God's grand purpose in summing up all things in Christ, who is our all-in-all. Satan sets out to deceive mankind in order to lead him also into disobedience and rebellion. God, in his mercy and true to His redemptive nature, cursed the Enemy and promised his ultimate defeat. Nevertheless, mankind continued to sin .
At Babel man desired to become like God and built a tower to exalt themselves. In one more effort to save mankind from self-destruction, God scattered His people into a wide array of ethnic groups called People Groups (referred to as "nations" in Biblical translation), or communities.
God's plan now was to win them back to Himself, one people group at a time. From out of this ethnic-linguistic mosaic and diversity, God chose one man, Abraham, and made a covenant of redemption with him. In this covenant we find two parts. God's intention to bless His people and the purpose of this blessing which was not for personal enjoyment but to reach others. The blessing contains the charter of God's missionary purpose and provides the foundation on which all the rest of the Biblical story revolves.
After the period of Egyptian bondage, God renewed His covenant through Moses. He reiterated their unique relationship and purpose for all the peoples of the earth. Sadly, the chosen people mostly rebelled and, as a result, suffered the consequences.
The pattern of God's dealing with disobedient disciples can be seen throughout Christian history and so, as we realize this, biblical stories take on new meaning. Furthermore, Israel was to be a royal priesthood a holy people – mediators between God and man. The kind of holiness God meant for Israel had two important aspects: separation and sanctification. As the custodian of the Name of God they were to be separate from other nations in behavior and practice so that the difference and supremacy of the Israelite's God could be recognized. Set-apart-unto-God, they were to be obedient to His absolute authority and dominion over them.
God's missionary mandate has two forces: one that draws people in and another that sends them out. The attraction force is illustrated by the way God placed Israel geographically and strategically so that the nations might come and call upon Him. This is most illustrated geographically in the Temple which was to be a house of prayer for all nations. Jesus' anger when the Court of the Gentiles was abused by money lenders shows His concern for this place of worship.
Another means that God uses to spread His glory is that His people should go to the nations and bless them with a knowledge of God. The Old Testament contains many such journeys, some voluntary and others, like Jonah's, which were not. Despite God's clear warnings, rather than remain apart as a testimony to the uniqueness of their God, they sought instead to become like the other ethnic groups with whom they came in contact.
Because of unabated sin, God released judgment on Israel and Judah, causing them to go into captivity in Assyria and Babylon, while others migrated to other parts of the then-known world or even to what would in time become the Roman Empire.
This dispersed nation, called the Diaspora, established an extensive network of synagogues, which drew not only Jews, but Gentiles as well. The extensive Roman road system and a common language of the then predominant empire, set the stage for the efficient and effective spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the Church and her disciples.
At the coming of Jesus, the Jewish people mistakenly assumed the Messiah would usher in a new kingdom which would overthrow the yoke of Roman slavery, judge the Gentile nations and reestablish Israel as a great power. However, rather than judge Israel's enemies, God was instead to judge the enemies of His kingdom; the unrighteous. Because of the hardness of Israel's heart, Jesus focused His teaching on a small remnant to whom it was granted to understand this mysterious kingdom, hidden to others.
Jesus preached that the Kingdom – then, and in the future would include Gentiles. The "mystery" concerning this kingdom was that the Gentiles could follow Christ just as any Jew. God's never-changing purpose in setting up His kingdom was to purge the world of all sin and unrighteousness and establish an earthly throne from which Christ would reign over all nations. Secondly, the Kingdom of God was for the present, that moment in time but not in the manner expected by the Israelites. This now kingdom was instituted by a Suffering Servant whose shed blood and resurrected life would crush all principalities and powers of darkness.
The "mystery" concerning the kingdom of God was that Jesus meant the Good News to be freely available to every Jew – and Gentile. We are now in the interim period when the Gospel is actually being preached to every culturally-distinct group before the End comes [Mat 24:14]. This gives the Church today the motivation it needs to carry into effect the plans of the King. The Church is shaping history as it fulfills the Great Commission and makes disciples of all ethne [people groups or communities].
We have learned that Jesus began His ministry by identifying with Gentiles to reinforce God's purpose for all nations to know Him as clearly established in the Abrahamic Covenant. He clearly understood His role as the Savior to all peoples. Yet His disciples were – and sometimes still are – prejudiced or often blind to His example.
Before His ascension to the Father Jesus went through the Scriptures to clearly reinforce God's eternal purpose for all people groups to be equally blessed with salvation. He made sure His disciples understood that their salvation was more than just a personal ticket to heaven. Rather, it was a blessing to benefit the world; an ongoing strategy to be used by His followers today. Walking in the steps of the Master; as the Father has sent me, so send I you.
Likewise the Day of Pentecost was actually the birth of the modern missions movement. The power of the Holy Spirit was for those who brought the lost back to His Kingdom. However, despite the fact the Church began as a missionary enterprise, many believers appear to still be reluctant to actualize the vision of becoming a blessing to the Gentiles and seldom venture out of their modern-day equivalent of the city of Jerusalem. By using the involuntary GO method, God permitted persecution to scatter His people preaching throughout the world.
The newly formed church in Jerusalem wanted to meet its own needs and failed to think about going beyond its own cultural boundaries. Then God raised up the apostle Paul as His instrument to bear the name of Christ to the Gentiles. It was chiefly due to Paul's tireless efforts that many of them turned to the Lord. A great controversy ensued over circumcision which was actually a misguided effort to maintain conformity to a particular ethne. This led to the Great Council meeting recorded in Acts 15, when the Spirit-guided church embraced the Gentiles without any necessity to adopt the culture of the bearers-of-the-Good News. This great ruling freed the Gospel from the Jewish or any other nation's cultural baggage and allowed it to become mobile so as to be relevant to the people they served.
Paul's example as a missionary remains for us to emulate even today. He firmly resisted the opposition from those of the Circumcision. He continued until his final days to concentrate on proclaiming the Gospel to those who had not heard of Jesus. Paul left the administration of churches to its own local members and continued, with God's guidance along the road He had ordained for their feet to follow ever since Barnabas and he had set out from Antioch. Tradition tells us that many of the other apostles were inspired by Paul and they continued to travel within and outside the Mediterranean regions.
Fortunately God has spelled out his intentions and purpose for history. People who get on board with his plan will enjoy the thrill of seeing Him work out His purposes. Spreading like wildfire even today, the Gospel of the Kingdom proclaimed in the Book of Acts continues to reach out to men and women from every tongue, every tribe, every nation and every people so that His Word shall accomplish the task for which it first went forth!