Biblical Theology of Missions

Introduction

The phenomenon of mission theology is no more a foreign idea. Apparently, missiology has gained much interest in the professional aspects of ministry. Even though mission theology developed as a practical discipline due to its application nature, a new concept has emerged to give missiology a theological viewpoint. Apparently, “the task of missiology comes out of our roles as Christ’s ambassadors; however, it must go beyond these disciplines.”1 Consequently, proponents of this concept have proposed mission theology an independent discipline. This paper will provide an analysis of missiology based on the Old and New Testaments themes, the nature of God, and its actual application to the missionaries, the church, and lay people.

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Missions in the Old Testament

While there are an array of missions in the New Testament, Christians should not undermine the missionary aspect that is visible in the Old Testament. For instance, the rebellion of man and God’s destruction of man are a few missions that will be discussed in this section.

The rebellion of Mankind

Humankind was overwhelmed by his pride and acted against God by choosing to disobey Him. Consequently, the fellowship between Mankind and God ended. Tennent provides a narrative about man’s transgression by suggesting that man exceeded the boundaries that defined his humanity and demeaned God2. Humankind threatened his own humanity when he disobeyed God. The fact that man listened to the snake suggests his frail nature as he deliberately declined his duty to command the creatures. Consequently, man abandoned his task and failed to fulfill his obligation under God’s direction. Due to man’s pride, he chose to further his own course by disobeying his Creator. The consequence of man’s rivalry and disobedience was to experience God’s wrath that yielded into spiritual and physical decline (Eph. 2:3). Since God cannot fellowship with sinful beings, humanity became spiritually depraved.

God’s destruction of Mankind

Despite the God’s favor on man, his rebellion concerning God’s will persisted and doubled in intensity. Man’s rebellion persisted until God realized that the sinful nature of man was high on the earth. Besides, each imagination and desires of humankind were increasingly becoming evil. The earth was immoral and violent in God’s sight (Gen. 6:5, 11). Eventually, man’s rebellious nature became so evident and intolerable. Thus, God decided to damage the earth by a flood and singled out Noah’s family that had sought to advance God’s will. God made a promise the humankind that He provided a new beginning and never to issue a wrath in the form of a flood.

Missions in the New Testament

The Kingdom of God

God planned to establish His Kingdom on earth since people were subject to His rule. Since Israel failed to represent the glory of God, it resulted in destruction. However, this failure did not prevent God from attaining the goal He set for future generations. The New Testament spreads the message that the Kingdom had come via Jesus Christ. The coming of Jesus Christ was intended to relieve men from burdensome laws and authorities that suppressed its people. God’s Kingdom was not defined by earthly power, but it was pure a spiritual Kingdom.

The Church

The church is viewed as the advocate of the world missions. Even though missions is purely God’s doing, God’s work is spread through intermediaries. Thus, the Church is appointed by God to propagate his message to the world (1 Cor. 3:9). God provided the message of reconciliation with humanity via the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but the spread of the gospel He delegated to those who had been saved i.e. the Church. Paul pointed out that God reconciled the world through Christ, and entrusted the Church with the Gospel of reconciliation. Similarly, Peter stated that the Church’s role is to praise and worship God, who deliberated the people out of sins into His light (I Pet. 2:9). The abundance of grace belongs to God; the responsibility to share it is bestowed on man. Therefore, men should be saved via teaching the gospel.

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How the nature of God relates to mission

The nature of God defines the purpose of mission in theology. Mission theology should be based on the nature of God as love, light, and Spirit. God manifests His love through saving sinners. Due to His love to the World, God sent Christ to die for People’s sins (John 3:16). The Bible proclaims that God is light, and He secures His people from the darkness. Light defines holiness, goodness, and life. This assertion means that God provides light to anyone who comes into the world. This light is spread through missions led by the chosen people. God as spirit seeks out believers and acknowledges worship done in spirit and truth. God is boundless and works via missions to reconcile the lost to Himself.

God works via the Church or His chosen people to achieve His goals. This purpose is attained through the missions aimed at spreading the Gospel3. God is the center of the mission and selects the Church as His partner in achieving this objective. God inspires missionaries to go out, spread the gospel, and convince all humanity to become followers of the Lord. Thus, because God’s nature is grounded on missions, God’s message is spread through missions as it is evidenced in the Bible.

How mission theology relates to

Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is the origin of the Christian missions. Humanity was created to project the image of His creator.4 Just as God, the Father sent His son Jesus, and so Jesus has sent the Church to spread the gospel. Jesus the Son sanctifies the selected people to undertake the missions. The responsibility of the son is to oversee the functioning of the Church. Just as Jesus suffered on the cross to achieve reconciliation of the lost with God, currently, Jesus is suffering in his mystical manifestation to propagate the effects of that reconciliation. Paul states that through the mission, he was filling on behalf of Christ, and it was necessary for the mystical body of Jesus to suffer to spread redemption to all generations the Father has selected. Similarly, the Father sent the Spirit to bring the gospel to the world. Just as Jesus brought redemption to the people, the Spirit now guides the Church. The Son, in his redemptive mission, was led by the Spirit and sustained by the by communion with the Father. Similarly, the Church achieves its mission through the power of the Spirit and develops through fellowship with God. Thus, the Spirit, the Son and the Father guide Christian mission today.

