1 John 3:16

"By this we perceive the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Image of Man

One emphasis in missions has been to avoid imposing values or ideas on others. This is coupled with recent emphasis on “political correctness” where all world views are held to be equal. The tendency is to accept whatever one meets in mission and adapt the Christian message to it. It is believed that this reduces offence. The result is a variety of views on Christianity, according to location.

One of the justifications for this is a claim that although man fell he is still made in the image of God and therefore his natural culture and religion will reflect this image in some way. People may then claim new interpretations of scripture based on their cultural views. It is then said that the preaching of the gospel in this culture must adapt to these local views. “We just have to preach this adaptation in that field.” This justification has problems:

1. The assumption that the fall of man into sin is not total, or that it has only partially affected the image of God in man. It is a denial of the Reformed and Evangelical doctrine of total depravity.

2. It assumes that what looks like a godly value in human culture is in fact godly according to actual biblical teaching. This concept of false equivalents is explained further below.

The notion that there is some residue of the image of God in man after the Fall is unbiblical. The Bible teaches that whatever man brings forth that is helpful to society in general is due to God’s common grace, not to man’s innate intelligence or goodness. It is true that man has intellectual abilities and moral appreciations, but these are due to God’s restraining power and kindness. When this kindness is lifted man will resort to his default nature.

When God outlawed murder after the Flood because man is made in the image of God (Gen 9:6), He was referring to His original creation of man. He did not deny the totality of the Fall. God said in Gen 6:5 that every thought and imagination of man was evil continually. Man’s natural state according to God is total, not partial evil.

The command not to murder acknowledges the distinction between man and animal and the original purpose for which God made man, into which we are redeemed by Christ. Evolution tries to eradicate this distinction, by making man an animal. God demands that we honour Him by treating all mankind with dignity, whether they are saved or unsaved. But after the Fall, man is born in the image of fallen Adam.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Monotheism & Problems with Anthropology

Anthropology disproves the theory of the evolution of monotheism. In ancient societies on all continents it has been found that societies started with a belief in monotheism and regressed into polytheism and animism. They started with some knowledge of God and as time went on and distance from other civilisations increased they went away from the knowledge of God.

This is true for the Australian Aborigines for example. There is evidence that when they arrived in Australia they lived in settled communities with farms. As they went further into witchcraft they regressed into nomadic hunters without settlements. Societies in Asia, Africa and Europe began with a monotheistic faith and regressed into spiritism. It is true of all mankind.

Faulty “evidences” for evolution are still taught in schools as valid. The techniques used to “date” artefacts have flawed presuppositions. “Proofs” in biology are without foundation. Its evidence in geology is better understood as the consequence of Noah’s Flood. Its theories in religion have no basis in anthropology and are unable to answer the historical resurrection of Christ from the dead. Nor can evolutionists account for the occurrence of miracles in our own time.

Problems in Anthropology

Problems arise when people use anthropology as a source of theology. We cannot learn the things of God through the study of man. The ancient Greek goal of education was knowledge of self and today secular educationists follow this anthropological route. Theology gives us correct anthropology, rather than anthropology giving us correct theology.

It is sometimes said that we can learn about God from human culture or from world religions. It is also said that we can learn about God from nature or from logic. We will cover some of these areas later, but here we address the idea that when we go into missions we can find truth about God in local culture or religion and then use that to replicate Christian ideas.

This may be seen as a quick way to results in missions and as a way to ensure that mission is local and indigenous rather than foreign and colonial. What may begin with an attempt to understand the local people and their culture may become a substitute for the gospel.

This concept would then be against the Reformation principle of faith called sola scriptura; scripture alone! This principle of finding truth about God outside of scripture is a departure from Christian faith. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine…” (2 Tim 3:16). This is the only source of theology.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Evolution of Religion

A theory of the evolution of religion states that man started with a primitive understanding of “god” and developed a more complex or sophisticated faith as his society progressed. (See the “founder” of cultural anthropology Edward Tylor, of the 19th and early 20th Century, who developed this theory.)

The theory claims that man started in an unorganised society, with a religion of spiritism, seeing spirits in all objects with no single ruler. As society progressed into tribal chieftaincies man’s view of spiritual rule devolved into polytheism, the belief in several leading deities.

