Saturday, January 31, 2015

God the Father invented missions

Genesis 3:7-9 "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. 8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

When it comes to considering missions in the Bible, where is the first place to look? Many would rightly point out Matthew 28:18-20, which is called by many "The Great Comission" by Jesus to His church. Others may point back much earlier to Genesis 12:1-7 wherein God is calling forth Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees to be a blessing to all the nations and thus laying the ground work for the Abrahamic Covenant. Indeed both of these texts are fundamental when it comes to understanding missions and evangelism in the Bible. Both Genesis 12:1-7 and Matthew 28:18-20 demonstrate that God's missionary heart runs from Old to New Testament. However there is one text that I would suggest gives us the very first mention of the great commission, a text that features God as the first and lone missionary - Genesis 3:7-21. 

God the Father invented missions
Genesis 3:8-21 presents the tragic scene of Adam and Eve right after their epic rebellion in the Garden of Eden. The following pattern witnessed in Genesis 3:8-21 gives us a general pattern for which we see God's master plan missions throughout the Bible.

1. God seeks sinners. Genesis 3:8-14
God as the Person of the Father pressed further into the garden with the idea of having a face to face conversation with his now estranged created son and daughter. The Hebrew of this text suggests that God is persisting in His efforts, with the Spirit of God blowing away the path directly to fallen man. The Father ever sends forth His Spirit to engage the heart of sinners, and that initial pattern is what we see here. Genesis 3:8 depicts the man and his wife going into hiding and shame from God. Thus we see that it was not man who invented missions - but God. The Father's first missionary effort involved Himself seeking after a lost son - Adam. 

As one scan the remainder of the Old Testament, we can see this pattern time and time again of the Father initiating the effort to seek after those who are lost and whom He has set His affection. Abram was such a man in Genesis 12 whom God called out of Ur of the Chaldees. Though Abram was lost, an idolater and foreigner to the things of God (Joshua 24:1-2), yet God called Him forth out of darkness into light. Or how about Abraham's descendants some 430 years later. God called Moses to call them and lead them out of Egypt. After they left Egypt, God then gave instructions to Moses for the construction of the tabernacle. The Father desired to be in the midst of His people and thus tabernacled Himself in a tent. 

Is it no wonder that Jesus told the famous parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, featuring a father and not just one but ultimately two estranged sons. The Apostle Paul would later write in 2 Corinthians 5:18 "Now all these things are from God,who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." The Father's will and the Son's will are not at odds, but rather are in perfect unity. The origin of missions began with the Father. The Apostle Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." God as Father is the One who seeks after sinners. But notice secondly...

2. God speaks the Gospel. Genesis 3:15
Genesis 3:15 has been termed by some as the first mention of the Gospel or the "protoevangelium". It is the first time God sets forth the promises of a redeemer who will defeat Satan. The "seed" of the woman will defeat the Serpent. This Gospel was stated by God and is developed in progressive, revelatory detail throughout the Bible. The "seed" promised in Genesis 3:15 is reitterated in sharper detail to Abram in Genesis 12:7. Through His bloodline is promised an ultimate seed who will bless the nations. A millennia later the "seed promise" is even more specified to King David in 2 Samuel 7:13-16 by means of the Davidic Covenant. Jesus of course is the fulfillment of both covenants in a specific sense as traced out in the opening genealogy of Matthew 1:1-17. Whenever we read 2 Corinthians 5:19, we discover God the Father making his appeal through the church: "namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." So God as Father seeks after sinners and speaks the Gospel. Now notice the third pattern of God's invention of missions in Genesis 3:8-21...

3. God sends grace. Genesis 3:16-20
What is grace? Grace is God doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. In Genesis 3:16-19 we see how utterly helpless man is in repairing the covenant of works that was broken. God had issued forth commands to the man and his wife, and they chose not to heed that original covenant. Thus the man and his wife were naked both physically and spiritually before God. When Adam calls his wife "Eve" in Genesis 3:20, that is his "confession of faith" with regards to her role as a life giver. Adam had heard the first mention of the Gospel and God's promise to Eve in Genesis 3:15. 

The terms by which God chose to deal with man was going to be grace alone. No effort of man would be adequate to bridge the infinite chasm between himself and Holy God. Thus the salvation needed by man needed to come from God. God's dealings with man had always been by grace, even prior to the fall. God revealed His word - an act of grace. God placed Adam and his wife in a lush garden - an act of grace. Despite their rebellion and well deserved penalty of death, God chose to extend grace by means of the Gospel and thus the official covenant of grace. Adam's response of faith was a product of God's graceful dealings. Salvation from Genesis 3:15 forward would be totally from God, by God and for God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 reminds Christians of their role in God's great mission - "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
So God seeks sinners, speaks the gospel and sends grace. The pattern being almost complete requires one final element from God the Father on behalf of his estranged son and daughter, namely...

4. God supplies a substitute. Genesis 3:21
Genesis 3:20-21 records the first blood sacrifice in the Bible - "Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them." Unless innocent blood had been shed on behalf of the guilty, Adam and Eve would had to have borne the penalty due to them in the Garden. The resulting shedding of innocent blood and the covering of our original parents' nakedness provides a riveting picture and foreshadowing of what God had planned in the sending of His Son. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states - "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Other texts could be cited to demonstrate how God supplied the subsitute, Jesus Christ, on behalf of sinners. (John 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18 and many others)  

Closing thoughts
The point is clear, God the Father invented missions, as seen in the four following ways from Genesis 3:8-21

1. God seeks sinners. Genesis 3:8-14
2. God speaks the Gospel. Gen 3:15
3. God sends grace. Genesis 3:16-20
4. God supplies a substitute. Gen 3:21