Andreas J. Kostenberger and, Peter T. O’Brien , Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission (New Studies in Biblical Theology No. 11) 351pp. Apollos, Intervarsity Press.
As someone who has been doing campus apologetics/missions for several years, I was eager to read this monograph by Andreas J. Kostenberger and, Peter T. O’Brien. As the authors point out, while the word ‘mission’ isn’t in the Bible, we can arrive to a theology of mission. The authors trace the mission theme by starting with the Tanakh (the Old Testament) and trace the theme through the New Testament. One thing that is clear. God is a God who sends. The Father is the one who ‘sends’ the Son. The Son is the one who ‘sends’ the Spirit. The Spirit is the one who ‘sends’ and authorizes the Apostles to take the Gospel to the world.
When it comes to the mission theme in the Tanakh, election is not solely a doctrine about salvation- that some get saved while others do not. Hence, it is simply about God’s fairness. Instead, election of one is not the rejection of the rest, but ultimately for their benefit. It is in Genesis 12:1–3 that the Messianic blessing for the entire world would come from the offspring of Abraham:
I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”
This promise of a universal blessing was repeated to Isaac (26:4), and reaffirmed to Jacob (28:13-15; 35:11, 12; 46:3) and Moses (Ex. 3:6-8; 6:2-8). The universal blessing is promised to the peoples on all the earth – 70 nations at the time – who would be beneficiaries of the promise. The authors note that it is God’s reaching out to restore Israel and through Israel to extend covenantal peace to the world. Israel is elected for mission by God for the sake of these other families so that God’s blessing might come to all of them through what Israel is and what Israel does. The calling of Israel would be to see the inclusion of Gentiles (“goyim” or “people groups” ) into the covenant.
Israel was chosen as light to draw the nations to salvation, which is confirmed by Isaiah:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa. 2: 2-4).
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. “For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising (Isa. 60:2-3).
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; will make you as a light for the nations,that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Isa. 49:6).
The Jewish Scriptures unmistakably reveal that Gentiles will be restored to God as a result of Israel’s end-time restoration and become united to them (Psalm 87:4-6; Isa. 11:9-10; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 25:6-10; 42:1-9; 49:6; 51:4-6; 60:1-16; Jer. 3:17; Zeph. 3:9-10; Zech. 2:11). Prophets like Jonah or major writing prophets, addressed twenty-five chapters of their prophecies to the Gentile nations of their day (Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32). Amos also spoke of all the nations coming to the God of Israel (Amos 9:12).
As the authors note, what needs to be remembered is that there is no evidence of Israel sending out missionaries. Obviously, Jeremiah was a prophet to the nations (Jer. 1: 5), and Jonah was sent by God to Nineveh. But that doesn’t mean Israel had an active role in proselytization. Also, the authors note that there is no evidence of Jewish missionary work in the Second Temple Period as well. So there seems to be a shift with the coming of Jesus and his authorization to the Apostles to use verbal proclamation and direct missionary work. Early on in His ministry Jesus called the twelve to dramatize Israel’s reconstitution, and the apostles are sent only to Israel (Matt. 10:5-6; 15:24). He then sends them to tell the nations about the Good News (Matt. 28: 19). Because of the finished work of Jesus polytheistic idolatrous Gentiles are now enabled to have a relationship with the one true God. Just as the Thessalonians had “turned from idols to serve the true and living God” (1 Thess. 1:9), Gentiles across the world have come to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Matthew frames the whole story of Jesus between the identification of him as the descendant of Abraham in the opening verse of the Gospel and, in the closing words of Jesus at the end of the Gospels, the commissions of the disciples of Jesus to the make disciples of all nations. Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus begins with Abraham (1:1-2). For Matthew, Jesus is the Messiah not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. He is the descendant of Abraham through whom God’s blessing will reach the nations.
If you aren’t motivated to reach out to the world around you, this is a resource that will ignite the flame in you. Our God is a missionary God and He is the one who ‘sends’ us to others all around us. We just need to obey his call.