Biblical Theology of Missions

The following post are my notes of Dr. John Ewart’s lecture on missions.

The bible presents a grand narrative of mission from Genesis to Revelation. That big story is the whole point of Scripture. Knowing this helps us understand the various parts of the BIble.

Missions In the Old Testament

Do we even see missions in the Old Testament?

Christopher Wright in his book The Mission of God says, “The Old Testament is shaped by the very nature of the mission of the New Testament church, which, indeed felt compelled to justify its mission practice from the Scriptures we now call the Old Testament.”

The early followers of Christ understood that the Old Testament had foreshadowed Christ and the preaching of forgiveness. See Luke 24:46-47

Paul was aware that The Lord had a great concern that the Gentiles follow him declaring that God had shared the gospel with Abraham so it could be shared with all humanity. See Galatians 3:8

Paul even justified his turn to minister to the Gentiles by quoting Isaiah 49:6. He clearly understood this verse to share the gospel of salvation with the Gentiles. Ephesians 3:11 uses “eternal” indicating God’s missionary concern was a part of His divine purpose from the beginning.

Jesus knew his life was a sustained fulfillment of what was written in the Old Testament. See Luke 24:25-27

Throughout the gospels, Old Testament prophesies of the Suffering Servant from Isaiah are clearly referenced and fulfilled. This is the story of God and what He is doing. It is easy at times to think only of the human characters involved in the Bible.

Genesis 1-11

– God creates.

– God creates all things “good.”

– God creates man in “his image.” In other words, we are an expression of him with spirituality, relational ability, and responsibility.

– He creates man in shalom.

– Creation is an incredible gift to us. On the one hand God is the mighty creator, on the other hand God seeks intimate relationship with man. He is infinite yet intimate.

– In Genesis 3 everything changes. We should have responded with thankfulness, but instead the human race rebelled. Goodness and shalom were broken when Adam and Eve fell. They tried to cover it up and they tried to hide, but their own efforts could not fix their shame. God had to step in and save them.

– All people are brought under sin’s curse and God’s consequent judgment. It seems as if Satan has won, but instead of wiping us out God responds with grace. No matter how hard or how long God will redeem His creation. He created the nations and He will redeem them.

– Missions begins with Genesis 3:15. The protoeuangelium is the initial promise of salvation that Christ would come and instead of destroying us God promises to save us and destroy Satan. He promises a Messiah, but in the meantime things will get terrible as we experience the curses of the fall.

– In Genesis 4, we see the story of Cain & Abel. One trusted in God and the other became the father of al false religions.

– In Genesis 6, the generations keep degenerating and the whole earth is full of sin. There is no shalom. God pursues, judges and redeems.

– In Genesis 9:8-17, God makes a covenant with Noah. All the nations come from the three sons of Noah. God will not be stopped in his pursuit of his mission until a new heavens and new earth are established.

Genesis 12-50

– God chooses to work through a particular people though his intention was still universal.

“The fact remains that the goal of the Old Testament was to see both Jews and Gentiles come to a saving knowledge of the Messiah who was to come.” (Walter Kaiser)

– God continues rolling back the darkness and pursing His creation. His missionary intent comes into view with His plan to bless all the extended families of the earth through Abraham and his descendants. He calls him out by grace, which means God went to a pagan to be his people.

– The Lord establishes His covenant with Abraham. See Genesis 12:1-3; 18:18-19; 22:15-18.

– He confirms his covenant with Isaac. See Genesis 26:2-4. Then Jacob. See Genesis 28:14. Jacob is used to be a deliverer.

– In Genesis 49, we see the lion of the tribe of Judah will rule the nations.

– The Abrahamic covenant serves as a foundation for God’s ultimate salvation blessing. See Romans 4:13 & Galatians 3:14. Israel’s understanding and response to this commission never rose very high. They failed to remember that God cared for other nations as well and that Israel was his special instrument for the very purpose of being a blessing to them.

Exodus Through Pre-Exilic History And Prophets

– God redeems his people and places them in a land of blessing. Along the way the wilderness teaches us how disobedience, judgment, and redemption are repeated.

