The Mission of Christ

We have said that God the Father is, by nature, missionary and that He pursues his mission by both going out and sending out. This includes both a revelation of himself and an offer  of salvation. These two aspects are significantly bound together. The most explicit revelation of himself is through his Son. God has manifested himself consummately “in the empirical incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ. In doing this he truly became the “down-to-earth” God! He has in Christ tabernacled himself among us. As truly God and truly man He is the link between the Holy God and sinful man, the infinite and the finite, the Creator and creation. He is the divinely appointed Mediator, the giver of the sacrifice and the sacrifice itself. The incarnated Christ has assumed the role of our High Priest and the constant Intercessor who prays and intercedes for the world and for us.

Karl Barth stresses that an “abstract doctrine of God” has no place in Christian Theology. We must construct a doctrine of God that reflects God’s relationship with humanity. He calls it “the-anthropology.” Barth further states that God does not have to exclude humanity to be truly God. His deity “encloses humanity in itself.” He defines God’s humanity as “his free affirmation of man, his full concern for him, his free substitution.” We cannot, Barth believes, directly derive missions from Trinitarian theology. He sees reconciliation as the arena for missions and it is through Jesus Christ that we have truly reconciliation. It is through Christ that God reveals himself and reconciles the world to himself.[ 

The context for mission for Barth is the event of reconciliation. Jesus Christ comes to man to become man’s partner and man is lifted up to become God’s partner. With this action, reconciliation becomes a reality for man and for God. Jesus Christ is the true Missionary. He has been sent to us. He comes to us with a mission. It is for our benefit and it also becomes our mission. The church, the outgrowth and result of his redemptive ministry, becomes a partner of Christ in mission, helping and assisting him as it can. 

Jesus is the true center of mission. The focus of our mission is always Christ, not the lostness of mankind or even our calling and commission. Christ becomes the ground, motivation, center, and purpose of mission. James V. Taylor writes: “The mission is bound up with the sole purpose of God towards the universe. But that purpose will be realized when the universe, all in heaven and on earth, is brought into unity in Christ” (Eph. 1:10 N.E.B.).

The role of the missionary then is to exalt Christ among the nations. He is truly Lord of heaven and all the earth. All things were created by and through him, and all things will culminate in him. We will all bow in recognition to his Lordship and sovereignty. This message we proclaim and sometimes it raises hostility against us. It is difficult for the kingdoms of this world to accept the Christ’s preeminence and Lordship.

Johannes Blauw recognizes that the messianic expectation in the Old Testament is of special significance in formulating a biblical foundation for a theology of mission. He locates missionary prophecies in two songs referring to the Servant of Yahweh. Isaiah 42: 1-7 and 49:1-7 speak of the Servant as a light to the nations. Christ, then, is the light that enlightens the nations.

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