Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Deo praeveniri (God's Initiative)

     Initiative is discovered in the character of God.  He is the almighty and merciful initiator revealed in the Scriptures.[1]  He took the initiative to create the world.  He took the initiative to create man in order to have fellowship with him.  He took the initiative to search for rebellious man, calling to him in the garden, "Where are you," (Gen. 3:9)?  He took the initiative to reconcile the human race to himself, so that those who receive his provision for sin will "reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ," (Rom. 5:17).  Indeed, every major act of God is an initial move--searching for, reaching out and saving humankind all for the love of his creation.

            This divine initiative (Deo praeveniri) is necessary in order for "created-good-but-sin-infected" humanity to return to a right standing before a holy God.  The hope of the human race is not in itself, nor in its tainted goodness, but in God who according to his great mercy rescues human beings from a desperate and despairing state.  It is his initiative, not humanity's that brings salvation to men, women, and children on earth.[2]

            The initiative of God is seen in his identification with the human race.  This is observed chiefly in the incarnation, "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us," (John 1:14).  The incarnation was the invasion into human life by God himself, entering into time, space and history, identifying with his creation through his Son Jesus Christ.  The Scriptures state:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross, (Phil. 2:6-8)!

            The initiative of God is also seen in his calling and sending activity.  In biblical history, he sent chosen men and women to carry out his will to proclaim his truth.  He sent his Son Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit into the world.  Jesus likewise sent his disciples to carry on the initiating activity of reaching out to people with the message of his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and restoration of all things. 

            The Great Commission with Jesus Christ is a mission of initiative (Matt. 28:18-20).  It originates in the will of the Father, is revealed and affirmed in the life of his Son, and is carried out through the church in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Since God has initiated a relationship with human beings, his people are called in like manner to initiate relationships with others, based upon his initiative and love for humankind.[3]  His people are sent to the ends of the earth, to the end of time, always on the move to fulfill the Great Commission ... a mission with Christ.

            The church participates in this search and rescue mission, like "the Son of Man" who "came to seek and to save what was lost," (Luke 19:10).  This is a ministry of reconciliation given to all who have been initiated into God's family through faith in his Son.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us, (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

Since God has chosen to use his people to make disciples, the Great Commission is truly a co-mission.  He forms a partnership with all believers, "God's fellow workers," (1 Cor. 3:9).  These partners in the Great Commission are instrumental in God accomplishing his purposes on earth, building his kingdom here as in heaven.  He employs his people as his agents, engaging in redemptive relationships, under the direction of his Spirit.

            Thus, each Christian has a responsibility to reach out within his or her sphere of influence.  Every disciple is to take the initiative to be a witness for Jesus Christ, participating in the Great Commission in his or her niche in the world.  This includes reaching out to family, friends, neighbors, associates and acquaintances.  It also includes reaching out to people beyond the borders of existing relationships.  Christ-followers are to be his "witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth," (Acts 1:8).

            Every local church also assumes a particular responsibility to reach out to its sphere of influence.  This sphere is the sum total of each of its members' spheres of influence, plus all those who are influenced by the church's corporate witness in the community and region.  The desired effect is synergism, namely, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  A church's corporate sphere of influence represents a population of people several times larger than the church itself.  Every local church has the responsibility to take the initiative to be a witness for Christ to its Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to ends of the earth.

     [1]George W. Peters, A Theology of Church Growth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 97.

     [2]Roger E. Hedlund, The Mission of the Church in the World: A Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 25.

     [3]Charles Van Engen, God's Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), 80.

No comments:

Post a Comment