– In Exodus the nation multiplies as God promised to Abraham. A new deliverer was needed and God provided Moses. Moses was one of the earliest missionary figures in the Old Testament. He had delivery intentionally on his heart and mind as he surrendered to God’s calling. A new covenant was needed as well at Mount Sinai. God told Moses to remind the people that they were to be a kingdom of priests. See Exodus 19:4-6. A priest was a mediator between God and man, they were a treasure to the nations and to God.

– The idea is that Israel would be a mediator between God and all other nations. The Law, the Tabernacle, and the Temple were all given as signs of God’s intent and salvation. They are to show how to approach a holy God. They were to be standards of God’s purpose and desire. Even in the Law we see a gracious God at work.

– Throughout the books of history: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, God is still on mission delivering and leading His people forward. God uses Joshua and the Judges to deliver. God uses David to deliver. God even later uses Solomon to lay a foundation stone for the missionary consciousness of Israel in his prayer in 1 Kings 8:43-46, 60. They were to be a blessing to all peoples. Though their ethnocentrism muffled this, it finally came to fruition in Christ.

– As Adam and Eve were expelled, so eventually the entire nation would be expelled. The prophets of the exile continue to proclaim God’s provision through the coming Messiah. In Jeremiah 3:17 we see the nations will be gathered to Jerusalem. In Ezekiel 36:22-23 we see the heathen will know that He is God. In Zechariah 2:11 & 8:20-23 many nations will join God’s people. Throughout the exile God gives the hope. The picture of the One to come is solidified.

Three Mission Themes In the Text

1. The Universality of God’s Intent

– Abraham was called to be a blessing for the whole world.
– Israel was to be used to renew the whole world.
– See Leviticus 19:33-34 and that strangers are allowed to enter in among Israel and to be loved.
– See 1 Kings 8:41-43 and how foreigners are expected to come in and worship.
– Isaiah 56:6-7 says God’s house was a house of prayer for all the nations.
– Repeatedly God’s authority over the world is signaled by the oracles of judgment in the prophetic literature.
– God uses Gentile kings and kingdoms for his purpose.
– “In the book of Psalms we see one of the greatest missionary books in the world.” (George Peters)
– See Psalm 67
– In Psalm 60:7-8, God owns the nations.
– In Psalm 67:4, God guides the nations.
– In Psalm 46:10, God is exalted among the nations.
– In Psalm 47:1; 100:1; 117:1, God is to be praised by all nations.
– In Psalm 22:27; 66:4; 86:9, the nations will turn to God and worship him.
– In Joel 2-3, God’s spirit is poured out on all people and God’s coming judgment will come to all nations.
– In Habakkuk 2:14, the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of God.
– In Micah 4:1-4, the nations will come to worship.
– In Zephaniah 3, the universal judgment and restoration of Israel before the nations.

2. The Purpose of God’s people as light for the Gentiles.

– In Isaiah, the most significant of all prophesies we see the coming of the suffering servant of The Lord. See Isaiah 52:13ff. Isaiah calls Israel the “light for the Gentiles” in 42:6 & 49:6.
– God did not liberate His people without reason. God’s people are to be priests to the world. The fact they failed to live up to their expectations does not change the fact they had the responsibility.

3. The narrowing of the means of deliverance from a people to a person.

– God saves from a people to a seed.
– Individual prophets emerge to call the people to repentance and deliverance.
– Israel was to serve as the prophet to the rest of the world as we see in Jonah. Because they refuse this sets up the exile.
– Even in the midst of the exile God is still on mission. The story of Daniel is one of deliverance as we see in chapters 3 & 6.
– Eventually the exile is ended as once again God orchestrates history to redeem and the people to return to rebuild and to wait upon his coming.

Conclusion of Old Testament Biblical Theology

Missions in the Old Testament involves both the individual and the community of God cooperating with Him in his work of reversing the curse of the fall. The One Messiah is introduced. Covenants are established and the Law of standards is given. The stage is now set for the New Testament.

