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ME101 – Introduction to Evangelism and World Mission

AN ESSAY ON
“WHAT IS MISSION”

Course Title:
INTRODUCTION TO EVANGELISM AND
WORLD MISSION
ME101

Student: David Lim Hung Heng
19 March, 1998

Lecturer: Mr. Martin Goldsmith
Tutor : Rev. Dr. Quek Sweee Hwa

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ME101 – Introduction to Evangelism and World Mission

ESSAY ON “WHAT IS MISSIONS”

Focus of Essay

The focus of this essay is to examine God’s Mission in as many facets as possible with
the objective of forming a coherent picture, theology and practices of Christian mission. It
is the student’s hope and prayer that in the process of preparing this essay, the student can
internalise what is being written for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.

Definition of Mission.

Mission means, most essentially, the sending forth. In modern speech, it has the meaning
of purpose. Thus many businesses and organisations have mission statements.

However, from the Christian usage in its English usage, mission is fundamentally a
Christian word. As God sent Jesus Christ into the world, so the church, the body of
Christ, is sent into the world to continue Christ's mission. This is the basic meaning of the
Christian mission. Christians often talk about the mission of the church, and Christian
missions. The significance of these two words will be discussed in this essay.

The Foundation for Mission

In essence, Genesis chapters one to eleven of the Bible clearly set the backdrop for God’s
overall purpose for all His Creation.

As we know, God proclaimed that His whole creation is good, from making the universe
to creating humanity in the form of Adam and Eve. There was ideal communion between
God, mankind and his environment eg. land, animals, plants, etc. God’s specific guidance
for mankind was to maintain the eternal goodness of His creation. For this, Adam and
Eve were given dominion and stewardship over his environment

Alas, by desiring to be gods themselves, Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden of
Eden. They gambled and eventually lost the privilege of that ideal and eternal
communion with God. Sins set in and mankind becomes corrupt and evil in every ways
under the control of Satan who had deceived Adam and Eve in the first place.

But God, in His grace and mercy, continued to provide avenues and covenants for
mankind to be redeemed and be brought under his eternal lordship and enjoyment. This
is the essence of God’s mission for all peoples of the world.

Then God chose to install a specific covenant with Abraham and his descendents.
Although this covenant is for a particular race, the stage is set for God to use Israel to be a
blessing for all the nations by her life and examples.

Mission of the Old Testament

Abraham, also known as Israel, had a mission to live God’s ways wherever he

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ME101 – Introduction to Evangelism and World Mission

was. However, he failed to do this when he was in Egypt by lying to Pharaoh about his
wife, Sarah. Despite this, God remains faithful and continued to guide the wayward
Israel with His Covenant and Law. God even revealed to Moses that He is the “I am what
I am” which means His presence is everywhere and He is active in His creation. This is
the nature of God. It was an in-gathering mission, where other nations can witness the
life of Israel through the Law and be converted to God’s people through proselytism.

Although He is the God of Israel, He is also Lord over all the other peoples. Time and
again, He demonstrated His sovereignty over historic events which brought the clear
submission and worship of the other nations eg. Pharaoh acknowledge defeat at the hands
of God during the Exodus, King Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the God of Daniel
through His miracles, etc. He even sent the Prophet Jonah to preach a message of
repentance to the people of Nineveh although this was the only exception in the history of
Israel that God has purposely reached out to save a Gentile people from destruction.

Yet time and again, instead of winning the other nations to worship the God of Israel
according to 1 Kings 8-60, the Israelis have turned away from God to chase after and
worship the gods/idols of the other peoples. God hated this and has punished them often
enough over this great sin. But they remain a stubborn and stiff-necked people who is
inclined to fall into sinful ways and are founder guilty under the Law. He even use the
Gentile nations as His instruments to punish Israel’s rebellion.

Despite Israel’s rebellion, God still remain faithful through His covenant with the
descendants of Abraham and has kept a remnant of this people to inherit His promise of
salvation. This covenant of Law was the only way of salvation for Israel and all the
nations. Alas, even the remnant failed to abide by the Law. However, God in His infinite
wisdom, has already provided a way for redemption through the sacrifice of the perfect
son of Adam and David. This person, as we all know, is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus’ Role in God’s Mission

Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God who is perfectly holy and perfectly reflect the
image of God. Although the salvation offered by Jesus was mainly for the Israel people,
He eventually extended His “living water“ even to the Gentiles. This was evident in the
Gospel of Matthew from:

• 15:21-28: when Jesus extended His healing to a Cannanite woman’s daughter
• 15:29-39: when Jesus preached to a 4000 crowd of Gentiles and then fed them
miracuouly.

Hence, Jesus is God’s universal mission to all peoples of the world who flocked to him
eg. the wise men from afar, the Canaanite women, the Roman centurion, etc. – John
10:16. Although this was a centripetal mission (in-gathering of disciples and believers),
Jesus has eventually commanded His disciples to go out and preach the Gospel
(centrifugal mission) as evident in Mark 3:13-15.

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ME101 – Introduction to Evangelism and World Mission

The Gospel by John further emphasise the universality of the salvation offered by Jesus.
Instead of beginning with the beginning of Israel, it began with the creation of the
humankind with Jesus being there at the beginning. Instead of the land of Israel, the
universal world was referred to. Finally, anyone, not just the Jews, can be a child of God
by confessing his sins and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The appeal by a group of
Greeks to see Jesus was the start-point when Jesus declared that “the hour has come for
the son of man to be glorified.” This signified the fulfillment of the O.T. prophecy that
God’s salvation is for all. And this can only be achieved through Jesus’ glorification
(transfiguration), cross (death) and resurrection.

