God is the Missionary

Why should the churches of the URCNA be concerned about missions? First of all, because God is a missionary God. Providing a biblical and confessional basis for doing missions, the Report of the Synodical Study Committee on Missions (coming to the URCNA's Synod this June) summarizes how God has revealed this about himself: "From beginning to end, the scriptures reveal clearly the heart that God has for his lost children, and his purpose to save sinners throughout the whole earth. In Genesis 3:9, immediately after Adam’s fall into sin, God called out, 'Where are you?' not only to judge man but also to make the covenant of grace with him, promising to send a savior, the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15). Just as God clothed Adam and Eve in animal skins in order to cover their shame (Gen 3:21), so also he would cover all of his sinful people in the perfect righteousness of our Savior who would die for our sins (2 Cor 5:21).

"The Lord later called Abraham, made the covenant of grace with him, and promised to bless Abraham and give him and his descendents the land of Canaan. From the very start, God revealed his purpose to use Abraham to bring salvation to people throughout the whole world: 'in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed' (Gen 12:3; cf. Gen 22:18).

"Many generations later, fulfilling his covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Lord God graciously delivered the Israelites out of Egypt (Ex 6:2-8). Out of all peoples, God made them his treasured possession, 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation' (Ex 19:5-6). God’s purposes of salvation seemed for a time to become far narrower with Israel, as Moses reminded them: 'Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day' (Deut 10:14-15). Still, in his very next breath, God called them to share his love with strangers: 'He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt' (Deut 10:18-19). This love of God for sojourners from other nations was demonstrated in a noteworthy manner in the inclusion of Rahab and her Canaanite family within the covenant people of Israel (Josh 6:22-25), and in the inclusion of Ruth the Moabite – both women being ancestors of Christ Jesus, our Savior (Mt 1:5).

"Of course, God’s plan to bring salvation to the ends of the earth through the seed of the woman, who would also be the seed of Abraham, took on greater clarity in his covenant promises to King David, to whom God said, 'I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever' (2 Sam 7:12). The nations would have to bow down to this royal son of God, or else be broken with a rod of iron, and dashed into pieces through his just judgment (Ps 2:9). But in becoming the possession of this Davidic King through the redemptive grace of God, the nations would be blessed in him (Ps 72:17), for he would be their Savior, 'a covenant for the people, a light for the nations' (Isa 42:6). To the Christ, God the Father says, 'It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth' (Isa 49:6).

"In the fullness of time, God the Father sent his eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be born of woman, to become a true man – the seed of the woman, of Abraham, and of David – that he might live, die, and rise again for our salvation (Gal 4:4ff). But he was slain in order to ransom people for God 'from every tribe and language and people and nation,' and he has made them 'a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth' (Rev 5:9-10). Throughout redemptive history, God has repeatedly shown that he would not abandon us in our sin but would provide for us a Savior. He has sought out sinners, repeatedly making promises of redemption by grace, which promises he has fulfilled in the person and work of Christ his Son."

Clearly, God is the Missionary in redemptive-history. And yet he graciously calls and equips his church to continue building his global temple through the ordinary planting of congregations. Next Monday, I'll post the subsequent section of the report, which summarizes how the New Testament reveals that God's missionary work is done primarily through the planting and nurturing of churches. The Missionary God uses ordinary means to make disciples of Christ and establish his kingdom. With such an awesome responsibility, how can we as a federation of Reformed churches not seek to improve our missionary efforts? How can we not do all we can to be both aggressive and organized in our approach to plant churches on domestic and foreign soil?