Missions in the Bible
It is an astonishing view as we look back across the Bible in the month of December.
The story begins with a single person and his family, a hopelessly tiny minority to grapple with the vast world of humanity already laced with sin.
Nevertheless the people Jesus met in everyday life, especially the religious leaders, amazingly, were not terribly aware of their debt to the other nations of the world. Their preeminent concern was for themselves and for the safety and salvation of their own nation.
By the end of the Bible we see a nation that has grown from that one family to hundreds of thousands of people. It has been taken captive in Egypt and later in Babylon. It has been dispersed across the face of the earth. It even boasts of a pharisaic missionary tradition that a hundred years before Jesus' birth began "traversing land and sea" to make Gentiles into Jewish proselytes.
The Acts of the Apostles is principally the story of a single person who was aware of that debt the Great Commission.
Paul's letters consistently reveal his pleased astonishment that from the very beginning God had planned for the salvation of the Gentiles all who were not Jews.
This insight is not so evident in the other letters of the New Testament Hebrews, James, 1,2, and 3rd John, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude. There are hints: John condemns a proud Christian leader who not only refuses hospitality to missionaries (to the Gentiles?) but even puts people out of the church who extend that hospitality. (3 Jn. 9 10). And Peter in 2 Peter 3:1518 understands that Christ's return is until the message of salvation is extended to others. Again we wonder if Peter means those who are not Jews because he refers to Paul, whose ministry was mainly to Gentiles. In the Living Bible these verses are much more clear that in other versions:Try hard to live without sinning: and be at peace with everyone so that he will be pleased with you when he returns. And remember why he is waiting. He is giving us time to get his message of salvation out to others. Our wise and beloved brother Paul has talked about these same things in many of his letters. Some of his comments are not easy to understand, and there are people who are deliberately stupid, and always demand some unusual interpretation they have twisted his letters around to mean something quite different from what he meant, just as they do the other parts of the scripture and the result is disaster for them" ) 2 Peter 3:14b 16)
The book of Revelation is unique not only in being the only completely prophetic book in the New Testament, but also in the way it ties up history from the begining of time. Here we see Christ at war with Satan a war begun long before the garden of Eden. And we see Christ victorious.
But what about the central theme of the Bible God's concern that all mankind would be redeemed? Is it here also? Yes, repeatedly! Here John makes it crystal clear: "...by thy blood (thou) didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev. 5:9 RSV). Rev. 7:9 is almost identical: 'They came from every nation and tribe and people and language (Phillips). Both of these are highly reminiscent of Jesus' words in Matt 24:14 "And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it, and then, finally, the end will come."
So the Bible ends where it began God working to redeem his fallen creatures and judging those who refuse Him. It begins with Abraham being commissioned to be a blessing to all the families of mankind, and ends with all the families of mankind falling down and worshipping him. Throughout there runs this centeral theme.
Throughout there also runs the theme that we are blessed to be a blessing. Abraham was chosen for a purpose. So are we! How will God judge American Christians at the final day? There are still 2. 5 billion people who have not yet had a reasonable chance to respond to the gospel. The only way that can happen is for a witnessing church to be planted among the 16,750 tribes, languages, and peoples to which they belong.
American evangelicals have been given so many opportunities and so seldom pass that blessing on to others. We have radio and TV evangelism, child evangelism, coffee cup evangelism, churches scattered throughout our cities, and scores of translations of the entire Bible into English. The book of Revelation assures us that the nations, the peoples of this world will be judged. and so will we! But of us much more will be required: "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.' (Luke 12:48)
How often we see American Christians with their two Cadillacs in the garage, luxurious, even palacial, homes, extensive overseas vacations, etc., justifying it all because "We give a lot of money to the church and to missions." Jesus said that it is not how much we give, but how much we could give and how much we keep for ourselves (See Mark 12:42). That is the basis on which He will judge us. Can we pass that test?