The articles and study guide lessons in this document are copyrighted material. They are made available for the preparation of instructors teaching within the Perspectives Study Program. If you would like to use the article in any other way, permission must be sought from William Carey Library (the publisher) at email@example.com.Lesson 1: The Living God is a Missionary GodKey ReadingsJohn R. W. Stott The Living God is a Missionary God 3Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Israel’s Missionary Call 10Richard Bauckham The Story of Blessing Prevailing Over Curse 38 (in Gallagher, Blessing as Transformation)Certificate ReadingsStanley Ellisen Everyone’s Question: What is God Trying to Do? 17John R. W. Stott The Bible in World Evangelization 21Sarita Gallagher Blessing as Transformation 34and Steven C. HawthorneCredit ReadingsChristopher J. H. Wright Mission and God’s Earth 27Johannes Verkuyl The Biblical Foundation for the Worldwide Mission Mandate 42Ralph D. Winter The Kingdom Strikes Back: Ten Epochs of Redemptive History 209
The Living God is aMissionary GodJohn R. W. Stott M illions of people in today’s world are extremely hostile to the Christian missionary enterprise. They regard it as politically disruptive (because it loosens the cement which binds the national culture) and religiously narrowminded (because it makes exclusive claims for Jesus), while those who are involved in it are thought to suffer from an arrogant imperialism. And the attempt to convert people to Christ is rejected as an unpardonable interference in their private lives. “My religion is my own affair,” they say. “Mind your own business, and leave me alone to mind mine.” It is essential, therefore, for Christians to understand the grounds on which the Christian mission rests. Only then shall we be able to persevere in the missionary task, with courage and humility, in spite of the world’s misunderstanding and opposition. More precisely, biblical Christians need biblical incentives, for we believe the Bible to be the revelation of God and of his will. So we ask: Has he revealed in Scripture that John R.W. “mission” is his will for his people? Only then shall we be Stott is Rector satisfied. For then it becomes a matter of obeying God, what- Emeritus of All ever others may think or say. Here we shall focus on the Old Souls Church Testament, though the entire Bible is rich in evidence for the in London. He missionary purpose of God. has served asPresident of the London Institute The Call of Abrahamfor Contemporary Christianity and Our story begins about four thousand years ago with a manas an Extra Chaplain to the Queen. called Abraham, or more accurately, Abram, as he was calledHis many books include Basic at that time. Here is the account of God’s call to Abraham.Christianity, Christian Mission Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your countryin the Modern World, and The and kindred and your father’s house to the land that IChurch and the World. Stott has will show you. And I will make of you a great nation,addressed five Urbana Student and I will bless you, and make your name great, so thatMissions Conventions. For 25 you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you,years he led university sponsored and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all themission trips on five continents. families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3).Adapted from an address given at God made a promise (a composite promise, as we shall see)Urbana ‘76. From You Can Tell the to Abraham. An understanding of that promise is indispensableWorld by John R. W. Stott, to an understanding of the Bible and of the Christian mission.1979 by InterVarsity Christian These are perhaps the most unifying verses in the Bible; theFellowship of the USA. Used with whole of God’s purpose is encapsulated here.permission of InterVarsity Press, By way of introduction we shall need to consider thePO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL setting of God’s promise, the context in which it came to be60515. ivpress.com. given. Then we shall divide the rest of our study into two Chapter 1 3
4 Chapter 1 the living God is a missionary godparts. First, the promise (exactly what it was as if there were others! No, there is only onethat God said he would do) and second—at living and true God, who has revealed himselfgreater length—its fulfillment (how God has fully and finally in his only Son Jesus Christ.kept and will keep his promise). We start, Monotheism lies at the basis of mission. Ashowever, with the setting. Paul wrote to Timothy, “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God andThe Setting of God’s Promise men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).Genesis 12 begins: “Now the LORD said to The Genesis record moves on from theAbram.” It sounds abrupt for an opening of a creation of all things by the one God and ofnew chapter. We are prompted to ask: “Who human beings in his likeness, to our rebel-is this ‘Lord’ who spoke to Abraham?” and lion against our own Creator and to God’s“Who is this ‘Abraham’ judgment upon his rebelto whom he spoke?” They creatures—a judgmentare not introduced into God chose one man and his family which is relieved, how-the text out of the blue. ever, by his first gospelA great deal lies behind in order, through them, to bless promise that one day thethese words. They are a woman’s seed would all the families of the earth.key which opens up the “bruise,” indeed “crush,”whole of Scripture. The the serpent’s head (3:15).previous eleven chapters lead up to them; the The following eight chapters (Gen 4-11)rest of the Bible follows and fulfills them. describe the devastating results of the Fall What, then, is the background to this text? in terms of the progressive alienation ofIt is this. “The Lord” who chose and called human beings from God and from our fellowAbraham is the same Lord who, in the begin- human beings. This was the setting in whichning, created the heavens and the earth and God’s call and promise came to Abraham. Allwho climaxed his creative work by making around was moral deterioration, darknessman and woman unique creatures in his own and dispersal. Society was steadily disinte-likeness. In other words, we should never grating. Yet God the Creator did not abandonallow ourselves to forget that the Bible begins the human beings he had made in his ownwith the universe, not with the planet earth; likeness (Gen 9:6). Out of the prevailing god-then with the earth, not with Palestine; then lessness, he called one man and his familywith Adam the father of the human race, not and promised to bless not only them, butwith Abraham the father of the chosen race. through them, the whole world. The scatter-Since, then, God is the Creator of the universe, ing would not proceed unchecked; a grandthe earth and all mankind, we must never process of ingathering would now begin.demote him to the status of a tribal deity orpetty godling like Chemosh the god of theMoabites, or Milcom (or Molech) the god of THE COMPOSITE PROMISEthe Ammonites, or Baal the male deity, or What then was the promise which GodAshtoreth the female deity of the Canaanites. made to Abraham? It was a composite prom-Nor must we suppose that God chose Abra- ise consisting of several parts. Each of theseham and his descendants because he had lost promises was elaborated in the chaptersinterest in other peoples or given them up. that follow Abraham’s call.Election is not a synonym for elitism. On thecontrary, as we shall soon see, God chose one The Promise of Landman and his family in order, through them, God’s call seems to have come to Abrahamto bless all the families of the earth. in two stages: first in Ur of the Chaldees We are bound, therefore, to be deeply while his father was still alive (11:31; 15:7)offended when Christianity is relegated to and then in Haran after his father had diedone chapter in a book on the world’s religions (11:32; 12:1). Abraham was to leave his ownas if it were one option among many, or land and, in return, God would show himwhen people speak of “the Christian God” another country.
