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Theology of Missions

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Liberty University

A Theology of Missions

A paper submitted to Dr. Smith

In partial fulfillment of the Requirements for

the course ICST 500

Liberty Theological seminary

By

Christopher W. Myers

                                                                                  

Lynchburg, Virginia

Sunday, 03 February 2008

Table of Contents

Introduction- 3

Missions in the Old and New Testaments and the Nature of God- 3

The New Testament and Missions and the Master Theme and Motif- 5

Application: Relating Mission Theology to Individuals- 8

Conclusion- 10

Bibliography- 11

Introduction

       The new Christian convert wonders why God would make His children stay on this decrepit Earth.  The new Christian quickly learns that God uses His children by the power of His Spirit to gather the remaining lost children to himself.  This gathering is done by the message of the Kingdom of God.  All mankind must know that God reigns.  All mankind must know that they can obtain reconciliation, peace, and ultimate joy by the grace of God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  The implication that God reigns means that we must submit our lives to the Almighty and make him Master of our life; Jesus came to reinstate the reign of God on earth and bring peace to those whom he finds favor.  The spreading of this good news with the goal of bringing worship to our Father is the intent of missions.  It was Jesus' goal in His mission on earth and he passed it onto us.  This paper will develop a theology of missions by looking briefly at the Old and New Testaments scriptures that shape our understanding of missions.  But perhaps, the best way to understand missions is to understand the originator of missions, namely God and His nature and how it affects the way we must look at and understand our world.  Missions must be evaluated in relevance and importance to other Biblical theologies.  Before the end, the patterns of missions will be an important discussion in order to understand our final discussion on how missions relates to real people striving to bring the kingdom of God in the lives of those who are His elect.       

Missions in the Old and New Testaments and the Nature of God

       Christians often overlook the Old Testament and think of it as irrelevant or not as enlightening as the New Testament.  This is incorrect.  The Old Testament is the very base that the early church had for their theology of missions.  And the Old Testament is saturated with mission verses that reveal the mission God we serve.  God is a God of promise and in the Old Testament promises to the Old Testament saints we see the missionary heart of our God as he proclaims his promise of universal blessing.  This is first seen in his covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12 where God promises, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”[1]  This promise is reiterated to Abraham’s son, Isaac and then to Jacob.[2] 

      The promise was clearly seen and given again to Moses when he was commissioned by God to free his people from bondage.  And even then, the attentive Jew knew that he was chosen in order to display the power and might of the Almighty God.  Joshua reflects on this:

For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.  He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God. [3]

Our God has elected Israel, the lowliest of peoples, in order to make them high and lifted up, so that all nations will know the true God; this is our missionary God.  The Hebrews moved from the judges to the monarchy and the promise was vastly expanded upon to King David.

     2 Samuel 7 records the great promise to David.  This is a promise that promised a Davidic throne and Kingdom that will be everlasting.  David acknowledges this great promise and with great jubilation he knows that God will do this “so that your name will be great forever.”[4]  These are most important words!  David’s words make it clear that our Missionary God is committed to keeping his promise to bring blessings on all peoples on this earth in order that his name will be glorified.  What, is there unrighteousness in God for seeking to glorify his name?  God forbid.  For humankind it would be idolatry, but tell me, how does God commit idolatry by glorifying himself?  His being is the epitome of perfection; it is by his being that mankind must judge between good and evil and it is by his being that mankind describes perfection and strives for it.  So God is not an idolater by upholding his own glory in salvation and especially he is not wrong or prideful by making his missions to all peoples based on the worship of his name.  Indeed, it is for the good of all peoples that the focus of missions is worship.  And scripture tells us this when we look and see that God is most glorified when his people are most jubilant in him.[5] 

       In the New Testament, Jesus went about proclaiming the kingdom of God.[6]  He was proclaiming the rule and reign of his Father in heaven.  Jesus in his mission was doing what our focus should be in missions, namely, worshipping God by beholding his glory and sovereignty.  When we do this, like Jesus did, then we can promise the nations joy, as the Psalmists says, “May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. Selah.”[7] 

