Nothing left but the covers

Howard Culbertson
Sunday, January 20, 2013

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Rarely do people see Genesis 1:1 as saying anything significant about world evangelism.  That is an oversight on their part because a strong case for cross-cultural missionary outreach can be built on Genesis 1:1. Revelation 4:11 explains why:  “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

The majestic phrases of Genesis 1:1 about God as creator push us away from the live-and-let-live argument of relativism.  That philosophy says, “Why bother other people?  They have their religion; we have ours.”

Such attitudes run counter to the implications of the Bible’s opening verse. Because Yahweh created the universe, including the human race, doesn’t He have exclusive rights to reign over all human beings -- even those who know little or nothing of Him? Paul tried to make this clear to the people in Lystra who regarded him and Barnabas as gods after a healing miracle.  Alluding to Genesis 1:1, Paul explained that his missionary band had come to Lystra to spread the Good News about “the living God, who made heavens and the earth” (Acts 14:15).

One clear “therefore” from Genesis 1:1 is that when God commands us to evangelize the whole world, He is not telling us to barge into places where He has little or no right to be.  God loves the whole world precisely because He created it all.  Therefore, shouldn’t we call those at “the ends of the earth” to offer “glory and honor” to the One who brought the universe into existence and who has reached out to all in the person of Jesus Christ?

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Both Testaments speak of people having forsaken the Creator to worship other things.  The Apostle Paul laments that people worldwide have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).  Jonah acknowledges from inside the big fish that “those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them” (Jonah 2:8). 

The first words of Christian Scripture -- Genesis 1:1 -- are very relevant to the cause of world evangelism.  If we fast forward to the end of the Bible, we’ll see Scripture coming to a close with a call to “worship Him who made heavens and earth” (Revelation 14:7).  That idea coming at the beginning and again at the end of the Bible validates a statement by long-time NMI director Nina Gunter: “If you take missions out of the Bible, you won’t have anything left but the covers.” 

Dr. Gunter is right.  God’s love for all peoples and His desire that we be message bearers to all unreached people are grounded in the words of Genesis 1:1 and then appear repeatedly all the way to the final pages of Revelation.