john r. w. stott 5 After Abraham had generously allowed gracious covenant or pledge to be their God.his nephew Lot to choose where he wanted It is the first time in Scripture that we hear theto settle (he selected the fertile Jordan valley), covenant formula which is repeated manyGod said to Abraham: “Lift up your eyes, and times later: “I will be their God and they shalllook from the place where you are, northward be my people.”and southward and eastward and westward;for all the land which you see I will give to youand to your descendants forever” (13:14-15). THE PROGRESSIVE FULFILLMENT A land, a posterity, a blessing—But what hasThe Promise of Posterity all that to do with mission? For that, let usHe was to go from his kindred and his fa- turn now from the promise to the fulfillment.ther’s house, and in exchange for the loss of The whole question of the fulfillmenthis family God would make of him “a great of Old Testament prophecy is a difficult onenation.” Later, in order to indicate this, God in which there is often misunderstanding andchanged his name from Abram (“exalted much disagreement. Of particular importancefather”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”) is the principle that the New Testament writ-because, he said to him, “I have made you the ers themselves understood Old Testament pro-father of a multitude of nations” (Gen 17:5). phecy to have not a single but usually a triple God gave Abraham another visual aid, tell- fulfillment—past, present and future. The pasting him to look now not to the earth but to the fulfillment was an immediate or historical ful-sky. On a clear, dark night he took him out- fillment in the life of the nation of Israel. Theside his tent and said to him, “Look toward present is an intermediate or gospel fulfill-heaven and number the stars.” What a ludi- ment in Christ and his Church. The future willcrous command! Perhaps Abraham started, be an ultimate or eschatological fulfillment in“1,2,3,5,10,20,30…,” but he must soon have the new heaven and the new earth.given up. It was an impossible task. ThenGod said to him, “So shall your descendants Immediate Historical Fulfillmentbe.“ And we read, “He believed the Lord.” God’s promise to Abraham received anAlthough he was probably by now in his immediate historical fulfillment in hiseighties and although he and Sarah were still physical descendants, the people of Israel.childless, he yet believed God’s promise andGod “reckoned it to him as righteousness.” PosterityThat is, because he trusted God, God accepted God’s promise to Abraham of a numerous,him as righteous in his sight (15:5-6). indeed of an innumerable, posterity was confirmed to his son, Isaac (Gen 26:4, “as theThe Promise of Blessing stars of heaven”), and his grandson, JacobThe words bless and blessing occur five times (32:12, “as the sand of the sea”). Graduallyin 12:2-3. The blessing God promised Abra- the promise began to come literally true.ham would spill over upon all mankind. Perhaps we could pick out some of the stages “I will bless you.” Already God has accept- in this development.ed Abraham as righteous or (to borrow the The first stage concerns the years of slaveryNew Testament expression) has “justified him in Egypt, of which it is written, “The descen-by faith.” No greater blessing is conceivable. dants of Israel were fruitful and increasedIt is the foundation blessing of the covenant of greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedinglygrace, which a few years later God went on strong; so that the land was filled with them”to elaborate to Abraham: “I will establish my (Ex 1:7; cf. Acts 7:17). The next stage I willcovenant between me and you and your mention came several hundred years laterdescendants after you…for an everlasting when King Solomon called Israel “a greatcovenant, to be God to you and to your people that cannot be numbered or counteddescendants after you and I will be their for multitude” (1 Ki 3:8). A third stage wasGod” (17:7-8). And he gave them circumci- some three hundred fifty years after Solomon;sion as the outward and visible sign of his Jeremiah warned Israel of impending judgment
6 Chapter 1 the living God is a missionary godand captivity and then added this divine more echo the promise to Abraham: “Yet thepromise of restoration: “As the host of heaven number of the people of Israel shall be likecannot be numbered and the sands of the sea the sand of the sea, which can be neither mea-cannot be measured so I will multiply the sured nor numbered” (Hos 1:10). And then thedescendants of David my servant” (Jer 33:22). judgments implicit in the names of Hosea’s children would be reversed. There would be aLand gathering instead of a scattering (“Jezreel” isSo much for Abraham’s posterity; what about ambiguous and can imply either), “not pitied”the land? Again we note with worship and would be pitied, and “not my people” wouldgratitude God’s faithfulness to his promise. become “sons of the living God” (Hos 1:10-2:1).For it was in remembrance of his promise to The wonderful thing is that the apostlesAbraham, Isaac and Jacob that he first rescued Paul and Peter both quote these verses fromhis people from their Egyptian slavery and Hosea. They see their fulfillment not just ingave them the territory which came on that a further multiplication of Israel but in theaccount to be called “the promised land” inclusion of the Gentiles in the community of(Ex 2:24; 3:6; 32:13), and then restored them to Jesus: “Once you were no people but now youit some seven hundred years later after their are God’s people; once you had not receivedcaptivity in Babylon. Nevertheless, neither mercy but now you have received mercy”Abraham nor his physical descendants fully (1 Pet 2:9-10; cf. Rom 9:25-26).inherited the land. As Hebrews 11 puts it, they This New Testament perspective is essential“died in faith not having received what was as we read the Old Testament prophecies, forpromised.” Instead, as “strangers and exiles what we miss in the Old Testament is anyon the earth” they “looked forward to the city clear explanation of just how God’s promisedwhich has foundations, whose builder and blessing would overflow from Abraham andmaker is God” (Heb 11:8-16,39,40). his descendants to “all families of the earth.” Although Israel is described as “a light toBlessing lighten the nations” and has a mission toGod kept his promises about the posterity “bring forth justice to the nations” (Isa 42:1-6;and the land, at least in part. Now what about 49:6), we do not actually see this happening.the blessing? At Sinai God confirmed and It is only in the Lord Jesus himself that theseclarified his covenant with Abraham and prophecies are fulfilled, for only in his day arepledged himself to be Israel’s God (e.g. Ex the nations actually included in the redeemed19:3-6). Throughout the rest of the Old Testa- community. To this we now turn.ment, God continued to bless the obedientwhile the disobedient fell under his judgment. Intermediate Gospel Fulfillment Perhaps the most dramatic example comes God’s promise to Abraham receives anat the beginning of Hosea’s prophecy, in which intermediate or gospel fulfillment in ChristHosea is told to give his three children names and his Church.which describe God’s awful and progressivejudgment on Israel. His firstborn (a boy) he Posteritycalled “Jezreel,” meaning “God will scatter.” Almost the first word of the whole New Testa-Next came a daughter “Lo-ruhamah,” meaning ment is the word Abraham. Matthew’s Gospel“not pitied,” for God said he would no longer begins, “The book of the genealogy of Jesuspity or forgive his people. Lastly he had another Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.son “Lo-ammi,” meaning “not my people,” for Abraham was the father of Isaac….” So it isGod said they were not now his people. What right back to Abraham that Matthew tracesterrible names for the chosen people of God! the beginning not just of the genealogy butThey sound like a devastating contradiction of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knows thatof God’s eternal promise to Abraham. what he is recording is the fulfillment of But God does not stop there. For beyond God’s ancient promises to Abraham madethe coming judgment there would be a restora- some two thousand years previously. (Seetion, which is described in words which once also Luke 1:45-55,67-75.)
john r. w. stott 7 Yet from the start Matthew recognizes It is a very notable statement because he inter-that it isn’t just physical descent from Abra- prets the blessing in the moral terms of repen-ham which qualifies people to inherit the tance and righteousness and because, if Jesuspromises, but a kind of spiritual descent, was sent “first” to the Jews, he was presumablynamely, repentance and faith in the coming sent next to the Gentiles, whose “families ofMessiah. This was John the Baptist’s message the earth” had been “far off” (cf. Acts 2:39), butto crowds who flocked to hear him: “Do not were now to share in the blessing.presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abra- It was given to the apostle Paul, however,ham as our father,’ for I to bring this wonder-tell you God is able from ful theme to its fullthese stones to raise up God has raised up children to Abraham development. Forchildren for Abraham” he was called and(Matt 3:9; Luke 3:8; cf. from an unlikely source—the Gentiles! appointed to be theJohn 8:33-40). The im- apostle to the Gentiles.plications of his words would have shocked To him was revealed God’s eternal but hith-his hearers since “it was the current belief that erto secret purpose to make Jews and Gentilesno descendant of Abraham could be lost.”1 “fellow heirs, members of the same body, And God has raised up children to Abra- and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesusham, if not from stones, then from an equally through the gospel” (Eph 3:6). Paul declaresunlikely source—namely, the Gentiles! So Mat- with great boldness, “Not all who arethew, although the most Jewish of all the four descended from Israel belong to Israel,Gospel writers, later records Jesus as having and not all are children of Abraham becausesaid, “I tell you, many will come from east and they are his descendants” (Rom 9:6-7).west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac and Who then