Mission, Theology and the Bible


If we ask about the biblical basis for mission, many will answer and direct us to the words of the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:16-20).

But for Paul, the biblical basis for missions went much further back. The “Great Commission” in its present Scriptural form did not yet exist. In Paul’s missiology, he defended both his mission practice and mission theology based on the Old Testament scriptures. In the Old Testament Paul found a rich and deep theology of the mission of God for the nations, and he built his mission theology on that foundation.

Paul sees the mission of God as bringing the whole of the created order to liberation along with the sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:18-27). He proclaims the Messiah’s resurrection as the first fruits of that new creation and can affirm that a new person is already a new creation when a person is in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul also goes back to Abraham. He sees the mission of Israel as being called into existence as the covenant people of God and to be the agent of God in blessing all the nations (Galatians 3:6-8). This understanding is Paul’s foundational block of his theology that he calls “the gospel in advance” – that is, the good news that God intends to bless the nations from the call of Abraham.

For Paul, the mission of God through Israel for the salvation of the nations was the message of the scriptures. Paul’s mission as the apostle to the Gentiles was grounded in the Bible of the time. His biblical theology was a theology of mission – the mission of God.

Our Lord Jesus did the same thing. He fully understood his mission in light of the Old Testament, and He taught His disciples to see mission in the same light and on the same foundation.

44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “So it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

(Luke 24:44-48)

Jesus says that this passage is the whole point and thrust of the scriptures: the Law of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets. The message of the Old Testament is the death and resurrection of the Messiah and the preaching of the gospel to the nations.

The Old Testament then is as much about mission as it was about Jesus. These two are an inseparable part of the same reality – the saving mission of God. If you truly know who Jesus is from the Scriptures, then to confess Jesus as the Messiah is to commit yourself to His mission to the nations.

With the New Testament, the biblical basis for mission is the whole bible – from Genesis to Revelation. God revealed Himself in the scripture as a missionary God. Biblically, mission is the mission of God (Missio Dei), and the Church is God’s agent in fulfilling God’s mission. God’s mission is to redeem all the nations (people groups) of the earth, and He is carrying this out through His redeemed people, the Church. Mission is not an optional ministry of the Church. The mandate of the church is to be on mission with God. “As the Father has sent Me, even so, I am sending you” (John 20:21). The Missio Dei is God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit. The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit send the Church into the world.

Ike Agawin
EFCCM International Director