Creation and Mission
God’s mission does not begin with the Great Commission. It is rooted in the opening words of the Old Testament. Mission is the central theme of the Scriptures from page one.
Genesis 1:2 is important in understanding God’s work of creation because it introduces a key theme””God active engagement with this world to accomplish God’s purposes. This verse marks the beginning of God’s missional activity in the world. Gen 1:1 affirms that God is the one responsible for the existence of everything. Genesis 1:2 focuses on the incompleteness and incoherence of the raw materials out of which God fashions the completed earth with its complex geological features, plants, animals, and humanity. The familiar Seven Day creation pattern in vv. 3-31 describes God’s work in moving toward completion the earth that v. 2 describes as “a formless void.” Our text gives no explanation for the earth’s precreative state, but it affirms that God was present prepared to act. Our bible lesson reads “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” “A wind from God” may be translated alternatively as “the spirit of God.” The same word translated as “wind” can also mean “spirit” or “breath.” Our text is simply affirming that God is present and active in bringing his creation to wholeness. Many Christian commentators have identified the “wind” or “spirit” here with the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, God has added missional activity into the created world. On both Day Five and Day Six, God’s creatures are given special missions. They are to be fruitful and multiply. Thus, God’s creatures share in part in God’s work of filling creation with life.
Importance of rooting God’s mission in creation:
1) The World in which we live matters to God.
This is a simple statement with key implications. Christianity is not merely about “pie in the sky in the sweet by and by” as it sometimes has been ridiculed (and we must admit that this criticism has been on target at times). A robust biblical faith understands God’s salvation as not merely the salvation of souls, but of the salvation of persons as well as a wholistic view of the redemption of creation.
Notice how Paul interrelates the salvation of women and men with God’s work on behalf of all Creation:
NIV Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Gnanaken an Indian scholar in constant engagement with a dominant Hindu culture (which denies the material world) makes this point forcefully for a Western audience:
Salvation is in escaping from the created material order rather than something experienced within it. In contrast to this idea that creation is only a hindrance to authentic spiritual reality, the God of the Bible reveals Himself through a good creation, meaningful enough to provide for man a demonstration of God’s intricate design for his ultimate glory. (Kingdom Concerns: a Biblical Exploration Towards a Theology of Mission, 43)
2) Stress on relationship and interdependence-community.
The initial chapters of Genesis portray humanity in profound and mutually beneficial relationships with God, the environment, and with one another. This is life as God intended it to be lived. Humanity communes with God. There is dialogue and interaction. Men and women live together as partners in God’s work in the world. There is no hint of attempts to dominate one another. Humanity also lives in harmony with the natural world. There is playfulness in Genesis 2 in particular over the naming of the creatures that God crafted. There is also no struggle to survive in the world that God has made.
3) Mission exists before sin enters the world.
Humanity was created to participate fully in God’s mission. In Genesis 1-2, humanity’s mission is to serve as stewards of God’s Creation. This involves caring for and preserving what God has crafted. Implicit here is creativity. Humanity acts to create beauty and order out of God’s already good creation. This statement in no way suggests any imperfection in God’s work rather it implies the profound dignity and worth with which God has created people.
The existence of mission before the entrance of sin also means that mission in its totality cannot never be limited only to actions that would be labeled “evangelistic” in our current conversations. Of course, in our post Genesis 3-11 reality, efforts to draw women and men to Jesus are absolutely necessary, but mission also involves working for the overall good of creation.
4) International focus.
Before the Bible shifts its focus on Israel, it has the entire world in view. Genesis 1-11 focuses on Creation as a whole. There is no Israel. Humanity is the main character. This is intentional and critical. God does not play favorites. The mission of God has all Creation and all people in view.
© 2007 Brian D. Russell