This is an article from the March 1986 issue: Luis Bush, Latin America, and the End of History

The “Secret” Mission

A Theology of Redemption, Part II

The “Secret” Mission

Number Two in a Series

In Genesis 12:1 3, God first tests Abraham to see if he is willing to move out in faith without knowing exactly where the final destination will be. Then God makes what at first glance is an unconditional promise: "I will bless you." We must understand this blessing principally in terms of a saving, faith relationship with God, not merely material benefits. But in view of this promise, Abraham is commanded to "be a blessing... (to) all the peoples of the earth."

Chapter Two The Nature of the Mission

The nature of the blessing, the nature of the mission to which Abraham and, ultimately, we are called can be summarized under five heads.

1. The Secret Mission is founded upon love of God and man.

Beyond the characteristic initial test of faith which opens the door of relationship, the basic elements of the Abrahamic Covenant are just two: upward and outward Abraham will be blessed and he will be a blessing. (David Iltyant calls these two elements "Fullness" and "Fulfillment')

In one aspect or another, this foundations, dual pronged covenant appears in many places throughout the Bible. Noting only those places where we see both of the elements, we find it in Genesis at five strategic points: three times in relation to Abraham (in 12:1 3, 18:18, 22:18), once in relation to Isaac (26:4,5) and once to Jacob (28:14, 15).

With this we understand once and for all that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the missionary God of the mission covenant, the "Secret Mission!" Furthermore, these prominent references inaugurate the major narrative story of the Bible, which is essentially the unfolding story of the Secret Mission of God to all the nations ("Fulfillment"). It is not just the story of a nation blessed by God ("Fullness") in preparation for a task to be fulfilled 2 years later. We soon see that this covenant is in one sense the only Covenant in the Bible. It constitutes the grand plan, the only plan. It is hinted at earlier (Genesis 3:15 and 9:117) and it is restated and renewed again and again and thus reappears throughout scripture (Ex. 19:4 6; Ps. 67; Isa. 49:6; Acts 3:25; 13:47, and Gal. 3:8).

It is me that tracing this mission covenant through the Bible is not easy unless we know exactly what we are looking for. Arid it is deplorably line that Israel is not very often aware of the fill meaning of the Covenant especially the outward element.

(Israel is not unique in losing sight of its central mandate. How many books in Christian bookstores today would you have to look through to find any reference at all to the Great Commission?)

However, 1) the first element consists of a vertical, reciprocal love relationship with our Heavenly Father "Spiritual Awakening/Fullness"  involving the 'obedience of faith" in fellowship, worship and the profound blessings derived from that faith relationship, and 2) the second element "World Evangelization: Fulfillment" is the horizontal love relationship with all God's creatures, preeminently fellow man, involving worshipful service, nurture, and ministry to all the peoples of the earth. (the second part, the "bottom tine" of the Covenant, as Don Richardson has called it, is what Jesus restates in Matthew 28:19 20 and what we know as the Great Commission. This second part is the part that falls "mysterious" and remains, undesirably, a "secret' when the reality of the first part is rejected, when that "fullness" is not known. This is why spiritual awakening is necessary to world evangelization, and world evangelization necessarily flows from true spiritual awakening. If the second element is not present the first can be questioned as to its depth and authenticity.)

Once these two elements are clearly in mind, we can then see that the whole law partakes of these two elements. Certainly the two tables of law in the Ten Commandments follow this upward/outward pattern, and the more condensed S/recta of Dear 6:3 5 ("Love the Lord dry God ..,") in its context so preserves the two dimensions that in Mark 12:29 31 and parallel passages Jesus approvingly quotes this summary of the Covenant that stresses "God" and "man" when He answers the scribes: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself."

Lastly, the Covenant is central again in that key moment in the upper room when Jesus said, "This is my blood of the covenant," (Mark 14:24), and, in effect, reiterated its force and relevance once more, this time definitively, for all history, before and after.

2. The Secret Mission embraces both gospel and law.

It is crucial to note, in a practical sense, that this Covenant at every point partakes of both law and grace. It does not take sides in any artificial polari. zation of gospel vs. law, or grace vs. law. Both the upward and the outward elements partake of spirit and law, e.g. spiritual reality and verbal descriptions thereof. Similarly, we must understand that both the goals of love and the means of obedience are spiritual, even though both can he described in "letter" or "law" and are partially external so as to be subject to either legalistic drudgery or hypocritical hollowness.

