John Stott remarks that mission is at the heart each of the five parts of the Bible.
1. The God of the Old Testament is a missionary God, calling one family in order to bless all the families of the earth (Gen 12:1-4).
‘The tragedy of the Old Testament is that Israel kept forgetting the universal scope of God’s promises. They overlooked the fact that God had chosen one family in order to bless all families. They became preoccupied with themselves and with their own history. They even perverted the truth of divine election into the error of divine favouritism, which led them to boast of their privileged status and to assume that they were immune to the judgment of God.’
2. The Christ of the gospels is a missionary Christ; he sent the church out to witness.
‘Even the Gospel of Matthew, which is the most Jewish of the four, and is the only Gospel to include…two references to Israel’s lost sheep [Mt 10:6; 15:24], makes this global horizon clear. It begins with the genealogy of Jesus, which is traced to Abraham, surely to indicate that the promise is at last to be fulfilled [Mt 1:2]. Next, after the birth of Jesus, it describes the visit of those mysterious Magi, who perhaps were Zoroastrian astrologers from Persia, who brought their treasures to “the king of the Jews”, and whom Matthew sees as forerunners of the Gentile multitudes who would later do homage to Jesus [Mt 2:1-12]. Matthew also records Jesus’ remarkable prediction that “many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” [Mt 8:11]. And Matthew’s Gospel ends with the fullest version we are given of the so-called “Great” or “Universal” Commission.’
3. The Spirit of the Acts is a missionary Spirit; he drove the church out from Jerusalem to Rome.
‘Pentecost was a missionary event. It was the fulfilment of God’s promise through the prophet Joel to pour out his Spirit “on all people” [Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17], irrespective of their race, sex, age or social standing. And the foreign languages which the disciples spoke…were a dramatic sign of the international nature of the Messiah’s kingdom which the Holy Spirit had come to establish.’
The rest of Acts chronicles the unfolding of this beginning. The first Christians witnessed to their fellow-Jews in and around Jerusalem. Then Philip witnessed to the Samaritans, the Jews’ near-relatives (Acts 8:5-8). Then came the conversion of the God-fearer Cornelius, and after that to Gentiles more generally (Acts 11:20). Three missionary journeys followed, in which Paul evangelised Galatia, Asia, Mecedonia and Achaia. Acts ends with Paul in Rome, the capital of the world. And, in all of this, the missionaries were impelled, and their message empowered, by the Holy Spirit.
4. The church of the epistles is a missionary church, a worldwide community with a world-wide vocation.
The apostolic letters make it clear that the churches will support his missionary activity by their support, gifts and prayers (Phil 1:5; 2 Thess 3:1; Col 4:3; Eph 6:19f). Indeed, the churches themselves will be involved in spreading the faith; their very purpose is to ‘declare the praises’ of their Saviour, 1 Pet 2:9. Each church is to exhibit a misisonary character, ‘shining like stars’ in a sinful generation, making an exhibition of the word of life, Phil 2:15f. The Thessalonians are commended for not only having welcomed the gospel byt as having made it ring out in the surrounding area, 1 Thess 1:6,8. Individual Christians are to know how to ‘answer’ outsiders, Col 4:5f; cf. 1 Pet 3:15.
5. The end of the Revelation is a missionary end, a countless throng from every nation.
John sees before God’s throne a great multitude, coming ‘from every nation, tribe, people and language’. Their very diversity will by no means inhibit, but rather enrich, the praises of God.
Only in such a countless throng can God’s promise to Abraham find its fulfilment. The number of the redeemed will be as the dust of the earth (Gen 13:6), the stars of the sky (Gen 15:5) and the sand on the seashore (Gen 22:17).
‘Mission lies at the very heart of God and therefore at the very heart of the church. A church without mission is no longer a church. It is contradicting an essential part of its identity. The church is mission.’
Authentic Christianity, p315f, and The Contemporary Christian, 325-334.