Let’s explore how we are called to engage in the mission Dei through a Trinitarian lens.
Lesslie Newbigin uses the theology of the Trinity to offer a theological ground for the understanding and practicing of the missio Dei. He explains, “He is the Son, sent by the Father and anointed by the Spirit to be the bearer of God’s kingdom to the nations. This is the Jesus who was proclaimed by the first Christians to the world of their time.” (Newbigin, Chapter 3)
In Ministry in the Image of God: the Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service, Stephen Seamands further explains the Trinitarian paradigm to express the missio Dei in more practical and tangible ways. He describes the Trinitarian ministry as, “the ministry of the Son, to the Father, through the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the church and the world.” (Seamands, Chapter 1) If the ministry of Jesus is to the Father through the Holy Spirit, argues Seamands, then as we follow Jesus’ command of teaching everything he taught us, ministry “is not so much asking Christ to join us in our ministry as we offer him to others; ministry is participating with Christ in his ongoing ministry as he offers himself to others through us.” For Seamands this is what it means to be in ministry: Christ offering himself to others through us.
Is the ministry to the Father through the Holy Spirit a ministry offered for the sake of the other? If so, then one may assume that the missio Dei exists for the sake of humanity. This complements John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” It is in God’s nature, in his intrinsic character, to be self-giving for the sake of the other as demonstrated in Jesus Christ. This approach to ministry or being in mission centers around what God has done and continues to do, and what God has said and continues to speak: “…so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
The ministry of the church – the mission that God has given to the church – is meant to be a continuation of the “ministry of the Son, to the Father, through the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the church and world.”
These Trinitarian observations by Newbigin and Seamands point out that Jesus is not the initiator or founder of God’s mission, but the bearer and herald of God’s kingdom. This approach to the mission of the church, through Trinitarian theology, helps us see the Christian mission in three ways: as proclaiming the kingdom of the Father, as sharing the life of the Son, and as bearing the witness of the Spirit. If in Jesus we see him accomplishing and submitting himself to the Father, listening and doing as he hears from him through the Spirit, then the church has no other option but to do likewise.
Newbigin expresses this when he says,
From the very beginning of the New Testament, the coming of Jesus, his words and works are connected directly with the power of the Spirit. It is by the Spirit that Jesus is conceived, by the Spirit that he is anointed at his baptism, by the Spirit that he is driven into the desert for his encounter with Satan. It is in the power of the Spirit that he enters upon his ministry of teaching and healing (Luke 4:14; Matt. 12:18).(Newbigin, Chapter 5)
Jesus did as he heard from the Father through the Spirit. (Jn. 12:49) So what then is Jesus doing today to the Father through the Holy Spirit?