The Beginning of the Global Missions Mandate

Hermes, Abram and the First Mention of the Global Missions Mandate

Among serious students of the biblical text there are certain rules and standards put into place to ensure the reader is reading the text in a responsible manner. Some modern readers actually tend to read the biblical text and interpret it more like my eight-year-old interprets my fatherly instruction:

Eight-year old: “Daddy, may I have ice cream?”

Father: “No, son. You already had three scoops after lunch.”

Eight-year-old: “Great! So may I have Mama’s Haagen Daz?”

Scholars call the method of interpretation of a text hermeneutics, a fancy word that derives from the name of the Greek god Hermes. According to Greek mythology, Hermes was the deity that was the chief messenger to the rest of the gods; he would delight in the ambiguity of language and further delight when his interpretations would dialectically contain both truth and falsehood based upon the messages’ interpretation. Hermes would have delighted in my son’s interpretation of my response to his request for ice cream!

When it comes to biblical interpretation, one tool in our hermeneutics tool-belt is “the law of first mentions.” This is fairly self-explanatory. The first time a word, such as “light,” is mentioned in the bible it is usually pretty important and can serve as a key for understanding the word in the rest of the bible. This principle may also extend to key concepts and phrases.

So what is the first clear mention of the global missions movement in the bible? Consider the calling of Abram, a famous passage in its own right for the sovereign election of Israel and the “seed” from whom the serpent-crushing fulfillment of the promise given to Adam and Eve would find its family-roots:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The Lord’s command to “go” to Abram and the ensuing promise of blessing is not only God’s strategy for blessing the children of Abram and making his own name great but blessing “all the families of the earth.”

The devastating simplicity of Abram’s call connected with the global missions mandate is startling: if Abram does not go, the earth will not be blessed. The “going” necessitates a leap of faith that requires risk and uncertainty. The “going” always involves a “leaving” of one’s “father’s family.” This always manifests in loss. Loss of comfort. Loss of cultural identity. Loss of financial security. Loss of language. Loss of geographic familiarity. Loss of gastronomic persuasion.

The first mention of the global missions mandate involves faith. The first mention of the global missions mandate involves loss. And the first mention of the global missions mandate involves the intrinsic connection with reaching those in the nations. Abram is not going for his own family alone or his own name. He is going because his going is connected with the salvation of the “unreached” peoples of the earth. Otherwise the loss would not be worth it.

Hermes would not be happy. The interpretation is clear and not equivocal and ambiguous: the global missions mandate involves faith, loss, and the salvation of the nations.

Mark Kazmier
MAPS Academic Dean