What it Means to be a Missionary: Identity

The word “missionary”, meaning one who is sent, comes from its root word “mission”. It originates from the Latin word “mitto”, meaning “to send”. A missionary is one who is sent either to deliver a message or to carry out a given task. Thus the missionary is defined by His mission. The message that the missionary has to deliver or the task that he has to carry out is what makes him/her a missionary. This means that the message or the object of the mission is there before the missionary and is thus even greater than the missionary himself. The mission defines the missionary.

This was the case with the early followers of Christ. They were missionaries. Paul identifies himself as “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” Galatians 1:1. The word apostle comes from the Greek word “apostolos”, meaning “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders. “ Thus we find that Paul identified Himself as a missionary. He was one sent with a message to bear and a task to fulfill and carry out, and this responsibility was tied to his identity. Of the first marks of his identity, highest on his list, Paul identifies himself as a missionary: And not just any missionary, but a missionary for Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead. The authority and power behind Paul’s mission was of God Himself. This was also the case with Jesus. Jesus Christ was a missionary. In encouraging the Hebrew believers on how it is they should consider Jesus, Paul refers to Christ as “the apostle (or missionary) and high priest of our profession.” Heb. 3:1. Jesus is the chief missionary, sent with a task to fulfill.

Those who thus identify themselves with Christ ought to identify them-selves with His mission. This is a key point to consider, crucial enough to even say that if one is not thus identified with the mission of Jesus Christ, He cannot be rightly identified with Christ.

Understanding this, one may ask the question: What was Jesus’ mission?
It is outlined from His birth. Speaking of Mary, the mother of Jesus we read: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. “ Matthew 1:21. Therefore, “while upon earth, His only mission was to save sinners.” (1) As one who was sent, Jesus’ mission was that mankind, through Him, might be saved from sin (John 3:17). Those who are identified with Jesus must therefore identify themselves with the same mission.
Jesus is described as being “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He faced many challenges and difficulties in His life on earth, yet He was still faithful and diligent in His efforts to reach fallen man. This was the case even up until the cross.

In Hebrews 12:2 Paul describes the reason why Jesus was willing to endure the cross; that it was for the joy that was set before Him. “The joy set before Christ, the joy that sustained Him through sacrifice and suffering, was the joy of seeing sinners saved.” Prophets and Kings p. 172.1. The hope of the success of His mission is what encouraged Jesus to endure the cross. The joy of seeing souls re-deemed, and His mission thus accomplished, drove Jesus to endure the
cross; because the difficulty of the cross, as painful as it was, was necessary for the fulfillment and success of the mission. The goal of the mission made the difficulties that come with the mission worth enduring.

This was the case with Paul also, it was because Paul had a clear under-standing of his mission, the purpose for which he existed, that he could say: “I am appointed a preacher and an apostle (missionary)… of the Gentiles, For the which cause I suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed..” 2 Timothy 1:12. Paul had a clear understanding of his mission, and trials which came to him in his mission were thus not able to shake him or make him ashamed.

This resilience, this ability to endure the difficulties that come with the mission, will be the experience of those who have a clear resolution for their mission. The mind of a mission driven individual will not be soon shaken by the difficulties that come with the mission, especially when considering the value of the object of the mission. The hope that sustained Christ in the difficulty of the cross, the joy of one day seeing sinners restored to His kingdom, ought to be the joy that sustains His followers who have the same mission today.

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