are the true descendants ofJacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons Abraham, the true beneficiaries of God’sof the kingdom will be thrown into the outer promises to him? Paul does not leave us indarkness” (Matt 8:11-12; cf. Luke 13:28-29). any doubt. They are believers in Christ of It is hard for us to grasp how shocking, how whatever race. In Romans 4 he points out thatcompletely topsy-turvy, these words would Abraham not only received justification byhave sounded to the Jewish hearers of John the faith but also received this blessing before heBaptist and Jesus. They were the descendants had been circumcised. Therefore Abraham is theof Abraham, so they had a title to the promises father of all those who, whether circumcisedwhich God made to Abraham. Who then were or uncircumcised (that is, Jews or Gentiles),these outsiders who were to share in the prom- “follow the example of [his] faith” (Romises, even apparently usurp them, while they 4:9-12). If we “share the faith of Abraham,”themselves would be disqualified? They were then “he is the father of us all, as it is written,indignant. They had quite forgotten that part ‘I have made you the father of many nations’”of God’s covenant with Abraham promised (vv. 16-17). Thus neither physical descent froman overspill of blessing to all the nations. Now Abraham nor physical circumcision as a Jewthe Jews had to learn that it was in relation to makes a person a true child of Abraham, butJesus the Messiah, who was himself Seed of rather faith. Abraham’s real descendants areAbraham, that all the nations would be blessed. believers in Jesus Christ, whether they happen The Apostle Peter seems at least to have to be Jews or Gentiles.begun to grasp this in his second sermon, justafter Pentecost. In it he addressed a Jewish Landcrowd with the words: “You are the sons…of What then is the “land” which Abraham’sthe covenant which God gave to your fathers, descendants inherit? The letter to the Hebrewssaying to Abraham, ‘And in your posterity refers to a “rest” which God’s people enter nowshall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ by faith (Heb 4:3), and in a most remarkableGod, having raised up his servant [Jesus], sent expression Paul refers to “the promise to Abra-him to you first, to bless you in turning every ham and his descendants, that they shouldone of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:25-26). inherit the world” (Rom 4:13). One can only
8 Chapter 1 the living God is a missionary godassume he means the same thing as when to has finally come, and they are enjoying allthe Corinthians he writes that in Christ “all the blessings of his gracious rule. He sheltersthings are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or them with his presence. Their wilderness daysCephas or the world or life or death or the of hunger, thirst and scorching heat are over.present or the future, all are yours” (1 Cor 3:21- They have entered the promised land at last,23). Christians, by God’s wonderful grace, are described now not as “a land flowing withjoint heirs with Christ of the universe. milk and honey,” but as a land irrigated from Somewhat similar teaching, both about the “springs of living water” which never dry up.nature of the promised blessing and about its But how did they come to inherit these bless-beneficiaries, is given by Paul ings? Partly because theyin Galatians 3. He first repeats have “come out of greathow Abraham was justified Now we are Abraham’s tribulation,” but mostlyby faith and then continues: because “they have washed“So you see that it is men seed by faith, and the their robes and made themof faith who are the sons of white in the blood of the earth’s families will beAbraham” and who therefore Lamb”; that is, they have“are blessed with Abraham blessed only if we go to been cleansed from sin andwho had faith” (vv. 6-9). clothed with righteousness them with the gospel. through the merits of theBlessing death of Jesus Christ alone.What then is the blessing with which all the “Therefore are they before the throne of God.”nations were to be blessed (v. 8)? In a word, Speaking personally, I find it extremelyit is the blessing of salvation. We were under moving to glimpse this final fulfillment in athe curse of the law, but Christ has redeemed future eternity of that ancient promise of Godus from it by becoming a curse in our place, to Abraham. All the essential elements of thein order “that in Christ Jesus the blessing of promise may be detected. For here are theAbraham might come upon the Gentiles, that spiritual descendants of Abraham, a “greatwe might receive the promise of the Spirit multitude which no man could number,” asthrough faith” (vv. 10-14). Christ bore our countless as the sand on the seashore and ascurse that we might inherit Abraham’s bless- the stars in the night sky. Here too are “all theing, the blessing of justification (v. 8) and of families of the earth” being blessed, for thethe indwelling Holy Spirit (v. 14). Paul sums numberless multitude is composed of peopleit up in the last verse of the chapter (v. 29): “If from every nation. Here also is the promisedyou are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s off- land, namely, all the rich blessings which flowspring, heirs according to promise.” from God’s gracious rule. And here above We have not quite finished yet. There is a all is Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham, whothird stage of fulfillment still to come. shed his blood for our redemption and who bestows his blessings on all those who call onUltimate Fulfillment him to be saved.God’s promise to Abraham will receive anultimate or eschatological fulfillment in the Conclusionfinal destiny of all the redeemed. Let me try to summarize what we learn about God from his promise to AbrahamPosterity, Land and Blessing and its fulfillment.In the book of Revelation there is one morereference to God’s promise to Abraham (7:9 First, He is the God of history.ff.). John sees in a vision “a great multitude History is not a random flow of events, forwhich no man could number.” It is an inter- God is working out in time a plan whichnational throng, drawn “from every nation, he conceived in a past eternity and will con-from all tribes and peoples and tongues.” They summate in a future eternity. In this historicalare “standing before the throne,” the symbol process Jesus Christ, as the Seed of Abraham,of God’s kingly reign. That is, his kingdom is the key figure. Let’s rejoice that if we are
john r. w. stott 9 Christ’s disciples, we are Abraham’s descen- small minority, but Scripture states it for our dants. We belong to his spiritual lineage. If we comfort. Although no biblical Christian can be have received the blessings of justification by a universalist (believing that all mankind will faith, acceptance with God and the indwelling ultimately be saved), since Scripture teaches Spirit, then we are beneficiaries today of the awful reality and eternity of hell, a bibli- promises made to Abraham four thousand cal Christian can—even must—assert that the years ago. redeemed will somehow be an international throng so immense as to be countless. For Second, He is the God of the covenant. God’s promise is going to be fulfilled, and God is gracious enough to make promises, and Abraham’s seed is going to be as innumerable he always keeps the promise he makes. He is a as the dust of the earth, the stars of the sky God of steadfast love and faithfulness. This is and the sand on the seashore. not to say that he always fulfills his promises immediately. Abraham and Sarah “died in Fifth, He is the God of mission. faith not having received what was promised, The nations are not gathered in automatically. but having seen it and greeted it from afar” If God has promised to bless “all the families of (Heb 11:13). That is, although Isaac was born to the earth,” he has promised to do so “through them in fulfillment of the promise, their seed Abraham’s seed” (Gen 12:3; 22:18). Now we was not yet numerous, nor was the land given are Abraham’s seed by faith, and the earth’s to them, nor were the nations blessed. All families will be blessed only if we go to them God’s promises come true, but they are with the gospel. That is God’s plain purpose. inherited “through faith and patience” (Heb 6:12). I pray that these words, “all the families We have to be content to wait for God’s time. of the earth,” may be written on our hearts. It is this expression more than any other which Third, He is the God of blessing. reveals the living God of the Bible to be a “I will bless you,” he said to Abraham (Gen missionary God. It is this expression, too, 12:2). “God…sent him [Jesus] to you first, to which condemns all our petty parochialism bless you,” echoed Peter (Acts 3:26). God’s and narrow nationalism, our racial pride attitude to his people is positive, constructive (whether white or black), our condescending and enriching. Judgment is his “strange work” paternalism and arrogant imperialism. How (Isa 28:21). His principal and characteristic dare we adopt a hostile or scornful or even work is to bless people with salvation. indifferent attitude to any person of another color or culture if our God is the God of “all Fourth, He is the God of mercy. the families of the earth”? We need to become I have always derived much comfort from the global Christians with a global vision, for we statement of Revelation 7:9 that the company have a global God. of the redeemed in heaven will be “a great So may God help us never to forget his multitude which no man could number.” I four-thousand-year-old promise to Abraham: do not profess to know how this can be, since “By you and your descendants all the nations Christians have always seemed to be a rather of the earth shall be blessed.”Endnotes1. J. Jeremias, Jesus’ Promise to the Nations, SCM Press, 1958, p. 48.Study Questions1. Why is it important that the biblical record begins with the Creator God instead of opening with stories about Abraham’s God?2. Describe what Stott means by God’s promise having “triple fulfillment.” How was the promise of a land, a posterity and a blessing fulfilled in the past? How is the promise receiving fulfillment in the present? How will God’s promise to Abraham receive its final fulfillment in the future?
