A Theological Basis For The Church’s Mission In Paul -- By: Robert L. Plummer

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 64:2 (Fall 2002)
Article: A Theological Basis For The Church’s Mission In Paul
Author: Robert L. Plummer

A Theological Basis For The Church’s Mission In Paul

Robert L. Plummer

While most New Testament scholars in the past century have assumed or argued that Paul expected the churches to engage in active missionary work,1 this understanding has been increasingly challenged.2 In response to these challenges, a number of recent articles and monographs have defended the view that Paul both commended and commanded the evangelistic proclamation of the gospel through his churches.3 While the majority of scholars

agree that there is some evidence in Paul’s letters to support an active missionary role for the church (Eph 6:15; Phil 1:14–18; 2:16; 1 Thess 1:8; Titus 2:10), it seems doubtful that Paul would view his (often incidental) comments as a compelling theological basis for the church’s mission. If such were the case, one would expect Paul to provide more frequent and explicit direction. If indeed Paul expects the churches to evangelize actively, what theological basis does he provide for such an expectation?

Gustav Warneck, “the father of modern missiology,” attempted to found Paul’s missionary vision on Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt 28:18–20).4 Evangelical scholars up to the present time have followed in his footsteps.5 The assertion that Paul or the Pauline churches were motivated to missionize by the Great Commission, however, lacks convincing evidence in the Pauline epistles.6 Paul does not often cite the Gospel traditions or appeal to their authority. Indeed, no clear allusion to the Great Commission can be found in Paul’s letters.7

Other scholars have proposed that the theological basis of the Pauline churches’ mission is found in the activity of the Holy Spirit to promote evangelism. First popularized by Roland Allen’s Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?

(1912), this thesis finds support mainly in the book of Acts.

visitor : : uid: ()