Sunday 10 January 2010

Arthur Glasser on the Story of God’s Mission in the Bible

Arthur F. Glasser with Charles E. Van Engen, Dean S. Gilliland, and Shawn B. Redford, Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 400pp., ISBN 0801026261.

In a number of places, Chris Wright has helpfully drawn our attention to what he calls the ‘missional basis of the Bible’, the notion that the Bible is missional in that it witnesses to the movement of God towards his creation, that the Bible is missional in that the Bible itself is a product of God’s mission.

But he is not the only one who has drawn attention to the missional dimension of the Bible…

Arthur Glasser traces the theme of the kingdom of God through Scripture and its connection to mission. God’s purpose, he says, has always been to bless humankind, and this purpose is shown through the entire biblical story – showing that mission is not a minor or an isolated theme within the Bible, but is a fundamental, if not the fundamental theme of the Bible. So, he takes a panoramic view of the whole Bible using a missional lens, and he sees the story unfolding in six parts:

God’s Mission in the Beginning – where God creates humanity and humanity rebels, God judges humanity in the flood, and God calls the patriarchs to be a blessing for all nations.

God’s Mission through Israel – where God forms a nation, his people, and covenants with them only to have his rule challenged by the kings of Israel.

God’s Mission among the Nations – where God sends Israel into exile among the nations, setting a stage for the coming of the Messiah, and working through the dispersion of his people.

God’s Mission through Jesus the Christ – where Jesus inaugurates the kingdom, demonstrates its presence in his ministry, announces it among the nations, proclaims God’s kingdom mission, and anticipates its future coming.

God’s Mission through the Holy Spirit by the Church – where the Holy Spirit inaugurates the missionary church, Paul preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the apostolic church embodies Christ’s mission.

God’s Mission Extends to the End of Time – where God’s kingdom extends over the powers, and where it will one day be seen that there is salvation in only one name – Jesus Christ the Lord.

The Scriptures are a missionary book which reveal a missionary God, which shows the church as a missionary community.

And as Glasser reminds us, if we see the story of God’s mission this way, we see the unity of humanity in God’s design, warning us against individualism and nationalism, and racial and cultural superiority.

Moreover, it serves as a reminder that mission is not something we do, or something that others do on our behalf, and helps us see that mission is something we are, wherever we happen to find ourselves as we are called to partner God in the work that he intends to do among the nations.

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