Missions is a God-centered endeavor, not a man-centered one. It is, from start to finish, about the Glory of God. Isaiah 42:8 says “I am the Lord; that is my name. My glory I give to no other.” According to David Platt, “The most glorious reason you exist is for the proclamation of the glory of God to the ends of the world.”
We participate in giving the Good News of Jesus Christ to our community and to the nations because missions is an expression of who God is. Because of our union with Christ, who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, we can, by the strength he provides, participate in what He is already doing around the world: reach the nations for his glory.
The God of Missions
If we want to understand the heart of missions, we first need to understand God’s heart for humanity, and His heart for humanity flows from who He is. When we look at God in the Scriptures, we find him to be an infinite being without any outside limitations.
- He is a spirit that lacks all the physical limitations that we face. (John 4:24)
- He is an eternal being who created time and operates totally free from its constraints.
- He is self-existent and therefore can exist without any outside help (John 5:26)
- He is omnipresent so he is not under the constraints of space.
- He is omniscient and therefore always has perfect, complete knowledge.
- He is omnipotent and therefore always has sufficent power to accomplish everything he desires.
- He is absolutely sovereign, and therefore all things work according to the counsel of his will.
- He is immutable and therefore will never change. All the attributes he possesses now he will always possess to the same absolute degree.
In the wrong hands this unbridled power would be horrifying. Let’s look at those wonderful attributes of His character which guide the actions of His infinite being.
God is personal. He is an incredibly outgoing and joyful God, and because He never changes, He has always been that way. Being perfectly loving, from all eternity, the Father and Son have delighted to share their love and joy with and through the Spirit.
According to Michael Reeves, “It is not that God becomes sharing; because He is triune, God is a sharing God, a God who loves to include. Indeed, that is why God will go on to create. His love is not for keeping, but for spreading.”1
- God is truthful, and is the source of all truth. It is impossible for man to know God at all and live outside the realm of truth.
- God is wise. He uses all his resources: his knowledge, power, authority, and sovereignty in the best possible way.
- God is righteous and just. In righteousness, he does everything perfect and right. In justice, he is totally and completely impartial.
- God is loving. Some elevate this attribute above all others, but it is coequal with the other attributes. Agapan is placing value on something and acting with its highest good in mind. Larry Crabb once wrote: “God’s love relentlessly pursues our best when we would happily settle for less.”
The complete character of God is involved in the salvation he has provided. The character of God also come into play with regards to missions.
At the center of missions, we find a very personal, outgoing God. Though his resources are unlimited to carry out missions — he could write the Gospel message accross the sky in every language known to man — he has chosen the church.
Participating in His Divine Nature
According to Dwight Pentacost: “When God created Adam, God made Adam in the image and likeness of Himself, with all the essential components of personality, so that Adam might enter into fellowship with and glorify God.”2 Fellowship with God includes sharing in his mind, heart, and will for the world.
Sharing the Gospel and making disciples is the wonderful privilege of becoming instruments through which He demonstrates His qualities to a lost and dying world. God has asked living, breathing people — who are united with Him in heart, mind, and will — to carry His personal message in a personal way to those who are in need of hearing it.
Missions doesn’t just rest on him being personal. Missions rests on God being a loving God as well. God relentlessly pursues our best, even when we would, by nature, settle for less. God’s love pursued the world’s best when He sent Christ into the world as Savior.
Christ’s saviorhood involves not only our being declared legally righteous before God, it also involves the impartation of His life into those who put their confidence in Him. It also involves Christ continuing to reach out to those who are lost by means of those who carry his life within.
This is where God’s truthfulness comes into play. God, through man’s conscience, the Law, and the life of Christ, told mankind the truth about his problem: man is rotten to the core. Man doesn’t just do bad things, they are by nature bad.
This is where righteousness and justice come to play: God doesn’t play favorites. He judges all men by the same standard. At the heart of missions is a God who cannot overlook the sins of some, even if they are deep in a jungle somewhere. At the heart of missions is the truth that man’s only hope is found in God’s righteousness and justice being satisfied in the provision that His love made.
This is where God’s wisdom enters in: In his wisdom, He provided the best way for the message to be carried out, which would give Him maximum glory. A way that is personal enough to satisfy a personal God. A way that demonstrates that He’s a loving God who pursues that which is best for His creation. A way that rests in truth, and a way that declares that God is an impartal judge.3
Our case for missions doesn’t rest on a single command: it rests on who God is. Those who question the validity of missions today have lost sight of God’s nature.
- Delighting in the Trinity, Michael Reeves: page 31
- Designed to Be Like Him, J. Dwight Pentecost: page 26
- I owe much of this reasoning to Ron Lindsey of Ethnos 360.