Several years ago, I ran across The Mission of God by Christopher Wright and it, along with my seminary experience in San Francisco at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary changed my view of "missions" and what God is doing in the world. Wright says that we should see the Mission of God, or the Missio Dei, as central to who God is and what He is doing. He also says that we should read the Bible in light of God's mission to seek and save the lost. He says that most people would agree that there is a Biblical basis for mission, but he actually turns things around and says that mission is so central to the heart of God that there is a missional basis for the Bible. In order to rightly understand the Bible, we need to see it through the lens of God's mission. The more that I thought about this, the more that I realized that he is correct. The "Big Picture" or "metanarrative" of Scripture centers on the person and work of Jesus and God's plan to reconcile all of Creation back to Himself through Christ. If we can see that, then we can better understand Scripture and our place in God's Story. Getting this helped me personally align my life with God's purposes and also helped me as I sought to help others walk with God in the ways that He intends. I don't see "mission" as an add-on to the Christian life when someone becomes really mature, but rather, I see it as the heart of God that captures and affects us from the very beginning of our relationship with Christ.
It is with this perspective in view that B&H Publishing in conjunction with Lifeway has published the Mission of God Study Bible:
The Mission of God Study Bible encourages followers of Jesus Christ to see their everyday life from God's perspective and have His heart for people. It's a reminder that we live around people in desperate need of redemption and reconciliation with God, which can only be found in Jesus. The mission of God has never been just for specialists; it is for all believers to live out through their daily lives and by sharing the good news of what God has done through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Wherever you are, you are on mission.
In The Mission of God Study Bible, readers will hear from today's top thinkers, theologians, and leading voices in the church about what it means to live in the mission of God. Essay contributors include Matt Chandler, Tullian Tchividjian, Ed Stetzer, Matthew Barnett, Andrea Mullins, Dave Ferguson, Christopher J.H. Wright, and many others.
Readers will also discover "Letters to the Church" from elder statesmen that speak to the grand narrative of God's mission in Scripture. These words from Billy Graham, Jack Hayford, R. T. Kendall, Erwin Lutzer, Calvin Miller, and R.C. Sproul will inspire you to live God's mission daily.
Lifeway is hosting a live webcast with Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation, the editors, and other guests about the Mission of God Study Bible next Monday, January 28th, at 3pm EST (2pm CST). Go to lifeway.com/theexchange for the webcast. I was asked by Lifeway if I would help get the word out about it and because I think it is a good thing and I know a few of the contributors, I thought it would be a good idea to participate.
They have also made a free code available to be able to access the study Bible online. I will be giving away that code on Monday morning in another post to the first person who asks me, so be looking for that.
Here is an intro video to the study Bible and the webcast from Ed Stetzer, one of the editors:
In addition, Lifeway has provided some articles from the Study Bible to preview. Here is one by Christopher Wright on God's big story that I was referring to earlier. Check it out and take part in the webcast Monday afternoon!
The Metanarrative of God’s Mission
Too often, the church has separated theology (as a discipline about God—what God is like, what God has said, and what God has done), from missions (being about us and what we do). However, our mission is derived from God’s own mission—he
Some people use the term missio Dei as referring only to the sending action of God. The reason they do this is that the “root” of the Latin verb mitto means “to send.” However, if we reduce our focus only to the sending acts of God, we may ignore a number of important missional themes and teachings in the Bible, which are crucial for our understanding of the fullness of God’s mission and our own practice of missions.
Through the experience of God’s grace, God makes Himself known. God declares His desire to be known through salvation (Ex 5:22-6:8, Is 46:9-10). He declares Himself to be the king over the whole earth through His redemptive acts (Ex 2:23-24, 15:18, Ezk 36:21-23). Based on His redemptive deeds, the Bible proclaims that there is “no other” god than the God of Israel (Dt 4:32-39, Is 41:22- 23). Unlike the fictional gods of the other peoples, who were thought of as having limited power that allowed them to rule only over specific locations, the God of the Bible has unlimited power and extends His reign over all of creation (Jr 10:10-12; Ts 45:11-13). He is the only and only God, and the whole universe is His to rule as He pleases.
Even through the experience of judgment, God makes Himself known. Through the plagues and Red Sea, Pharaoh learns why he should obey the God of Israel (Ex 5:2). Israel and the nations learned of God’s uniqueness and sovereignty over the whole earth through the exile of Israel (2Kg 18:32-35, Jr 27:4-6). Even kings who do not know the one true God are used by Him to accomplish His purposes, much as an axe is used to chop wood (Is 10:5-19). And yet God remains faithful and committed to His people even in the midst of sovereign judgment upon them (Jr 27:1-14). Their punishment is to have a redeeming and purifying purpose.
In the New Testament, Jesus fulfills God’s mission to be known—dentifying Himself with the God of Israel, fulfilling the promise made to Abraham by opening up the way to blessing for Jews and Gentiles alike. The biblical story reveals that God wills to be known through Jesus, His Son (Jn 1:18, 17:1-3, 2Co 4:4-6). Making Himself known is God’s purpose in creation and His purpose in redemption. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge” (Ps 19:1-2). God’s “invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made” (Rm 1:20). The whole Bible presents a God of missional activity, from His purposeful, goal-oriented act of Creation to the completion of His mission through the redemption of all Creation in the new heavens and new earth, and the creation of a new humanity in Christ, redeemed from every nation on earth though the blood of the cross.
We also find in the Bible that humanity has a mission (to rule and care for the earth); Old Testament Israel had a mission (to be the agent of God’s blessing to all nations); Jesus had a mission (to embody and fulfill the mission of Israel, bringing blessing to the nations through bearing our sin on the Cross and anticipating the new Creation in His Resurrection); and the church has a mission (to participate with God in the ingathering of the nations in fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures).
The mission of God, then, governs the story of the Bible from the brokenness of the nations in Genesis 11 to the healing of the nations in Revelation 21-22. If the grand story of the Bible and our world is God making Himself known, then this is the motivation and purpose of the church’s mission. The church’s missional activities, to which they are called and sent on, flows directly from God’s mission. The church’s missional activities are acts of humble participation in God’s great work for His grand purpose. God is on mission, and we, in that wonderful phrase of Paul’s, are “coworkers with God.”missio Dei —which in turn is a reflection of what God is like, what God has said, and what God has done (and is doing and has yet to do). This unity between theology and missions is one key way of looking at the grand story of Scripture. Our theology of God must include the mission of God as a unifying metanarrative for the whole Bible.Missio Dei can have a broader sense drawn from the way the Bible paints a picture of the purposefulness of God. The mission of God is the commitment of God to make Himself known to His creation ultimately for the purpose of redeeming and restoring all creation to its right relationship with God. The story of God making Himself known is the grand narrative of the Bible. God’s mighty acts make Him known to the peoples of the world and are predicted, proclaimed, explained, and celebrated throughout the biblical storyline. In His election of Abraham, God makes Himself known, and launches His great agenda of bringing blessing to all nations on earth (Gn 12:1-3), repeating this promise five times in Genesis. Paul defined this great missional purpose of God as ‘the good news ahead of time’ (Gl 3:6-8), and understood his own mission, and the church’s mission, in light of it.