The Old Testament is written off by some people as being a bunch of weird stories about old people, all jumbled together, without any significance for today’s Christian. When we really examine what the Old Testament is about we see that it fits perfectly within the context of the Bible as a whole. We see God revealing his big picture plan bit by bit. Right from the beginning, when Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden, we see the way people have again and again chosen to do their own thing and disregard God. Right from the beginning we see the need for a saviour.
This is important when thinking about mission. God’s plan for redeeming the world can be seen as far back as the book of Genesis, where God makes a covenant with Abraham to use people to bring blessing to all the world.
God tells Abraham that “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you”, indicating that right from the beginning God’s mercy would extend beyond his chosen nation Israel to the whole world, with God working through Abraham and his descendants.
That calling and promise is passed on through Abraham to the whole nation of Israel who are called to be a blessing to the nations.
God calls Israel to be a ‘Kingdom of priests’, or servants of God.
Throughout the Old Testament there are many references to God’s desire for all nations to be reconciled with him.
God draws people of all nations to himself and they become his people.
This chapter outlines God’s plan to extend salvation to those outside of Israel. Isaiah prophesies that a time is coming when God will send a suffering servant to bring justice and righteousness; that servant is a prophetic picture of Jesus.
This brings us to…
The first four books of the New Testament. The gospels (or accounts of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) focus on the ultimate missionary – Jesus. Jesus is God dwelling amongst us (Philippians 2:6-11), reaching out to reconcile humanity with its Creator. At the end of the gospels Jesus ascends into heaven calling his disciples to continue building his Church until he returns.
Matthew 28: 16-20
This is perhaps the most famous of mission texts and is known as the ‘Great Commission’. As Christians we are all sent to tell others the good news, and build up God’s Church by making disciples of all nations. Jesus’ parting words are encouraging as we consider what it means to “go into all the earth”. He reassures those that heed this call that “surely I am with you, to the very end of the age”. We can have full confidence that it is God working through us to build his Kingdom. That’s our ‘mission’.
John 17: 13-19
These verses are the end of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples. We see Jesus’ intention for his message to be sent into the world. Our word ‘mission’ actually comes from a Latin word ‘missio’ meaning ‘sending’.
The book of Acts gets its name from its subject matter – the acts of God through the apostles. This book reminds us of two things. One, God’s mission is done through people like us; it’s through him and by him that everything comes together. Two, mission isn’t static; it requires action to put it into place.
A pretty clear statement showing where our efforts should be focused! God’s mission isn’t confined to a certain place or people group, God’s mission is for all people in all places. There is no one, whether rich or poor, here or there, who does not need to hear the story of Jesus.
The New Testament Letters help us to look at the practicalities of HOW we do mission. There are many helpful instructions for our attitudes, lifestyles and relationships. These books emphasise that mission is not just about telling people the gospel, it’s also about service and relationships, ‘living the good news’.
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Service and evangelism are not separate tasks; instead we are called to maintain an attitude of service as we proclaim Christ. We show the gospel as we tell the gospel. This is a challenge for Christians to consider appropriate practical ways of meeting both people’s spiritual and physical needs.
Faith is a God given gift; we cannot earn it by doing ‘good things’. However, because of our faith Christians pursue good works as a service of love to others and Christ himself.
How they live their lives should show that Christians belong to Christ. Genuine faith is always lived out in actions.
The picture illustrated here in Revelation shows the culmination of God’s plan. People of every tongue, tribe and nation bow together to worship God.