In several of our trainings this week, and even also in a meeting with a non-believer who was curious about this idea, we talked about the fact that God is on a mission. We said that, if we know what mission God is pursuing, then that should make a significant difference in what we do, and how we live our lives.
In this post, I am going to walk through the study that we went through, including answering the questions. If you would like to get the questions that we used in the study, you can skip down to the group study questions that I’ve included this post.
As human beings, we may ask ourselves “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose?”, or “Why am I here?”. I believe that these are questions that are common to most people. In asking these questions, we are trying to give our daily lives greater meaning and greater significance than what we see around us. We can sometimes feel like we are on a hamster wheel, running quickly without actually going anywhere.
As followers of Jesus, we must know what God’s mission is so that we do not find ourselves running around without purpose. We must know what he is doing so that we can align our lives and our activities around his purposes and what he is doing.
So what is the mission of God? Is it possible to know? I believe it is, and I believe God gave us the first clue of this in the first chapter of Genesis:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. ”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food. ” And it was so.Genesis 1:26-30
So let’s ask and answer three questions about this passage:
Made in God’s Image
First, what does it mean that we are made in God’s image? As I’ve asked this question over this week, I’ve received all sorts of different answers, not to mention all sorts of different questions in return. Here are a few:
- Does it mean that we look physically like God?
- I think it means that we have characteristics like God.
- We are able to create things like God did.
- We are given the authority to rule by God.
I think that most of these could be discussed further and we could explore further in the scriptures. But for our purposes today, I want to make it a little simpler in an effort to try to get to the point a little more quickly.
Imagine that you take a picture of something with your phone. In the example picture above, you see that the person has taken a picture of a tree. Now, as they leave that place, they have an image of that tree. They don’t have the real thing, just a representation of the real thing so that they can show it to other people who haven’t seen that tree. This picture was made in the image of that tree.
While this analogy isn’t perfect, I think it can help us understand more about what God is doing when it says that he made the man and the woman in his image. We are made as a representation of God. We are intended to represent him. We are not the real thing. We are not God. But we have been made for the purpose of representing him to others who do not know God so that they can know who he is.
For the purposes of this post, that is as far as I would like to go. However, if you would like to learn more about this topic, I recommend stopping for a moment and watching this video from the Bible Project. They do a good job of explaining this concept further.
Fill the Earth
Second question: What does it mean that God says that the men and women should multiply and fill the earth?
This is the first command that God ever gives. The first command wasn’t that they shouldn’t eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It wasn’t that they should make disciples to follow God. It wasn’t even that they should love God and love other people. The first command? Make babies! And a lot of them! 🙂
Is it coincidental that, first, God makes the man and the woman in his own image, and then immediately tells them to fill the earth? I’m going to suggest that the answer is No. I don’t believe that it is coincidental at all. What is happening here? God wants his image to be spread across the face of the earth. He gives us dominion to rule over the earth, which of course implies a responsibility to care for it, but I think the most important point is that God wants his image to be seen everywhere! Every part of the earth should have a representation of God upon it.
So what can we learn, then, about God’s mission? This is the very first thing that he says to Adam and Eve. He is looking for them to rule over the earth. We could probably even say that he wants them to manage it for him. But to say it succinctly, God wants to have his image spread across the face of the earth. This is God’s mission, that his people, made in his image, would rule the earth as God’s representatives here on earth.
Of course, reading this today, this might raise several other questions. For example, here are a couple:
- Are you saying that God wants to set up a theocracy?
- Does this mean that God has put you in charge to run the earth?
If those questions came into your mind as you read above, remember something here… This commandment is given at a time prior to sin entering the world. Selfishness didn’t exist. Greed didn’t exist. These men and women didn’t even know what it meant to be evil. They only knew good as they were in relationship with God. As a result, we have to imagine the goodness of God spread across the face of the earth! That is God’s intention. This isn’t a political ploy. This is an establishment of God’s Kingdom where men and women are put in charge of the earth by the King! The rules of this Kingdom are qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. These are the attributes of the Spirit of God and also of Adam and Eve at this time as they walked with God.
Has God’s Mission Changed?
Let’s skip forward now and look at the final commandment of Jesus prior to him leaving the earth and returning back to God. As we read these three verses, we should focus on thinking about whether or not God has changed his mind about his mission, or if, instead, it has remained the same and God has continued ahead from the original vision.
Here is what Jesus said:
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
OK, so let’s look at this mission that Jesus gives his disciples…
The Same, or Different?
Has God changed his mission? We said that he wanted to fill the earth with his image, with those who would represent him on the earth. Is that the same here in this command from Jesus? Let’s see …
First, we saw that God gave his people authority over all of the earth. Now, Jesus says that God has given him all of the authority, and therefore we must go and do what he wants us to do.
Second, we saw that God wanted his image spread all across the face of the earth. Now, we see that Jesus says that he wants his disciples to make disciples of Jesus. We are supposed to make people who will follow him, do what he says to do. We might even say that he wants us to make disciples in his image. Furthermore, these disciples of Jesus will carry within them the Holy Spirit that regenerates them to make them brand new as the image of God. This is again a similarity between the command in Genesis and this command in Matthew.
And third, we saw that God wanted his image to be carried across the earth. And now, we see that Jesus says that they should make disciples of all nations. In other words, Jesus wants his image, whom we could still call the image of God, to be taken to the whole earth, just as Adam and Eve were told to do in the beginning.
So I think we should now be able to say that God has been on the same mission from the beginning right up to the present day. He wants his image to be multiplied across the face of the earth. Previously, this was to be done by making babies and physically spreading out across the earth. Now, Jesus gives his disciples the command to make disciples in every nation, spiritually spreading out across the earth. The mission of God that has been the same for the beginning!
So what does this mean for me? If this is God’s mission, how should I get into the flow of what God is doing? Who was I created to be? What was I created to do? We can understand the answers to these questions, and help others do the same by continuing to dive into the Word of God, just in the same way as we have done here as God’s word continues to tell this same story throughout the scriptures.
Here are the questions that we used in our training studies this week:
What do you give thanks to God for from this last week?
What do you need prayer for in this week?
How have you obeyed God in this last week?
Who did you share with last week?
Read Genesis 1:26-30
Who can retell the story in their own words?
What does it mean that we are made in the image of God?
What was the first commandment from God?
What does this tell us about the mission of God?
Read Matthew 28:18-20
How is this commandment from Jesus similar to first commandment from God in Genesis?
How is it different?
What does this teach us about the mission of God?
What change does this make in us? What do you want to do in response?
Who can you share this with this week?