Our Creator originated the work of missions and evangelism. He was the first preacher, as it were, of divine truth, for He called Abraham out of paganism in order to bring the blessing of salvation to all peoples (Gen. 12:1–3). Furthermore, He sent prophets such as Isaiah to warn people of His judgment against their sin and to call them to repent and trust in Him (Isa. 6:8). But the supreme work of missions conducted by our triune God occurred in the ministry of Jesus Christ. God Himself, the Son of God in particular, came to earth in the incarnation and became the model missionary who preached the gospel of the kingdom to lost people and taught them the ways of the Lord. The Father sent the Son, and the Holy Spirit anointed and empowered Him to do the work of missions (Luke 4:16–21; John 3:16–17).
Even the use of the word missions shows how central the concept of God’s sending His servants and His Son into the world is to the church’s task. This term is derived from the Latin verb missio, which means “to send.” Missions is the work of the church to send people around the world to preach the gospel, disciple people, and plant churches. Because it is a sending work, it is an imitation of God Himself in sending His emissaries into the world to preach the good news of salvation and instruct people in His truth. One way we fulfill the command to be imitators of God is to engage in missions (Eph. 5:1).
Until the Lord returns, the work of missions will be ongoing. We are following the orders of our Savior, whose sending us mirrors the Father’s sending Him. The Father was the first to send missionaries, supremely in His sending of His Son to save sinners (John 17:16–18). In turn, Christ sends us into the world just as He was first sent by the Father (20:21). If we love Him, we will go, for those who love the Savior long to keep His commandments (14:15).
The task of taking the Word of God to all nations seems overwhelming, but we need not fear that we are not up to the task. In ourselves, of course, we cannot accomplish the mission Christ has given us, but the success of the mission is not in our hands. Just as Jesus was sent into the world in the power of the Holy Spirit, so does our Savior send us out in the power of the Spirit (vv. 16–17). His presence in and among us means that we can go forth with confidence to all the world, preaching the gospel and discipling people from every tribe and tongue.