In the introduction to this series, I explained how I thought that people today tend to compartmentalize their lives. Because of this, we often compartmentalize what we consider the mission of God as well. In a previous post, I considered proclamation of the gospel as part of the mission of God as demonstrated and taught by Jesus and Paul. In the last post, I looked at their example of strengthening believers as part of their mission. Next I considered whether or not caring for the least was part of Jesus’ and Paul’s mission.
So, according to Scripture both Jesus and Paul considered proclaiming the gospel, strengthening believers, and caring for the least to be part of the mission that they were given by God. Furthermore, both of them taught others to proclaim the gospel, strengthen believers, and care for the least.
The mission of God is not one of these things; it is all of these things together lived out in the life of each of God’s children. Again, Jesus is the perfect example of this integrated approach to the mission of God:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. (Matthew 9:35 ESV)
While Jesus was more than an example, he was certainly an example of living in the kingdom of God (even while living on this earth) and living as one sent by God. We must remember that in one of his commission instructions he told his followers, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21 ESV) Obviously, we cannot carry out every part of God’s mission in the same way that Jesus carried it out. Jesus’ mission of reconciliation included his death, burial, and resurrection as the son of God for the forgiveness of sin. We cannot do this work.
However, we are sent as ambassadors of God (those sent by God to others) serving as messengers of reconciliation. We can proclaim reconciliation to God in both word and deed. And, just as Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God and served others in the love of God, we are to continue that same mission.
Similarly, Paul saw his mission as an integration of proclaiming the gospel, strengthening believers, and caring for people. While it is not in a nice neat package like the verse from Matthew above, in a passage at the beginning of Colossians, Paul exhibits all of these different aspects of his mission. (See Colossians 1:24-2:5.) He even says that he sees this complete (in the sense of integrated) mission as “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (Colossians 1:24)
By proclaiming the gospel, strengthening believers, and caring for the least, Paul is continuing Jesus’ mission – the same mission given to him by God.
In the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and in the accounts from Acts and the Epistles of Paul’s life, there are many examples of each of these different aspects of the mission of God. Sometimes the authors focus on one or another aspect; sometimes the authors combine all three – as we’ve seen in the examples above. However, as I’ve come to see it, the mission of God always includes proclamation, teaching, and service – all three – even if one or another may be emphasized from time to time.
In the next post, I’m going to consider emphasizing one aspects or another and how this may positively and negatively affect the mission of God.
Decompartmentalizing the Mission of God Series: