The Missionary Nature of God

Stephen Terry


Commentary for the July 4, 2015 Sabbath School Lesson


“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20, NIV

From the very beginning, God is portrayed as seeking fellowship with mankind. We are told that God liked to walk through the garden “in the cool of the day,” sharing His time with the first couple.[i] One can almost hear the tears in His voice when one day, He came for their usual walk, and they were hiding. “Where are you?” He cried. The pain of that estrangement and abandonment has echoed down through the ages to the present. Who has not felt the agony of being separated from those we love? Whether for a short time or a long one, the heart pain can be intense. Sometimes it is due to selfishness, the same issue that occurred with Adam and Eve. We know the best way to proceed in a matter and no matter whom we hurt, we insist on having our way.

At some point, selfishness seems to have become confused with demanding our rights. We look at someone who has more blessings than we have and demand we receive more as a matter of right, accusing them of selfishness if they resist. We may be blind to the possibility that our motivation could also be selfishness. When we consider that no one is free of the taint of sin that possibility can morph into a probability. Perhaps this is evidenced when we create protected groups that garner special “rights” to themselves that are in turn denied to others. However, in doing so, we may have overlooked that the selfish human heart might encourage the formation of still other reactionary special groups that may also seek special rights exclusively for those group members. True equality can be hard to achieve in such an environment. One might even go so far as to say that equality cannot exist in the face of selfishness. Fortunately, there is a better way.

Jesus introduced us to an alternative He called the Kingdom of God. The bulk of the principles that underlie that kingdom are found in His “Sermon on the Mount.”[ii] Rather than selfishness, we find self-sacrifice. Rather than fighting for our rights, we find service to the needs of others. Our rights may dictate that we can quit bearing a burden after a mile and be within those rights to do so, but the principles of the Kingdom of God tell us to go another mile beyond.[iii] What a different world this would be if everyone got more from us than they had a right to expect. But because we live in a world where that is not the case, we fear that we will only be taken advantage of and any sacrifices we make will be to our loss and will simply enable the poor lifestyle choices of others.

This becomes problematic when we recognize the divinity of Jesus, a divinity that includes omniscience. Surely He knew the possibility that some would presume on our self-sacrifice due to their own selfish nature. But He said to do it anyway. Perhaps His death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice to selfishness. But He was Jesus, and we are not, so that makes a difference, right? Maybe not, for He told us to take up the cross as well.[iv] We seem to be called to lives of sacrifice and service, but why is that important?

Perhaps such a call is missional in its intent. If we were called to fight for the rights of a particular group, our message might be limited in its appeal. Surely the group we are fighting for would appreciate it, as long as we were aligned with their objectives. But what about everyone else? Maybe a life of service to all has the only real expectation of crossing those boundaries to become a universal ministry. Of course those who are focused on self and personal rights may be opposed to such a message as by its nature, it diminishes the claim of special interests in deference to service to all.

Some might feel that we do this by proxy by relegating to an ordained clergy the idea of service to others that we might then go about our lives with perhaps tempered but nonetheless a mostly normal degree of selfishness that we are accustomed to. Maybe those clergy are even accomplices in this grand design as they are surely compensated for their surrogacy and may not wish to “bite the hand that feeds them” and their families. However, this idea of a surrogate ordained ministry is perhaps alien to the Gospel. While such priesthood may have existed in type with the tribe of Levi in the Old Testament, its anti-type in the Kingdom of God is found in the royal priesthood of all believers.[v] As the typical priest was anointed with the blood of a ram,[vi] so the anti-typical royal priest is anointed with the blood of Christ.[vii] As the typical priest was washed with water,[viii] so the anti-typical priest is washed in baptism.[ix] As the typical priest is anointed with oil,[x] so the anti-typical priest is anointed with the Holy Spirit.[xi] The old has been replaced by the new. The typical temple in Jerusalem has been replaced by the anti-typical heavenly form.

Just as the former priesthood had its high priest reigning from Aaron through Phannias ben Samuel,[xii] so the new priesthood has its High Priest. Unlike the type which died and was replaced regularly, the Anti-type reigns eternally without the need for replacement. As their offerings on behalf of the people had to be continually renewed, Christ was offered once and yet remains eternally efficacious. There is no need for a surrogate clergy as we all, under Christ, are set apart for mission and service. This royal priesthood is eternal after the order of Melchizedek.[xiii] Because it is eternal, those who serve as ordained priests of that order must also serve eternally. This is the evidence of eternal life to come that we have been ordained to that order.

This priesthood is not only eternal but universal to all who are fully ordained by the blood of Christ, the washing of baptism, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The first two we choose to do, the third is automatic following our repentance and baptism, for Peter does not say we “might” receive the Holy Spirit, but that we will.[xiv] With such an ordination, how can we then hold back from fully occupying the priesthood granted to us? Having received the Spirit, do we look then to men to approve our ministry? Do we think that John the Baptist or Jesus’ Disciples went to the established church and asked for permission to baptize people into the kingdom? Why do we then feel we must do so now? When Jesus gave the Gospel commission in the verses at the top of this commentary, is it possible that He said, “Oh, never mind, you aren’t ordained pastors so don’t baptize. It’s not allowed.

So much of what the institutional church is all about is power and control of others. Perhaps it is a desire to control the evangelization of the world that is the greatest hindrance to its advance. When we deny the efficacy of a Melchizedekian ordination that takes place outside of the institutional church, perhaps even in spite of that church, are we not placing man-made rules above the moving of the Holy Spirit?

We teach our church members to sit quietly in the pews each week listening to the pontificating of an approved, ordained cleric rather than to recognize their own ordination and call to ministry. Should they dare to respond to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, they may be reminded that they have no authority to do so. Only the pastor may baptize individuals. This model is completely the inverse of what Jesus modelled. He did not baptize others, but allowed the disciples to do all the baptizing.[xv] Jesus was less concerned about controlling the work than He was about enabling it. When the disciples complained that another was working in His name and wanting to forbid it, His counsel was to allow them to continue.[xvi] Would we have the grace to do the same today?

Perhaps it is time to stop all this nonsense about a special ordination that sets some men above others and allows them to control how the Holy Spirit is allowed to work in the lives of the saints. We have no right to serve as gatekeepers to the doorway of salvation. Maybe it is time we recognized our own ordinations as royal priests under our great High Priest, Jesus Christ and move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we should stop letting that Spirit be stymied by those who are all about power and control of the work. Maybe a few old wineskins will even be burst in the process.[xvii]

[i] Genesis 3:8-9

[ii] Matthew 5-7

[iii] Matthew 5:41

[iv] Mark 8:34

[v] 1 Peter 2:9

[vi] Exodus 29:19-21

[vii] Ephesians 2:13

[viii] Exodus 29:4

[ix] John 3:5

[x] Exodus 29:7

[xi] Acts 2:38

[xii] "Phannias ben Samuel,"

[xiii] Hebrews 5:5-6

[xiv] Acts 2:38

[xv] John 4:1-2

[xvi] Mark 9:38-39

[xvii] Mark 2:22



This Commentary is a Service of Still Waters Ministry


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