If the question is framed this way – is “missions” a biblical word? – then the answer may be surprising. A search of the King James Version of the Bible reveals that the word “missions” never appears, not even one time.
In the English Standard Version, “mission” appears only once in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 11:12), and then it does not refer to what we typically understand as “missions” nor does it translate a specific Greek New Testament word. Similarly, in the New International Verson, “mission” appears only once (Acts 12:25), and there it translates a Greek New Testament word (diakonia) which is better, and most often, translated “service” (ESV) or “ministry” (KJV).
So, if it is not explicitly biblical, how did we get our word “missions”? The etymology is revealing. According to Merriam-Webster, our English word “missions” comes from the Latin word, “mittere,” which means “to send, to cause to go.”
So, now let’s frame the question a bit differently – is “missions” a biblical concept? The answer is a resounding yes. But, it is a wiser course to actually use the words the Bible uses in the ways the Bible uses them to understand and apply this concept to our lives.
For instance, in John 20:21, after his resurrection Jesus says to his disciples: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (ESV). A person involved in Christian missions is eager to say: “I have been sent by Jesus.”
Or, consider Matthew 28:19, where, after his resurrection, Jesus says to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (ESV). A person involved in Christian missions is clear about the reason Jesus has sent him: “I go because Jesus has sent me to make disciples.”
Or, consider Acts 1:8, where again, after his resurrection, Jesus says to his disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (ESV), A person involved in Christian missions is not ashamed to give personal, verbal testimony to the gospel of Jesus Christ because it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 15:16b, ESV).
Because it is not explicitly a biblical word, in some circles today the notion of “missions” is being redefined in ways that fall far short of the robust teaching of Scripture about the concept of “missions.” On this “Acts 1:8 Weekend” at Ingleside, join me in reaffirming that we have been sent: As disciples of Jesus, God intends for us to go with the gospel to make disciples for his great glory!