In the Gospel by Luke who himself is a gentile, he carefully explained Jesus’ genealogy
(all the way back to Adam) as the bridge between the O.T. prophecies and the wider
ministry of Jesus’ universal mission.

The significance of numbers was also evident in Luke. The 12 disciples referred to the 12
tribes of Israel. This signifies the calling of Israel to God. The 72 number of disciples
sent out to preach refers to the calling of all Gentiles. 144,000 means innumerous number
of people will be saved.

The Universality of Sin and Justification By Faith

The Letter to Romans was written by Apostle Paul to an early church in Rome which had
a mixed membership of ordinary Jews and Gentiles with daily concerns which required
real solutions. While the book deals with applied theology and philosophy for the man in
the street, one must be mindful that this book was not intended as a text book for
theologians and philosophers.

Extreme spiritual and moral sins were evident among the Gentiles. Sin is seen as self-
determination. It is the promotion of one’s opinion and desires to constitute the norm of
conduct instead of seeking divine will. The unbeliever tended to look down on
Christianity as being naïve and foolish. Sin is also seen as idolatry. He tries to replace
God as the centre of worship with many other substitutes. The result of sin is more sin.
This is its immediate penalty. Man becomes an addict and God abandons man to its
effects.

Paul reminded both Jews and Gentiles are incapable of satisfying God’s moral demands,
no matter how hard they try to be pious and virtuous. Hence, God’s moral law is universe
and with it comes all the condemnation of sins. Every excuse is silenced and mankind is
held accountable to God and is not able to remove this accountability.

Romans 3.21-31 brings us to the heart of the gospel. Standing in contrast to the argument
pointing that all men are sinners (Roms 1.18-3.20), it amplifies the declarations of 1.16
and provides the link to the remaining sections of this letter. The recurring stress on
God’s righteousness together with the emphasis on faith reiterate the main message of the
epistle: The righteous is justified by faith alone. God’s mission, for men to be righteous,
is to take the initiative for the expiation of sin and rebellion. The is achieved by the
complete obedient faithfulness and death of Christ in accordance with the will of God.
This universal solution must be received by faith as a gift of God. Hence, Jesus is the
universal mediator of God’s righteousness not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.
The implications are:

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• Justification is on the ground of faith through Jesus, with the principal of law replaced
by the principal of faith
• There is no room for boasting in human achievement God’s righteousness is
established solely by His action
• God’s provision is universal, covering both Jew and Gentile
• The Law is established in its basic design of bringing men into relationship with God,
so that they will recognise God’s will for their lives and receive God’s righteousness
by grace.

Paul further proved that the Scripture is in agreement with God’s own initiative of
justification by faith. Rom. Chapter 4 bring out Abraham and David as illustrations that
justification has always been the free act of God appropriated through faith and not
through performance of works. What the believer is to learn from “the father of the
faithful” is to resign every attempt to create a righteousness of his own and to abandon
himself to the working of God.

(lessons from ephesians and colossians by Senior and Stuhlmueller)
The epistles of Ephesians and Colossians are the climax of Pauline thinking. They also
emphasised the universality of the gospel. In Col 1.15-1.20, “He and Him” and “all
things” are emphasised. The danger faced by Christians is the exhortation of other things
in place of Jesus. Even the Bible or world mission cannot replace the lordship of Jesus in
the Christian faith. It will be a good testimony is denominations put aside all their fringe
differences and focus on the pre-eminence and centrality of Jesus. This is the essence of
Pauline thinking.

Does God’s Covenant with Israel still stand??
(critique on Roms 9 to 11)

The Christian Universal Mission

The lives and the pursuits of the first Christians of Jesus can be gathered from the book of
Acts in the bible. First and foremost is the empowering of the followers by the Holy
Spirit before any salvific work can be carried out by them. Then Jesus commanded them
to preach to all races to the ends of the world. The preaching and the living out of the
Gospel started in Jerusalem, then to Judea and then with the conversion of Paul, to many
parts of Gentile nations. Throughout Acts, it is evident that the conversion could only be
achieved through the work and conviction of the Holy Spirit. Even so, due to human
limitations, the preaching of the Gospel was hampered by communication, cultural and
social problems.

Even at this early stage of Christianity, the early Christian fathers were faced with
doctrinal problems and other practical constraints in missionary work. There are lessons
to be learnt from Paul as a missionary:

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ME101 – Introduction to Evangelism and World Mission

• trusted God and the people of the planted churches to grow on their own pace
• supported himself and his missions through a tent-making livelihood
• targeted the cities and cultural centres for his mission trips
• used verbal communications and visual signs to preach the gospel

The Kingdom of God

The central theme in the ministry and the teaching of Jesus is the kingdom of God. The
phrase “kingdom of God” is a unique and distinctive phrase from Jesus which set Him
apart from His contemporaries. In all the gospels, it is the single phrase which ties
together Jesus’ message in its entirety, giving it an unusual coherence and clarify. Debates
on exactly what Jesus meant by the kingdom have continued from His time until even
now. There are many thoughts and theses by bible scholars on this essential doctrine of
Christianity. The major ones will be discussed here.

In the context of the Jewish tradition and religion, both Jesus and John the Baptist did not
have to explain this term since it was a common Jewish expression and thought. Here,
kingdom is closely linked to the idea of God’s glory or “Shekinah”. It reveals God’s
holiness breaking into this world and establishing His presence. Preaching the kingdom
hence connote preaching about the Messiah of the O.T.

The Characteristics of the Kingdom.

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