Was Israel to be a missionary nation?

Over the years most interpreters have tended to assume that since the ultimate fulfillment of the words about blessing to all the families of the earth was to be in the coming of the Messiah, therefore we should not look for much fulfillment before then.

Ralph Winter called this assumption, “The Theory of the Hibernating Mandate.” He explained:

A more recent and exciting interpretation observes that Israel, as far back as Abraham, was accountable to share that blessing with other nations. In the same way, since the time of the Apostle Paul, every nation which has contained any significant number of “children of Abraham’s faith” has been similarly accountable (but both Israel and the other nations have mainly failed to carry out this mandate).

The greatest scandal in the Old Testament is that Israel tried to be blessed without trying very hard to be a blessing.

The mandate was given to Abram to be God’s missionary to a new generation of corrupted humanity. He was to relocate his center of operations to a relatively unpopulated country on the land bridge between Europe, Africa, and Asia, where he could establish a new civilization free from the idolatry of Babylon and Ur, as a witness and blessing to all nations. God confirmed that covenant and mandate with Isaac and Jacob as well.

Just because they failed in the main to obey that commission does not mean that the responsibility was not clearly theirs.

 C. Gordon Olson and Don Fanning, What in the World Is God Doing?: The Essentials of Global Missions, Seventh Edition, Expanded, Revised, & Updated (Lynchburg, VA: Global Gospel Publishers, 2013), 24.

About the author

Austin Gardner is pastor of Vision Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA. Previously he was church planting missionary in Peru for 20 years.

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