The Kingdom of God
My brother-in-law and I were talking recently about ways in which contemporary Christian teaching may be missing the central issues of the Bible and its message.
Let’s set out by making a sweeping assumption: As disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, our ultimate source for faith and instruction for living must be the exemplary life of obedience and clear teachings of the Master Himself. Simply stated: As followers of Christ, we accept Jesus’ words as thelens through which everything including the remainder of Scripture must be examined.
Jesus words, recorded in Luke 6:46 are a graceful yet pointed rebuke. “Why do you call me Lord,”He asked some of His first disciples, “and not do what I tell you.”So what then is the key to understanding and experiencing the Lordship of Christ? It’s seems pretty simple: Do what He tells us to do. But what is it that He wants us to do?
As followers of Christ, we accept Jesus’ words as the ens through which everything including the remainder of Scripture must be examined
Now before we get ahead of ourselves there are a two things worthy of contemplation: 1) While the phrase The Kingdom of Godor The Kingdom of Heaven(synonymous concepts) does not appear even once in the Old Testament and only 15 times outside the Gospels where it appears 103 times, it is at the very heart of Jesus’ teaching. 2) Establishing theKingdom of Godwas the Master’s objective and providing entry into it His cost. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” Jesus taught all of us to pray. And immediately following His desert temptation and the incarceration of John the Baptist, Matthew tells us, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
Think about that for a minute. Is Jesus telling us that the Father’s will is to bring theKingdom of Heavento earth? Is this what Jesus so emphatically announced as He began His public ministry and the singular idea that dominated every parable and sermon? As His disciples should this be our focus as well? And if the answer to those three questions is yes, how does this stack up to the way we approach teaching the Bible today?
In the next few months we are hoping to address these issues and would thoroughly welcome your input and thoughts. In order to set the stage let’s begin by defining some terms…Kings and Kingdoms:
Is a King without a Kingdom really a King? Is a Kingdom without a king really a kingdom? Clearly not! As with earthly realms, The Kingdom of Godrequires both a king and a kingdom to have either. However, there are significant differences between worldly systems of every kind and the Kingdom of God.
- Worldly kingdoms are ruled by imperfect men. The Kingdom of Godis ruled by the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. “Follow us” is light-years from “Follow Me.”
- Worldly kingdoms are restricted by geographical boundaries, political partisanship, cultural norms, ethnicity, economics and language. The Kingdom of Godis not limited by any of these considerations. The most well known address in the New Testament says, “For God so loved the world”and my guess is that we all fit in there somewhere.
- Authority in worldly kingdoms is most often centralized in a small group of wealthy and influential people. The Kingdom of Godoperates on the principle that all men and women carry equal weight with God and strictly warns against the corrupting influence of wealth and celebrity.
- The kingdoms of this world rule exclusively from the top down wherein leadership accrues power and the strong continue to oppress the weak. These types of hierarchal systems are anathema to theKingdom of God, and Jesus had nothing good to say about them. The Master said that the greatest in theKingdom of Godis the one who takes the role of a servant. Kingdom authority, Jesus taught us, leads from the bottom up.
- The Kingdom of Godfunctions by rules that are upside-down and often appear nonsensical when compared to the regulations imposed by worldly systems.
- A causal commitment to any worldly system is acceptable and commonly viewed as prudent. TheKingdom of Godis an all-or-nothing arrangement. Oil and water doesn’t really get at it. It’s more like life and death.
The Kingdom of God is the place where the will of God and the obedience of His people intersect.