Old Testament Missional Trajectories

Richard Bauckham, writing on God’s pattern in the Old Testament of choosing singular individuals for a broader, universal purpose:

God’s purpose always begins with… singling out but never ends there.

It was never God’s intention to bless Abraham purely for his and his descendent’s sake. It was never God’s intention to reveal himself to Israel only for Israel’s sake. It was never God’s intention to base his kingdom in Zion only so that he might rule the immediate locality.

God’s purposes in each of these singular choices was universal: that the blessing of Abraham might overflow to all the families of the earth, that God’s self-revelation to Israel might make God known to all the nations, that from Zion his rule might extend to the ends of the earth (Bible and Mission, 46).

With a helpful clarification:

None of these forms of the biblical movement from the particular to the universal is, strictly speaking, mission. Abraham, Israel, and David are not sent out to evangelize the world. But these three major trends of the biblical story are what make the church’s mission intelligible as a necessary and coherent part of the whole biblical narrative (46-47).

The New Testament Christians aren’t simply doing the same thing as God’s people in the Old Testament, for we are explicitly sent to evangelize the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). But, we also aren’t doing something that is in fundamental contrast with the story of the Old Testament. Instead, we are carrying the Old Testament trajectories to their fulfillment: “The early Christians, embarking on their mission to Gentiles as well as Jews, were carrying forward the universal purpose of God established precisely when he chose Abraham, Israel, David, and Zion” (47).

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