All the royalties from this book have been irrevocably assigned to Langham Literature (formerly the Evangelical Literature Trust).
Langham Literature is a programme of the Langham Partnership International, founded by John Stott. Chris Wright is the International Director.
Langham Literature distributes evangelical books to pastors, theological students and seminary libraries in the Majority World, and fosters the writing and publishing of Christian literature in many regional languages.
For further information on Langham Literature, and the other programmes of LPI, visit the website at www.langhampartnership.org In the USA, the national member of the Langham Partnership International is John Stott Ministries. Visit the JSM website at: www.johnstott.org
CHAPTER 15 THE JOURNEY SO FAR AND THE JOURNEY AHEAD
About the Publisher
Share Your Thoughts
The question “What does the Bible have to say about that?” is, in essence, what the Biblical Theology for Life series is all about. Not unlike other biblical explorations of various topics, the volumes in this series articulate various themes in biblical theology, but they always do so with the “So what?” question rumbling about and demanding to be answered. Too often, books on biblical theology have focused mainly on description— simply discerning the teachings of the biblical literature on a particular topic. But contributors to this series seek to straddle both the world of the text and the world in which we live.
This means that their descriptions of biblical theology will always be understood as the important first step in their task, which will not be completed until they draw out that theology’s practical implications for the contemporary context. Contributors therefore engage both in the description of biblical theology and in its contemporary contextualization, accosting the reader’s perspective and fostering application, transformation, and growth. It is our hope that these informed insights of evangelical biblical scholarship will increasingly become enfleshed in the sermons and discussions that transpire each week in places of worship, in living rooms where Bible studies gather, and in classrooms around the world. We hope that this series will lead to personal transformation and practical application in real life.
Every volume in this series has the same basic structure. In the first section, entitled “Queuing the Questions,” authors introduce the main questions they seek to address in their books. Raising these questions enables you to see clearly from the outset what each book will be pursuing, inviting you to participate in the process of discovery along the way. In the second section, “Arriving at Answers,” authors develop the biblical theology of the topic they address, focusing their attention on specific biblical texts and constructing answers to the questions introduced in section one. In the concluding “Reflecting on Relevance” section, authors contextualize their biblical theological insights, discussing specific ways in which the theology presented in their books addresses contemporary situations and issues, giving you opportunities to consider how you might live out that theology in the world today.
Long before you make it to the “Reflecting on Relevance” section, however, we encourage you to wrestle with the implications of the biblical theology being described by considering the “Relevant Questions” that conclude each chapter. Frequent sidebars spice up your experience, supplementing the main discussion with significant quotations, illustrative historical or contemporary data, and fuller explanations of the content.
In sum, the goal of the Biblical Theology for Life series is communicated by its title. On the one hand, its books mine the Bible for theology that addresses a wide range of topics, so that you may know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [he] sent” (John 17:3). On the other hand, contributing authors contextualize this theology in ways that allow the life-giving Word (John 1:4; 20:31) to speak into and transform contemporary life.
Series Editor Jonathan Lunde
“So this is the simplified version of The Mission of God, then?” is a comment I have heard quite often while working on this book, and have needed to correct, and do so again here. It is true that a few years ago I published The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative1 and, true, that is a rather big book. The dif ference between it and this one, however, is much more than just their relative size.
In The Mission of God I was arguing for a missional hermeneutic of the whole Bible. My concern was to ask if it is possible and right for Christians to read their whole Bible from the perspective of the mission of God and what happens when they do. The argument of that book is that all the great sections of the canon of Scripture, all the great episodes of the Bible story, all the great doctrines of the biblical faith, cohere around the Bible’s central character – the living God and his grand plan and purpose for the whole of creation. The mission of God is what unifies the Bible from creation to new creation. That book lays the foundation for this one.
In this book, I am asking the “so what?” question on behalf of those of us whom this God of the Bible has called into saving and covenant relationship with himself – the church, the people of God from Abraham to the population of the city of God in Revelation. Who are we and what are we here for? If the Bible renders to us the grand mission of God through all generations of history, what does it tell us about the mission of God’s people in each generation, including our own? What is our mission?
This specific focus on the mission of the church means that we will not be surveying every biblical doctrine that could be said to be relevant to mission in general. There are many of those. For example, the nature of the incarnation, the doctrine of the atonement, the great truth of the resurrection, the doctrine of judgment, the doctrine of God’s sovereign providence, the Trinity – all these have huge implications in a broader theology of mission. And they will also doubtless be topics for other books in this series on Biblical Theology for Life. I have not tried to address them all, except as they emerge naturally in discussion of the texts we will survey in our exercise in biblical theology.
In this volume, our prime concern is simply to ask the question: “What does the Bible as a whole in both testaments have to tell us about why the people of God exist and what it is they are supposed to be and do in the world?” What is the mission of God’s people?
So we will be exploring the Bible, as you’d expect in a book of biblical theology. For reasons of space, it is not possible to print out in full every passage of Scripture that is referred to in the chapters to follow, though key ones that come in for extended study will be. So this is the kind of book that, really, you just have to read with an open Bible ready to hand. I would urge you to pause regularly to check out the references and read them. Imitate the Bereans, if you like, who even when they had the apostle Paul teaching them, “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).
A small note on the name of God: most of the time I have followed the English translation tradition and used “the Lord” or “the LORD” for the divine name in the Old Testament. But when it seemed important to emphasize that this God had a personal, revealed name, which distinguished him as the one true living God from all other so-called gods, I have used the four Hebrew letters – YHWH. Nobody seems quite sure exactly how it was pronounced, though “Yahweh” has become common.
I am grateful to Jonathan Lunde (the Series Editor) and Katya Covrett (Senior Acquisitions Editor at Zondervan) for inviting me to contribute to this exciting new series, Biblical Theology for Life (what other kind of biblical theology should there be?). It is particularly pleasing to be “paired” with Jonathan in the first two volumes in the series, since perhaps no title could go better with this book on the mission of God’s people than his on the biblical theology of discipleship. For disciples we are and disciples we are to make more of, said Jesus.
I am grateful too to InterVarsity Press, which published my book The Mission of God, for the permission granted me to quote significant portions of that book.
It may become apparent as you read what follows that many of the texts we will look at are ones I have preached on. Thus, often that sermonic atmosphere survives in the exposition and application of the text. I have not tried to conceal that. After all, it is hoped that this series will be of help to pastors and preachers, and it is certainly one of the passions of my own ministry to preach on mission as often as I can – from the Old Testament especially.
And that explains the dedication too. Our youngest daughter, Suzannah, probably heard more of my sermons on mission than any other living soul, by accompanying my wife, Liz, and me on many occasions to churches of all shapes and sizes for “mission weekends”. Some of those sermons she heard so often she would mimic them mercilessly later. I trust that this book will do more than recall that nostalgic mimicry, but also foster the missional commitment to Christ that she now shares with her husband, Edmund. The book, finished just a few weeks too late to serve as a wedding present, is dedicated to them both with love and prayer.