Israel’s Missionary CallWalter C. Kaiser T here is a popular misconception that the Old Testa- ment does not have a missionary mandate and that it is a book dedicated only to the Jews and their history. However, this view does not match the claims that the Old Testament itself makes. Even if we limit our investigation to three key Old Testament texts, we will quickly see that these texts present some of the most powerful statements of missionary calling that can be found anywhere in the Bible. We would be less quick to think that the Old Testament has no missionary challenge if we paid closer attention to how it begins. The message of the earliest chapters in Genesis is universal in scope and global in audience. Did God not deal with “all the families of the earth” when he acted in saving grace at three specific junctures in Genesis 1-11? After the fall of man, the flood of the earth and the failure of the Tower of Babel, God directed grand messages of salvation to all of humanity (Gen 3:15; 9:17; 12:1-3). And if we doubt that God’s promise to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3) was global in scope and universal in its offer, we should note that the “families” which were scattered throughout the earth appear in Genesis 10, in what is often called the “Table of Seventy Nations.” This listing of all the nations, languages Walter C. and families is the backdrop for God’s promise to bless “all the Kaiser, Jr., families of the earth” in Genesis 12:3. is President Emeritus of Old Testament Gentiles Came to Faith Gordon- The Old Testament records the phenomenon of Gentiles Conwell coming to faith in the coming “seed” or “Man of Promise.” OneTheological Seminary and example is Melchizedek, priest-king over Salem or Jerusalemthe Colman M. Mockler (Gen 14). This Gentile openly confessed his faith in JehovahDistinguished Professor of Old (Yahweh). Another example is Jethro, the Midianite who wasTestament. He previously taught Moses’ father-in-law. Jethro demonstrated his commitmentat Trinity Evangelical Divinity to Moses’ God by sitting down in fellowship with Moses andSchool and Wheaton College and Aaron around a sacrificial meal (Ex 18). Then there is the exam-has served as a pastor. Among his ple of Balaam, whom none could accuse of being pro-Jewish.numerous writings are Toward an Balaam wanted badly to please Balak, the king of Moab, andOld Testament Theology, and The curse the nation of Israel. Yet God spoke to and through himPromise-Plan of God. even though he had a very rough start—when his donkey showed keener spiritual insight than he had. Nevertheless,Adapted from an address given to Balaam gave us two fantastic chapters, including the greatthe students of Trinity Evangelical (and only) star prophecy of the Messiah (Num 23-24).Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. There were times when whole Gentile cities repentedUsed by permission. at the preaching of one Jewish prophet—take for example,10 Chapter 2
Walter C. Kaiser 11Jonah and his mission to Nineveh. Jonah would believe. The counter theme in thosewas more than reluctant to go to Nineveh to same chapters is the nations questing for apreach to wicked Gentiles who had massa- “name” for themselves. In both Genesis 6:4cred Jews. Only after becoming very “down- and Genesis 11:4, the sole objective of man-in-the-mouth” and enduring a “whale-of-an- kind was to make a “name” for themselvesexperience” did Jonah finally go andpreach to the Ninevites. The city came tothe Lord in great numbers despite Jonah’s Israel was to be God’s missionary to the worldown hopes that it would be one sermonto which no one would respond. —and so are we by virtue of our identity Some may still be skeptical that God as Abraham’s spiritual descendants!explicitly commissioned Israelites inOld Testament times to go to the Gen- The mission has not changed.tiles. Let us look at three passages in theOld Testament that settle this point. and to advance their own reputation—at the expense of the “name” of God.Three Basic Texts Thus the “sons of God” (whom I believeThere are three basic texts that make clear the to be tyrannical and polygamous despots inmissionary mandate that God had designed the context of Gen 6) took this divine title forfor the whole nation of Israel: Genesis 12:1-3, themselves along with its presumed privilegesExodus 19:4-6, and Psalm 67. It is impossible and rights; they distorted the means that Godfor us to understand the Old Testament accu- had set up for justice, abusing it for their ownrately without examining these texts in their desires and lusts. This led to the great Flood,missionary context. In the plan and purpose the second great failure of the pre-patriarchalof God, Israel had always been responsible era of Genesis 1-11. It was preceded by the fallfor communicating the message of God’s of man in Genesis 3 and followed by the fail-grace to the nations. Israel was meant to be a ure of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.communicating nation. Lest we think that these three Old Testament Genesis 12:1-3: Proclaim His Plantexts provide a mandate only to the people of Nevertheless, for each of these three failures,that time and thus have no relevance to those our Lord had a saving word of grace: Genesisof us who live in the Christian era, let it be 3:15, 9:27 and 12:1-3. It is this third graciousmade plain that they are also God’s call to word that is relevant here because it empha-us. Arranged in outline form, we can see that sizes God’s grace over and against the failuresGod’s message to them is God’s call to us: of men and their idolatrous questing for a “name” or reputation. Five times God said, 1. To Proclaim His Plan to Bless “I will bless you,” “I will bless you,” “I will the Nations (Gen 12:3) bless you,” “I will bless those blessing you,” 2. To Participate in His Priesthood as and “In your seed all the nations of the earth Agents of That Blessing (Ex 19:4-6) shall be blessed.” 3. To Prove His Purpose to Bless all Clearly, the key word here is bless or blessing. the Nations (Ps 67) This same word had characterized this whole section, beginning with the word to AdamThe Preamble of Genesis 1-11: Promise and Eve: “He blessed them saying, ‘Be fruitfuland Purpose on a Global Scope and multiply,’” just as He had also graciouslyNo one can say that the Old Testament begins promised to bless the animals.in an ethnocentric way or that the God of the Despite these many promises of blessing,Old Testament was so pro-Jewish that mis- humanity continued to search for significancesionary outreach did not occur until the time on its own terms by questing for a “name.”of the Gentiles. Genesis 1-11 clearly attests to Amidst the emptiness of this quest—thisthe opposite. The scope of these chapters is vacuum of looking for social status, reputationworldwide in its offer of salvation for all who and achievement apart from God—Genesis 12:2
12 Chapter 2 Israel’s Missionary Callsuddenly announces that God would give Abra- and the “seed” of Abraham all formed oneham a “name” as a blessing from above rather collective whole. This collective entity wasthan as a result of his own godless striving. epitomized by a succession of representatives who acted as down payments of the blessingBlessed so that They Might until Christ himself appeared from that sameBecome a Blessing genealogical line as part of that successionWe cannot fully appreciate the significance and corporate entity.of this grandest of all missionary texts until The initial recipients of this blessing werewe realize that there are actually three prom- the 70 nations listed as all “the families” ofises of blessing in Genesis 12:2-3, where the earth in Genesis 10. This chapter precedesGod promises: man’s third failure at Babel, then leads to the sudden revelation to Abraham of God’s 1. “I will make you a great nation,” purpose and plan to bring all the nations of 2. “I will bless you” and the world to Himself. The word to Abraham 3. “I will make your name great…” was meant to have a great impact on all the families on the face of the earth. This is But this is immediately followed by a indeed a high missionary calling!purpose clause: “so that you may be a For those who remain skeptical, sayingblessing.” None of these three promises that they cannot see any gospel or missionof blessing were meant to simply enhance mandate in Genesis 12:2-3, it might help toAbraham’s status or ego. Indeed, he and his consider that Paul named Abraham the heirnation were blessed so that they might be a of the whole world (Rom 4:13). That inheri-blessing. But to whom? And in what way? tance is obviously spiritual in nature. More-To answer these questions, we must further over, Paul plainly stated that Abraham hadexamine two more promises: the gospel preached to him ahead of time (Gal 3:8) when he received the promise of 4. “I will bless those blessing you,” and Genesis 12:3: “in you shall all the nations be 5. “Those who curse you, I will curse.” blessed.” That was and still is the good news of the gospel. Again, the writer of Genesis adds a pur-pose clause. However, he shifts the tense of Our Mission as Abraham’s “Seed” in Christthe verb, so that a fuller statement of his pur- If we today believe the gospel, then we arepose can be given. Now it was “so that in you part of Abraham’s “seed” (Gal 3:29). Theall the families of the earth might be blessed.” object of faith and trust is still the same. This then explains why there was so much The focal point for Israel and the nations ofblessing promised to Abraham and his de- the earth is the Man of Promise who was toscendants. They were to be missionaries and come in Abraham and David’s “seed”: Jesuschannels of the truth from the very beginning. Christ. The whole purpose of God then was It is exceedingly important that we recog- that He would make a nation, give them anize that the Hebrew verb in this case must be “name,” bless them so that they might betranslated as a passive verb (“be blessed”) and light to the nations and thereby be a bless-not reflexively (“bless themselves”), since all ing to all the nations as Abraham’s seed. Tothe earlier Hebrew grammars, versions and shrink back would be evil on Israel’s part.New Testament understandings insist on it. It Israel was to be God’s missionary to theis a matter of grace and not of works. world—and so are we by virtue of our iden- tity as Abraham’s spiritual descendants!All the Nations to Be Blessed The mission has not changed in our ownThe nations were to be blessed in this man’s day. Abraham and Israel were not intended“seed,” referring to his descendants. Indeed, to be passive transmitters of the “seed” anythe “seed” of the woman (Gen 3:15), the more than we are to be passive. They were to“seed” of Shem in whose tents God would be a blessing by actively communicatingcome to “tabernacle” or dwell (Gen 9:27) God’s gift to the world.
