In session five of our Biblical Basis of Mission course we looked at mission, the Gospels and the book of Acts. Throughout the course I’ve had to make choices about what to focus on – such a vast subject! – and this week was no exception. As so often, I took my cues for this lecture from Chris Wright’s excellent book, The Mission of God (Nottingham: IVP, 2006). At one point he outlines the train of thought he imagines an early Christian might have considered:
1. if the God of Israel is the God of the whole earth
2. if all the nations (including Israel) stood under his wrath and judgment
3. if it is nevertheless God’s will that all nations on earth should come to know and worship him
4. if he had chosen Israel to be the means of bringing such blessing to all nations
5. if the Messiah is to be the one who would embody and fulfill that mission of Israel
6. if Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen, is that Messiah
7. then it is time for the nations to hear the good news
‘It was time for the repeated summons of Psalms that the news of YHWH’s salvation should be proclaimed and sung among the nations, and for the vision of the prophets that YHWH’s salvation should reach the ends of the earth, to move from the imagination of faith into the arena of historical fulfillment.’ (p.501)
Given than Jesus’ ministry was focused on his fellow Jews, I was particularly keen for students to reflect upon the encounters Jesus had with Gentiles – pre-echoes if you like of the Early Church’s Gentile mission. For example, The Roman centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13; cf. Ps. 107:3; Isa. 49:12); The Gadarene demoniac and the deaf-mute in Decapolis (Matt. 8:28-34; Mark 7:31-35); The Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:24-31).
We also considered the missional way in which the Gospel writers themselves constructed their books. Take Luke, for example, who starts his 2-volume work in universal scope which narrows down as his Gospel progresses until we are in Jerusalem. Acts then opens in Jerusalem and then explodes back out into the international realm with wider and wider reach. Craig Blomberg’s illustration of the structure of Luke-Acts as an hour glass is helpful (see his excellent book, Jesus and the Gospels). You can see what I mean in this blog post by North West Church of Christ.
So, one more week to go. The final session is on mission, the Epistles and the book of Revelation.