What is God’s Mission? Well, three verses can give us this answer, they are Genesis 1:27-28, sometimes called the Cultural Mandate, or Creation mandate, and Matthew 28:18-20, known as the Great Commission, and finally Mark 12:29-31 (Deut 6:4-5, Lev 19:18) known as the Great Commandment. These three together give us the most comprehensive picture of, not only what Christians ought to be doing, but what all of humanity ought to be doing. Let’s take them in succession.
The Cultural Mandate
“28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28
Here we see the most overarching purpose of humanity, as given by God. Humanity is to be fruitful and multiply, that is make babies, fill the earth and have dominion over all things. Fill it with what? People, ideas, arts, cities, technologies, ingenuities…etc. Have dominion over it? That is rule over it, take responsibility for it, steward it well. The interesting thing is that this is known as building culture, and we have been doing it ever since God issued this command, albeit imperfectly, as a result of the fall.
We are constantly creating culture. In America, we prize ingenuity, creativeness, the entrepreneurial spirit. One only has to look as far as Apple, or Google, or Amazon to see one aspects of God’s command playing out. But they same principle pays out in the average home. We are constantly improving things. We upgrade our kitchens, our bathrooms. We take care of our lawns. We buy new furniture. We upgrade our phones, our computers. Computer Programmers are constantly creating new ideas and new apps. This is a great thing.
Now of course, because of sin there is a dark side to creativity. As with anything, it can be used to promote great good and the betterment of society, or it can be used to promote sin and destructive ways of living. The internet is one great example of this. It is a beautiful and very useful thing, but things such as pornography destroy people’s sex lives and sexual identity. This then leads us into the second part of God’s mission, the great commission, which encompasses the redemption of all things.
The Great Commission
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus sends out his disciples into the world, empowered by the greatest creative being in the universe, the Holy Spirit. The essential task of the disciples is to go…and as they are going to make disciples, that is spirit-filled followers and lovers of Christ, baptizing them, that is inclusion into a church community, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded them. We’ll come back to this last point.
Now essentially what happens when a person is converted, or regenerated, or born again, or born from above is that he is reconciled with God, through Christ’s vicarious live and atoning death. But there’s more. Jesus not only dies for sins, but he rises again to new life, to live to God and he sends his Spirit into his people and they are made into a new creation, forever united to Christ (2 Cor 5:17, Rom 6:1-4).
Now what was lost in the fall, namely loving and trusting obedience to God and his cultural mandate, can again start to be re-created. For the first time, a new believer, can obey God from the heart (Eph 6:6, Rom 6:17). The believer, now no longer has to find his identity in how much he accomplishes, or how much honor he brings to his family, or how obedient he is to society. He finds his identity in Christ alone, and is given His perfect life. This at last frees him, to truly live a free life (Gal 5:1, John 8:32). He can now bask in the sovereignty and love of God and fearlessly follow his will, trusting in God for everything. This is an amazing thing.
He can at last start to fulfill the Cultural Mandate in a way that is God honoring, and even when he fails his failures are covered by the blood of Christ. And he knows that when Christ returns, he will complete the work.
Now then, how are we supposed to live? God has told us what to do, but how are we supposed to do it? To this we turn to the third part of the Great Commission and the third aspect of God’s Mission, the Great Commandment.
The Great Commandment
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31
When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment he said that it was to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. If one were to ask how you could boil down all that Jesus taught us to do, you might give this same answer. And so when we ask what it means to obey all that Jesus has taught us, we can conclude that it is at least encapsulated in this great command.
And here again we see the connection with the reality of redemption. It is only when a person is reconciled to God and given his Holy Spirit that he is truly able to love in a way that is selfless, because he doesn’t need the love or approval from people. Because he has God’s love, the most important love and the deepest need of all or our souls, he is free to truly love others. John teaches us that, we are only able to love because Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19).
And so the great mystery is revealed. When one is asked what we are to be doing the answer is two-fold. We are too be making disciples of Jesus and we are to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. We are to fill it with God-honoring, Christ-exalting, spirit-filled image bearers of God. And we are to be the type of people that deeply love God and deeply love others. And this is only made possible because of Christ’s sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s presence.
We cannot separate these three aspects they are intricately related. All of these fall under the rubric of the Missio Dei. (mission of God)