Finally, as people grouped into nation states around the time of Moses and had one main ruler or king, they began to see the spiritual world the same way, with one main god - monotheism. So here we see a progression from spiritism to polytheism to monotheism. It is claimed that Moses was the founder of monotheism.

But biblical evidence shows that monotheism was the belief of all God’s people from the beginning. Abraham, for example, hundreds of years before Moses, was clearly monotheistic. The Greek, who were supposed to be the most advanced, were polytheistic.

Secular authors have stated that religion is a natural phenomenon. They say that man developed religious ideas naturally to meet his need for security. It is true that human religion is natural, developed by man to meet his felt needs. Religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism for example were developed from the imaginations of man and from a twisted view of God’s revelation. “Christianity” without God’s Spirit is the same.

This is human religion. It is a “fig leaf”. It is a substitute for truth. It is not man seeking for God, but man using a cover of religion to hide from God. It is to satiate his conscience. But when God’s Spirit calls us we know that religion is empty of any power to save and empty of any truth. Human religion is a means of hiding from God (as Adam hid), not of genuinely seeking for Him.

True Christianity is not a human religion. It has not developed by men “seeking God”. It is God’s Self-initiative and Self-revelation through grace. God sent Jesus to reveal Himself. Today, through the Holy Spirit and word of God, the knowledge of God is a gift. Man cannot find God through natural theology, reasoning or even self-induced spiritual encounters. A man comes to the knowledge of God because God seeks and finds him.

The Bible says “seek and you shall find”. This must come as a call of the Spirit of God within our heart. We seek Him in truth only if He first calls us. He must draw us to Himself first. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19).

This is important. It means we that cannot reveal God naturally through human religion or culture as we go into mission. God can only be revealed by His own initiative through His gospel, as we are sent by Him as His co-labourers. We must be sent by God. As Benson Idahosa said, “Some were sent: others went.”.

Tylor’s evolution of religion model claimed that societies developed in an evolutionary series from Stone Age, Iron Age, Bronze Age, etc. Excavations are “dated” by these artefacts found in them. However, societies progressed and regressed often according to their circumstances and such dating methods are conjecture. Iron and bronze were available in the very earliest societies in Genesis.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


From the previous discussions we can see the importance of culture in mission. How should we approach culture and other human sciences? By human sciences we mean not the study of chemistry or physics, but the study of man and his behaviour and history. Anthropology is the study of man, his nature, his society and his culture. It is an interesting and often very subjective field of study.

Archaeology is another category of anthropology. In the last 200 years a lot has been learnt about past civilizations by excavations, especially in Bible lands. Initially archaeologists were not able to confirm certain biblical narratives, such as the existence of the Hittite Empire.

In such cases rash archaeologists or media would announce that the Bible was inaccurate. They have always been proved wrong as archaeological work progressed. Whether it was about the Hittites, the occupation of Canaan under Joshua, the fall of Jericho, or the cultural practices of Abraham, the Bible has never been shown to be wrong. (See Werner Keller, The Bible As History.)

God acted out His redemption plan in history. The historical narratives of scripture, whether the history of nations, the history of creation, or the miracle ministry and resurrection of Jesus, are all literal historical events.

The Hebrew people did not use mythology or symbolic language when recording history. Governor’s names are given, cities and villages are identified and time periods are stated. All of these can be traced by independent historical sources and by archaeology. The Bible has not once been shown to be wrong after evidence has come to the surface.

Population Migrations

A study of human society down through the millennia has also verified the migration of humans from Mesopotamia after the Flood and Tower of Babel to all parts of the globe. Population levels in various parts of the world are consistent with a general migration from this biblical time period.

Cultures all over the earth have very similar stories in their history concerning the Tower of Babel, Flood, Creation and the Fall. (See anthropologist Don Richardson in Eternity in Their Hearts.) They also have similar constellations. They mostly perceive related pictures in the stars, showing a commonality in ancestry. There are many more myths that are common also.

Anthropology is also valuable in helping us to understand culture. Further below we will look at the extent to which anthropology may help us in the missionary task. First though, we see that anthropology helps us to refute false ideas about religion.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

What Went Wrong in Asia

Looking at the history of missions allows us an opportunity to see what might have gone wrong. Why was the gospel lost in Asia and Africa after those early years? The Mongols of Asia and the Muslims invaded much of the area, but we believe that syncretism was the main problem.

