I — Text: Matthew 13-17 (emphasis on 16:21-27)
II — Theme: We should see in Jesus’ teaching and life example that “Missions,” as it were, is the central ethos of the Kingdom of God, its Community on earth (the Church), and therefore is the believer’s central ethos, as well.
- In other words, there is absolutely nothing which informs our core and articulates our character—as followers of Christ—than Missions
- Distinctions in terms: Just to be clear, it’s perfectly okay to think of Missions as going to a foreign country for a week or two, then coming back (the normal assumption of Missions).
What we’re talking about today is the bigger concept of Missions that the short-term mission fits under; that is, Any effort on the part of Christians to share the Gospel with others, no matter the cost.
III — How We Got Here: Before we launch into today’s study, it’s important to know how we got to this point in Matthew, especially since we’re not doing a verse-by-verse exegesis of the text.
As we trace back through our journey in Matthew, think about how each of the themes we’ve seen both him and Jesus deal with are heavily colored by the brushstroke of Missions:
- Besides the first 4 chapters of introducing Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Messiah, Matthew’s Gospel is designed in a series of 5 “discourses,” given by Jesus:
1 — A Discourse on Ethics (chs 5-7): Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is indeed focused on ethical, moral behavior. To be clear, Jesus is “setting up” His people by clarifying just how far short they fall of God’s ethic, so that they’ll hear Him clearly when He finally tells them that He, alone is their ethic and morality….
….and that trusting and resting in Him is how their ethical and moral responsibility to God is fulfilled
2 — A Discourse on Discipleship and Mission (chs 8-10): In these chapters Jesus calls His disciples to Himself and defines their instructions for service to the kingdom
3 — (where we are today) A Discourse on the Nature and Authority of the Kingdom of God (chs 11-17):
In these chapters we’re introduced to the character and authority of Jesus, which implies that, in turn, we, as His followers within the Kingdom of God, have similar character and authority.
4 — A Discourse on the Character and Authority of the Church (ch 18): Again, once we discover who Jesus is, we naturally begin to discover who we can be
5 — A Discourse on End Times, aka., Kingdom Blessings and Judgments (chs 19-25): I think the title of this discourse speaks for itself
IV — Unpacking Today’s Theme:
So here we are, working through Jesus’ 3rd Discourse in chapters 13-17, regarding the Nature and Authority of the Kingdom of God—especially that part of the Kingdom which is the Church (because this has to eventually apply to you and I as believers). So, a very important question comes up right away:
What’s the main source we must rely upon when discussing things like the “Kingdom of God” if we want to be sure that we’ve got our information straight? Answer: God’s Word (Scripture)
- With this in mind, let me ask you, is it right to say that Scripture helps us interpret and define the Kingdom of God and things that are part of it, like, in today’s case, Missions? Yes.
- Okay, now let me ask you what you think of stating that same thing, but in reverse:
Would it be right to say that Missions, in particular, is the key to helping us interpret and define Scripture and therefore, the Kingdom of God?
- Our assertion today is that “Missions” is the central ethos of every aspect of the Kingdom of God. Does Scripture itself support this concept? If it does, then that means that our whole scope of what it means to be a Christian—whether we’re called “missionary” or not—must change to fit what God’s Word says about its own nature and motivation. The bottom line: This is part of being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29)
A — Does Scripture Support Missions As the Key to Understanding How to Interpret God’s Word, and Thus, Our Own Lives In Christ?
- What is the fundamentally greatest event that has ever happened on behalf of mankind?
- Answer: God leaving His heavenly home, as it were, and coming to earth to become one of us, so that, as many as believe in Him as Lord and Savior will be saved.
- Does this sound like Missions? Yes.
- In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve have just sinned against God, causing the fall of themselves and all subsequent mankind. Right away, Genesis 3:8 says that, “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden…”
- Question: Did God kill them, as He should’ve done, for sinning against Him? No. He was angry, and certainly cursed them with eventual death; but He instead showed compassion for them by coming to them in the first place—to rescue them! It’s here that we see God make His first Messianic prophecy, promising that Adam’s offspring will crush the devil’s head (3:15)!