3. The Secret Mission contains both reward and sacrifice.

The reason the Jews of Jesus' day called the Covenant "the Promise" was due probably to the phrase "1 will bless you," and to the absence of any condition in the immediate context. But it is not likely that Abraham was chosen without regard to his character. "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Hurt' (2 Chr. 16:9).

Furthermore, it is apparent that the command to love God is inherent and implicit in the phrase "I will bless you." The flavor of command in all this is even clearer in Genesis 12:2 in the phrase "So... be a blessing," where the Hebrew veils and the English margin reveal an imperative vest, This covenant is not just a one way promise to which a given people can hold God accountable! It is an awesome mandate from God to man as well as a gentle, loving summons to us to fellowship with our God and Creator.

The Covenant is not optional in either its upward or outward elements. In both we find reward and apparent sacrifice. The Covenant is characterized by its recognition of the need for the grace of God to produce an authentic love both of God Himself and of His things, His creation. First it assures us, blesses us, deals with our own salvation and invites us (commands us) into a love relationship with God, and then it assigns us, blesses us, and commissions us (commands us) to others' salvation.

The Covenant is the Gospel to us and through its. It is salvation and it is missions. It includes and centers on the Great Commission, not merely our own salvation. This is especially clear in Isaiah 49:6: "It is secondary, that Israel should be raised up .... I want you to be a light to the gentile peoples, so that you might be my Salvation to the very ends of the earth" a passage Paul quotes in Acts 13 when challenged over his concern for the Gentiles.

4. The Secret Mission appears both old and new.

It is both old and new wherever it occurs. The presence and power of God is always somehow "new." This newness is, in essence, renewal. For example, the covenant declared so dramatically on Mt. Horeb Meat. 4:13) is not unprecedented: it is described in 8:18 as "the covenant which He swore by our fathers,"

Neither Matthew 26:28 nor mark 14:24, in the scene of the Last Supper, speak of the "new covenant," They read, "this is amy blood of she covenants" not, as does Luke 22:20, "the new covenant in my blood." Apparently the word "new" is not the principal point of the passage but rather the fact that this act of outpoured blood finally ratifies and enables the same covenant in a new and ultimate sense. The sacrifice of the Cross is thus, at the very least, a definitive renewal of the Abrahamic Covenant, as we have already seen.

5. The Secret Mission involves both goals and means.

Note that in the Mark 12 incident even the scribe recognized that the love, or you might say, the reality the fullness defined by this Covenant must underlie and thus outrank the practices, e g. "burnt offerings and sacrifices," that are intended as means to the end of attaining that reality. Such practices are mere means to enable and empower the authentic life defined by the Covenant.

Back in Deuteronomy 6:4.5 the passage which Jesus was paraphrasing it goes on to say "these words shall be upon your heart... you shall teach them write them upon your door posts  But we cannot assume that the mere rote enactment of these practical instructions was intended to substitute for the reality defined by the Covenant.

In the Bible, even obedience, if it is only outward, is no longer true obedience but mere compliance just as merely following the external pattern of someone else's good works (which, if authentic, the Bible nowhere condemns) becomes "works righteousness." Authenticity requires the corresponding reality of love appropriate to such deeds. Even our religious "solemn assemblies" can be meaningless if our hearts are not right (Isaiah I). This is why, very simply, throughout the Bible "to obey is better than sacrifice" (I Sam. 1522). "What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8),

We want earnestly for the USCWM, our specific task community, to please our Heavenly Father. To do that we must attempt and keep on attempting to interpret the meaning of the Covenant. We must both I) understand and experience the magnificent reality of the "goals of grace" He wants for us the restoration of the authentic qualities of life and relationship with Ilim and His things, and, 2) establish certain minimum patterns of common behavior that will be for us some of the "means of grace" which we eagerly embrace in our desire to live up to those goals and experience that reality.

Next month we will cry to sketch our the goals of the Secret Mission, and then we will go on to the means to be used in pursuing it.


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