Syncretism means mixing the gospel with local perspectives of the culture. This happened a lot in the early African church with the adoption of the worship of Mary replacing Isis, for example. It also happened in most places in Asia where the Nestorians preached.

The Nestorians, being more humanistic, celebrated novel gospel interpretations in new cultures. They also went so far away geographically in missions that their “supply lines” grew thin. They were cut off from the main theological development in other sectors of the church.

For example, Bishop Qing Qing of China wrote in 780AD, comparing the gospel to Buddhist Confucian karma. Qing claimed that we return to our original good nature by works. In his Sutra of Returning to Your Original Nature, he claimed:

Christ says: From goodness in past lives, people come to this religion and through the faith they find Happiness…Simon (Peter) know this: You ask me about the Triumphant Law. What your ancestors have done bears fruit in you; their karma finds its outcome in you. (Cited from Martin Palmer).

Here is a Christian Bishop making a Christian theology for China 1,227 years ago. He believed in reincarnation. He misquoted Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16. He claimed that the original nature of each man when born is good. He said we restore this original goodness through our good works. He said that Simon Peter was blessed, not by the free grace of his heavenly Father (Matt 16:17), but by his own good works. This is Buddhism, not Christianity. This is Nestorian humanism.

When Christianity is no different from local religions what is the point of it? It is absorbed into traditional religion like a chameleon lizard and disappears into the fabric of its environment. This is one of the greatest hazards of international mission. This was the issue Paul addressed in Galatians and was the main problem addressed in the book of Hebrews: the gospel was being mixed with Jewish culture. Paul said that the gospel was then lost.

We also must consider the importance of church mission influencing government. In countries where Christianity did not impact and influence government it eventually lost ground. In Ethiopia, Armenia and Europe it held its ground. It is true that the church was corrupted by government in Europe, but at least there was something there for the Reformation to correct.

The conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the West in the early 4th Century brought relief to the Christians from the Roman persecution there. Persecution of Christians had become Roman policy, but Constantine made the Roman Empire Christian.

But Constantine’s coming led to a great increase of persecution against Christians in the East. The East and West were enemies then and Persia saw Christians in Persia as potential allies of Constantine in the West and spies. So the Western church celebrates Constantine, but maybe not the Eastern Church.

Friday, 12 November 2010


The Nestorian college at Antioch developed a literalist hermeneutics to counter the allegory used by ascetics in northern Africa. But they took their literalism too far, denying all mysteries by making them only symbols.

In the 16th Century Luther argued against this approach. However, the humanist Zwingli defended it on matters related to the communion and baptism. Luther was not upholding Catholic sacramentalism, but refuting humanist Aristotelian logic that denies mysteries simply because they are not understood.

Luther’s position regarding scripture was that we should accept its plain meaning and not allow our personal experience or reason to override it. Luther took this stand to refute humanism, which he saw as the greatest risk in eroding the truth of God’s word. He was correct, as this humanism in Europe later developed into liberal theology that denied the supernatural.

We believe that Christ has one nature, which is fully God and fully human in incarnation. It is indeed a mystery! But this is the power of the gospel. It neither contextualizes (humanises) or denies human context. It accepts humanity, but meets it miraculously, not on humanity’s terms. The human context is sin. The remedy is His faith.

The humanism of Nestorians left certain legacies. One of these was based on their denial of total depravity. They were semi-Pelagian. Today this is often reflected in Arminianism. They believed that all human cultures contained something of God and could be used in theological development. They also believed in derived holiness by works, or progressive sanctification and power through spirituality.

This humanism meant two things: Nestorianism became the fastest and most successful mission movement in history up until today. It moved into foreign cultures with ease and dedication. But the very reason for its success became the reason for its failure. Look at where Nestorianism went. In every one of its mission fields the gospel was eventually lost. We do not want to repeat this today.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


There is much more evidence of the extent of early missions. A Japanese professor P.Y. Saeki stated that Nestorian Christianity penetrated the whole of Chinese literature and that Asia was widely covered by missionaries. The Nestorians were an eastern branch of the church, which went out mainly from Persia (Iran).

