The Mission of God in the Scriptures
Philip Nation is the Director of Ministry Development with LifeWay Research and is a frequent speaker in churches and conferences. He also serves as the Equipping/Teaching Pastor for The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville, TN. Philip coauthored Compelled with Ed Stetzer and Transformational Discipleship with Eric Geiger and Michael Kelley. He is the general editor for The Mission of God Study Bible.
“Why in the world would we need one more study Bible?” is a question I have heard a few times over the last two years. The primary reason behind The Mission of God Study Bible is to focus on a theme. Given the title, I’m sure it is patently obvious what that theme is.
The mission of God is one of the great themes throughout the Scriptures. It should serve as a primary lens in how we view God’s revelation to us. When we read the text of the Bible, we see God reaching out to us. It is God who establishes a relationship with Adam. Even with the sinful decisions made by the first man and woman, God continues in His mission by working to reestablish His relationship with humanity.
God’s mission among us is to glorify Himself through the work of redeeming people and restoring creation. He makes it clear in Isaiah 42:8 that He will not surrender His glory to any other. Because He alone is God, glory belongs to Him alone. He has no rivals and He has no equals. He can extend mercy or deliver judgment – and in it all, He is right in all He does.
In His mercy, God has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity in such a way that we can understand Him, not only understand His nature but also know Him personally. The biblical record teaches that Adam and Eve are restored. The Hebrews, when rebellious, are called back to the covenant. The sinful are redeemed and the spiritually dead are given new life. It is the great mission of God that permeates the Scriptures as He reveals His nature as a Sender and as the One sent to secure salvation.
Moving into the New Testament, obviously the focus shifts immediately to Jesus the Messiah. With the incarnation, God the Son personally takes on human flesh and arrives here on mission. He brings with Him the kingdom of God and inaugurates His reign upon the earth, declaring in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!” The mission of God in the ministry of Jesus is the announcement of God’s rule and reign renewed among us. But the announcement is a precursor to Jesus’ death as an atonement for sin and His resurrection as victory over death.
God’s mission finds its pinnacle in the hinge point of human history in the death of Jesus. Through it, He defeats sin, death, and hell in the act of divine mercy that only God can accomplish. By God’s mission and God’s mission alone can we come back into fellowship with Him.
As we worked through the new notes in this new study Bible, it was with the thought that God’s mission needs to hold primacy over any behavior modification. Painfully, too much of our hermeneutics, preaching, and discipling methods have degenerated to simply changing how we behave. If all we produce are “nice people,” then we have utterly missed the mission of God.
Rather, the Bible is the sweeping narrative of God’s work to provide the reason and the means by which we can be redeemed. Further, it is through those who have been given new life that He continues the ministry of reconciliation to those who are in darkness.
The Scriptures recount how God worked through those who were faithful to His covenant and regardless of those who rebelled against it. Throughout all of the Old Testament, in fact, we learn how God is on a consistent mission to reestablish the relationship with humanity that has been cast into ruins by our sinful nature and sinful choices. In the Gospels, we witness how God—by personal means—reestablishes relationship and abolishes death for His people. Throughout the rest of the New Testament, the mission of God continues through the church in the command to disciple the nations. His mission is the impetus, mode, method, and compulsion for the church. The church declares the veracity of and demonstrates the transformative power of the gospel to a pained world. The mission calls us to grow in maturity and engage in ministry. The most beautiful of all lives is the one fully cast into God’s work in the world.
And at the end of the Scriptures, we see this one great lesson in The Revelation: God wins. He is glorified in all things, victorious over all powers, and has extended mercy to draw men and women into a covenant relationship with Himself.
The Bible, from beginning to end, is the great recounting of God’s love for fallen humanity. He reaches out to His creation with a redemption plan that He could accomplish alone and without assistance from any created thing, including humanity. However, He has chosen to involve us in the work of His mission. He calls believers to be “ambassadors for Christ” with the result that “God is appealing through us.” For this reason, “we plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God’” (2 Cor. 5:20).
The reason for “one more study Bible” was birthed from a pure motive: to help believers see the world, life, and humanity as God does. He has invited us to understand His nature and His work in the framework of mission. The city where you live is the place God intends to reach with mercy. The job you hold can be the means through which the Spirit works to give others a hearing of the gospel through your life. The major and minor circumstances of your life are the relational space where He will form you into the image of Christ and display the gospel for others to see its power and hear its truth. It is my prayer that the church will continuously strive to more deeply love Christ and more fully engage His mission in our world.