The Mission of God: A Sketch

Here is an outline of God’s mission, mostly drawn from the Gospel of John and its use of the word “send,” I sketched in my preparations for the teaching at SommerOase in Denmark. This sketch was the theological foundation of my talks.

Dansk Oase

July 2012

 Introduction:

Theme: Who is God? (in mission)

1.0         Mission Begins IN God.

“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

“the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (10:38; 17:21, 23).

Now a brief sketch of a major Christian doctrine, the Trinity, and its connection to mission.

1. God has been eternally missional, is missional, and will be missional forever. (Eschatology is inherent.)

2. Why? Because the Trinity is mutual indwelling in love for the Other.

3. God is essentially and endlessly missionally engaged within the Trinty: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit engage One Another in missional union and missional love.

4. Creation is the explosion of God’s internal missionality into living, created, mortal order.

2.0 Mission Begins WITH God’s Sending.

1. God sends John: “And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water  told me…” (1:33).

2. God sends Jesus: ““My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will  of him who sent me and to finish his work….” (4:34).

3. Jesus sends us: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (20:21).

If you are one of Jesus’ followers you are missional.

3.0         The Missional Christian, who is a follower of Jesus, Stays WITHIN God’s Mission.

Jesus provides the pattern for the Missional Christian:

1. Seeking God’s Approval: John 5:30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me….” and this approval is the future kingdom’s judgment becoming reality in the Now.

2. Source is God’s Truth in Jesus: John 7:16  Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me…. 18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. … 28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true.”

3. Strengthened by God’s Presence:

God is at work: John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

God is present: John 8:16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.

John 8:29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”

God is present in the Holy Spirit: John 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

The Spirit’s presence orients us toward Jesus: John 15:26  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.”

4. Speaking God’s words: John 12:49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.

4.0         The Missional Christian is INSIDE/IN Christ.

1. Seeing Jesus is seeing the Father: John 12:44   Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.”

2. Accepting Us is accepting Jesus is accepting the Father: John 13:20 Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

3. Opposing You is opposing Jesus is opposing the Father: John 15:21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.

Here is a 4 point sketch of how the Missional Christian is to see himself or herself:

  1. To see yourself as deriving your mission in God.
  2. To see yourself as extending God’s mission in Jesus to others.
  3. To see yourself as inhabiting God’s perichoresis.
  4. To see yourself participating in God’s present anticipation of the kingdom of God — the future that God’s mission now leans into.
About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.debatingobama.blogspot.com greg metzger

    Excellent. Good Sabbath reflection.

  • http://www.missionalshift.com Steve Knight

    Good stuff, Scot! (my brother from another mother)

  • Steve

    Great job. Very helpful in thinking from God’s initiative and mission to creation and creatures, to being caught into God’s dance of love and mission to the world. I hope people will reflect deeply on participating in God’s future now. Thank you for sharing your reflections and outline.

  • http://Whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    Scot, I’m sure I’m being dim here, but – how would you summarise God’s mission, then? I can’t quite tell from this outline what it actually is (but you may have posted on it before, in which case just point me there!) Thanks.

  • scotmcknight

    Andrew, remember I was working with “send” in GJohn, so it is entirely shaped by “sending.” God’s mission, accomplished through the sending of the Son, is to enter into the world as its King in order to rule and restore the world to God. Each of these terms needs extensive commentary.

  • http://Whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    Thanks Scot. Appreciated!

  • Johncp

    I am struggling to understand how the Trinity can be described as “endlessly missionally engaged” and how God is “eternally missional”. The definition in comment #5 has not helped clear this up at all! How would you relate that definition with the Trinity and eternity?
    Does missional not convey the sense of bringing something that is lacking, to one in need? This seems to be the sense in above definition. And that is why I struggle to understand God as being eternally missional.
    Would love amongst “equals” be considered missional? I understand that I need to love missionally, but do not see my love for my wife as being missional (except in the sense that it could be an example to others). In which way is the love within the Trinity missional? I will appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind expanding on your thoughts here. Blessings!

  • scotmcknight

    It is common to speak of the perichoretic relations of Father, Son and Spirit to be the ontological ground for missionality — that is, as the Father sends his love to the Son etc, so the Father sends his love to us, and so we send our love to others.

  • Johncp

    Thanks for engaging. I understand and accept that our missionality does flow from God, but I feel a bit uncomfortable describing the Trinitarian perichoretic relationship as being missional. It might just be semantics, but am also wondering if there is something that I have not yet seen or really grasped that can help in my own missional “journey”.


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