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The Missions of Jesus and the Disciples according to the Fourth Gospel

By Andreas J. Köstenberger.

Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998. 271 pp.

 Review by Dr Aquila Lee

This is a revision of the author’s doctoral dissertation under the supervision of Prof. D. A. Carson on the concept of mission in John’s Gospel, but with a clear attempt to form a biblical theology of mission applicable to the contemporary Church. The author is convinced that “A church that is unsure of its mission will not be effective in carrying it out. In a day when the church at large has a confused understanding of its mission, a return to a thorough study of Scripture is necessary” (p.219).

In John’s Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples as the Father sent him (17:18; 20:21). The book thus attempts to provide an answer to the question whether the missions of Jesus and of the disciples are to be seen as being in continuity or discontinuity with each other. One of the methodological strengths of this book lies in its attempts to study all of the significant words and concepts (e.g., send, come, go, become, descend, ascend, leave, follow, bring, gather, work, do, sign, harvest, bear fruit) that bear on the topic rather than just a few obvious words related to mission.

After having surveyed all the major works on the subject in the last thirty years (Chapter 1) and dealt with linguistic, definitional, and literary matters (Chapter 2), the author turns to the actual study of the missions of Jesus and of the disciples in the following two chapters. He first analyses John’s conception of Jesus’ mission, and his conclusion at the end of Chapter 3 is threefold. First, Jesus was sent from the Father to do his Father’s will. Jesus is seen as a model of the dependent servant who has an intimate relationship with the Father through obedience to his will. Second, Jesus is the one who has come from the Father and is returning to him. That return to the Father is through the supreme act of obedience via his death on the cross. Finally, Jesus’ mission is seen in his eschatological role of shepherd/teacher who calls his followers to the same kind of fruit-bearing that he has demonstrated. These three roles of Jesus combine together to form his mission as the Messiah.

In Chapter 4 the author turns his attention to the mission of the disciples. While observing certain aspects of continuity, he correctly notes that the evangelist draws a line between the mission of Jesus and that of the disciples even in the terminology that he uses. While John restricts certain mission-related vocabulary to Jesus (e.g., “descend,” ascend,” “signs”), other terms are used only of the disciples (e.g., “follow”). He also concludes that the original disciples are to be seen as representative of later generations of believers and their mission as the mission of the Church today. These observations seem to be rather obvious, but have important missiological implications.

The author carefully distinguishes between Jesus’ mission and that of the disciples. The latter is framed in language parallel to the former, but with a different focus. As Jesus was sent to do the will of the Father who sent him, so the disciples are sent to do the will of the one who sends him (Jesus). While both Jesus and the disciples are given the honour of mission “works” in this Gospel, and Jesus wants his disciples to continue his own mission by bearing faithful witness to him and to his uniqueness, it is only Jesus who does “signs” in this Gospel, and it is only Jesus who uniquely reveals and redeems. In essence, the mission of the disciples is to follow Jesus by first coming to him, and then bearing fruit in their lives and witness for him. Fruitbearing is accomplished primarily by developing the two characteristics of love and unity.

Those who are more interested in missiology than a biblical study of mission in the Fourth Gospel will be especially interested in the concluding chapter, “Implications for the Mission of the Contemporary Church.” Here the author critiques the “incarnational model,” advocated by John Stott and others, which “sees Christ as present in the church so that the church can fashion its mission after the model provided by Jesus during his earthly ministry” (p.3). To be sure, this model focuses more on the continuity between Jesus’ mission and the church’s mission. Köstenberger thinks that his study gives support to the “representational model, which “acknowledges the uniqueness of Jesus’ person and work while viewing the primary task of his disciples as witnessing to Jesus. While Jesus can be said to ‘give life’ in a primary sense, the disciples’ contribution is limited to their witness” (p.4).

The book thus arrives at the conclusion that John’s Gospel presents the model for the mission of the disciples “Not the way in which Jesus came into the world (i.e., the incarnation), but [from] the nature of Jesus’ relationship with his sender (i.e., one of obedience and utter dependence) . . . Jesus’ followers are called to imitate Jesus’ selfless devotion in seeking his sender’s glory, to submit to their sender’s will, and to represent their sender accurately and know him intimately” (p.217). One of the lessons we learn from this book is that however urgent and pressing the needs and circumstances may be, the agenda for the world mission needs to be set in relation to Jesus’ mission.


Blessed are the Peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)

by Rev Steven Gan on 17 August 2005


Summary of sharing on Matthew 5:9

  1. A peace-maker is NOT a peace-keeper who is willing to compromise truth or hide a truth in order to maintain a peaceful relationship with other people or between two rival parties.

  2. A peace-maker is NOT a peace-breaker who is careless with the use of his or her tongue, thereby destroying relationship unwittingly.

  3. A real peace-maker is ONE who is himself at peace with God and one who prays for his enemies and greets his opponents with love, and sacrifices like the heavenly Father in order to bring about a lasting reconciliation.


Chapel speaker on 31 August will be Mr Peter Lim (DipCS, 2005).




Venue: 31 Tanjong Pagar Rd, 2nd floor

Day/Time: Friday, 12.45-1.30pm.

All are welcome to attend.



Sep 2   Rev Ng Seng Chuan: ‘Speech Skills for Effective Communication in Christian Ministry’


Sep 9   Dr. Quek Swee Hwa: 'Why Study Theology'


Sep 16, 23, 30, & Oct 7 : Dr Philip Satterthwaite will be giving four studies in the Song of Songs.

  1. Condolences. The Faculty & Staff of BGST express our heartfelt sympathies to Dr Wong Lea Choung on the demise of his father on 23 August 2005 .

  2. New Acceptance. Mr Kum Han Wen is a student in the Diploma in Christian Studies. He is a project officer, worships at the Bartley Christian Church and is active in the Children's Ministry.

  3. Courses commencing in September.
    - Personal Ministry Skills (Tent module), starting Sep 6. Facilitator: Mr Jonathan Cortes.
    - Better Speech for Leadership & Ministry (AT231, 1.5 credits), starting Sep 7. Lecturer: Rev Ng Seng Chuan.
    - Preaching Old Testament Texts (OT252, 1.5 credits), starting Sep 22 at Parkmall campus. Lecturer: Dr Philip Satterthwaite.

    For registration, call 62276815 or email




    A Blessed Birthday to ...

    Building Fund Icon issue 24 (same as issue 23)

    Mrs Tan-Heng Siang Hoon  29/8

    Ms Ruth Hing  29/8

    Ms Rosalind Teo  30/8

    Mdm Theresa Liew  30/8

    Ms Nancy Haryanto  31/8

    Mrs Sophia Yap  1/9

    Ms Lim Bee Lum  2/9

    Mr Lau Pak Soon  3/9

    Mr Leong Weng Kam  3/9

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