I will be teaching on understanding and reaching other cultures. In this first session I will concentrate on why it is so important – because of what we call the “Mission of God” expressed throughout Scripture. In this context, the story from Luke 24:13-47 is very important.
After Jesus had risen from the dead, two disciples were walking, depressed, to Emmaus. Jesus said to them and later to all the disciples that they needed to understand the whole big story. What is that whole big story? It is what is written in the law, the prophets and the Psalms (24:44) about Jesus – these are the three parts of the Jews’ Old Testament. What is written? It is summarised in verses 46 and 47 – this is Jesus’ summary of the Old Testament, the more objective of all the Scriptures. “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46-47. So two aspects – the suffering of the Messiah and the mission to all nations.
God's Desire to Fill the Whole Earth
- Adam and Eve – the temple of Eden – “Fill the Earth”, in their care and responsibility for the earth, they were to take the temple of Eden into the whole world. Gen 1:28. First missionary command.
- Instead of earth being filled with the glory of God it was filled with conflict and violence. Gen 6:11.
- Noah – same command – “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” Gen 9:1 Second missionary command.
- The nations of Gen 10 (The 70) – summarised the spreading of the nations across the world.
- The tower of Babel – ‘lest we be scattered’ Gen 11.
- The promises to Abraham (Gen 12:3) – all ‘clans’ “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all clans/families on earth will be blessed through you” – God’s choice of this pagan man who responded in faith. God’s choice (“election”) is not primarily for ourselves but for the blessing of others. First missionary promise.
- The formation of a nation – 12 tribes.
- God’s rescue of the people from Egypt.
It was through a sacrifice and great power – a lamb and the Red Sea. The purpose was for them to be priests to the nations. “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exod. 19:5 The priests in Israel had 3 functions:-
- To teach God’s word to the people.
- To represent the whole people before God – making sacrifices on their behalf.
- To bless the people, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.” 6:24-26.
So just as the priests acted that way towards the rest of the nation of Israel, so the nation of Israel was intended to act that way to the whole world.
- God taught the people about sacrifice – it had to be perfect.
- More instruction about “temple” – the tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem – based on Eden.
- Also in David a model of Kingship.
- David was king “after God’s own heart” – 1 Sam 13:14. This does not mean “a special favourite” but the one who will carry out the purposes of God.
- God made David a promise – “Your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16), the prophets spoke of a Son of David who will rule the nations justly.
- The promises of the prophets – e.g. Isa 49:6, Isa 60. To bless the nations - Anointed One (Messiah) will come but this Messiah would also sufer (Isaiah 53).
”It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth,” Isaiah 49:6.
Throughout the promise for His glory to fill the earth (Num 14:21, Isa 6:3, 11:9, Hab 2:14) – in the Law, the Psalms. Psalm 67 where the blessing is “celebrated”, the Prophets:-
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
- Also a promise of a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all God’s people – Joel 2:28-29.
God's Fulfilment of His Purposes Through Christ
- Introduced in Matthew’s gospel as the Son of Abraham, the Son of David. In Luke’s gospel the genealogy goes right back to Adam and God. This is another theme I’m sure that Jesus would have covered with His disciples that not only did He fulfil the promises of blessing the nations from Abraham and ruling from David but also as the second Adam would start a new creation where God’s glory would dwell.
- All the promises to Abraham and David would be fulfilled and summed up in the Messiah. “Abraham” meaning that he’s a blessing to the nations, “David” prefiguring that he would be a king who would rule forever in justice.
- John the Baptist testified of Jesus as being the “lamb of God” and the Baptiser in the Holy Spirit.
- Jesus chose 12 – a picture of the renewed Israel – and sent them on mission – the renewed Israel is to be missional.
- He also sent out 70 – representing the nations of the world
- All will be drawn to Him – John 12:32 “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” – In the context of Greeks coming to him, could not have entered the temple.
- He becomes the Temple.
- His death for the sins of Israel and the whole world. He became the Lamb of God. His resurrection demonstrates that new creation has already begun and that we are saved through a Sacrifice and great power.
- Restatement of the original creation command – Matt 28 (the great commission) – fill the earth. Now the disciples of Jesus would see His glory fill the earth.
- Sign of Pentecost – the promises are being fulfilled – curse on language and ‘not understanding’ is lifted
- Paul sees the gospel going to the Gentiles (nations) as fulfilling the O.T. prophecies Acts 13:47 “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
- The temple is now worked out in us individually and corporately.
- The apostolic call Romans 1:5 “Through Him and for His name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” and our call today as a family of churches.
- The necessity to go to the totally unreached
“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” Rom. 15:20.
“An unreached people group should be defined as ‘a people group within which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians able to evangelise this people group without outside (cross-cultural) assistance’. ‘Unreachedness’ is thus not defined on the basis of whether there are any Christians or not, or whether there are any missionaries working among them or not. It is defined on the basis of whether or not in that culture there is a viable, culturally relevant, witnessing church movement.” Ralph D Winter.
- The eschatological imperative of reaching the unreached nations of the world (Matt 24:14, Rev 7:9)
- The final purpose fulfilled, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” (Rev 21:3) – there must be a foreshadowing of this everywhere in our day. This is our responsibility e.g. small churches in Tajikiastan.
What is Our Calling as Those in Christ?
- To see the temple of God everywhere – God’s dwelling Eph 2:22 “And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” Hence we must plant churches where there aren’t any.
- To see all the clans/families/people groups of the earth blessed including those totally unreached.
- To see God’s rule established, justice, mercy, lifting up the poor – the “rule of King David’s greater Son”, all nations coming to the obedience of faith.
The Challenge of the Task
- 71% world’s least evangelised peoples
- 87% of world’s poor
- Majority of world’s illiterate.
- 43% of world population under 25
- 1.2 Billion People Aged 10-19
- About 4500 totally unreached people groups
 UN’s State of the World Population Report for 2011