By Rev. Gary Briden
Executive Director, Association of Independent Methodists
This passage in Deuteronomy is often called the “pivotal passage” of Scripture. From it, particularly verses 4 and 5, the devotion we are to have towards God is shown. Jesus called this the “Great Commandment” and says “Love your neighbor as yourself” is second unto it (Mark 12:28-31). From this type relationship with God we are to serve. This is the relationship God wants all the world to have with Him. From Genesis through Revelation we see God as a missionary God.
The tune of “Our God is an Awesome God” can be modified to proclaim that our God is a missionary God.
Our God is a missionary God,
He reigns from Heaven above,
With wisdom, power, and love,
Our God is a missionary God.
Consider our Old Testament witnesses. Genesis 1: 27, 28 shows that God wants all the world to be filled with people who know and love Him…that was the command given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
When Adam and Eve sinned and hid from God, God took the initiative to find Adam. When God asked Adam “Where art thou?”(Gen 3:9) He was not asking from ignorance, but demonstrating His love and desire for Adam and Eve to be saved…that He had a “missionary” heart. God desired that His “world” know Him and be devoted to Him. From the fall of man until today, God calls those who do not know Him to Himself.
Consider Noah. Genesis 6: 5-9 tells us that Noah was a just man and one of only two mentioned in the Bible that “walked with God”. Yet the rest of the world was so wicked that He was sorry that He had made man on the earth. Yet He made a way for anyone to escape His judgment. Keep in mind that this was BEFORE the call of Abraham and the creation of the Nation of Israel. God called the wicked for 100 years. God is a missionary God; He wants all of us devoted to Him.
The call to Abraham is the first time a “missionary” is called to leave Home and familiar surroundings to serve God in another land. In Abraham’s case, God is calling Abraham to establish a nation from which can come the Messiah who will bless ALL nations and people. From Genesis 12:2,3 God reveals that He wants all people to come to Him – not just a few. The creation of a nation through Abraham is so others can come to know God’s Word, showing who He is through special Revelation, and how someone can come to know Him as a saving God. Genesis 17: 1-7 reaffirms God’s Covenant to Abraham and reminds him and us that he is to be the father of MANY nations…not just one. Through him Jesus will come and all who trust Him as Savior will be of the “seed” of Abraham. Not just nations of people, but all who trust Christ will be spiritual descendants of Abraham. God’s heart was for missions, even in the time of the call of Abraham. (Galatians 4:28)
The Law of God provides witness that the God of Creation is a missionary God from the beginning. The Law was given to Israel for a purpose. That purpose was to have a people who loved and reverenced God and reflected His holiness, to have a people through whom His Word and Son could come and be revealed to the world. In Exodus 20:3 Israel was commanded: “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” The law made provision for the stranger or “sojourner” as we see in Exodus 22:21: “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” God cared as far back as the Exodus for the well-being and souls of non-Jews. God is a missionary God from Exodus.
The prophets also declare that God is a missionary God. Isaiah 40:5 shows that God desires all flesh, all people regardless of race or nationality, to see the glory of God and know Him. Israel’s purpose and preservation is for the benefit of the entire world. Isaiah 6:3 says: “the whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 11:9 says: “…for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” Have you noticed that the scope of His glory and love is beyond Israel? Isaiah 60:3 predicts that: “…the gentiles shall come to thy light.” Isaiah 42:6 specifically says that Israel purposed in being preserved is so that it can be a light to the gentiles. God would not be declaring that in His word and prophecy if He did not want all people groups and nationalities to come to know Him and see His glory. God’s interest in redemption goes beyond Israel. The same truth is stated in Micah 5:4 and Isaiah 52: 10.
Consider Old Testament missionaries. Elijah ministered to the Shunamite widow instead of someone from the nation of Israel or Judah (I Kings 4:8 and following). Esther was called to minister as Queen in Persia and not only were the Jews delivered, but her King was blessed. Joseph served God faithfully in Egypt and the nation was blessed. Through Joseph’s successful ministry as second in command in Egypt, God’s nation of Israel was delivered from famine and destruction. Daniel’s faithfulness to God in Babylonia as a captive resulted in a Babylonian King recognizing the God of Israel as the only true God (Daniel 4:34-37). Jonah, a Jew, was clearly called to share God’s message of judgment and deliverance to a non – Jewish people, the people of Nineveh. The result of his ministry were hundreds of thousands saved and a revival that lasted for about 150 years. It is clear that God was interested in people of other nations even in Old Testament times. Our God is a missionary God!
Having “traveled” through the Old Testament, we find that witness from the New Testament verifies that God is a God interested in people of all nations. Matthew 28:19-20 tells to go make disciples of all nations…to win them to Christ, to ground them in the basic Christian faith, to teach them how to pray, how to study the Bible, how to share Christ, and how to worship and serve Him. Mark 16:15 tells us, “go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every Creature.” No one is to be left out when it comes to hearing the gospel of Christ. Luke 24:47 states that, “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among ALL nations.” In John 20: 21 Jesus says, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” The Gospel writers are very clear in presenting the command of Christ and His Great Commission. Luke quotes Jesus in Acts 1:8 when He states “But ye shall receive Power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Notice that Jesus’ command is that all of this is to be done at the same time. It is not first here, then there, but both and in all these places at the same time. How did He expect us to do that? By praying, giving, and going. As we pray for those going and as we give to those going we are having a part of their ministry. Those who stay at “home” are to be the missionaries and soul winners to those around them. When we as a church are doing that, we are sharing the gospel in all parts of the world at the same time in in all places. The command to witness, to share the gospel, and to reach out to those that do not know Christ is clearly given in God’s Word from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation.
That God is a missionary God is seen in that the New Testament was written BY missionaries and church planters. Spreading the gospel is the normal thing for Biblical Christianity. Sharing Christ is to be the natural part of a born again Christian’s life and is revealed to be true by Jesus in the gospels and in the book of Acts. Missions and church planting is part of God’s “DNA” and should be part of ours too. In Revelation 7: 9-10 we are shown that there are multitudes of people gathered around the throne of God who are from ALL nations, tribes, peoples (i.e. people groups), and languages. From Genesis to Revelation no one is to be left out of hearing the gospel from any age or era.
Truly, our God IS a missionary God!