Missions In the New Testament

– First we see missions in the gospels as Jesus was the incarnation of God’s missionary purpose (John 1).
– Jesus was God’s apostle: the sent One and the Sender (John 20:21).
– Jesus was the friend of sinners (Luke 5:27-32).
– Jesus was the Kingdom Bearer (Mark 1:15).
– Jesus was the missionary prototype (Matthew 11:2-6).
– Jesus was the Great Commissioner (Matthew 28:16-20).

John 1

I. The Person of the Gift (v. 14, 1-3)
II. The Position of the Gift (v. 14, 10-11)
III. The Privilege of the Gift (v. 14, 4-5, 9, 12-13)

John 3

I. The Origin of Redemption – “For God So Loved”
II. The Object of Redemption – “The World”
III. The Offering of Redemption – “That He Gave His One and Only Son”
IV. The Opportunity of Redemption – “That Whoever”
V. The Obligation of Redemption – “Believes In Him”
VI. The Outcome of Redemption – “Shall Not Perish But Have Eternal Life”

Luke 5

I. The Instruction (v.1-3)
II. The Illustration (v. 4-7)
III. The Invitation (v.8-11)
A. The Recognition of a Disciple (v.8-10)
1. The Recognition of the Savior = Lord
2. The Recognition of Self = Sinner
B. The Responsibility of a Disciple (v.10)
C. The Resource of a Disciple (v.11)

Matthew 9-10

I. We Must Recognize the Christ (9:35)
II. We Must React with Compassion (9:36)
III. We Must Realize the Crisis (9:37)
IV. We Must Respond to the Commission (10:1-8)

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Reformers in Europe had largely understood this passage to be limited to the twelve apostles. William Carey worked to change this idea.

I. We must recognize Christ’s power for making disciples (v.16-18)
II. We must recognize Christ’s plan for making disciples (v.19-20a)
A. As you are going make disciples
B. As you are baptizing make disciples
C. As you are teaching make disciples
III. We must recognize Christ’s presence for making disciples (v.20b)

Mission in Acts

– Jesus ascends and then the Holy Spirit steps in to continue the work.
– God then displays his purposes for the church.
– The gospel begins to break through barriers.
– The gospel moves from one group to the next.
– Linguistic, ethnic and geographic barriers cannot stop the gospel from spreading.
– Missions in Acts is consistently seen as the work of the glorified Christ and not the apostles. It is Christo-centric.
– Missions is closely connected to eschatology because there was an end goal.
– Acts repeatedly points out the use of “unofficial preachers” and we see God use all people for his mission.
– In addition to preaching, people were attracted to the life of the church.

Acts 1

I. God’s People (v.1-4)
II. God’s Plan (v.6-8)
III. God’s Power (v.4-5, 8)
Iv. God’s Promise (v.9-11)

– In C.H. Dodd’s “The Apostolic Preaching and Its Development” he summarizes the sermon content of Peter and others to follow. The “kergyma” content of the earliest gospel sermons were:

1. This is the beginning of a new age.
2. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that new age.
3. Jesus now rules at the right hand of God
4. Jesus has sent us his Spirit
5. Jesus will one day return.
6. Jesus will change our attitude toward God

God’s Plan for World Missions

I. Geographical Expansion
1. Jerusalem – your home place
2. Judea – your province
3. Samaria – your nation
4. Uttermost Parts – your world

II. Simultaneous moves from centripetal to centrifugal

III. Decentralization and diffusion leads to the transculturalization of the new kingdom people, the church.

God’s Power for World Missions

The Holy Spirit
1. Acts 1:8 – The Holy Spirit is essential to the task
2. Acts 2:1-4 – The filling of the Holy Spirit precedes effective witness.
3. Acts 4:31 – The filling of the Spirit results in bold evangelism.
4. Acts 6:8 – Bold witnesses are filled with the Spirit
5. Acts 13:3 – The church prayed and The Lord called out missionaries
6. Acts 16:25 – God’s servants prayed and the earth was shaken

