The Church and the kingdom of God | The Christian Century
Jesus came to declare the good news of the Kingdom of God, and He gave to Jesus, it is worth asking about the relationship between them. Some think the Church today is the Kingdom of God. Although there is a connection between the two, they are not identical. Jesus Christ is the Head of the. Simply put, the kingdom of God is anywhere King Jesus is present in any particular place. kingdom of God is not the Church (though there is close association in relation to his understanding of the kingdom of God, which.
That means that wherever Jesus is present, the kingdom of God has come near! Now certainly the Church should be a place that Jesus is truly present, a space in which people are reorienting their lives and social arrangements according to the reality of the Messiah.
Yet we know that is not always the case.
To have everything but Jesus is to be absent from the presence of the in-breaking reign of God. However, just because Jesus is present still does not mean that we can say that the kingdom of God is defined by the boundaries of the Church.
For the Church to be the kingdom of God made visible means that it is a community that has rearranged its life around the Lord Jesus. This type of kingdom is actually anti-kingdom Matthewin the sense that it is a great reversal of everything we know and understand about earthly kingdoms. What does it look like when Jesus reigns among a people? Poor masses are fed, Samaritan outcasts are embraced, and vulnerable women are stood with.
That is the life of Jesus, the reign of God embodied and made visible within creation. For the Church to be the Kingdom of God means that it is embodying Jesus-shaped life through the Spirit of God as a community.
It means it is literally the body of Christ made visible in creation. Yet that still is about the Church being the kingdom of God made visible in its embodied presence, not the limits of the kingdom of God. I want to be clear here, the kingdom of God is by no means limited by the boundaries of the Church. The kingdom of God now resides everywhere the Spirit of Christ is present. So the next question to ask Mcknight would be if he think that the Spirit of Christ is bound to the confines of the Church?
Is Jesus present in Spirit in particular spaces outside of the Church? Does the Spirit of Christ ever come alongside the malnourished child, the black body about to be lynched, or a vulnerable woman facing death-dealing yet intimate violence in her own home?
Is the Spirit of Christ unable to break beyond those barriers?
Of course it is clear where I stand. The kingdom is at hand for them, because Jesus is present in that space with them. Please carefully note that I am not suggesting that socially vulnerable people automatically participate in the kingdom of God kingdom citizenship matter of fact, but rather that Jesus is present with the oppressed and defenseless of society kingdom at hand.
If the Spirit of Jesus is not blocked off by the boundary of the Church then it means that kingdom of God is at hand for many people outside of the Church. It seems clear, even in a brief survey of the New Testament that Jesus often claimed the presence of the kingdom of God as being near, at hand, or among them at times simply because King Jesus was present.
I also must note that the kingdom of God should not be so quickly identified by any people that are not characterized by the new social arrangements Jesus taught and lived out, that is a community where the poor and oppressed are in privileged positions.
James understood this as well, arguing that God chose the poor of the world to be heirs of the kingdom James 2: So even when the kingdom of God is found and identified among a particular people gathered around Jesus, we know it is truly so when the last of society are now first.
This means that Christian communities in the United States that always privilege white male, wealthy, or educated people hegemonically and hierarchically from the top-down, then they reflect communities in which the reign of God is being rejected for something more akin to the current oppressive social order. The eruption of the kingdom of God concretely in society is clearly tied to the socially marginalized being restored and honored at the center of the community, if we are to take Jesus seriously.
This revelation of the new form through which the theocracy would be administered in this present age was followed by a specific prophecy: The nature and function of the church is not explained here, but it is revealed in its historical development in the book of Acts, with its doctrines explained in the epistles.
He reiterated His promise of empowerment by the Holy Spirit for the work of their ministry. On Pentecost the promised Spirit was poured out and indwelt believers as His temple. In the book of Acts their ministry of proclaiming the new message of the new form of the kingdom is recorded, by which the gospel was proclaimed and spread throughout the world. The kingdom of God in this present age, formed through the preaching of the gospel would be made up of Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles.
This was made clear to Peter in the vision given to him in Acts When Peter, in obedience to the Levitical law, refused to eat that which was unclean, he was told, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean" v.
To make sure there was no misunderstanding, the command was repeated three times. It later became apparent that Peter understood that the distinctions inherent in the Levitical law had been removed, for when he was in the house of Cornelius he declared, "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right" vv.
