At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

What Is the Mission of God’s People?

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Today, when most Evangelicals think about Genesis 1, these questions come to mind:

  • Did God create the world in six ordinary days?
  • Were these “days” great ages or epochs?
  • How should we understand the theory of evolution in light of Genesis 1?

Moses was probably not concerned with these questions when he wrote the opening chapters of Genesis.

He was trying to prepare God’s people for the mission they were created to carry out – a mission Christians in the twenty-first century are also called to carry out.

In his book The Mission of God’s People, Christopher J.H. Wright explains,

When God created the earth, he created human beings in his own image with the express mission of ruling over creation by caring for it – a task modeled on the kingship of God himself. The human mission has never been rescinded, and Christians have not been given some exemption on the grounds that we have other or better things to do.

Moses is telling his original audience, and us as well, that humanity’s original calling is found in the creation narrative. The gospel call is a redemptive return to the lost and forfeited calling of being God’s image bearers in the world. This calling has never had anything less than the entirety of God’s original, good creation in view.

Wright puts the issue as clearly and bluntly as possible:

Creation is not just the disposable backdrop to the lives of human creatures who were really intended to live somewhere else, and some day will do so. We are not redeemed out of creation, but as part of the redeemed creation itself – a creation that will again be fully and eternally for God’s glory, for our joy and benefit, forever.

Christians don’t always see the biblical narrative this way. Dr. Richard Pratt describes the typical vision some people have of “the Christian life”:

Jesus came to forgive our sin, make our souls sparkle, to sprinkle us with peace and joy so we can sprout wings when we die, grab a harp and join the eternal choir.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

God has called each of us from death to life, from darkness into his glorious light, and he’s done this for a reason.

Genesis begins with “In the beginning God created.” We see the Creator fashioning heaven and earth. The first week was a week of work.

God created the heavens and the earth ex nihilo, out of nothing, and declared that it was good (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). It is clear from the creation story that God delights in the work of his hands.

We, being created in God’s image, are called to be sub-creators. We can’t create something ex nihilo, but we are called to create something out of what exists.

We are called to be productive through our work. We should enjoy not only the work of God’s hands, but that of our own as well.

Work is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible, more than all the terms used for worship, music, praise, and singing combined. Work is what we were created to do.

The work we’re called to accomplish, even in our daily vocations, sustains the mission intended for us, the mission Moses had in mind when he wrote the opening chapters of Genesis.

In his classic book The Call, Os Guinness writes,

The problem with Western Christians is not that they aren’t where they should be, but that they aren’t what they should be where they are.

We’re on a mission, and that mission is to be who God intended us to be as we live and work in his world for his glory.

Are you experiencing the freedom to do what God created you to do? Watch this new video to learn more about the freedom in Christ that allows us to carry out the mission God’s given each of us. 

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  • Amarah

    This is so true. At first, I thought this article would be about going on mission trips and being evangelists. That at first was concerning because not everyone is called to go to Africa or has the gift to be able to evangelize. It is true though that we are all called to become better individuals, striving for oneness with God. We can’t just be accepting of our sins our whole life. We must remove them one by one in order to become more pure. That is one strong lie: “God loves you just the way you are, you don’t have to change a thing.” Yes, God loves us, but He is not pleased with our sins. He calls us to become better and to cut off the evil in us, to be born again. This message isn’t easy but Christianity isn’t a smooth, wide path. It is narrow.
    Thanks for the article, Hugh!

  • Brady

    I agree with most of what you are saying but there is one term I believe we as believers should can; God made everything from nothing. That has to be one of the most ridiculous statements in Christian traditions. How can we associate nothing in any form or fashion with God’s creation process. I am reminded of another statement we make as equally ridiculous; faith is the belief in something that is not known to be true or verified but the definition given to faithful means to be completely verifiable as in a faithful saying. Other than that I like the article.

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