The Holy Spirit and Missions

The book of Acts tells the story of how Acts 1:8 happened. The Holy Spirit controlled the mission by:
– giving God’s people boldness (Acts 4:31)
– empowering the Apostles’ preaching
– working signs and wonders through early Christians
– calling out missionaries and evangelists
– giving spiritual gifts to believers
– guiding the Apostles to carry out their mission

God’s Procedure for World Missions

– Mass Evangelism (Acts 2:37-41)
– Public Preaching (Acts 5:42; 8:5)
– House to House Witnessing (Acts 5:42)
– Personal Witnessing (Acts 8:26-38)
– Synagogue Preaching (Acts 13:14-15)
– Public Debates (Acts 17:22)
– Home Bible Studies (Acts 20:20)

God’s Progress In World Missions

A. Mission to Jerusalem
1. Acts 2:40-42 – Three thousand saved in Jerusalem and they return home to share the gospel
2. Acts 4:4 – More people are saved at the temple
3. Over the next several chapters through chapter 7 the story unfolds how evangelism is done among Jerusalem’s Jewish population

B. Mission to Judea
1. Acts 8:1-4 – The believers were scattered throughout Judea. Saul is introduced as a chief persecutor
2. Acts 8:40 – Philip preached in Judea
3. The scattering through persecution helps spread the gospel

C. Mission to Samaria
1. The gospel finally reaches cross cultural boundaries
2. The church has to check it out.
3. There is a massive shift for the new church.

D. Mission to the Gentiles
1. To the ends of the earth is a huge issue.
2. Peter’s vision and Cornelius.
3. Antioch becomes the missions center instead of Jerusalem
4. This multiethnic congregation begins to set aside individuals and send them out on mission

E. Mission to the World
1. Acts 13:1-4 – The first foreign missionaries were Paul and Barnabas. They were set aside to proclaim the gospel.
2. The church at Antioch sends them out.
3. Peter opened the door and now they would walk through it.
4. Their are four major trips that would occupy the rest of Paul’s life.

In Acts 13:4 – 14:28 we see the first missionary journey to Cyprus and Asia Minor. It begins in the synagogues then moves to the Gentiles. It goes as far as Derbe, turns around and retraces steps visiting the new churches and converts. There are roughly 1500 miles covered over the span of 3 years. As a result churches were planted in 9 cities and the gospel took root in new territories.

In Acts 15:36 – 18:22 we see the second missionary journey toward Europe. There were disputes over Gentile converts that led to the Jerusalem Council in early chapter 15. Contexualization issues were determined. Paul feels a need to follow up on those from the first trip. Paul and Barnabas disagree over John Mark. Silas accompanies Paul and later Timothy. Paul wants to go deeper into Asia but is turned toward Europe by the Holy Spirit. This has massive historical ramifications as churches were planted along the way. There was Paul’s trip to Greece and his famous sermon in Athens. The entire trip took about three and half years to cover almost 3000 miles and during this time he probably wrote 1 & 2 Thessalonians. There were churches planted in 5 more cities.

In Acts 18:23 – 21:19 we see the third missionary journey to revisit. It is similar to his second missionary journey. Paul strengthens the disciples in Galatia and Phrygia. He fulfills his promise to return to Ephesus and he stays more than two years. He travels through Greece and goes back to Jerusalem instead of Antioch. Roughly four years and 4000 miles are spent on this journey and Paul probably wrote 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans.

In Acts 21:20 – 28:31 we see the 4th missionary journey to Rome in chains. Paul is accused by Asian Jews for forsaking Moses. He takes a Nazarite vow in Jerusalem as a ritual. Then an angry mob gathers and Paul is rescued by a Roman guard. Paul appeals to Rome and on the way he shares with religious leaders, governors, sailors, and islanders. He goes farther than his missionary journeys and ends up under house arrest in Acts 28:31.

Paul’s Mission

In Acts 9:15 we see Paul’s mission. It flowed out of his passion for God. He never got over his salvation and he was a single-minded man. His journeys encompassed over a decade and spread the gospel throughout four important provinces in Asia Minor and on European soil. Paul wrote letters to the churches along the way.


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Filed under Biblical Theology, Lectures, Missions, SEBTS

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