Walter C. Kaiser 13 God viewed the nations differently from A Special Possession: God’s Portable Treasurehow He viewed Israel. However, the way God In the first place, they were to be God’s specialdealt with the nations was always directly relat- possession or His “peculiar people” as the oldered to how they reacted to the family of promise translations put it. The old English wordand ultimately to the Man of Promise who was “peculiar” came from the Latin word whichto come through Israel. By choosing and calling meant valuables or movable goods, e.g. jewels,Israel, God was not favoring Israel or rejecting stocks or bonds, in contrast to real estate orthe other nations. On the contrary, he intended goods attached to the land. The fact was thatfor Israel to be the very means of blessing them Israel was to be God’s son, His people, Hisall. The human quest for a “name” continues to firstborn (Ex 4:22) and now His special trea-this day despite God’s offer to give us His own sure. The emphasis here is on the portability“name.” He will still give His special “name” to of God’s message and the fact that God hasthose who will believe in that same “seed.” It is placed such high value on people. This isthe only means by which they and all their kin- exactly as Malachi 3:17 describes us: “jewels.”dred upon the face of the earth will be blessedand made part of the family of God. Kings and Priests: Mediators and Servants Some may agree that the object of faith Secondly, Israel was to perform the role ofwas indeed to come from Abraham’s stock, being kings and priests for God. The phrasebut they may not agree that God thereby gave “kingdom of priests” is better translatedAbraham and his descendants anything like “kings and priests,” “kingly priests” or “royalour missionary mandate. Perhaps they think priests” (based on six occurrences in prosethat Israel was meant to be entirely passive texts). It is here that Israel’s missionary rolewhile God was the sole actor in the Old Testa- became explicit if any doubt remained. Thement. However, the following passages do not whole nation was to function on behalf of thesupport this viewpoint. kingdom of God as mediators between God and the nations.Exodus 19: Participate This passage, in fact, became the basisin His Priesthood for our famous New Testament doctrine of In Moses’ famous “Eagle’s Wings Speech,” the priesthood of believers (1 Pet 2:9; RevGod reviews with Israel how He carried them 1:6-5:10). Unfortunately, Israel rejected thisfrom Egypt the way an eagle transports her priesthood of all believers and urged Mosesyoung who were learning to fly. Since they to go up to Mount Sinai as their representa-were the recipients of this gift of deliverance, tive. Nevertheless, even though God’sthe text pointedly says, “Now therefore….” original plan was frustrated and mostly It implies that a natural consequence ought delayed until New Testament times, it wasto flow from God’s miraculous aid in their not defeated, substituted or scrapped. Itescape from Egypt. remained God’s plan for believers. They To read Exodus 19:5 without the “now were to have a priestly or mediatorial role!therefore,” and to stress the “if” in this verseis to miss the emphasis of the text. This text, A Holy Nation: Ambassadorslike Exodus 20:1, begins in the context of grace. Thirdly, Israel was to be a holy nation.“I am the Lord your God who brought you Holiness in the Bible is not just somethingup from out of the land of Egypt.” The “now ethereal which invades audiences on Sundaytherefore…” follows because of the grace of mornings, making them somewhat listlessGod which precedes it. and passive. Holiness is wholeness. To be Exodus 19:5-6 goes on to say: “if you will holy is to be wholly the Lord’s.obey my voice and keep my covenant, you It is regrettable that we had to divide theshall be my special possession among all peo- English word into two words: the religiousples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall word “holy” and the secular word “wholly.”be my kingdom of priests and a holy nation” However, both words have the same root in(italics mine). These are the three ministries Anglo-Saxon history. The same is true for theGod specifies for Abraham’s descendants. Hebrew root. Israel was to be given wholly
14 Chapter 2 Israel’s Missionary Call over to the Lord, set apart not only in their Israel and now the Gentile believers have been personal lives but also in their service. God named a royal priesthood, a holy nation, the called and elected them for service, and people of God, His chosen race, His special, that service had been defined as early as movable possession, is that we might declare Abraham’s day. Him and be His witnesses and missionaries. As priests represent God and mediate his None of God’s gifts were meant for our word to the people, so Israel as a holy nation own consumption. They were not meant to was to assume two relations: one towards God be mere badges or titles. They were for the and the other towards the nations. In a sense, purpose of declaring His wonderful deeds and they carried a portfolio that read, “Ambas- calling people to His marvelous light. As Peter sadors of the Coming Man of Promise.” They said (borrowing from the names of Hosea’s chil- were to be a nation for all the times and for all dren), we were once “no people” (Lo-Ammi) the peoples—set apart. Instead, Israel began and “without mercy” (Lo-Ruhamah). But now we are the people of God and now we have received His mercy and grace.Israel was to be “a light to the nations,” Peter is trying to show us that the people just as Abraham had been told, of God in all ages have been one. Even though there are distinctions within the people of the writer of Exodus had exhorted, God (e.g., Israel and the Church), neverthe- and the psalmist had sung. less there is a unity of all believers throughout time. And though there are different aspects to the single plan and purpose of God to bless looking out for her own interests, as we often all the nations of the earth, we can be certain do, becoming a club of the pious and forget- of the continuity of God’s program in both ting her calling to be sharers of blessing, truth, Old and New Testament times. In both testa- gifts and the “Seed” to the nations. ments, we were all intended by God to partic- ipate in that priesthood as agents of blessing One People of God with One Purpose to the nations of the earth. Exodus 19 makes it I have not forgotten that there is a distinction clear that this was God’s plan. between Israel and the Church. One can distinguish between these two entities just as one can distinguish between male and Psalm 67: Prove His Purpose female. However, that middle wall of parti- Now we come to our third and final text. tion that separated Jew from Gentile in the We have already seen how God calls us all: temple complex has been knocked down by to proclaim His plan to the nations in Genesis Christ’s death (Eph 2:14). Maleness, female- 12, to participate in His priesthood as agents of ness, Jewishness, Gentileness, slave or free blessing to all the nations in Exodus 19, and no longer matter. All who believe are one now we will see that He is calling us to prove “people of God.” Indeed, that has always His purpose to bless all the nations in Psalm 67. been the term for those who belonged to This Psalm comes from the Aaronic benedic- the Savior throughout the ages. Peter makes tion found in Numbers 6:24-26: this continuity explicit by calling the Gentile Now may the LORD bless you and believers of his day “a chosen race, a royal keep you; priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pet 2:9). The use of Exodus 19 is very obvious May the LORD make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; and transparent. The point is, do we recognize the continuity of God’s purpose and plan? May the LORD lift up his countenance Peter went on to make this point clear. God (face) upon you and give you peace. had called His people by these four titles “so that they might declare the wonderful deeds These words are often heard at the end of of Him who called them out of darkness into many church services today, but look closely at His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). The reason what the psalmist does in using this blessing in
Walter C. Kaiser 15Psalm 67. Rather than using the word Yahweh exact replica of Genesis 12:2-3: Bless us, bless(“LORD” in English translations), which is Isra- us, bless us…so that all the nations mightel’s covenantal and personal name for God, he know the Lord.uses Elohim (“God” in English transla-tions), This psalm was probably sung at the Feastthe name used when talking about God’s rela- of Pentecost, celebrating the summer harvesttionship to all men, nations and creation. Thus of first fruits. It is all the more remarkablethe psalmist prayed:“May God be gracious to that Pentecost is when God later poured outus and bless us.” his Spirit on Jews from And again, he chang- every nation and aned the wording ever so The psalmist deeply longed for God unusual harvest beganslightly, using the words to take place—greater“among us” (literally) in- to be acknowleged as Lord than at any previousstead of “upon us:” “And of all the peoples of the earth. feast. Deliberately, themay he cause his face to psalmist refers to theshine among us.”It is sig- Should we do less? gathering of the harvestnificant that this psalm as a down payment,has applied to all the peoples the blessing a symbol of the spiritual harvest from everyGod gave through Aaron and the priests. The tribe, tongue and nation. So may the Lordenlarged purpose for this greater blessing is indeed be gracious to us and bless us.given in verse 2: “so that your ways may be The psalmist calls us to become the livingknown upon the earth, your salvation among proof of God’s purposes for three reasons.all the nations (or Gentiles).” These reasons follow the same structure as God’s ways of covenant love will become the psalm.clear to the nations