The New Testament and Missions and the Master Theme and Motif

      Of course, in the New Testament, our Lord Jesus is the prime example of missions.  He did everything in his life to glorify the Father, so Jesus teaches, “He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”[8]  And so should all Christians imitate Christ in this manner.  Jesus was sent from the Father and Jesus proclaimed to the peoples all that the Father told him to say, he did everything that the Father told him to do.  Then, after the ultimate purpose for the Word’s advent on earth, namely his death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus sent out his children with the power of his Spirit to do what they heard from Jesus.  Jesus gave us the gospel of peace and the power of prayer by the Spirit to guide his children in order to know what to do and say to all peoples.  This is our mission; this is our commission from our Lord and Savior.  Jesus says in Matthew 28 to make disciples, teaching obedience to the teachings of Christ, and baptizing all peoples in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.  Therefore, Christians focus on these three areas: of discipleship, teaching and preaching, and baptizing, rightly so.  But if one were to back up and view the Old Testament in unity with the New Testament, he would see the common pattern connecting the two testaments concerning all missions.  This pattern is worship; in biblical terms it is called the glory of his name.  Our missions must be God-centered because missions is of God; it is by his power and his initiative and it is his plan.  This is why Jesus calls his Father “Lord of the Harvest.”[9] 

       This pattern of missions is that God seeks to exalt his name.  This is found to be the unifying principle of both Testaments.  God spared Israel in the wilderness for the glory of his name;[10] God restored Israel from exile for the glory of his name;[11] God sent His Son to suffer for the glory of his name.[12]  And therefore, it is expedient for Christians to realize that God instructs us to do all things for his glory,[13] of course, ‘all’ includes missions.  

       Indeed there are many themes and motifs that characterize missions, both for today and everyday, but the one superior motif and overarching theme is the one already explained, namely worship.  This master theme is exemplified and seen clearly in Paul, both in his actions and his theology.  Paul makes this clear in his theology of perseverance in life and missions:

Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.[14]

Paul realizes this God-centralized motif of missions; God’s worship is foremost.  And how does worship of the One True God start, except through the confessions of a sinner?  This is the primary job of the missionary.  Because worship starts with confession; this is why Paul can say, “and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[15] 

       Jesus and Paul describe Christians as the light to the world, reflecting terminology used of Israel in the Old Testament to be a light to the Gentiles.[16]  So Paul says,

That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.[17]

The word of life is the good news of Jesus Christ that he reigns and has been given all authority of the Father and that we must submit to his rule because he is a gracious and just ruler whom bestows the goodness of his greatness upon us so that we may worship him; what a privilege this is!  This goes hand in hand with Paul’s declaration that we are transformed more and more into the image of Christ by “beholding the glory of the Lord.”  And so this should be the duty; this should be the inspiration; this should be the pattern that the preacher and teacher and missionary and child of God strive for in every aspect of their Christian life and service, but most especially it should be the master theme running into the depths of their pains and sufferings in missions.

Application: Relating Mission Theology to Individuals

        Perhaps, the application of missions theology is best seen in the words of Paul writing to the Romans where he draws the following conclusion, "Therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."[18]  He draws this conclusion from his preceding argument, which he sums up as "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen."[19]  The driving force of missions is based on this fact; we are God's agents in bringing the whole world to the universal recognition of his sovereignty.  It is already true that for, through, and to him is ALL things and that ALL glory is eternally his.  Therefore, the individual disciple of Christ has a responsibility to recognize the dominion of Christ in his own life and allow it to transform him into holiness before God by the work of Christ's Spirit and then to share the good news to all who need to recognize who is in control during these times of evil.  And as Paul says the way to share this good news is to present your bodies a living sacrifice.  Paul's actions in his own Christ-like missionary experience attests to this: he was stoned, beaten, and ridiculed for the glory of God.  Paul's life was not supposed to be thought of as abnormal as it seems to be by so many people today.  Because look at what Paul says, "present your bodies a reasonable sacrifice," both physically and spiritually, for this is "your reasonable service."  The Greek behind the word 'service' is better said in our present day idiom as 'worship.'  This is the same word used to describe the Israelite temple worship ceremonies in the book of Hebrews.  It is logical or reasonable worship for our bodies to be beaten and our spirit to be disciplined for the glory of God.  And indeed, it must be for the spread of the kingdom of God to all peoples.[20]

