God had great expectations when He created man, a being who would reflect His own image and likeness and who would eventually fill the void created by the angels that united in Lucifer’s rebellion.1 But sin transformed God’s plans for the human race. This event, though painful for God, would not prevent Him from accomplishing His plans, even if He had to modify them. Saint Augustine said, “The glory of God was to transform curses into blessings.” That’s what happened to man: what was going to be a terrible curse for the human race, God transformed into one of the greatest blessings given to the intelligent beings of the universe, sons and daughters of God (1 John 2:21). Although sin brought death, pain, and suffering, God drew up the plan of salvation to restore the human race, not to a pre-Edenic position, but to a more exalted one, than even the angels being participants of the divine nature (1 Peter 1:4).
This plan of redemption was revealed to our first parents when they received the first promise. It was passed on to the patriarchs. God said to Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). The revelation of this plan became more evident when God ordered the sanctuary to be built in the midst of His chosen people. The Israelites didn’t fulfill God’s plan to become a blessing to the nations despite the many opportunities God gave them. When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son to this world to fulfill His plan of redemption, but again the chosen people ignored their mission when they rejected Jesus and crucified Him (John 1:11). So Jesus declared to the unbelieving leaders of the Jews, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matt. 21:43).
God called the church to carry out the mission rejected by the Jewish people. It is through the Christian church that God will accomplish His plan of redemption. But how vast is this mission and what does it entail?
The redemptive mission of the church
The apostle Peter wrote that the Church has been called to “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The church has a redemptive mission with two dimensions. The first dimension is the outward or evangelistic mission, which consists of preaching the gospel to the entire world (Matt. 28:18-20). The second dimension is internal renewal. It consists of restoring in the believer the image or character of Christ. Both dimensions of the mission are equally important. While the evangelism works in favor of the human being, renewal works within the human being. The former saves the individual from the kingdom of sin, the latter rescues him from the power of sin; Both dimensions of the mission complement each other; if one is left out or neglected, the redemptive process remains incomplete. Let us consider more closely each of these dimensions.
The redemptive evangelistic mission
The external or evangelistic mission of the church entails announcing the Gospel to the whole world. It obeys the commission given by our Lord to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). To reach this goal, the Church must fulfill its mission from different perspectives suggested in the Scriptures themselves: biological, geographical, sociological, and religious. We’ll also mention the reasons for focusing on them from different angles.
The biological perspective. The divine order is to preach the Gospel “to all creatures.” To reach this goal, the Church’s efforts must be directed toward every individual, including each biological phase: childhood, adolescence, youth, adulthood, and old age. The Church’s efforts must be focused on all phases of biological growth, without neglecting any of them. The Gospel must reach every “creature.”
The sociological perspective. Another interpretation of “to every creature” is to consider all social classes (low/middle/ high). Usually the Church directs its efforts at the low and middle classes, but very little work has been done with marginalized groups (beggars, drug addicts,
AIDS victims, prostitutes, etc.). This perspective helps us to be more conscious about other social classes. We must reach every one of them.
The geographical perspective. The Lord traced a territorial advance program from a geographical perspective. His commission was “go into all the world” and “be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The idea in the verse is an expansive territorial advance. Therefore, the evangelistic mission must be accomplished with a geographical perspective.
The religious perspective. The Scriptures divide the world into two parts: the Jews (worshipers of the true God) and the Gentiles (the pagans or worshipers of the other gods). The Lord gave the command to work for the Jews (the lost sheep of Israel) and for the Gentiles or people who professed other beliefs. We have the same mission today. Work on behalf of the Christians (the lost sheep of spiritual Israel) and the other world religions. In order to fulfill the mission, we must consider all world religions: Mohammedanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and many others. Within Christianity we have the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, many Protestant churches, and other branches (sometimes known as religious groups) that grow out of these churches.
The Church’s duty is to develop strategies to preach the Gospel and convert people according to the type of religion they profess. Only then can we fulfill in its entirety the divine commission to preach “to the Gentiles.” After having considered the evangelistic mission, we’ll discuss the redemptive and restorative mission of the Church.
The redemptive and restorative mission of the Church
The purpose for preaching the Gospel is reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). This is accomplished when man accepts the Gospel (Rom. 5:1). At that time, the internal or restorative mission is initiated. This process includes the redeeming one, which has three phases; justification, sanctification, and glorification. When the believer accepts, he is justified; this gives him the right to heaven. Then, throughout his life, he must go through the process of sanctification that will take place when the Lord appears at His Second Coming. The believer will be transformed into the glorious image of Christ, because the objective of the internal or restorative mission is to reach “holiness, likeness to God.”2
The mission of the church
The restorative mission includes the entire life and being of the believer. God wants to restore His image in us. He wants all to come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the “fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Man’s redemption, therefore, must reach all biological phases of his existence from birth to the grave: childhood, adolescence, youth, adulthood, and old age. Concerning the restorative mission during the man’s entire life, the Scriptures teach that this has a wholistic nature, not dualistic, because the human being is a soul. The human being has three spheres in which he manifests his existence: body, mind, and spirit. In other words, the individual can function and express himself in those three levels or spheres. These must be kept in holiness until Jesus comes (1 Thess. 5:23). Also, the human being is a social entity, and thus the social aspect is an additional level which the human being must cultivate.
Jesus’ development is a model which we should follow so that these words may also apply to us: “And Jesus increased in wisdom [mental] and stature [physical] and in favor with God [spiritual] and men [social]” (Luke 2:52).
God wants His children’s development to be multidimensional. Therefore, the restorative mission of the Church must encompass the three levels: physical, spiritual, and social. Thus far we have presented God’s mission for the Christian Church in general, but what is the role played by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in this redemptive mission of the Church?
The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
We believe that God called the Adventist Church not only to preach the gospel to the non-Christian world, but to call attention to the mostly-forgotten truths that are part of the Gospel: Sabbath observance, Christ’s second coming, Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, man’s wholistic nature, state of the dead, health reform, and other truths that we believe, which are part of what we call the three angels’ message (Rev. 14). Our message is not exclusively for non-Christian nations, but also for Christian groups that disobey or ignore the truths previously listed. This is the great challenge before us.
1. Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Pacific Press, 1981), page 1096.
2. Ellen G. White, Education, p. 16.
Pastor of the Maranatha Spanish Church, Las Vegas, Nevada