to the extent that Hisblessing becomes evident among His people. God has Been Gracious to UsThis global purpose is why God was gra- The first reason we are to become a livingcious in blessing Israel and ultimately, to all demonstration God’s intentions is the experi-who believe. ence of His gracious ways. In verses 1-3 the The sentiment of this psalm was: May God Psalmist testifies that we, as God’s people,bless us, fellow Israelites. May He be pleased have experienced God’s grace. The Psalmistto benefit us. May our crops increase and our declares that this grace is to be known amongflocks produce abundantly. May our families all nations. If only all the peoples of the earthgrow large and may we prosper spiritually, would personally come to know that sameso that the nations may look at us and say grace for themselves!that God has indeed blessed us. Our abun-dance demonstrates that God has blessed us. God Rules and Guides All NationsTherefore, may the rest of His purpose come Verses 4-5 speaks of God presiding as a greatto pass also, that in blessing Israel, all the na- ruler. He is not a judge in a judicial, punish-tions of the earth might come to know Him. ing sense in this context, but a royal ruler who Psalm 67 has been called the Old Testament’s wisely rules in righteousness (as in IsaiahLord’s Prayer. It has three stanzas: 11:3ff). He is a guide for the nations as the Great Shepherd of Psalm 23. Thus the refrain 1. Verses 1-3 (ending with “May the is repeated: Come on, all you peoples of the peoples praise you, O God; may earth—let’s hear it! It’s about time you began all the peoples praise you.”) praising the Lord. 2. Verses 4-5 (ending with the same refrain) The Very Goodness of God 3. Verses 6-7 (ending with “God will We ought to prove the purpose of God in bless us, and all the ends of the earth blessing the nations because He has been so will fear him.”) good to us. As verses 6-7 attest, the land has Three times this psalm refers to the blessing yielded an abundant harvest—evidence thatfrom God (vv. 1,6,7). The structure is almost an God answered the prayer of Aaron and the
16 Chapter 2 Israel’s Missionary Call priests (Num 6:24-26). The power of God be- God’s purpose was for Israel to be a wit- comes evident in the very abundance of the nessing, proclaiming, evangelizing nation. harvest. The spectacle of His blessing upon His The Gentiles had to be brought to the light. people becomes proof of His ways and glory. This purpose for Israel is also seen even more That same power of God that brought mate- clearly in a passage that is not part of this rial increase is available for spiritual increase. discussion; namely, the “Servant of the Lord” The psalmist did not mouth empty words, but passages of Isaiah 42 and 49. Israel as a whole he gave the psalm so that Israel and we might is that Servant of the Lord, while the Messiah experience real change in our lives. If God’s is the ultimate representative of the whole power were more evident in our lives and group of servants. As such, Israel was to be preaching, then everyone would witness the a “light to the nations” just as Abraham had spiritual results, both in our nation and among been told, the writer of Exodus had exhorted other nations. God has blessed us so that all the and the psalmist had sung. ends of the earth might receive spiritual ben- The psalmist deeply longed for God, the efit. Our material blessings are only a precursor King of Israel, to be acknowledged as Lord of a blessing of greater spiritual dimensions. and Savior of all the peoples of the earth. “God has blessed us; let all the ends of the Should we do less? Does God call us to earth fear Him” (v. 7). The word “fear” here anything less than also proving, along with does not mean terror or fright. Exodus 20:20 Israel, His purpose revealed in Psalm 67? urges us not to be afraid: “Fear not, but rather, God’s challenge to Israel is also His challenge fear the Lord.” To fear the Lord means to be- to us: we are to have a role as mediators in lieve Him and put your whole soul’s commit- proclaiming His name among the nations. ment on Him. Fear is one of the Old Testament That is still God’s purpose. Is it happening in words for trust and belief. The fear of the Lord your life? is the beginning of everything: of understand- May the flame of the gospel, encapsulated ing, of living, of personal holiness and of a in Genesis 12:1-3, and the call to be a holy vital personal relationship to Him. The good- nation and a royal priesthood set us on fire for ness of God to Israel was meant to be one of proclaiming the gospel in the days ahead. May His ways of bringing all the nations on earth we announce, not only in our country, but in to fear Him, i.e., to believe the coming Man of every single nation on earth, that Jesus is Lord, Promise, our Lord Jesus Christ. to the glory of God the Father!Study Questions1. Kaiser asserts that God gave a missionary mandate to the people of Israel in the Old Testament. What was the basis of that promise?2. Why is it crucial to see that the phenomenon of blessing was not intended to be passive?3. What is the function of a priesthood according to Kaiser? What does this function have to do with a missionary mandate?
38 Chapter 6 blessing as transformation the promise is being fulfilled by their faith as of blessing among all the peoples of the earth.2 those who inherit the promise: We are blessed in Christ in order to bring forth “It is those who are of faith who are sons the blessing of Christ among all the nations. of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing But what are we hoping for? What does it that God would justify the Gentiles by mean for the nations to be blessed? And how faith, preached the gospel beforehand to are we to pursue it? The promise of blessing Abraham, ‘All the nations will be blessed shapes and integrates our mission in two in you.’ So then those who are of faith are important ways. blessed with Abraham” (Gal 3:7-9). Christ has now ended the curse and opened Relational Blessing: Belonging to God’s Family the family of God. Now people from every The greatest blessing imaginable is the privi- family on earth can be part of Abraham’s lege of belonging to God’s people, and there- family by faith in Christ. They inherit the full fore, belonging to God as His children. Christ family heritage of being blessed in order has opened Abraham’s family to all. We are to be a blessing to the nations. now seeing people from every people, tribe and clan being joined with Christ by faith and God’s Promise Becomes Our Mandate enfolded into the people of God. Extending God’s promise to bless the nations through the invitation to belong to God’s family is the Abraham’s descendents carries mandate force greater part of what it means to bring bless- for all who have been joined with Christ by ing to the nations. We cannot consider that the faith. The promise so clearly reveals God’s Abrahamic blessing has visited a people if the purpose, that Christians rightly consider it to gospel of Jesus Christ has not yet been clearly convey God’s mandate to serve as His agents conveyed to them.The Story of Blessing: Prevailing Over Curse Richard BauckhamIn Genesis 12 Abraham is singled Blessing is the key word in God’s that has been rather neglected in ourout by God immediately following promises to Abraham: Abraham theology. Blessing in the Bible refersthe thoroughly universal narrative of himself will be blessed, in that his to God’s characteristically generousthe first eleven chapters of Genesis. descendants will be a great nation, and abundant giving of all goodThe story brings us to the great and Abraham will be a blessing, in to his creatures and his continualcatalogue of all the nations, 70 of that all the families of the earth will renewal of the abundance of cre-them, descended from the three sons be blessed (Gen 12:2-3). The promise ated life. Blessing is God’s provisionof Noah found in chapter 10. Then that all the nations will be blessed is for human flourishing. But it is alsochapter 11 tells the story of Babel, repeated four more times in Genesis relational: to be blessed by God is notfrom which the entire human race (18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). On the only to know God’s good gifts butwas scattered over all the earth to last of these occasions it is given to to know God himself in his generousform the various nations, divided by Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson giving. Because blessing is relational,language and geography. Genesis Jacob. Moreover, even within the the movement of the blessing is a10-11 sets, as it were, the interna- stories of Jacob and his sons, the movement that goes out from Godtional scene for the whole rest of blessing of the nations begins—or and returns to him. God’s blessing ofthe Bible’s story. Unlike the choice at least is foreshadowed—when people overflows in their blessing ofof Noah and his family, the singling Jacob brings blessing to Laban others, and, those who experienceout of Abraham is not at all to be (30:27) and Joseph to Potiphar blessing from God in turn bless God,understood as God giving up on the (39:5). Then there is the peculiarly which means that they give all thatnations. In Abraham’s case, he is significant scene when the aged creatures really can give to God:singled out precisely so that blessing patriarch Jacob, on his arrival in thanksgiving and praise.may come to all the nations, to all the Egypt, gives his blessing to no less Blessing highlights the relation-seventy nations God had scattered than the Pharaoh of Egypt (47:7). ship between creation and salvationover the face of the whole earth. Blessing is a rich biblical notion in a different way from other waysRichard Bauckham is Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of St. Andrews. He has published many works in historicaltheology and the New Testament. From Bible and Mission, 2003. Used by permission of Baker Academic Books, Grand Rapids, MI.