Most of the world was reached in the first millennium. Australia and America are left out of this study. Leaving aside the theories of evolution it is doubtful that their populations were extensive. We need an anthropological study of migrations to show this. Philip Nicolai (1556-1608) claimed that European explorers to the Peruvians, Brazilians and West Indies found evidence of earlier Christian witness.

The Great Commission is not complete: it goes on in every generation. But this shows what a tremendous job the early church did. In the midst of persecution and heresy the European church dominated the continent by the 5th Century. The Nestorians, despite their humanism, made unbelievable strides and were highly dedicated to their task.

God does not require satellites and aircraft to fulfil the Great Commission. Current generations are not more able than past. We should use technology, but it is the gospel that is God’s power and God who makes His people willing in the day of His power.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


Gregory the Illuminator went to Armenia around 230AD and converted the king. Armenia kept its Christian identity through the centuries. There is an earlier tradition that the Apostle Thaddeus went to Armenia but we do not know that for certain. Christians went very early into Russia. There is a strong Orthodox Church there still today.

The gospel spread as far as Britain before the first apostles died. The Germanic tribes were all reached before the break up of the Roman Empire. At the Nicaea Council in 325AD, 800 bishops from the West and 1000 bishops from the East were present, including one signature from “John the Persian, of the churches of the whole of Persia and in the great India.”.

The significance of this is that the theology of the early church councils is not Western theology. No one church was in charge. They met as independent bishops in one fellowship of the saints. Reformed Theology is not Western. It is derived from the early church councils before the Roman church became corrupt and before that from Pauline theology and the theology of the first church council in Acts 15.

Augustine brought a partial reformation to the church in the 4th and 5th Centuries, but he was too influenced by the asceticism of Tertullian and Origen to do much. Augustine was able to defeat Pelagius, who claimed that man was not born in sin and could be saved by works, but he did not overcome the syncretism of Greek philosophy in the early church.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Christian Empire of Ethiopia

In the mid 500’s an Ethiopian army poured into Arabia to defend Christians being killed by pagan and Jewish persecutors. The Ethiopian king established his rule in Yemen, at a Christian pilgrimage site. Christianity flourished.

The Ethiopian king was the unrivalled ruler of the region, but his army was expensive to keep. The nearby city of Mecca held an annual pagan pilgrimage that was also lucrative. The Ethiopian king marched on Mecca to stop its idolatrous worship of the Kaaba stones. Whether the king was only against idolatry, but also wanted to stop commercial competition from Mecca we do not know.

The leader of Mecca at this time was Mohammed’s grandfather. Mohammad was a child. Mecca sued for peace and the Ethiopian king demanded they hand over the Kaaba, which would have ensured that the city no longer had status as a pilgrimage centre. Mecca refused. Surprisingly Mecca was able to hold off the attack and the Ethiopian king withdrew. Later Islam continued to use Mecca and the stones of Kaaba as a pilgrimage centre, ridding it of all pagan gods but Allah.

Islam’s justification for war was the idolatry of the church in those regions. Christianity had become syncretised (meshed in) with the cultures of the region. In Egypt and Ethiopia they worshipped Isis the mother god and her son, renaming them Mary and Jesus. It was syncretism, not really Islam, which was the church’s downfall. The church has survived in all those countries till today. In Iran there are significant numbers of Christians and Jews who are forced to pay a tax, to allow them some freedom of worship.

The rise of Islam was not novel. Mohammed claimed to be the Comforter that Jesus promised would come. Several false prophets before him claimed the same. By Comforter Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit, given to the church on the Day of Pentecost. Manichaeism was a sect started prior to Islam, founded by Mani. His career was strikingly similar to Mohammed’s.

Mani claimed to be the Comforter and the greatest in a succession of prophets including Old Testament prophets and Jesus, just as Mohammed did. Islam is a syncretised Christian/Jewish sect. Mani distinguished between more spiritual worshippers and laity, the former taking confession from the latter and abstaining from marriage, which the Roman Catholic priesthood followed.

Monday, 8 November 2010


There are many traditions about early apostles and their travels. Thomas is said to have preached in India. We do not know this for certain, but it is certain that the church existed in India in the 1st Century. Secular sources show Christians to be living as far east as northern Afghanistan by 196AD, so we know that they were established there before that date.

