Answering Elijah (Part 4)

Elijah, judging from the comments on these posts, or the lack thereof, it looks like it might just be you and me still reading them! Moving along…more quickly now.

For those of you just joining us, Elijah is a seminary student and blogger at Fuller Theological who’s asked me, as part of an assignment, what the biblical foundations are for my understanding of “mission.” I assume he means God’s and ours. This series of posts is my not-so-short answer.

We’ve covered loveEdenfame and the flood so far. Now, let’s look at God’s deal with Abraham before we skip way ahead in history to the prophets.

Abram’s Election

Sin separated people from each other and from God. God further separated the people from one another by diversifying language and scattering the people across the earth. Then, God began gathering them back to Himself and to each other…starting with just one.

He “elected” Abram to have a more intimate relationship with Him. God appeared to Him! Spoke to him! And made a deal with him.


Like He did with Noah, God cut a covenant with Abram.

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:1-3

Just a fews things I want to mention about this passage that are central to our understanding of God’s mission and our participation in it.

  • First, God is the primary actor. God graciously chose to make a relationship possible. The covenant language focusses on what God is going to do through Abram, not on what Abram is going to do for God.
  • Second, the covenant required faith from Abram expressed in obedience. He believed God, left home and family for parts unknown – reoriented his entire life around this agreement with God. He became a new kind of man with a new kind of life and a new name: Abraham (Hebrews 11:8-12).
  • Third, God promised to protect Abram from God’s enemies.
  • Fourth, God’s plan was global. His relationship with one man was part of His plan for delivering a nation and then, eventually, the whole world. He promised to bless Abram for the purpose of blessing all nations.God stated His mission clearly to Abram: all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Again and again: Genesis 18:17,18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14
  • This is an Old Testament statement of the “gospel” or “good news”! (Galatians 3:8)

Physical or Spiritual?

The provision of God to Abraham and through Abraham to the nations was spiritual in that God was offering everlasting relationship with Himself, which included at least forgiveness of sin (Romans 4:1-2), divine power and protection (Genesis 14:20) and access through prayer (Genesis 18:22).

But it was also physical. There’s no denying that God would soon make Abraham a rich man and give him land to live on. God almost immediately blessed other nations through Abraham’s wealth and property by giving Abraham the means to care for those in his household, including those he bought, and for “strangers.”As the nation grows, the physical blessings and the need/opportunity to bless others will increase as well.

Mission And Abraham

God chose to have a more intimate relationship with Abram in which he experienced both spiritual and physical blessings. God promised to expand that relationship and its blessings from one man to an entire nation and eventually to all nations.