Sarita d. Gallager and Steven C. Hawthorne 39 What will it look like when this aspect Material and Social Blessing: of God’s blessing is fulfilled? We can look Abundance and Peace forward to the day when we will see at least We can expect the blessing of belonging to God some from every people on earth trusting and to become a reality amidst every people. But following Christ. The blessing of the nations we can look forward to so much more! We can means much more than evangelism, but it expect to see significant displays of the abun- certainly can mean no less than the evangeli- dance of God’s life. We should not expect a zation of every people. utopian perfection. But we can work and pray We have seen in the book of Genesis that with a strong hope, partly informed by what God displayed evidence of His dynamic pres- we see in the book of Genesis, that God will be ence with His people. God will be no less pres- with His people to bring forth significant mea- ent amidst the peoples of the earth as groups sures of blessing among the nations. of obedient followers of Christ emerge and And so we ask again, what will the fulfill- grow among the nations. As in the book of ment of God’s promise to bless the nations look Genesis, the presence of God with His people like? Of course, it will be different in every place in our day is the beginning of all of the more and people, but we should expect God to bring tangible aspects of blessing that God brought forth every kind of blessing, such as economies about. This means that evangelization has a that flourish with justice and righteousness, agri- special priority. God’s promise to bless the cultures and industries that abound with plenty nations is the framework in which Christ’s for all, and peace throughout communities and commission makes sense. This same promise between peoples and races. We can expect that authorizes Christ’s followers to hope and to God will enable His people to wage war with work for God’s life to abound in every people. disease, to break the vicious cycles of poverty, toof characterizing God’s activity in overcome its opposite: God’s curse. (e.g. Deut 7:12-16; 27-28), but thethe world. Already on the fifth day of With sin God’s curse enters cre- ultimate goal of God’s promise tothe creation God blesses (Gen 1:22). ation alongside of God’s blessing. Abraham is the blessing that willBlessing is the way God enables his We found the universal background prevail over the curse. It does whencreation to be fertile and fruitful, to to God’s promise to Abraham in the the seed of Abraham, the singled-grow and to flourish. It is in the most account of the nations in Genesis out descendant of Abraham, thecomprehensive sense God’s purpose 10-11. But there is an even earlier Messiah, becomes “a curse for us...for his creation. Wherever human life background in Genesis 3 and 4, so that in Christ Jesus the bless-enjoys the good things of creation where the blessings of creation turn ing of Abraham might come to theand produces the good fruits of to curse (3:17; 4:11). The curse even Gentiles” (Gal 3:13-14). This is whyhuman activity, God is pouring out enters into God’s promise to Abra- God’s promise that the nations willhis blessing. Wherever people bless ham, apparently paralleling the bless- be blessed is called “the gospel”God for his blessings, to that extent ing. God says to Abraham in Genesis by Paul (Gal 3:8). The secret of theGod is known as the good Creator 12: “I will bless those who bless you, promise is Christ’s bearing of thewho provides for human flourishing. and the one who curses you I will curse so that the blessing mayGod’s blessing is universal. curse” (Gen 12:3; cf. 27:29; Num prevail. The gospel is that in Jesus But we should not think of 24:9). But blessing predominates Christ the curse has been set asidethe idea of blessing as something in the promise (as the difference and God’s creative purpose for thethat describes God’s goodness in between the plural “those who bless blessing of his creation is establishedcreation, but does not also help us you” and the singular “the one who beyond any possibility of reversal.understand his goodness in salva- curses you” seems to suggest), and God’s last and effective word is histion. Salvation too is God’s blessing, it is clearly blessing, not curse that is blessing. It is a particular word, spo-since salvation is the fulfillment of the goal of God’s calling of Abraham. ken in the life, death and resurrectionGod’s purposes in spite of the dam- Therefore blessing has the last word of Jesus, broadcast by those who likeage evil does to God’s creation. The in the promise: “in you all the fami- Paul cannot but pass it on, so pow-Abrahamic blessing is more than lies of the earth shall be blessed.” erful is its effect, overflowing withthe blessing of creation because it Through the story of Israel curse blessing from those who, blessedis designed to contend with and to continually accompanies blessing by it, become a blessing to others.
Everyone’s QuestionWhat is God Trying to Do?Stanley A. Ellisen T he Bible describes God as an eternal King: “The Lord is King forever” (Ps 10:16). It also declares that He is sovereign over all things (Ps 103:19). Being infinite, He is everywhere. So, at every time and place, in all the vast reaches of His universe, God has been in full control. He has never compromised this supreme prerogative of His God- hood. To do so would make Him less than God. It is essential to recognize His undiminished sovereignty if we are to have a proper view of His kingdom. His work of creation, with all the apparent risks involved, was the work of His sovereignty. Primeval Rebellion In the operation of His kingdom, God rules by the principle of delegated authority. He organized the angels as a hierarchy, assigning levels of responsibility and spheres of service. To act as His supreme lieutenant in directing this kingdom, God en- dowed one specific archangel with striking beauty, wisdom, and power (Ezek 28:12-17; Jude 9). He named him Lucifer and gave him a throne from which to rule (Isa 14:12-14). This angel ruled as God’s prime minister par excellence. How long this harmonious arrangement continued in the distant past is not recorded. Endowed with freedom Stanley A. of choice, the crucial test of any creature was allegiance Ellisen served to the will of God. That crucial test came for Lucifer when as Professor he shifted his gaze to himself and his God-given features of Biblical of splendor. Dazzled by his own greatness, he asserted Literature and independence and presumed himself to be “like the Most Chairman of High” (Isa 14:14). In that moment of decision he thrustthe Division of Biblical Studies himself outside the stabilizing axis of God’s will and beganat Western Conservative Baptist the swirling catapult into the oblivion of a godless being.Seminary in Portland, Oregon. His decision was final, and he never repented.The author of eight books and Lucifer, however, was not alone in this choice. He evi-numerous articles, Ellisen also dently had a following of one-third of the angels of heavenpastored and planted churches (Rev 12:4-7), which also suggests the great allurement of hisin the Pacific Northwest and leadership. With this crowd of rebels he formed a kingdomthe Southwest. of his own, a counterfeit kingdom of darkness. His name was changed to Satan (adversary), in keeping with his behavior.From 3 Worlds in Conflict, If God is sovereign, why didn’t He immediately destroy this1998. Used by permission arch rebel? Why didn’t He have a mass execution for theof WaterBrook Multnomah whole horde of disobedient angels? Or at least, why didn’tPublishing Group, a division of He lock them up forever in the abyss of hell?Random House, Inc., Colorado The answer is that God does have such a plan, but He isSprings, CO. temporarily using these rebels to accomplish another purpose. Chapter 3 17
18 Chapter 3 everyone’s questionIn the outworking of His program, God was to them by love, not coercion. The strengthnot locked into a one-track plan, but was able of love is infinitely stronger than that ofto roll with the punches, so to speak. So deep muscle. With this in mind, He made Adamis His sovereignty, that He is able to make the and Eve partners in His rule. As an initial testwrath of men to praise Him and all His en- they were forbidden to eat of the “tree of theemies to serve Him (Ps 76:10). The devastating knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:17). Theyirony of it for His enemies is that they end up were given a choice of compliance or disobe-serving Him in spite of themselves. Some of dience, clear and simple. The tree was not putthe fallen angels He chained until judgment; there as a teaser or trap, but as an inevitableothers He has allowed a limited liberty until test. It gave the couple a choice as to whetherHis further purpose is accomplished. they would be loyal to God or submit to entic- The central fact to observe is that God did ing alternatives presented by the serpent. Hadallow the formation of a kingdom of dark- they turned from his evil suggestion to firmness. This kingdom formed through volun- commitment to God, they might have eaten oftary forces led by Satan, not through God’s the “tree of life” and been eternally confirmedcreation, as such. It thus became an opposite in righteousness (Gen 3:24; Rev 22:2). But theypole to God’s kingdom of light and an alluring each disobeyed the direct command of God,option for all moral creatures in their exercise and the fall of the human race took place.of moral freedom. It is a counterfeit kingdom By this deliberate action, they declared theirrunning concurrently with the true kingdom independence from the will of God and theirof righteousness. Very often it seems to be affiliation with Satan’s kingdom of darkness.dominant, not only coercing men and women The cause of this disaster was not the tree;but winning them. This is partly because of nor was it the serpent or the devil behind theits modus operandi. Contrary to many naive serpent (Rev 12:9). These provided only an oc-opinions, the devil is not a red monster with casion for two individuals to express their free-a pitchfork, but often a do-gooder. His goal in dom of choice with respect to the will of God.life is to counterfeit the works of God. This has The cause of disaster was in their decision. Inbeen his prized ambition ever since he went this test of allegiance they failed and fell, alonginto business for himself. His first recorded with the previously fallen host of angels.intention ended with the words, “I will be like To all outward appearance, this secondthe Most High” (Isa 14:14). This counterfeiting fall of God’s creation seemed to dash God’seffort is his most effective ploy, for the more high hopes of extending His kingdom inclosely he can imitate God’s work, the less moral agents. Man was given cosmic responsi-likely men will be inclined to seek God or bilities to have dominion over the earth—butpursue His will. he could not be trusted with a piece of fruit. Was the divine gift of free choice too risky?God’s Earthly Kingdom Inaugurated Would this endowment be the suicidal undo-After the fall of Satan, God began another cre- ing of the whole race? It certainly seemed toation: man. He likewise endowed this being be counterproductive to God’s purpose, forwith freedom of choice, dangerous though this sin appeared to be coming up the victor.second venture appears. Freedom of choicewas essential to human personality, if man The Two Problems Summarizedand woman were to be made in the image The dilemma at this point may be summarizedof God. God’s grand design is to reproduce as two problems which God acquired in theHimself in human personalities, especially creative process. One was the fact that HisHis traits of love and holiness. And these trusted lieutenant, Lucifer, defected and starteddivine characteristics can grow only in the a counterkingdom, stealing also the allegiancesoil of moral freedom. Fellowship involves of a large contingent of the angels. The secondmoral choice. was that man, made in God’s image, also By this freedom, God sought to establish defected and fell into a state of sin and person-man and woman in a wholesome relation- al disintegration. Thus, God’s kingdom wasship to His sovereignty. He sought to relate dissected and partially usurped.