Ecclesiology

The New Testament describes the church as God’s symbol of authority in the earth. Believers are referred to as the church. When God seeks to prepare the missionaries for ministry, he claims that he inspired men in the Church. The Church resolved many issues concerning the Christians. However, when exploring the mission of God, it is important to understand that the gospel is spread through the Church. The spirit of God circulates across the Church to inspire men to spread the word of God to all walks of the world. The Church prepares and sustains missionaries in propagating the gospel. The Church is directed by God to exercise control over the missionary and hold them responsible.

Themes of mission theology

The Kingdom of God

The New Testament, particularly the books of Gospel emphasize the Kingdom of God as the core message of Jesus. For instance, the gospel of Mark introduces Jesus by claiming that the time was due, and the Kingdom of God had come (Mark 1:13-14). Similarly, Mathew’s introduction of Jesus’ ministry suggested the presence of God’s Kingdom. Mathew states that Jesus was going to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom (Matt. 4:23). In the contemporary world, believers differ regarding their understanding of the Kingdom. According to a number of believers, heaven denotes the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, other believers and especially the Catholics take the Kingdom to mean the church. On a different note, Pietists normally assume the Kingdom is in the heart, which then connects to spirituality. However, a clear understanding of the Kingdom is offered in the New Testament. When Christians pray God’s Kingdom to come, His will to be achieved on earth as it is in heaven, they are requesting God to exercise His power over the world so that His will is attained (Matt. 6:10). Therefore, the concept, Kingdom of God does not mean heaven, the Church or the heart. Contrary, Kingdom refers to the active exercise of God’s reign in the world. This authority is nurtured and sustained through missions.

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Shalom

The word Shalom bears various meanings that define God’s nature. Shalom means peace, safety, joy, prosperity and wholeness. Shalom is a God-given birthright since Jesus died to restore man’s fellowship with God. Thus, Shalom is the experience of desirable fellowship with God. Shalom entails justice, fairness, and authority defined by truth. Shalom is the right way of God and the means via which the glory of the Trinity is spread to the people. Due to man’s rebellious nature, Shalom was lost. The birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ mark the rebirth of Shalom. God uses the missions to spread the proclamation of Shalom to the world. God reaches the lost and outcasts and welcomes the sinners to His table via missions. God brings relief to the burdened, hope to the despairing and joy to the poor. Christ reinforces what the Bible proclaims and manifests interest for those who struggle in the absence of Shalom.

Applicability of mission theology

A missionary

Missionaries represent the will of God by adhering to His commission. A missionary has to learn to respond to God’s calling and which people are yearning for the gospel. Missionaries are chosen and sent to spread the gospel, and the holy Church should support the missions. Missionaries serve as intermediaries to reunite the lost with the Lord. This servant-based Church is freed from regional and geographical demarcations to manifest God’s purpose in the earth. Missionaries should be well equipped in mission’s theology for them to tolerate tough periods that are hard to thrive.

Church leaders

The New Testament missions suggest that God will manifest Himself via the Church but not a nation. The Church includes the chosen generations from all nations.5 In other words, the church is the servant and the reflection of God’s purpose on humankind. Church leaders are tasked with the role of discipleship. Thus, leaders strengthen and motivate people to keep on embracing God in their lives. Church leaders serve as the intermediaries between the layperson and the missionary. Thus, they should have a good understanding of Biblical missions in a bid to help Christians acknowledge the need to support missions.

Lay people

Lay people are the ones that help the missionaries to achieve the tasks that God has bestowed upon them. Christian Laypeople may manifest their reunion with God through praying for the mission team or the people to be ministered. Lay people also serve the mission agenda by providing material support to the missionary activity. Lay leaders bear personal testimony about their salvation and serve as bearers of God’s message to humanity.

Conclusion

This paper has provided a rational explanation to understand mission theology. This paper has identified the nature of God and its expectation from the Church. Missiology entails going beyond boundaries to identify and embrace the Gospel among all nations. Essentially, the Church is a missionary entity of God, and every member has an obligation to advance this entity.

References

Tennent, Timothy. Invitation to World Missions. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2010.

Moreau, Scott, Gary Corwin, and Gary McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.

Winter, Ralph, and Steven Hawthorne. Perspectives on the world Christian movement: A reader. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1992.

Footnotes

  1. Scott Moreau, Gary Corwin, and Gary McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 74.
  2. Timothy Tennent, Invitation to World Missions (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2010), 102-111.
  3. Moreau, Corwin, and McGee, Introducing World Missions, 17-19.
  4. Ralph Winter and Steven Hawthorne, Perspectives on the world Christian movement: A reader(Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1992), 81-88.
  5. Winter and Hawthorne, Perspectives on the world Christian movement, 106-115.
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