     This application of the theology of missions goes beyond what many people are tempted to do and that is to apply a theology of missions differently to those who have different positions within the church.  But this paper sees the body of Christ as the great unification that should worship the Almighty with the same passion and audacity.  However, this paper recognizes the diversity within the unity of the church, for there is some called to be prophets, apostles, and teachers and preachers.  But since the theology of missions in this paper is reflected under the most unified sense of worship to our Father, through the Son by the Holy Spirit, there is no need to be caught up in the details. 

       Further, the details are described by the diverse 'kinds' of theologies, some may choose to study God and who he is through his persons[21], his actions and attributes, his church[22], his promises, his divine council, his revelation[23], his future pronouncements[24], or the systematization of all of the above[25].  The latter option is the approach taken here, believing fully that God has an overall plan and an overall intention in all things including missions, namely the glorification of His Name and this principle describes everything, even the details, for this principle should be the natural driving force of all details.

Conclusion

       It should have been made clear by now that this paper stood back and viewed missions from the most unifying principle and purpose over which the master theme and motif of everything could be described, namely that the God of this world exalts his name and seeks worship for the good of all peoples.  And it is the duty and honor for every Disciple of Christ to worship the Lord our God with awestruck respect by physical and spiritual loyal disciplines, while participating in his service to an unworthy world with all integrity and personal courage.  This is clear in the Old and New Testaments.  Thank God, we serve a Missionary God!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Moreau, Scott A., and Corwin, Gary R., and McGee, Gary B.  Introducing World Missions: A

      Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004.

Piper, John.  Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions.  Grand Rapids: Baker

       Books, 1993.

Winter, Ralph D. and Hawthorne, Steven C.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A

       Reader.  3ed edition.  Pasadena: William Cary Library, 1999. 


----

       [1] Genesis 12:3

       [2]  The promises are found reiterated in Genesis 18:18, 22:18, 26:4 respectively.  See Moreau, Scott A., and Corwin, Gary R., and McGee, Gary B.  Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey.  (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004.)

       [3] Joshua 4:23-24 NIV (emphasis mine)

      [4] 2 Samuel 7:26

       [5] Piper, John.  Let the Nations Be Glad. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993.)   Look at the plethora of scripture showing God’s zeal for his own glory and notice how it always brings joy to his people.  pp.17-22

      [6] Mark 1:14

      [7] Psalm 67

      [8] John 7:18

       [9] Matthew 9:38

      [10] Ezekiel 20:14

       [11] Ezekiel 36: 22-32

       [12] John 12: 27-28

       [13] I Corinthians 10:31, 6:20; also we should serve him always in a way that brings him glory, see I Peter 4:11

      [14] 2 Corinthians 4:14-15 (emphasis mine) NIV

      [15] Philippians 2:11

      [16] See Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6

      [17] Philippians 2:15-16 KJV

       [18] Romans 12:1 KJV

       [19] Romans 11:36 KJV

       [20] See Tson, Josef Suffering and Martyrdom: God's Strategy in the World in Winter, Ralph D. and Hawthorne, Steven C.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader.  (3ed edition.  Pasadena: William Cary Library, 1999. )

       [21] Theology, Christology, Pneumatology

      [22] Ecclesiology

      [23] The Criticisms, especially Textual Criticism, Literary Criticism, and Source Criticism 

      [24] Eschatology

      [25] Systematic Theology, notice that Missiology must pull from all of the theologies, and therefore it is a systematization conglomeration of many of the detailed theologies.  

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