“As you have sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”
Jesus prayed these words to His Father just before He went to the cross. He is praying particularly for the men God had given Him from “out of the world” – His disciples. By extension, Jesus prays for each of us (20) who will follow His example as a Sent One.
It seems odd the LORD would be sending them (and us) into the world they already inhabited? What (or where) is “the world” to which Jesus is referring? The most common translation of the word “world” in the N.T is kosmos. Kosmos implies different meanings depending on its context. There is…
- The kosmos God created (material universe) (5) “the glory which I had with You before the world was;” (25)”you have loved me before the foundation if the world”
- The kosmos God has judged (the perverted, corrupted order of things; the ungodly system which is in hostile opposition and independent from God). (9) “I do not pray for the world”
- The kosmos God loves (all mankind). (23) “that the world may know that you have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me
Which world are we sent into? The answer – all three.
The theological term which best describes God’s mission to the world is incarnation. We are introduced to the doctrine of incarnation by John (1:12) when he states, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus, Who existed in the form of God, was sent into the world in the likeness of a man-servant.
The incarnation principle was lived out in Jesus’ life every day He was on earth. Though He was God, He identified with the world, mixing freely with people, without sacrificing or compromising His unique identity as the Son of God. He lived a sinless life but was known as a friend of sinners.
In the same way (“As”) Jesus was sent into the world for incarnational ministry, we immerse ourselves into secular culture and enter people’s lives without compromising our Christian convictions, values, and standards: our identity in Christ. Why? So that we may win people to Christ.
The incarnation reflects the double identity of the Church: we are both called out of the world to be holy unto God and sent back into the world to serve. How can we reconcile this dichotomy? How can we be in the world but not of the world without falling into a ditch on either side? This is the challenge of incarnational ministry. In one ditch you find the Separatist or Isolationalist: those who are repulsed and offended by the values of this world. These are the cynical who stand in judgment of the unglodly. They will not “touch the unclean thing” lest they be contaminated. In the other ditch you have the Conformist: those who are friends of the “world” and assimilate to the place of conformity. These lose touch with their identity and union in Christ.
For us to reconcile this duality and live an incarnational life it takes the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus prays God would sanctify and keep those He was sending into the world.
Why is it so important that we understand incarnational ministry and get it right. Because there are still over 2 billion people in the world who have not heard the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ and will never hear unless someone(s) is sent. Jesus gives us the reason for incarnational ministry: “that the world may know that You have sent me and have loved them as You have loved Me.” Authors Frist and Hirsch describe incarnation this way, “For us, the incarnation is an absolutely fundamental doctrine, not just as a irreducible part of the Christian Confession, but also as a theological prism through which we view our entire missional task in the world.”
We, who are Doulos Global Ministries, are living out the reality of incarnational ministry as we are sent to serve the world. Our goal is to help motivate as many as possible for the same purpose. Now, live like a sent one!