Christians travelled very early on the trade routes to China and beyond and to India and the sub-continent region. By the 5th Century the Asian Nestorian group was very strong and missions orientated. From Selucia-Ctesphon in Persia (modern Iran) by the middle of the 6th Century mission groups went to Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, Ceylon, China and Mongolia.

It is possible that Iran, in its past, sent out more Christian missionaries than any other nation since. They took the gospel all over the world. By the 500’s the church in China was strong. By the 700’s Chinese bishops were writing their own theology books. There is archaeological evidence of the gospel in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines by the 700’sAD. Historian John Stewart states:

Whole peoples with their rulers had become Christians and it seems certain that there were few places in the whole of Asia that were not reached at some time or other…and in the 11th Century (the Asian church) is said to have outnumbered the Greek and Roman churches combined.

From the Pacific Ocean in the East to the Mediterranean in the West; from the Black Sea and Siberia to the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, Assyrian missions were working. Asia Minor, Cyprus, Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, India, China, Japan, Mongolia, Manchuria and Turkistan…all had missions where the gospel was taught by zealous workers of the Assyrian Church of the East...


Before the Islamic conquests of the 7th Century the largest Arab kingdoms were Christian. When Paul was saved he went into Arabia, not to meditate in deserts, but to fellowship with Christians. Persia had a bishopric in Qatar. Yemen in the far south west was evangelised in the mid 300’s by Theophilus on route to India.

Persecutions in Persia drove many Christians to evangelise Arabia. Monasteries were built along the Arab side of the Gulf. The Persian Synod of 410 had bishops from Qatar and Bahrain. In 225 settlers found a group of native Christians near Babylon. Nestorians formed Christian communities (umma) between normally aggressive tribal groups of Arabia. Some of these Christian communities survived long into the Islamic era.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


Early sources tell us that two Christians were shipwrecked off the horn of Africa and started churches in Axum, Ethiopia, which have been related to the church at Alexandria until the present day. Mission to Sudan also established a strong church before Islam. Tertullian, Origen and Augustine (Berber) were all North Africans.

Augustine’s mother was Tuareg. The Tuareg are part of the Berber peoples of North and West Africa, who traded across the Sahara to Northern Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire. The Berber are descendents of Ham. There was correspondence then between North and West African peoples, with archaeological evidence of churches then in such places as Mali.

Augustine was an early major theologian of the church. There was North and West African influence in his development. Augustinian theology follows the Pauline gospel and contributed largely to Reformation theology and to the present day Evangelical/Pentecostal roots.

Christianity remained dominant in a wealthy Ethiopia until the Persians conquered the trade routes in the late 500’s. Ethiopian history is less clear after that but Christianity remained dominant until a new dynasty arose in 1270AD claiming descent from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Religion became fashioned after Solomonic and Jewish traditions and the worship of Mary.

This continued until Jihads in the mid 1500’s. Ethiopia moved its capital to Gonday, where Christian rulers remained until the military coup in 1974. Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia today comprise 43% of the population.

Africans Reached

The Bantu populations of Africa were not widespread in southern regions of Africa until much later. This is well established by language studies and explorers in the second millennium. After initial Islamic expansion in the 7th and 8th Centuries the Bantu people began to migrate south and east from West Africa and populated much of the tropical and southern portions of Africa. It was a slow migration south, still going on well into the second millennium.

In the early years the greatest portion of the African people groups were in the northern regions of Africa and did have a witness among them of the gospel. God did not abandon Africa until the modern mission movement. When jihad pushed the people south it appears they did not take the gospel with them. It appears also that the Ethiopian church lost its life and failed to reach out.

From the 1800’s we see the rise of indigenous churches once again in Africa, but we cannot see a link between any of these and 1st millennium indigenous churches, even though some indigenous churches in southern African today bear the name “Ethiopian” to identify them with indigenous tradition. All modern indigenous churches were started after the beginning of the modern mission thrust into Africa.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

The First Millennium

Immediately the Day of Pentecost came the gospel exploded into the nations, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies about the reign of Christ over all flesh. By the end of the first millennium AD the church in the East was twice as large as the church in the West. Archaeology shows that the main portion of humanity was at least in proximity to the gospel in the first millennium. (America or Australia is not studied here, in respect to actual population levels, or the possibility of gospel penetration in the first millennium.)

