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MY BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF MISSION Gods mission is rooted in the relational nature of the Triune God.

As an extension of his relational love and the pleasure of his will, God created a world and a people. The Creatorcreation relationship is integral to the theology of mission. The human creations resistance to the proper ordering of the relationship with the Creator God necessitated and prompted mission. The Bible bears witness to Gods purpose for humanity and his efforts to be known as God for the good of his creation. In this sense the Bible is all about mission.1 As Creator of the world, the Triune God has a universal concern for all people. Yet he chose, as the method of his mission to all people, a single family to be the means of blessing the world. They were to embody and demonstrate the proper relationship between people and the Creator God by loving God and being faithful to the covenant. Their election was not one of elite privilege but fearful responsibility.2 Israels unwillingness and inability to maintain covenant faithfulness compounded and highlighted the problem. Creation needed saving from itself. Desire to be like the world rather than the holy God and misplaced trust in other nations and their gods rather than faith in their Great Deliverer necessitated that God accomplish his saving mission through himself. In the submission of the God-man Jesus to the will of God, Jesus fulfilled the role and vocation of Israel. The appearance of Jesus accompanied an announcement of the in-breaking kingdom of God. Jesus depicted the true human life that acknowledges and exemplified life as it was created to be. God vindicated through resurrection his life of selflessness, which had exposed the religious and political authorities fraudulent concern for truth and justice. In a new way, God said yes to the life that pleased him. In and through Jesus, Gods reign was made manifest and inaugurated anew. The kingdom of God is now and to come; begun but not complete. It is spiritual and physical. It is individual and communal. In it, one experiences the first fruits of life in the Spirit and anticipates the resurrection life to come.

Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2006), 29. 2 Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret (Rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 73.

The disorientation toward the self perverts humanity from fulfilling its mission as the image of God in the world. Because of this sin, humanity is in need of salvation thus the mission of God. Through the work of Christ and the regime of the Spirit, humanity can be restored to wholeness and freed from bondage.3 Although in different degrees for each person, from the young child born into a family of God to the chief of sinners, each person must re-orient their life from self-interest toward God and a concern for the other through the transformation of the Spirit toward being conformed into the image of Jesus. This good news needs to be shared with all of the world: the far away and the near; the rich and the poor; the oppressors and the oppressed; the stranger and the neighbor. Although the gospel is intended for the whole spectrum of people in every time and place, those who share the good news and invite others to participate in the reign of God seek to properly contextualize the message and meaning to the culture. The gospel should be spoken to, for, against, and through the culture as necessary. The good news is constant while the people and cultures, which hear and engage it, are diverse. This culture-engaging-gospel inevitably will encounter people of other religions or those who see the world through the lens of a human ideology. A properly contextualized gospel must be accompanied by open and engaging dialogue, genuine compassion for the individual, and a humble assertiveness in the particular revelation of truth in Jesus Christ. The Biblical witness, from which this theology of mission is derived, is likewise diverse in the way it describes mission. In light of humanitys rebellion against God, the Old Testament tells the story of God promising to bless the world through a single family. As the family grew it fell into slavery from which God rescued them, demonstrating that he alone is God. Despite his gift of a land, his presence among them, and instruction on how to be his people, they continually pursued other gods culminating in their removal from the land & the destruction of Gods temple. This people failed to be a holy nation, a wise nation that would witness to the nations the blessing associated with loving and serving God. For the generations living in exile, the prophets cast a vision of a day when God will once again dwell in their presence and the nations will stream to him in worship the beginnings of a new heaven and a new earth.

Ibid., 106.

This bold vision comes into sharper focus in the life of Jesus and his announcement of Gods kingdom. Jesus is the long awaited Christ. In light of his coming and commission, his disciples spread into the world proclaiming this good news. No one spoke more loudly and more far than the apostle Paul. Through his dramatic and transforming conversion, Paul came to experience the risen Christ. In the cross (representative of both Jesus death, burial, and resurrection) Paul saw the past, present , and future converge. The cross was the culmination of Israels story, the way of life for Jesus followers, and the proleptic view of the eschaton. Paul translated his concern for the ultimate kingdom-to-come and the renewed creation into a penultimate focus on kingdom participation, through missions and ethical living. For his primary Jewish audience, the apostle Matthew demonstrated how Jesus was the recapitulation and consummation of humanity and Israels calling. Matthew crowns his royal presentation of Jesus with the commission to make disciples throughout the world under the authority of Jesus. The core of Jesus-discipleship is coalesced in the sermon on the Mount that stresses other-focused living, even love of enemy, in the now present kingdom of heaven. In the mission theology of Luke, the Spirit plays the leading role guiding both Jesus and his disciples post-resurrection. The Spirit leads the disciples across new frontiers to the ends of the earth up and down the social ladder. Luke repeatedly describes the disciples as those who bear witness to the ministry and mission of Jesus and the Spirit. Luke stresses that mission inevitably encounters the adversity and suffering in this life in keeping with the life giving Savior. For John, Jesus is the sent-one who in turn sends his disciples into the world under the care and advocacy of the Spirit. More than any other NT writer, John presents the relationship of mutual love and submission present in the Triune God as model for the unity of all believers. Through the simple witness of love, the world will come to know Jesus. John sees the world as people needing light, salvation, and life. A life of everlasting abundance is available in an abiding relationship with Jesus. Just as these more dominant voices of the NT emphasize different aspects of Gods mission for Christians, so do Jude, Peter, the writer of Hebrews and Revelation. Jude encourages his readers to the zealous life while Peter advocates patient endurance as

resident aliens of a holy nation. Hebrews exhorts the faithful to endure and move outside the camp. The closing visions of John stress, for the suffering witnesses of Jesus, the sure victory guaranteed and secured by the slain Lamb, the Lion of Judah, when God himself makes his presence dwell among men in the new heaven and earth the new creation that completes Gods mission in the assurance of his eternal reign.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Newbigin, Lesslie. The Open Secret. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. Wright, Christopher J. H. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2006.