The Mission of God

by Joe Allen April 25, 2024

Mission is all about God. At Midwestern, we emphasize the study of who God is (theology) and what God does (mission). Good theology is crucial to missiology because the mission begins and ends with God.[1] The one true God has one unified mission, and each person of the Triune God distinctively carries out this mission as it unfolds in history. God the Father is the author, planning and initiating the mission. God the Son is the agent, executing and fulfilling the mission. The Holy Spirit is the administrator, applying and empowering the mission.[2] The object and ultimate end of the mission is God’s own glory.[3]

God’s perfection, holiness, and glory far surpass all human conceptions. Because God’s eternal nature is self-revealing, communicative, and loving, He put into motion a plan to manifest His glory to the whole universe. Theologians call this cosmic plan and action of God the missio Dei, the mission of God. Mission is not primarily about human efforts, but God’s own work in history to glorify Himself. God invites us—and yes, commands us—to participate in His mission.[4]

In the remainder of this article, we will unpack the glory of God’s mission by considering the God of the mission, the place of love in God’s mission, God’s mission in creation and redemption, and the scope of God’s mission.

The God of the Mission
A vibrant missiology begins with an accurate and grand vision of God as revealed in the Bible. The God of the Bible is not a weak, needy, or changing deity. Nor is God an isolated, abstract, absolute monad. Instead, the Bible presents God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three divine persons who are united as one divine being. The doctrine of the Trinity bears directly on missiology in that it reveals God as more awesome and glorious (and more mysterious) than humans can imagine, and therefore infinitely worthy of worldwide worship. As John Piper says, “Worship is the fuel and goal of missions.”[5]

Love and Mission
Love sits at the heart of God’s mission. The doctrine of the Trinity helps explain the words “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). In a few scattered verses, Scripture gives a tantalizing glimpse into what God was doing for all eternity, quite apart from time and space.

One of those verses is John 17:24, which is part of a prayer that Jesus addressed to God the Father. Jesus said, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). This verse indicates that God the Father has been forever loving the Son. God has eternally existed in perfect love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Meditating on the mystery of the Trinity, Augustine of Hippo suggested that God the Father is the lover, God the Son is the beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the love that exists between them.[6] Similarly, Thomas Aquinas writes, “The Father and the Son love each other and us by the Holy Spirit.”[7]

The missionary enterprise starts with the eternal love of God and then moves toward humanity through the gospel. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Thus, through the gospel, believers experience God’s love, which provokes in them a response of love for God. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Then, as believers receive the love of God, it bubbles up and spills out on others.[8] The Apostle Paul expressed his love for the believers in Thessalonica this way: “We had a fond affection for you and were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess 2:8; cf. 2 Cor 5:14–15; Rom 10:1).

The two Great Commandments, to love God and to love others, mutually reinforce each other. As Ray Ortlund says, “The kind of God we really believe in is revealed in how we treat one another.”[9] The Apostle John puts the matter bluntly, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). The Great Commandments should arouse a great commitment to the Great Commission, and the church’s obedience to the Great Commandments will determine the church’s effectiveness at fulfilling the Great Commission.

While the mission of God refers to God’s broad purposes to glorify Himself in all that He does, the Great Commission specifies the mission of the church and missionaries, namely, to go, and make disciples of all the nations, to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and to teach them to follow all that Jesus commanded (Matt 28:19–20). Disciple- making, and its precursor evangelism, are the chief occupation of missionaries because these activities glorify God by proclaiming the gospel and impelling those far from Him to see and savor His majesty.

Love motivates missionaries. The gospel does not rely on a sense of guilt, fear, or duty to propel missionaries across geographic, cultural, or linguistic boundaries. No, a sense of love drives them—first, a love for God and then a love for those who have never heard the gospel. The awareness that millions of people have no access to the love, joy, and peace that comes through the gospel should weigh heavily on the hearts of believers, pushing them out of their comfort zone and toward involvement in God’s mission.

This gospel-shaped love is active, always seeking to express itself in concrete ways, such as meeting physical needs, speaking truth, being a good listener, or giving hugs. However, the most loving thing a believer can do for another person is to give that person the gospel. Charitable deeds adorn the gospel, but they are not the gospel (Titus 2:10).

The gospel, according to the Apostle Paul, is the life-giving message “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared…” (1 Cor 15:3– 5). Through faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit unites believers to Him, who brings them into fellowship with God the Father. The gospel alone meets humanity’s greatest problem (alienation from God) and allows them to experience the greatest of all blessings (union with God).