It is evident that by the end of the 1st Century AD the gospel had reached Africa, Russia, the Middle East, Asia, India and Europe as far as Britain. The gospel strengthened rapidly in these regions in the years that followed. By the 700’s Christianity had a strong presence in much of China and was in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

These studies are supported archeologically, not by tradition. For an introduction see Samuel Moffett, A History of Christianity in Asia and search Martin Palmer, P.Y. Saeki, John Stewart and John England on the Internet.

It is helpful to ask why missions in some of these earlier reached regions eventually failed and they became largely lost to the gospel. It is helpful also to see how the early church succeeded so rapidly in the midst of strong persecution and heresy. Jesus said, “I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18).

The Book of Acts

Acts records the expansion of Christianity to the West. It was written by Luke who worked with the Apostle Paul. Paul worked west of Jerusalem, as far as Spain. Acts says very little about other missions that were obviously going on concurrently with Paul’s.

For example, the Magi came from the east (Persia) when Jesus was born (Matt 2:1). Persia is modern day Iran. Magi were not kings, but wise men, or scientists/astrologers. They took the gospel back to Persia. An African also carried Jesus’ cross.

On the Day of Pentecost men were present from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). These included Iranians and Russians and those from Elam, east of the Persian Gulf. These also took the gospel back with them.

In 37AD the church at Jerusalem was scattered in the early persecutions (Acts 8:1). Believers travelled out preaching the gospel everywhere. These at first preached to the Jews only and the largest Jewish community then was in Babylon. These believers would have gone to many places not mentioned in Acts.

In Acts 8 Philip spoke to the eunuch who served the Queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch took the gospel back to Ethiopia. Ethiopia then was a more general notation for the sub-Sahara races, not just limited to the Ethiopia of today. Asians and an African were present at the first church council in Acts 15. There were many other outreaches the Holy Spirit was undertaking that we know very little, if anything, about.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Not Related to End-Times

Mission is not an end-times strategy. Some say we must preach to all the Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims and then Jesus will come back. The Bible does not say this. We preach the gospel to all these people, with a heart of strong desire to reach all, because Jesus has commanded us to in His Great Commission and from compassion.

We do it because Jesus lives in us and His heart is our heart. We do it because we care for people. We do it because we have a call from God to do it. We do it because “such as I have, I give to you…” (Acts 3:6). We do it because we want others to share in the fellowship we have with one another and with the Father (1 John 1:3). Basing missions on end-times may excite people, but it is not biblical. It is wrong motivation.

“Jesus is coming in five years!” So everyone rallies and sends out missionaries to reach the world. When Jesus does not come in five years, people loose their motivation and leave the missionaries on the field unsupported. We do not need untrue “popular” motivation for the Lord’s work. Mission should come from the heart, rather than from excitement. True motivation lasts and even grows.

Many people are unaware that all nations have already been reached with the gospel. There is not one major people group on earth today that some time in the last 2,000 years has not lived in the vicinity of the gospel message. This shows again that interpreting Matt 24:14 in relation to the Second Coming of Jesus is not correct.

God created the world because it pleased Him to create us, to show us His love and to bring us into fellowship through His Son. He called Abraham and elected him to make him a blessing to all nations (Gen 22:17-18). That is why He has elected us, to work through us to show His love to all mankind. This is the purpose of election, to make us His vessels to reach all mankind with the gospel. Transformed man is then to transform his culture and nation.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Un-Reached

Christ’s mission is to those who have not heard the gospel. It was Paul’s desire to preach where Christ was not known (Rom 15:19-21). Every true Christian and every true church has this heart. A church is not a church of Jesus Christ if it does not have the heart of Jesus. Jesus “came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). We know a true church in part because it is evangelical and missions orientated, which shows that Jesus is there.

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all orientated towards mission. The Father called Abraham for the purpose of blessing all nations of the earth. Jacob received not only a blessing, but also a birthright. The birthright was the Father’s promise that their seed would bless all nations of the earth (Gen 22:18). Esau cared only for the blessing, for which he shed tears, but not at all for the birthright.

Today also there are “birthright Christians” and “blessing Christians”. Blessing Christians live off the fruit of the gospel others have laboured for. Birthright Christians labour giving their lives and substance to ensure that the gospel is established. This is not just a duty, but comes naturally from the heart where Christ lives.

