CHRIST SENDS THE CHURCH INTO THE WORLD
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Mission is from the Latin missio, which means “sending.” The words Jesus spoke to his first disciples in their representative capacity, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21; cf. 17:18), still apply. The universal church, and therefore every local congregation and every Christian in it, is sent into the world to fulfill a definite, defined task. Jesus, the church’s Lord, has issued marching orders. Individually and corporately, all God’s people are now in the world on the king’s business.
The appointed task is twofold. First and fundamentally, it is the work of worldwide witness, disciple-making, and church-planting (Matt. 24:14; 28:19–20; Mark 13:10; Luke 24:47–48). Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed everywhere as God incarnate, Lord, and Savior; and God’s authoritative invitation to find life through turning to Christ in repentance and faith (Matt. 22:1–10; Luke 14:16–24) is to be delivered to all mankind. The ministry of church-planter Paul, evangelist (so far as strength and circumstances allowed) to the whole world (Rom. 1:14; 15:17–29; 1 Cor. 9:19–23; Col. 1:28–29), models this primary commitment.
Second, all Christians, and therefore every congregation of the church on earth, are called to practice deeds of mercy and compassion, a thoroughgoing neighbor-love that responds unstintingly to all forms of human need as they present themselves (Luke 10:25–27; Rom. 12:20–21). Compassion was the inward aspect of the neighbor-love that led Jesus to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and teach the ignorant (Matt. 9:36; 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13), and those who are new creatures in Christ must be similarly compassionate. Thereby they keep the second great commandment and also give credibility to their proclamation of a Savior who makes sinners into lovers of God and of their fellow human beings. If the exponents of this message do not display its power in their own lives, credibility is destroyed. If they do, credibility is enhanced. This was Jesus’ point when he envisaged the sight of the good works of his witnesses leading people to glorify the Father (Matt. 5:16; cf. 1 Pet. 2:11–12). Good works should be visible to back up good words.
Though Jesus anticipated the Gentile mission (Matt. 24:14; John 10:16; 12:32), he saw his earthly ministry as directed to “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, always went to Jews first wherever he evangelized (Acts 13:5, 14, 42–48; 14:1; 16:13; 17:1–4, 10; 18:4–7, 19; 19:8–10; 28:17–28; Rom. 1:16; 2:9–10). The right of the Jews to hear the gospel first is a matter of divine appointment (Acts 3:26; 13:26, 46), and evangelistic outreach to Jews should continue to be a priority as the church seeks to fulfill its mission. Christian Jews are free from the ceremonial law but are also free to follow Jewish customs that express their ethnic culture. The long-standing expectation that Jewish Christians will leave behind their Jewish identity rather than rejoice in being “fulfilled” Jews is a cultural prejudice with no biblical basis.
J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 223–225.