As we have seen, the concept of making disciples of all nations is not a New Testament idea, but something has radically changed. With the Advent of Christ, the Anointed Messiah, the Abrahamic Covenant will finally find fulfillment. God told Abraham that, “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18), and Paul clarifies in Galatians that Christ is that promised seed (Galatians 3:16). Christ “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall” (Ephesians 2:14) to allow all nations (“people groups,” as we have previously established) into covenant with God.
In Matthew 13, several parables illustrating evangelism are utilized (sower, weeds, mustard seed). This leads us to ask how things have changed, and not changed, since the Old Testament. The idea of God’s name being made known throughout His creation is the same, but now the means becomes a spiritual inheritance and not a physical one, as the Jews had thought for so long (which led to their misunderstanding of Christ).
Jesus commissioned His disciples with the well-known command, “‘all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20; cf. Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47). The “Great Commission” is really an “old commission,” because Christ is re-stating God’s promise to Abraham. Think of it, Christ is restating the Abrahamic Covenant thousands of years later!
In Matthew 24, Jesus’ disciples ask Him when He will return (Matthew 24:3). Jesus responds that earthquakes, wars, and tribulation are not to signal the return, but Christ will return when, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Jesus is saying that only when God’s promise to Abraham is complete will He return! This passage should challenge us to rethink the way we view the return of Christ and our role in it. In other words, Christ is basically saying, “if you want me to come back, then get the gospel to all the people groups!”
For more references, see: Matthew 6:9-10, 9:35-38; Luke 2:30-32, 4:16-21, 10:2; John 1:29.
Acts and the Epistles
Jesus restates the commissioning of His disciples right before His ascension into heaven: “you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The early church continues to struggle with the “mystery” of the kingdom (Acts 10:45-48), which is in the bringing of the Gentiles into covenant with God (Romans 11:25).
Paul later boldly proclaims that those who are of faith are true Jews (Romans 2:28-29), that those of faith have Abraham as our forefather (4:16), and that Gentiles are included in “Israel,” or the covenant people of God (Romans 9:6). He also proclaims that in order to believe the Gospel, someone must be sent (Romans 10:14-15), and that he wants to preach the Gospel where Christ is not known, so as not to “build on another man’s foundation” (Romans 15:20).
Lastly, we look at Galatians 3. Paul says in this chapter, “the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer” (Galatians 3:8-9). This, therefore, verifies that God’s eternal plan was to bring Gentiles into covenant with Him. This finally gives us some much-needed unity to the Old Testament and New Testament in theme and intent.
For more references, see: Acts 2:1-13, 3:24-26, 5:27-29, 6:7, 8:1-8, 9:15-16, 11:18-21, 13:1-3, 13:46-48, 14:26-28, 15:10-14, 28:28; Romans 1:5, 3:28-31, 9:22-24, 10:17-21, 15:8-11; Hebrews 6:13-14, 8.
John sees a vision in Revelation: “and they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals; for you were slain, and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9; cf. 7:9). What is John seeing? He is seeing the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant! That is a vision of heaven to look forward to, when every people group will be worshipping the Lamb of God!
You now have an introduction into God’s heart for the nations. The following are five things you can do from here. First, you can be praying for the unreached and that labors would be sent into the field (Matthew 9:35-38). Second, you can be welcoming international students who are visiting America. Third, you can be sending missionaries monetary support and other kinds of encouragement. Fourth, you can be mobilizing other Christians to understand and get on board with God’s heart for the unreached. Fifth, you can physically go to an unreached people group to share the Gospel. These five items are not mutually exclusivethey fall and rise together. Things to guard against are ignorance, apathy and indifference. From the statistics in the first article, you can see that the body of Christ, especially in the Western world, often fails here.
I would encourage you to take Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (www.perspectives.org) for a more in-depth examination of these, and many more, issues dealing with missions. Consider using your summer break to go to The Traveling Team’s Intensive Training Summer Project (www.thetravelingteam.org) and spend seven weeks taking Perspectives and learning from missionaries about different religions and concepts. You can start by looking up an unreached people group on Joshua Project’s website, and just praying for them. As you pray, God will show you His heart and plan for the unreached.