stanley A. Ellison 19 The question is often raised as to why was a prophecy that Christ would destroyGod bothered with a salvage operation. Why the devil. Christ Himself spoke of His bind-not destroy everything and start over? Of ing Satan, the “strong man” of this worldcourse, this was not within His sovereign system, and casting him out (Matt 12:29; Johnplan, nor would it have been a real solution 12:31). Christ’s death on the cross providedto the deep challenge the double rebellion the ground for Satan’s final destruction, forposed. God not only rose to the insidious “he who builds the scaffold finally hangschallenge of sin, but His great heart ofgrace initiated an operation that wouldmarvelously redeem sinners. In this plan God will ultimately reclaim His total kingdomHe addressed two problems: (1) how toreclaim His usurped kingdom, and (2) by destroying Satan and his kingdom,how to provide redemption for man- and He will redeem believing menkind. The solution God sought couldnot deal with both problems separately; in the process by the death of Christ.He thus devised a plan whereby thevictory over the counterfeit kingdom would thereon.” And with his final judgment, theprovide salvation for mankind. It could not counterfeit kingdom of his making will alsobe achieved by a mere display of divine be destroyed. This whole process by whichmuscle; the answer was not to crack the God reclaims His authority in all realms andwhip. Cataclysmic and inclusive judgment forever stops all rebellion can be thought ofwould be postponed. It would require action as God’s “kingdom program.”with the depth and power of His greatest The second crushing announced inattribute: love. Genesis 3:15 is the heel-crushing of the seed of the woman by the serpent. This devilishGod’s Kingdom and assault was fulfilled on the cross, where SatanRedemptive Programs was the driving force behind the crucifixionWhen Adam and Eve first sinned, God began of Christ. The heel-bruising suggests theHis judgment with the serpent (Gen 3:14,15). temporary nature of Christ’s death in contrastIn this judgment He also gave the proto- to the head-crushing of the serpent. Christ’sevangel, announcing His redemptive purpose death on the cross then became the groundfor men. To the serpent He said, for God’s redemptive program, the program by which He provided salvation for men. And I will put enmity between you and Thus in this proto-evangel in Eden, God the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, introduced, in outline form, His twofold and you shall bruise Him on the heel. program for His kingdom and man’s re- demption. He would ultimately reclaim HisThis message was obviously for man as well total kingdom by destroying Satan and Sa-as Satan, perhaps more so. In it God proph- tan’s kingdom, and would redeem believingesied that, following a two-way enmity, two men in the process by the death of Christ.bruisings or crushings would take place.The serpent’s head would be crushed by the God’s Twofold Program Unfoldswoman’s seed, and the heel of the woman’s The rest of the Old Testament pictures theseed would be bruised by the serpent. The progressive development of this twofold pur-two figures in this conflict are later declared pose of God in the earth. The Lord chose twoto be Christ, who was the seed born of a men of faith through whom He inauguratedwoman (Gal 4:4), and Satan, called “the these programs and set them in motion. Theserpent of old” (Rev 20:2). first was Abraham, who lived about 2000 b.c. By analyzing these two crushings, we get God made a covenant with him, promising,a thumbnail sketch of God’s program with among other things, a seed that would blessrespect to Satan and man. The first state- all nations. Paul identified this seed as Christ,ment, “He shall bruise you on the head,” and the blessing which was to come through
20 Chapter 3 everyone’s question Him, Paul identified as redemption or justi- world” (John 1:29). It portrayed Him as the fication (Gal 3:6-16). Abraham’s seed would Lord’s servant who was led “like a lamb…to bring redemption to men, fulfilling the slaughter” (Isa 53:7). redemptive program. The other animal typifying Christ in the To fulfill His kingdom purpose, God Old Testament is the lion (Gen 49:9,10). John, chose David out of the same lineage about in Revelation 5:5, refers to this Old Testa- 1000 b.c. and made a covenant about a king- ment metaphor when he describes Christ as dom and a royal seed (2 Sam 7:12-16). This the “Lion…from the tribe of Judah.” As the seed of David eventually would rule over king of the beasts, the lion represents kingly the house of Israel forever. Besides ruling authority. The point is that out of the tribe of over Israel, it was later revealed that this Judah would come a Ruler who would rule anointed One would extend His rule over the Israel and the world. whole world (Amos 9:12; Zech 14:9). Through the seed of David, God would fulfill His One Glorious Messiah kingdom program by destroying the rebels Though the kingdom purpose is broader, ex- and governing the world in righteousness. tending to the whole spiritual realm, it could not be accomplished without the redemptive Two Typical Sons program for man. Notice how John relates It is also interesting to note that each of these the two in his prophetic vision of Revelation two men was given a son who typified the 5. After seeing Christ as the Lion and Lamb, seed he was promised. Abraham’s son, Isaac, he hears the angelic throng loudly acclaim: typified Christ in His redemptive function, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive being offered on Mount Moriah as a living power and riches and wisdom and might and sacrifice. David’s son, Solomon, typified honor and glory and blessing” (Rev 5:12). Christ in His royalty, being a king of glory He will have shown not only His right but and splendor. These two sons strikingly His worthiness to rule as God’s Lion, having typified that seed of Abraham and of David been slain as God’s Lamb. who was looked for with such anticipation Christ will finally present this reclaimed throughout the rest of the Old Testament kingdom back to the Father (1 Cor 15:24). period. In this light, it is no wonder that the That presentation will constitute the fulfill- Spirit of God begins the New Testament by ment of His commission from the Father in introducing its central figure as “the son of His role as the seed of the woman. And, of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt 1:1). supreme importance, the process by which He will have reclaimed that kingdom will be Two Typical Animals through His redemptive love, not His coer- The Old Testament also portrays the redemp- cive might. This redemptive grace is the ge- tive and kingdom functions of Christ by nius of His twofold program, and it will also two symbolic animals. The sacrificial lamb constitute the basis of His eternal fellowship typified Him in His redemptive work as the with men. That divine-human fellowship will “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the not be based on fear or force, but on love.Study Questions1. How did God respond to the two rebellions: that of Satan and that of Adam and Eve? Describe the value of distinguishing God’s responses to Satan and to mankind.2. How does God’s response to the counterfeit kingdom of Satan give us insight into God’s missionary purpose?3. How is “the Lion” still crushing Satan today? How is “the Lamb” still redeeming people today?