Friday, January 30, 2015

The Bible's greatest missionary

As we consider today the greatest missionary in the Bible, we need to ask two questions: What is a missionary? Who is the greatest missionary in the Bible?

To answer the first question, a missionary is one who is sent to communicate a particular message to a particular people on behalf of the God of the Bible.  The word “mission” itself comes from a Latin word “missio”, which in its most ancient meaning referred to artillery that was “shot out” to a given target. Thus in the Old Testament, oftentimes the prophets were the ones sent by God to speak forth the message of salvation and repentance to the people. The term "prophet" in the original Hebrew refers to one "bearing forth" a message. In the New Testament, the original twelve disciples came to be called "the apostles" or the "sent ones" as the word translates from the Greek. These "Apostles of Christ" were directly called by Jesus, had witnessed His earthly ministry and post-resurrection appearances and did miracles in His name. (2 Corinthians 12:12) Though "Apostles of Christ" were a restricted group including the twelve and the Apostle Paul, another class of "sent ones" were called "Apostles of the church" and correspond to missionaries today who are laying new ground and expanding the frontiers of the Gospel. (see 2 Corinthians 8:23)

With regards to the second question: Who is the greatest missionary recorded in the Bible?  some may say the Apostle Paul, who wrote two thirds of the New Testament. Paul was declared to be the “Apostle” or “Missionary“ to the Gentiles (that is, the non-Jewish Nations).  Others may try to argue for the Apostle Peter, since he preceeded Paul's ministry and dominates the first 12 chapters of the Book of Acts and was the inaugural preacher on the day of Pentecost. Peter's sermon resulted in the salvation of 3,000 souls, so surely he would qualify. Still others may name a prophet like Moses, who was “sent” to the Jewish people in Bondage in Egypt. God used Moses to proclaim the Gospel to them, and by God's power Moses divided the Red Sea and the Children of Israel walked across on dry ground.

Though these are good suggestions, they are not even close.  The greatest missionary in the Bible is none other than God Himself. 

The first mention of missions in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:8-21.  The circumstances in the text follow the great rebellion of Adam and Eve against God’s command to them to “not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil”.  This command is the foundation behind what Bible teachers call “The Covenant of works”.  It was an arrangement given by God to man whereby Divine blessing and eternal benefits would be granted conditioned upon man’s obedience.  If Adam and Eve would had fulfilled the Covenant of works, they could had eaten from the tree of life, and entered into eternal communion with God.  Instead they chose to heed the voice of the serpent, and the Covenant of works was broken.

What was needed was another covenant, another arrangement.  God would have to be the one to do the work.  Man would never and could never attain right relationship with God through obedience.  It was going to have to be a covenant of grace, whereby God would extend Himself to man, with man receiving such grace by faith alone.  It is in this context we find God, the great missionary pursuing man.  Below is a brief outline of what God did, and is still doing today in His great missionary activity in this world.  Genesis 3:8-21 provides the seeds for understanding the missionary activity of God throughout the rest of scripture. 


1. God seeks after the sinner Genesis 3:8-14
Notice how the man and the woman hide from God.  God is the one calling after them.  God is the One who comes down to them.  They are lost, needing to be found. Man blames God.  Man has no interest in reconciling with God.  He is content to remain where He is.  God is the one needing to affect the reconciliation

2. God states salvation to the sinner  Genesis 3:15
This verse is the first verse we see referring to God’s promises of a Redeemer.  “The Seed” is a term that when traced throughout the scriptures, leads to Jesus Christ. Genesis 3:15 also points to the great conflict between the people of God saved by Grace alone through faith alone and those who persist in their rebellion and unbelief.

The salvation that begun in a garden would find its resolution in another Garden, the Garden of Gethsemene.  In the first Garden Old Adam failed and refused to allign with God's will.  At Gethsemene the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, alligned his human will with the Father's Divine will and agreed to pay for our salvation.

3. God sends Grace to open the sinner’s eyes Genesis 3:20
Adam calls his wife “Eve”, the mother of living, in response to the promise given through her in Genesis 3:15.  This is what I term his confession of faith
The Bible is pretty clear that faith is a gift given by God, whereby we are set free to freely trust in Christ and confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9)

4. God supplies a Substitute to die in the sinner’s place  Genesis 3:21
God provided coats of skins from two animals He killed in place of Adam and Eve.  This sets the pattern of the innocent dying for the guilty and the blood being the payment in appeasing the wrath of Holy God.  God’s clothing of Adam and Eve meant He reckoned to them the fitness to be in His presence due to the innocent life of those slain in their place.  This is what we called “imputed righteousness”.  This is the cornerstone of salvation.  God’s declaration of this truth over us the moment we believe is what is termed “Justification by Faith”.

As we close out this post today, let us say: "Thank you Lord for being the Great Missionary!"

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