As we seek to discover God’s plan for our lives and determine how we should follow his call, it is vital that we understand his mission. A quick scan of books, blogs, and social media posts reveals a lot of confusion, and even misrepresentation about the purpose and goal of missions.
Thankfully we can see much about the purpose of God’s mission in the opening pages of the Bible. Here we read of God’s creation of this world and everything in it. The pinnacle of creation was humanity, man and woman. After creating them and bringing them together, God declared this world to be “very good” (Gen 1:31). Despite God’s bold declaration, we no longer live in a “very good” world. Though some seasons are good, a brief look at our lives, the lives of those near us, the news, or our social media feeds is clear evidence that this world is broken, it is no longer “very good.”
Again the answer can be found in the Bible. The story of creation is followed closely by the story of what theologians call the fall. This single event destroyed the “very good” character of our world. Genesis 2, describes a perfect garden. The garden is filled with lush plants, plenty of water, gold, and precious gems. God walks and talks with his creation. Everything is in perfect harmony.
Genesis 2:17 says God pointed out one of the trees and told the man not to eat from that tree. However, as we all know, he did eat from that forbidden tree, and as a result, all of creation fell into chaos. The apostle Paul, reflecting on this event, wrote, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned” (Rom 5:12). This one, seemingly simple act of rebellion against the will of God produced a world that, though it retains elements of its original goodness, is no longer “very good.
Following this initial act of rebellion, both man and woman were overcome with shame, guilt, and fear. They hid their bodies from one another and also tried to hide from God. Their disobedience placed them under God’s judgment. Let’s look again at Romans 5 to see how Paul describes the consequences of this initial sin:
5:17 . . . by the one man’s trespass, death reigned . . .
5:18 . . . through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone . . .
5:19 . . . through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners . . .
The Fall introduced physical, relational, and spiritual consequences to the world. Humanity chose to walk away from God, but thankfully, he chose to pursue us.
A key verse in the opening pages of the Bible is Gen 3:15. God is speaking to the serpent, the source of temptation and the essence of evil. God promises, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your o spring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
In this verse, we read God’s promise to rescue men and women. Here we have the unveiling of God’s mission to destroy evil and sin through the work of a Son. This Son will be wounded (the serpent “will strike his heel”), but this wound will result in the crushing of the serpent’s head. Paul explains, again in Romans 5:
5:17 . . . how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
5:18 . . . through one righteous act there is justification leading to life for everyone
5:19 . . . through one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
The mystery is revealed. God’s mission is seen in Jesus Christ’s ministry to rescue creation from the consequences of the fall. Our mission today should fall in line with God’s mission as it is laid out in the Bible. We go into a fallen and broken world to carry the good news of a God who loves the world so much that he gave his only Son.
This message we proclaim because it is the message of our God to our world.
This is an adapted excerpt from D. Scott Hildreth’s new book Together on God’s Mission: How Southern Baptists Cooperate to Fulfill the Great Commission, (B&H Academic, 2018).