Friday, October 3, 2008

The Resurrection and Missions

What does the Resurrection have to do with missions? Everything! As Paul proclaimed to the philosophers in Athens,

Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-- an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.
Acts 17:29-31

The important message that Paul is driving home here is God's command, which is "to all people everywhere." That message is a fairly simple one: repent. It's the same message that Jesus preached himself, "repent, for the kindgom of heaven is near." The fundamental Gospel message has to do with repentance, with turning back to God and away from living according to our own desires. It means being reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sins. But how do we know this message is true out of all of the conflicting messages that claim to be from God?

The answer to that (if you haven't already guessed it) is the Resurrection itself. Paul says the Resurrection is the proof that God has given that this message is the truth. No other purported message from God comes with this kind of empirical test of its veracity. Nothing else even comes close.

But how does God intend to communicate this message of repentance to all people everywhere? The answer is, of course, through missions, and through the preaching of missionaries. In Romans 10:13-15 we read:

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

We must be careful to guard against any idea of missions that takes away from this one fundamental task: to proclaim God's message of repentance and forgiveness through Christ to "all people everywhere." The task of proclaiming God's message to the world has been entrusted to the church. It is a task that we must fufill.


Liam said...

John, great blog! I find it really refreshing, as one of my closest friends, who has struggled on the basics of the faith for a long time, has out of the ministry and out of the Free Methodist Church and seems to have abandoned many of the basics of the faith. I just have grown weary trying to help him hold on to what he refuses to hold on to. Good to see an old friend who is still in the harness, fighting the good fight, someone who still believes, knows why he believes and can explain it with academic acumen!

Interesting, your interest in Second Temple Judaism. I just finished working through a David Flosser book in Sunday School. I learned a lot!

John Fraser said...

Hey Liam!

Thanks for the comment. I've been spending a lot of time lately continuing to develop my thinking in apologetics. That will continue to be my emphasis wherever we end up in the future. I'd be interested to hear what your friend's story is. In my experience there's always some sort of life crisis that leads Christians astray as opposed to purely intellectual considerations. Sometimes it takes the form of a personal tragedy, struggle, or difficulty where the believer has trouble trusting in God through it. That often opens the door to doubt about the essentials of the faith and finally to unbelief. It's discouraging to watch it happen to someone you know, that's for sure, especially when there are so many good reasons to believe.

Understanding Second Temple Judaism I think is definitely crucial in understanding the context of the birth of Christianity. It helps us to understand just what a radical and sudden explosion the Christian movement was on the scene. The skeptical view of it being a slow and gradual process of accumulating myth just doesn't fit the evidence at all.

About me

My photo
My ministry in Hungary involved teaching theology and training Hungarian church planters. I have a great interest in apologetics as well as missions.