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A theology of mission 3

In the last post, we saw the deepest continuity between God's mission and ours.

But now we must highlight the discontinuity.

Continuity and Discontinuity

Perhaps the Matthean Great Commission will show both the continuity and discontinuity points:

'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.' (Matt 28:18-20).

Here at the resurrection of Christ we see the very consummation of the missio Dei declared decisively in history.  And incredibly Christ says 'therefore', and with that connector He lays bare a profound continuity between God's mission and ours.  The Gospel-mission of God is handed to the Church. 

Yet precisely because our mission comes from the hand of the risen Christ it must not be confused with His.  Here is where the discontinuity comes in.  Our marching orders do not come from a hopeful Commander, trusting us to win victory.  Emphatically our commission comes from the Victor.  All authority is His.  The risen Christ has established the kingdom.  Sin is atoned for, wrath is averted, Satan is vanquished, death is defeated, heaven and earth are reconciled, Man stands on the earth as King under God.  And where this Head has come, His body will most certainly follow.  What can the church, His body, add to such an accomplishment?  All we can do is point to this King and this kingdom. 

Christ's command is simply to 'go' with His resurrection power and presence in a baptizing and teaching ministry that realizes in advance of His return that obedience in the nations which Easter has already won.

Our part in the missio Dei is, therefore, very different to Christ's, yet, on the basis of His completed work we are called to extend His mission to the world. 

Consequences of this Continuity and Discontinuity

Now that we've seen both the continuity and discontinuity between God's mission and ours we can elaborate on some consequences.

Firstly, because of the discontinuity point, we see that faithfulness to the completed missio Dei in the resurrection of Christ requires witnesses not activists.  We do not bring redemption to the world, we bring Christ to the world as One who has already accomplished our redemption. 

We betray our gospel-mission the minute we think we can establish Christ's kingdom.  We do not save the world.  In the risen Christ it is already saved.   We are not the do-ers - we are witnesses to His ultimate and all-encompassing Doing.  We 'go' as heralds not mini-saviours.

Secondly, because of the continuity point, we can learn much about the nature of our mission by enquiring as to the nature of the missio Dei.  Let us ask, does God's mission have a centre and goal?  And what is it?

We can answer this with confidence.  The purposes of the Father from all ages have been exclusively focussed on His Son.[1]  In the power of the Spirit, His word has been the agent for all divine activity in creation and redemption.[2]  In the Incarnation of the Word, the Father gives to Jesus His word,[3] which accomplished all that Jesus does,[4] and it is this word that Jesus entrusts to his followers.[5]  The Church has inherited a Gospel mission for the world, i.e. the Father's mission to the exalt His Son in His Spirit-empowered word.

The triune God - the God who is Sender, Sent and Perfector - is not concerned in a general glorification of Himself nor of the world.  His mission has never been an abstract betterment of the creation.  Rather, the purposes of this Gospel God have always been to create and redeem a people - to reach out and to draw in a bride for the Son, an inheritance for the Heir, a body for the Head.  The goal of God has always been the glorification of the Son through the inclusion of His people by the Spirit so that all may participate in the triune life. 

To put it more plainly, from beginning to end God's mission is wholly and thoroughly evangelistic.  Both creation and redemption find their place within this evangelistic economy.

Next time we will see the implications of this for our mission.  In particular we will argue that since God's mission is thoroughly evangelistic, so must ours be.

 


[1] Psalm 2:1-12; Psalm 110:1; Daniel 7:13,14; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:15f

[2] 2 Peter 3:5-7; Hebrews 1:3; 1 Peter 1:23; John 1:1-3; 5:24; 6:63,68;

[3] John 8:55; 14:24;

[4] John 14:10; Mark 4:41; Luke 4:43; John 5:24; 12:48; 17:17

[5] John 15:20; 17:6,14,20

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