God’s Mission in Creation and Redemption
God’s act of creation is one aspect of God’s mission to manifest His glory and to put His character on display (Ps 19:16; Rom 1:20). Because God is love in Himself, God did not create humans because He needed someone to love Him, fulfill a deficiency, or to satisfy loneliness. Instead, God created out of the generous overflow of His love—the eternal love that God has always expressed, known, and enjoyed among the Trinity.[10]

The plan of redemption reveals another aspect of the missio Dei. Like creation, the plan of redemption comes from the overflow of God’s gracious and merciful love. When God’s image bearers, Adam and Eve, rebelled against Him, God’s mission did not change. God’s mission to manifest His glory remained constant, but accomplishing that mission now involved redeeming people from every tribe, nation, people group, and tongue (Rev 5:9; 7:9). Noted New Testament scholar Andreas Köstenberger writes, “God’s saving plan for the whole world forms a grand frame around the entire story of Scripture. The missio Dei is bound up with his salvation, which is like a colorful rainbow that spans from creation to new creation. Its focus is on God’s gracious movement to save a desperately needy world that is in rebellion against him and stands under his righteous judgement.”[11]

The Scope of God’s Mission
God’s glory is of such magnificence and worth that He deserves nothing less than global worship. God’s glory is not like localized pagan deities, worthy of little more than the worship of a small band of devotees. Indeed, to say the scope of God’s mission is merely global is inadequate; His mission is cosmic.

Paul writes that God’s plan involves making known the “manifold wisdom of God … through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10). The church is God’s vehicle for putting His glory on display, not only to the nations, but also to “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places,” a heavenly audience beyond the terrestrial sphere.


The glorious truth that God is a God of mission is on every page of our Bibles. The very fact that we exist and are contemplating the reality of God is proof that God is fulfilling His mission, a mission that is an overflow of eternal, triune love.


[1] Zane Pratt, Vice President of Assessment/Deployment and Training, International Mission Board, SBC, writes, “The doctrine of God affects every aspect of our understanding of missions. Because God is infinitely glorious, absolute in his Being, creator of everything, and transcendent over all he has made, the mission of his people is about him. The glory of God and the advance of his agenda in the world are the focus of the church’s mission. It is not about us, and it is not ultimately about the lost among the nations. Because God is who he is, he is the center of everything, and everything must be done under his direction and for his glory. God’s plan is to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory as the waters cover the sea. Our mission, under his sovereign rule, must advance the knowledge and worship of God using the means he has prescribed so that both the end and the means glorify him.”

[2]Each Person of God participates and coinheres in the mission of the other Persons so that there is only one mission of God. The interlocking of participation by the three Persons of God encompasses the whole mission so that the distinctions neither erase the unity nor does the unity erase the distinctions.

[3]According to Patrick Schreiner, Associate Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Midwestern, “It is the mission of God to confront us with the reality of Himself (His glory).” Patrick Schreiner, The Mission of the Triune God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2022), 154.

[4] Paul distinguishes the work of God who causes the growth, from servants who plant or water (1 Cor 3:5–9). God designates His chosen servants as “fellow workers” (ESV) or “co-workers” (NIV).


[5] John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2022), 7.

[6] Augustine, The Trinity, 2nd ed., trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., ed. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2015). 9.1.

[7] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 5 vol., trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Westminster: Christian Classics, 1981), Ia.37.2.

[8] Lesslie Newbigin writes, “Anyone who knows Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior must desire ardently that others should share that knowledge and must rejoice when the number of those who do is multiplied.” Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 142.

[9] Ray Ortlund, “‘One Another’s’ I Can’t Find in the New Testament,” The Gospel Coalition, January 4, 2022, cant-find-in-the-new-testament-2/.

[10] Jonathan Edwards writes, “The emanation of God’s glory is in itself worthy and excellent, and so God delights in it; and this delight is implied in His love to His own fullness; because that is the fountain, the sum and comprehension of everything that is excellent.” Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 1.IV.4, Accessed online at The word “overflow” is a modern way of expressing the ancient Christian idea of God’s fullness, plenitude, bounty, or fecundity. John of Damascus, for example, calls God, “The fountain of being.” John of Damascus, An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 1.8. John Owen, in his discussion of 1 John 4:8, writes, “[God’s love] is the fountain and prototype of all love, as being eternal and necessary…. All love in the creation was introduced from this fountain, to give a shadow and resemblance of it.” John Owen, Christologia (Grand Rapids: Generic NL Freebook Publisher, 1999), 111–12, eBook. Creation comes as the fruit of divine love, not divine need. God’s eternal love is expressed in creation ex nihilo (out of nothing). British theologian Michael Reeves says, “There is something gratuitous about creation, an unnecessary abundance of beauty, and through its blossoms and pleasures we can revel in the sheer largesse of the Father.” Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 57.

[11] Andreas Köstenberger, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission, New Studies in Biblical Theology 53 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 254.

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