In the introduction to this series, I explained how I thought that people today tend to compartmentalize their lives. Because of this, we often compartmentalize what we consider the mission of God as well. In the previous post, I considered proclamation of the gospel as part of the mission of God as demonstrated and taught by Jesus and Paul. In this post, I look at their example of strengthening believers as part of their mission.
(As an aside, I recognize the irony of working through a series on “decompartmentalizing the mission of God” by separately consider various aspects of that mission. Please stick with me until the last post where I intend to bring it all together.)
I need to make one point before I jump into evidence. When I say, “Strengthening believers,” I’m talking about helping people who are already following Jesus to follow him better. This kind of “help” is called by many names in Scripture: discipling, strengthening, edification, etc.
While Jesus spent much time speaking with people who were not currently following him, he also spent significant time helping people who were already following him. For example, he often spoke in parables to the crowds and then explained his parables to those who were following him:
All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable… Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered… (Matthew 13:34-37 ESV)
In the previous post, I mentioned the “commission” passages as examples of Jesus instructing his followers of proclaim the gospel. The “commission” passage from Matthew also includes the command to help others follow him:
…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you… (Matthew 28:28 ESV)
Paul also spent time helping those who had already received the gospel and were already following Jesus. It is significant that (what we call) Paul’s second missionary journey was begun with a desire to return and help those who received the message during the first missionary journey:
And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” (Acts 15:36 ESV)
There are many passages in Paul’s writings where he instructs his readers to strengthen others as part of their mission. Here is one example:
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV)
For both Jesus and Paul, helping those who were already following Jesus was clearly a part of what they considered to be their mission. In the same way, in both of their cases, they instructed others to follow their example in helping others follow Jesus. Remember that the type of help that I’m talking about goes beyond proclaiming the gospel. This is the kind of help that is offered to those who have already received the gospel, are already following Jesus, and are already indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
Whether we call this by the terms strengthening, edification, building up, discipling, or something else, it was part of the mission of both Jesus and Paul, and should be considered part of the mission of God today.
What would you like to add to my discussion of strengthening believers as part of the mission of God?
Decompartmentalizing the Mission of God Series:
- Proclaiming the Gospel
- Strengthening Believers
- Caring for the Least
- Putting it all Together
- Emphasizing without Neglecting
- Extreme Emphases
- What to do and when