The following is a continuation of this post.
missio Dei as God’s Mission
What is the best way to understand the word “mission”?
Mission is a word chosen to describe actions driven by a purpose or end. Furthermore, NT scholars (see works of Köstenberger and Schnabel) of mission note both the implication of intentionality and movement in the term. So while mission will inevitably involve “going” or “sending”, I believe the best theological category for understanding God’s mission is His providence. Theologically, God’s providence has been understood in terms of sustenance, concurrence, and governance. In other words, God actively sustains the world by His power (Heb 1:3) in that all things are dependent upon God for both their very existence and their designed end. Also, God works concurrently as the primary cause (in Aristotelian/Thomistic categories), thus establishing human freedom while directing all of history according to his own purposes, so that He is “at work in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). Finally, God governs all of history through created order (natural law) and special revelation so that he, as in concurrence, is the first and, as in governance, the final cause of everything. Thus, scripture affirms that “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) and “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom 11:36). As such, God is in complete control of every action and He directs all of history through a combination of primary and final causation toward His end. The origins and teleology of the universe is found in God; everything begins and ends with God. Moreover, God reveals through scripture that the movement from origins to eschaton is accomplished through and by Jesus. The incarnation and all its implications, then, is the center of God’s mission.
The Woman’s Seed, obscurely then foretold,
Now amplier known thy Saviour and thy Lord,
Last in the clouds from heav’n to be revealed
In glory of the Father, to dissolve
Satan with his perverted world, then raise
From the conflagrant mass, purged and refined,
New heav’ns, new earth, ages of endless date
Founded in righteousness and peace of love,
To bring forth fruits joy and eternal bliss.
This quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost gives poetic image to the truth that the center of scripture, and arguably all of life, is the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, understandably, the messianic expectation is the framework for the missio Dei throughout the canon of Scripture.
The canonical story begins where the canon begins, with creation. Arguably, Jesus is the personification of Wisdom (“Prov 8”) through whom the world was created. The New Testament clarifies the role of the Son in creation (John 1:3; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2). Thus, the triune God (cf. role of Spirit in Gen 1:2) acts through creating by the word of his power a good world ruled by good men and women (Gen 1:27-8). Mankind, then, is the pinnacle of God’s very good creation. After creating man, God rests (Gen 2:2-3). The man and women he created, though, chose to rebel against their good God. As a result, God cursed the man, the woman, the serpent, and the earth. The rest of the story of scripture is the story of God’s love in overcoming the sin of mankind. Thus, God is at work again. So Jesus can say, “My Father is working until now, and I myself am working” (John 5:17). And thus Jesus frames his ministry as doing His Father’s work (John 4:34; 17:4). This work is not completed until Jesus rests upon the throne exclaiming once again in victory “It is done!” (Rev 21:6; see Rev 21-22).
Thus, the narrative of scripture from Genesis to Revelation is explained in terms of the divine activities of the Triune God, specifically in the role of the Son both in redeeming the fallen human race and in renewing (recreating) the fallen world and finally reigning over his redeemed New Creation. In the ensuing posts, I will trace out further implications of the messianic expectation.
Missio Dei touches every Christian doctrine. Agree or Disagree? Why?
To question God’s sovereign providence over His creation is to compromise mission. Agree or Disagree? Why?
What are the implications of a biblical theology of mission, or a missional theology of the Bible, for the exercise of the Christian mission?
Here’s Part 3