Missio Dei: The Missional God

Drawn from Genesis 12:1-3 and John 3:16-20.

For the next three months, I intend to use this blog space to discuss something that I know if you are reading this blog is very important to you and to me -- The Mission of God. This is often referred to as the MISSIO DEI. Here is what it will look like:

  • January 2022 - Missional God (the genesis of mission)
  • February 2022 - Missional Jesus (mission embodied)
  • March 2022 - Missional Church (mission is multiplied because we are a missional community)

Missio Dei is a well-known Latin phrase used by theologians and church practitioners to speak of God's mission in the world. It literally means "the mission of God" and refers to the "sending" of God and His missionary heart for the world. Mission arises from the heart of God himself and is communicated from his heart to ours.

We should become convinced by the end of this blog, if not already, that from the very beginning of the biblical story, we learn that you cannot know God or be in a true relationship with God and not acquire his desire for lost people.

As all the major figures of the Old and New Testaments eventually discover, God is missional. If you enter a relationship with him through the power of the Holy Spirit in Word and Sacraments, look out, because he is going to send you out on mission for him, he is going to send you to the lost, to the hurting, and to the needy, on his behalf.

As most of you know, the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, not Latin. The Hebrew verb "to send" (shalakh) is found over 800 times in the Old Testament, and more than 200 times God is the subject of the verb.

Let’s begin by considering a foundational character and story from the Old Testament in Genesis 12:1-3. This is a familiar text both to Jewish believers and Christian believers because this is where we see God making a covenant with Abraham. He is the one the salvation plan begins with. Abraham is the father, whose many sons make up the Old Testament story, and who (as Christians believe) gives us the genealogy of Jesus. And to understand the great significance of this point of the narrative, we do need to keep in mind what has come before it in Genesis chapters 1-11.

In the first two chapters of Genesis, we read a poetic account of creation. In chapter 3, sin comes into the human story through Adam and Eve, and right away, it seems very fitting to say that all hell breaks loose. The curse of the fall in Genesis 3:15, the dark cloud, and the consequences of falling short of God's glory and his intentions for human beings begins to spread. Cain kills Abel, a flood that wipes out the wicked, and the tower of Babel is where, in God's judgment, we see the scattering of the curse all over the world.

But look what happens. In Genesis 12:1-3, the missional God responds by calling out Abraham to begin a journey that would end in the blessing of all people. The ultimate goal of God's promise to Abraham is that blessing will prevail over curse. It does so when the seed of Abraham, and the singled-out descendant of Abraham, the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ, becomes a "curse for us...” so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to all nations, Jewish, and Gentiles alike!

missio dei graphic from bob

It does not get any better than that. Again, this blessing of God that we have come to know as his peace, his promise, and his purpose for our lives, is not just for us to receive and then keep to ourselves. NO. It is always something that we receive and then we give away to others, as God sends us, just as someone was sent to us. That is how it works.

Of course, no conversation of a missional God can take place without taking a quick look as well at John 3:16-20, where God reveals His heart to us by sacrificing His own Son. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Typically, this verse, John 3:16, is one of the most popular verses we find in Scripture. I am sure you have seen the Scripture reference displayed on a placard at football and baseball games. You have also probably heard before that they call this “the gospel in a nutshell.” So, why is it so popular and referred to as “the gospel in a nutshell?” Because this verse speaks to us and shows us God’s heart and His plan of salvation as a missional God.

Think back to your baptism when the pastor baptized you and as a child asked your parents, “how is this child to be named?” Or, if you were baptized as an adult, you were asked for your name. Why? Because at that moment when your name was pronounced, you were identified as one of His own. As you received this water and God’s Word, and through this Sacrament, you were given forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and rescued from death and the devil. However, at that moment you were also tied to this missional God by name! You were identified as one of His very own!

Look deeply into the missionary heart of God, who seeks us out and sends us out to manifest His presence and reflect His glory into the world. He does this (take a look at the picture on the preceding page) starting on our road...this is where God has placed us...this is where we live...this is where we engage a missional God to do His mission!

Rev. Dr. Robert M. Roegner is an Apple of His Eye Bible Teacher to Israel

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