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God is a missionary God

by Aramus Crane

In Genesis 12:1-3, God reveals to Abraham that He is a missionary God. He said that He would be a blessing to all people through him. "Bless" and "blessing" occur 5 times in these verses. In addition to blessing other nations, God promises to give Abraham land (Gen 11:31-32, 12:1, 15:7) and many offspring (Gen 17:5) (perhaps spiritual as well as physical).

It is significant that this is a promise rather than a command to Abraham. Promises are certain, while commands may be disregarded. By making it a promise, there was no way that it could be rescinded.

John RW Stott in his article "The Living God is a Missionary God" (Perspectives: A Reader. Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Publishing. 2000. p. 3) points out that there is a triple fulfillment of this promise.

a. God created a people through Abraham's seed. These were a people that would become as numerous as the sands of the sea. (Gen 32:12)

b. Jesus Christ was a son of Abraham and brought forth a spiritual people. (Matthew 1; Luke 1:45-55, 67-75) Whereas Abraham's physical offspring were an important part of sustaining His Church, God could make children of Abraham from rocks.

c. We have become God's spiritual people. By our being grafted in through Jesus Christ, we are a fulfillment of the promise. (Matthew 8:11-12; Luke 13:28-29)

His missionary purpose is clear. His purpose is

  1. toward Himself—lt is for His glory. Our entire reason for being is to glorify God and this is what His primary mission is -- to bring all into glorifying Him. When we witness to His goodness and glory and when we help our neighbor in His name, we glorify God. Psalm 67 tells us that all the peoples will praise Him. This will occur either voluntarily on earth or forcefully on Judgment Day.
  2. for the nations—God wants to bless us through a relationship with Him. His purpose is to bless the nations (Gen 12:1-3) and missions is a tool for this. Psalm 67 shows that he will lovingly bless us so that His ways will be known on the planet. This is His desire as described in II Cor 4:15.
  3. against evil—He wants to eradicate evil one heart at a time through evangelism. (Acts 26:17-18) Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18) but will not fully exert it until His return.

God not only gives us a mandate, He gives us the message, the model and the power all in the Bible.

The message is clear. (I Cor. 15:11) I am having an intense discussion with an evangelical missionary graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary who says that we can't be sure of the Gospel message because God is infinite and we are limited. He says that only the novices believe in a simple "salvation by faith message".

In my response to him, I told him that I agreed with him in part. °I think there are parts that are complex, but I am not as willing as you are to say that we can't understand even the most basic parts of it. This is why we Evangelical Presbyterians believe in "liberty in the non-essential"--details, complexities as you put it. However, there is no issue more central and essential to God and the Bible than our salvation. Why did He write the book? For me, to imply that He didn't clearly communicate the essentials of His message is to doubt his omniscience. If Greenspan can't explain the law of supply and demand to me, is he very intelligent? No! God is of infinite intelligence and if He has a important message to give, He's darn well able to do it clearly. There are issues (the non-essentials like headcovering or dunking versus pouring) that He leaves vague for us to argue about and accept disagreement over. But if a church is confused because it cannot agree upon the way to obtain a relationship with God, their religion is utter foolishness because it loses its primary mission in my opinion.

'So, your answer to the proverbial question of God's omnipotence, "Can God create a stone that He cannot move?" would be "Yes."? He created a way of salvation that He couldn't explain clearly!?!?!? I preached on this at an evangelical church in Italy. I told them that such thinking does not appreciate either the magnitude of God's love or His omniscience--assuming the one who thinks such is not so liberal as to disbelieve in Hell or One Way to Heaven.

°Let's stop and consider this for a moment. Can you imagine if your wife had told you, I know how we could get married but I can't explain it to you. You would have to conclude that 1. she doesn't really love you and is just trying to give you the brush off, 2. she is not omniscient (of course this analogy breaks down here) to be able to communicate clearly or 3. marriage is not that important to her to take the time to try to explain it. Woe be to God's hopeful bride for she is without hope." For more of this debate, go to Is the Bible clear on salvation?

The model for evangelism is the Bible, which was powerful and clear enough to convince Abraham. (Gal 3:8)

The power is through the sword of the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) and the Holy Spirit's power which enters the believer and works to convince and convict the unbeliever. (I Thess 1:5)

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