Jesus said He came to preach the gospel in every place and village (Luke 8:1). Many are content when Jesus is preached in a few large cities when thousands of villages remain un-reached. The Holy Spirit is centred on Christ’s mission. He moves the church to preach the gospel to all people, directing which way to go and confirming the message with signs and wonders. In the book of Acts we see the Holy Spirit initiating outreach to all people. This is His heart and purpose.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Scope of Mission

The scope of mission in Matt 28:18-20 encompasses the whole of life, including preaching the gospel to every person in all nations upon earth. It is not limited to any race. The church is not to be racial, but one family of all nations, tongues and races. In all nations the gospel is the same one gospel, unchanged by local conditions.

The scope includes teaching people everything that Jesus handed to us through His first apostles. The message is conservative, not changing with generation or culture. We are to teach faithfully what was handed to us. We have no say in what the message is, but as faithful ambassadors, we are to teach what Jesus taught. We do not add to it, nor take away from it: we must continue in the Apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42).

This means that mission is teaching the whole counsel of God. It is not specialising in a certain message, such as healing, or prosperity, or kingdom. He did not call us to be “specialists” in the sense of giving people only a part of the message. He called us to be faithful to His whole counsel (Acts 20:27).

“Make disciples of all nations” does not mean of the political nation, but make disciples in all nations. It is the disciples who change the nation by their renewed lives. We are salt, light and leaven in society, bringing godly change at all levels. This is not done by means of churches adopting a “social gospel”, but by preaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ. God then transforms people’s hearts and they impact society.

We can see in history that if believers do not impact society, but hide their light under a bushel, then society will impinge upon the church and eventually overshadow it. It will be trodden under foot by men, governments, laws and armies. Society is not neutral. It is opposed to God unless the people in it are renewed by faith.

This means that Christians should influence business, government, media, education and arts. This does not mean that we should use these fields just to make money. It means Christians bring God’s values, principles and truth into these fields, for the good of the people in society. We are the leaven.

This is one way in which God brings His general grace to the nation for the benefit of all. It allows us to hand on a better society to the next generation. This does not make people in society Christians, but it does mean that all men benefit from the Christian gospel.

Mission includes going into every sphere of human life and preaching Christ and the values of the kingdom of God. We go into all the world (kosmos), every part of man’s life and preach Christ to the people there (Mark 16:15).

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Christ’s Mission

God’s heart is for mission. He came to seek and to save that which is lost. That is why He sent Christ. His heart is outreach and evangelism to all people. Our mission is to every person of every nation, of every religion and of every background. We go to the cities and the far away villages, to the civilized and to the naked, with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We preach the free grace of Christ urgently to all men, women and children, compelling them to repentance and to faith through Jesus Christ. This urgency and zeal marks all true believers in Christ.

In this chapter we look at missions as the life of Christ manifested in us, in contrast to a methodological approach. Topics covered include:

• Missions in the 1st millennium.
• Syncretism.
• Contextualization.
• Contextual theology.
• Traditional and biblical factors in missions.
• The social gospel.
• Interviews with missionaries.
• Factors affecting mission in Islamic centres.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen. (Matt 28:18-20).

The mission of Christ is based on His victory and His complete authority in all realms in heaven and on earth. This mission does not require the permission of any person, devil or human government. It comes from the highest authority – Christ Himself. We do not have to “earn” the opportunity to preach Christ to any person. We have it already in the Commission.

The mission was not only given to the 11 disciples in this passage, but to the church as a whole. When Jesus prayed for His disciples in John 17:20, He included all that would hear the gospel through them. His commands to them are also His commands to us. The “world” (age) in Matt 28:20 refers not to the Jewish age, but to the whole church age before His Second Coming.

Mission is necessitated by the truth of the total depravity of man. All classes and races of men are equal. All are born depraved before God and all require salvation through Jesus Christ. The total depravity of fallen man means there is no superior race and that any blessing a people has comes only from the gospel. This truth has inspired mission to all people. Sometimes people think their nation is blessed because the people are good. No, any goodness is only because of the grace of God.

Some recent theories in mission ignore fundamentals of biblical truth. Theories that find truth in culture or human religion deny sola scriptua and total depravity. This is a common trend in our time, trying to make the gospel acceptable. Truth is only found in Jesus Christ.