham that his descendants, those who walk by faith, would number the sands of the sea. That promise is fulfilled when a vast crowd of people, too great to be numbered, will stand before the Lord and give Him praises: “After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. . .”[12]

The Nature of God in Relation to Missions

            God is love and God is a giver. God shows His love by giving His Son to be the savior of the world. “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him.”[13]
God’s love is for all. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to save sinners.[14]
God is the sovereign creator. In all of God’s work, in His great unfolding drama[15], He manifests his glorious sovereignty over the universe. God created all things and all things that He created are very good. The very good creation created by God includes all the people groups of the world, all the nations, all the races, all the ethnic groups. Because He manifested His love and graciousness to all, He is worthy of the worship of all.  John Piper maintains that this mandate of the nations to rejoice and glorify God is the raison d’être of missions, the purpose of missions. Piper writes, “Worship is the fuel and goal of missions”[16].

Mission Theology in Relation to Christology and Pnuematology

            God works out His missionary purpose through His Son and through the Holy Spirit. All authority, in heaven and on earth, has been given to Jesus Christ. [17] This authority is manifested by Jesus Christ destroying the devil, abolishing death, and stripping away power from the kingdom of darkness.[18] His authority freed the oppressed from the chains of darkness. That is why He had the power to heal, restore, raise from the dead while He was on earth (and still has in Heaven). Christ’s power contrasts with the enemy’s power. Whereby the devil came to steal, kill and destroy,[19] Christ came to give abundant life.
            After death and the grave were destroyed and abolished through the resurrection power of God through Jesus Christ, He gave this same power, through the Holy Spirit,  to His people who believed on him. Jesus instructed His disciples that before they could preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations, they would first have to be “clothed with power from on high.” [20] This was fulfilled when the disciples were gathered together on the day of Pentecost. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”[21]  Thus began the powerful manifestation act of God’s missionary purpose whereby the people of the world, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, are called to salvation and the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit.

Themes of Mission Theology: Universal Salvation and Reconciliation

            God wants everyone to be saved, Jew and Gentile. The universality of God’s purpose is crucial: “. . .just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people.”[22]
            The reconciliation of all things is also a key theme in missions. God has purposed to reconcile all things unto Himself.  Thus, He has given to His people the ministry of reconciliation. “And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself. . .” We as God’s people carry that message of reconciliation to all the people of the world. [23]          
            Mission theology relates to missionaries, church leaders, and to all Christians. First, all Christians are missionaries. We are all called to be ambassadors of Christ. As discussed above, we are all called to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. Missionaries are simply individual Christians who have made it their life calling and sole work to advance the Kingdom of God by engaging in communicating the gospel to those who have not heard it.
            Church leaders are God’s gift to the Body of Christ. “It was He who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers. To equip the saints for the work of ministry. . .”[24] The purpose of church leaders is to equip believers so that they can do the work of the ministry. The work of the ministry is to go out to the entire world to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins, to reconcile men and women to God, to be ambassadors for Christ.
[1] This seminary research paper was written on March 2, 2014 for a course entitled Global Studies Survey.
[2] Revelation 1:8 (NET)
[3] A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004) 32.
[4] Genesis 12:1-3 (NET).
[5] Walter C. Kaiser, “Israel’s Missionary Call,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 4th ed., ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Pasadena, CA: Institute of International Studies, 2009), 11.
[6] Isaiah 42:6-7 (NET). See also Isaiah 49:6b: “. . .I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.”
[7] Isaiah 51:4 (NKJV).
[8] Exodus 19:5-6 (NET).
[9] Luke 4:18 (NKJV).
[10] Perspectives, 14.
[11] I Peter 2:9 (NET).
[12] Revelation 7:9 (NET).
[13] John 3:16-17 (NET). See also I John 4:9.
[14] I Timothy 1:15 (NET).
[15] A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 28-70.
[16] John Piper,  Let The Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 15.
[17] Matthew 28:18-20 (NET).
[18] Colossians 2:14-15. (NET).
[19] John 10:10 (NET).
[20] Luke 24:49 (NET).
[21] Acts 2:4 (NET).
[22] Romans 5:18 (NET)
[23] I Corinthians 5:18-19 (NET).
 [24] Ephesians 4:11 (NET).
Kaiser, Walter C. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 4th ed. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena, CA: Institute of International Studies, 2009.
Moreau, A. Scott, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical and Practical Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.
Piper, John. Let The Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010.