Not only is there a biblical basis for missions, it is accurate to see a missionary purpose for the entire Bible. If God had not revealed Himself in Scripture, we would only know that there is a Creator God (Psalm 19; Romans 1:18-20) and that we are sinners (Romans 2:14-15). Such general revelation is not sufficient to lead us to saving knowledge of God.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is the only answer to humanity’s need for holiness and salvation (John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 2 Corinthians 5:21). We are all sinners by birth and choice (Romans 3:23). Therefore, everyone must repent and be spiritually born again because sin separates us from God (Romans 3:2). People are not spiritually neutral until they hear the gospel and reject it; as sinners, they are already condemned and hopeless. Therefore, God gave us the Bible that we might know Him and make Him known. Making God known is what missions is all about.
The Bible teaches that God has a missionary heart. After their fall into sin, God came to Adam and Eve and announced the protoevangelion (first gospel), that One was coming to destroy the work of the evil one (Genesis 3:15). When God later called Abram, He told him that He would bless all the families of the earth through him (Genesis 12:3). Many of the Psalms also reveal God’s desire that all nations know and glorify Him (Psalms 67; 96). In Isaiah 49:6, God says that it is too small a thing for the Christ to raise up only the tribes of Israel; He would also make Him a light to the Gentiles. Simeon quoted this passage when he held the baby Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:29-32). The book of Jonah reveals God’s missionary heartbeat, for God sent Jonah to pagan Nineveh. Jesus’ disciples were surprised when some Greeks wanted to see Him, but He announced that He would draw all people to Himself (John 12:32). Throughout the Bible God led people from many nations to join with His people. We even see this on display in the lineage of Jesus, which includes Gentile ancestors (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:3-38).
We see God’s missionary purpose and heartbeat in three key elements of the Gospels: the Great Commission, the Great Commandments, and the Great Compassion. In the Great Commission, Jesus charges His followers to make disciples of all nations by going to them, winning and baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all He has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). In Matthew 22:33-40, the Great Commandments teach us to love God and our neighbor. If we love God, we will obey His commands and strive to see the whole world worship Him. If we love our neighbor, we will want him to have eternal life. As we seek to imitate Jesus, the Great Compassion that characterized His life will shape ours also. Mark 6:34 shows that Jesus had compassion for the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd. He said in Luke 19:10 that He came to seek and save those who were lost. Our compassion should lead us to go to them and preach the gospel, disciple believers, teach leaders, and plant New Testament churches among them.
The gospel is God’s power to save all who believe (Romans 1:16; 10:13), and Christ calls every Christian to participate in global missions (Matthew 28:19-20). While all who call on Jesus will be saved, Paul reasons that no one can call on Him if they do not believe, believe unless they hear, hear unless someone goes to preach, or go to preach unless they are sent. The Bible teaches that we all have a role in missions, either as “goers” or as “senders.” Neither is more biblical than the other and neither is possible without the other (Romans 10:13-15).
–M. David Sills, D. Miss; Ph.D.,
Reformed Theological Seminary
Used by permission. The Biblical Basis for Missions by M. David Sills, HCSB Study Bible, page 1673, ©1999, 2000, 2003, 2009, Holman Bible Publishers.
From the February 2013 ACTION Newsletter