Mission Versus Sanctification

In a comment on the article Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission (Part 8), Joe pointed out that in UBF we rarely preach about sanctification. In Reformed theology, sanctification is an essential part of the process of salvation; it follows justification and precedes the glorification of the saints. Instead of talking about sanctification, we tend to focus on mission. We present mission as the purpose of our salvation and the defining feature of our lives in the world.

I found that statement pretty interesting, and I have been personally wrestling with this issue for some time. Although many things have already been said in articles and comments on this website, I decide to write a piece about the relationship between mission and sanctification, in order to clarify these things in my own mind.

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Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission (Part 8)

Many Christians have characterized the mission of the church only as winning individual souls. I argued in the last installment that this view of the gospel misunderstands the nature of the human person. People are relational beings made in the image of the Triune God. We find meaning and purpose in loving relationships with God, with other people, and with the created world. A gospel of individual rescue is a reduction of what the Bible actually teaches and misses much of what God wants to accomplish in us.

God cares about relationships. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he didn’t leave behind a book of writings. He left behind a community of witnesses who were filled with the Holy Spirit and entrusted the preaching of the gospel to them (Acts 1:8). As members of this community proclaim the gospel, they invite others to become part of God’s family where their true personhood will be realized. That family is not equivalent to a church organization. It is the body of all people who belong to Christ, the “communion of saints” that is mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed. Evangelism that fails to call people to join this body is alien to the New Testament. Jesus never intended his disciples to be lone wolves. Nor did he intend them to live in small, isolated, parochial clans whose members remain suspicious of everyone on the outside (Mk 9:38-40). He prayed for all his followers to be one, to experience among themselves the loving oneness that has with his own Father in a highly visible way, so that the whole world would see that the gospel is true (John 17:20-23).

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Philippines UBF: An Indigenous Ministry

Churches (like companies) tend to experience three phases: an initial phase of rapid growth, a plateau phase, and a final phase of decline. But Philippines UBF has been continually growing and flourishing under the leadership of Dr. William Altobar for a quarter of a century since the mid to late 1980s. In this post I will try to describe this remarkable ministry and see what we can learn from them.

A Brief Overview of Philippines UBF

The ministry began in 1984 when Ron Quilaton of Chicago, a Bible student of my wife, went to Manila for medical school and invited William to Bible study. Upon completion of his medical school, Ron returned to the U.S. in 1988. I did not expect the ministry to continue. But William has faithfully led and served the ministry ever since. Thus far, they have established many godly families, and have sent out missionaries to the US (including Hawaii), Canada, Britain, UAE and Baggio, a province in the Philippines. Over the past year, they sent out Timothy Ipapo and Dr. John Talavera to plant two churches in Manila near the University of the East and Fatima University at Antipolo.

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Word, Spirit, Gospel and Mission (Part 7)

At the end of the last installment, I mentioned the doctrine of election. When we hear that word “election,” our minds immediately turn to the 400 year-old debate between Calvin and Arminius. That debate helps us to wrestle with some of the deepest mysteries of our faith, especially the tension between human freedom and God’s sovereignty. But that debate misses a great deal of what I want to talk about here.

Here I want to focus on some aspects of election found in Romans chapters 9-11. Paul didn’t write those chapters to settle modern theological debates. He was expounding on the relationship between the Gentiles and Jews. He was trying to explain why the nation of Israel, which had been created and chosen by God to receive the gospel and carry it to the world, rejected Christ and failed to carry out its mission. And he was relating that explanation to his teaching that righteousness must always come by faith alone, not by observing the law. I imagine that if we could ask the Apostle Paul about the merits of Calvinism versus Arminianism, he would respond with a very puzzled look, not because he never heard of Calvin or Arminius, but because to him this debate would sound very odd.

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