- God’s whole reason for coming to find Adam and Eve after they had sinned was Missions motivated! That is: Bringing them the Gospel.
- God comes to His people and frees them from the Egyptian captivity (Exodus)
- Gideon is rescued by God; David is rescued by God; Daniel is rescued by God, and on and on…
- In every case, the primary problem was that God’s people were in bondage (ultimately by their own hand) and God came to deliver them from that bondage, as He was the only one who could (and still can today)
- God makes a point, every single time He rescues, to physically leave His heavenly dwelling place to come to a cursed world. He’s God, so He doesn’t have to do that. He could just as easily deliver from His heavenly Throne; but He instead goes on Mission!
- Let’s look at the origin of the greatest Mission in the history of mankind in Ephesians 1 and in John 1. Missions—that is, God coming to give the Gospel—is the ethos in every verse here:
- Ephesians 1:4-10 says this, regarding the origins of our deliverance from God’s wrath due to our sin: “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him….
….In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.”
- So what’s our first point here in substantiating whether Scripture supports Missions as its own ethos?
- That God’s whole purpose for His creation, from the very beginning, was to be on Mission through Jesus Christ!
- Now let’s move on, to the next step in God’s Mission: John 1 says this:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being…And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth…For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”
- So now we have God’s Ephesians 1 intention from before the foundation of the world actually coming to fruition here, in John 1
- We could go on, but now let’s bring this home to the text we’re in today: Matthew 16:21-27
- We’ve gone from God’s original plan of missions, which is to send Himself as the Christ (who we know is the historical man, Jesus); then on to God actually coming to us from His heavenly dwelling; to where we are at this point in the text—
—which is Jesus explaining to His disciples that He has come to the world in order to ultimately be killed, in order for those in the world who belong to God to be delivered from His wrath against them on account of their sin.
- Our first consideration has to be a bit personal: Sometimes we have a hard time being motivated to get up off the couch to take the trash out, let alone plot and plan our entire existence to be killed for a humanity that doesn’t deserve it according to God’s holy standard. This is missions! This is the ethos that drives the Christian, just as it drives every intention behind Scripture—just as it drives every intention behind God’s plan to go and get His people out of bondage so that they can be with Him eternally!
- Look at Jesus, in vv. 24-26, encourage us as to how we are to have His same missions-mindedness:
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
- I’m going to make an observation here that may sting us all—me included: Does what we’ve seen in Scripture sound like our lives are to be lived in quiet comfort, getting on with our jobs and families according to a Western Culture mindset; satisfied to just show up at church on Sunday (well, the Sundays we can make it, anyway), and maybe tell the odd so-and-so every now and again about Jesus—if the opportunity presents itself in a way that doesn’t make them or us too uncomfortable?
- Look, there is grace for our slothfulness.
- There is grace for when we realize that we’ve gotten too caught up in the things of this world.
- There is grace to move us forward from here, with a missions-mindedness like that of Jesus Himself, to go and live for the sake of the Gospel to be spoken and lived out for the sake of others. But do we know we need that grace?
- Martin Luther said, “Perhaps the single greatest reason why we are not immediately swept up into heaven to be with God once we are saved is that we are commanded to ‘bring in the sick man,’ just as the paralytic’s friends did, when they had to tear a hole in their neighbor’s roof in order to get him to Jesus.”
- That is the passion of Missions that colors every context of the Word of God, His work on behalf of mankind, and thus, what our own passion should eventually look like!
- If we’re concerned with the things of God (souls saved, our church growing, our own growth in Christ increasing)….
….let us first and foremost be concerned with reordering our lives to live-out a missions mindset, just as God Himself lived and still lives today.
- As well, when we study Scripture, let’s think how each word is informed by the overarching context of Missions—beginning with the concept that, the greatest event to ever befall mankind is that God Himself, through Jesus Christ, went on mission to bring the Gospel to His people!
- May we strive to imitate His work!