As Ken Gnanakan says, “mission can be seen to be a living God at work in actual history.” “The biblical doctrine of a personal God is one of the strong points of the Christian mission, as mission relates to people.” The pages of the Old Testament resound with the witness to a God who relates to, interacts with, and comes to the aid of his people.
G. Ernest Wright contends that it is God who is the real foundation and setting of mission. He is the center of our whole understanding of mission. He explains that: “…the theocentric emphasis which alone can give adequate theological meaning to the canon of Scripture, seems to me to be the real setting of the church’s mission…” He states further:
“If this is true, then the Old Testament’s revelation of the God who is the Father of Jesus Christ is a vital part of the Scriptural basis for the church’s mission. That basis is not primarily an injunction of the church to preach the Gospel to the world, through this is certainly part of it. Instead, it is the doctrine of God, the God who Himself is the mission”
Rather than universality as the major contribution of the Old Testament to our understanding of mission, the main Old Testament contribution to a theology of mission is the recognition that God is the source of mission. God’s mission revolves around his desire that mankind be reconciled to him. The mission, therefore, becomes very personal because it involves the reconciliation of persons once joined together in a very vital union, as a loving father with his children but who are now estranged, deeply hurting the heart of the father. So the goal of mission is not primarily for the benefit of mankind or the church, although it most certainly does benefit humans. The heart of God is blessed when he is reconciled to us. From our perspective this reconciliation is our salvation. For to know God, and to be in communion with him as the result of the barriers of sin and rebellion being removed, is to be saved from estrangement and alienation.
Once we have established that God himself is the source and cause of mission we may see how God has unfolded his plan of mission throughout the Old Testament. What God has initiated from eternity is begins in his revelation to us with creation: “God’s active Lordship over His creation, over all “times” and places, His actively prosecuted claim to sovereignty over all men— this is the only setting in which the church’s mission…in the world is meaningful.”