Peter felt free to proclaim the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles assembled in Cornelius' house In response to their faith, "The Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message" v.
The evidence that Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit was that they spoke with tongues v. Tongues were evidence to the apostles of the genuine conversion of the Gentiles and of their inclusion in the body of believers. In response, these Gentiles showed their identification with Jesus Christ and the company of believers by being baptized. Even so, Jerusalem had to be convinced of God's acceptance of Gentiles into the church and the kingdom. So Peter testified to the genuineness of their conversion by recounting in his dream what had happened next.
And those in Jerusalem, "When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life' This question was submitted to the apostles in Jerusalem, and Peter testified to the salvation of the Gentiles by faith in Jesus Christ apart from the law His testimony is further corroborated by Barnabas and Paul v.
It was evident that God was dealing with Gentiles as Gentiles, "taking from the Gentiles a people for Him-self". When it is reinstituted, the kingdom will include not only the physical descendants of Abraham but also a multitude of Gentiles. Therefore the restored Davidic kingdom under its rightful Davidic king would be composed of both Jews and Gentiles. In that kingdom Gentiles would not be made into Jews; instead, they would be in the kingdom as Gentiles. This allowed James to conclude that if God had a program for Gentiles, as Gentiles, in the future Davidic kingdom established here on the earth, there was no reason to deny that God could include Gentiles, as Gentiles, in this present form of the theocracy Through faith in Jesus Christ, Gentiles are equal participants with believing Jews in the present form of the kingdom of God.
Paul's life was dedicated to the preaching of the grace of God. He wrote, "Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again" Acts Once again we see that the two terms are used interchangeably, as in From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
And inverses this identification was again made, where "for two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.
Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. No reference is made to support the notion that the earthly Davidic kingdom had been established. Rather, the message concerns entrance into a present form of the kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ. Uses of "the Kingdom" While there are many references to the kingdom in the New Testament epistles, on closer examination we find the term "the kingdom" used in several different ways.
It is used of the future earthly Davidic kingdom to be established at the second advent of Jesus Christ. In 2 Timothy 4: Paul also wrote, "Christ, the first fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.
The end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power" 1 Cor. Here Paul outlined a resurrection program that began with the resurrection of Christ and will continue with the resurrection of those that are Christ's at His second advent. The completion of the resurrection program does not come until after the reign of Christ here on earth, following His second coming.
At the conclusion of that resurrection program, Christ will have delivered up the kingdom to God v. It is quite obvious, therefore, that the kingdom referred to here is the millennial kingdom over which Christ reigns on earth, following His second advent. Thus the idea of a future earthly Davidic kingdom is not at all foreign to the apostle's thinking.
Besides the future earthly Davidic kingdom, we also find that the future eternal kingdom is referred to in the epistles. Peter likewise was anticipating his participation in that eternal reign of Christ. Elsewhere Paul wrote, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" 1 Cor. Here Paul seems to be using "kingdom of God" in reference to the eternal state of the believer.
Thus "kingdom" or "kingdom of God" may refer to the eternal reign of Christ. While the term "kingdom" is used in these two senses in the epistles, its third and most common use, by far, is in reference to the present form of the kingdom, that into which a believer enters by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul stated that God "has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" Col.
Here the phrase "the kingdom of the Son He loves" is equated with the redemption and the forgiveness of sins received by faith in Jesus Christ. This concept is also found in 1 Corinthians 6: In these passages Paul is saying that men who are characterized by these sins are not saved, because it is evident they have never received by faith the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ.
Therefore they are not participants in the kingdom of God. Thus we see again that the term "kingdom of God" is equated with salvation and must refer to participation in or exclusion from the present kingdom form. Believers are exhorted to live lives worthy of God, who calls them into His kingdom and glory 1 Thess. Here Paul seems to be referring to the participation of believers in the present form of the kingdom, who consequently are to walk worthy of that position.
Paul commended the Thessalonians for their faithfulness and patience in the midst of persecutions and testings 2 Thess.
By that conduct they were deemed "worthy of the kingdom of God," for which they were suffering v. Paul was not encouraging them to have patience and faithfulness in order to be able to participate in a future millennial kingdom; but, rather, to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of their participation in the kingdom's present form.
Paul told the Corinthians, "The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power" 1 Cor. In other words, if those in Corinth were actually saved and in the kingdom of God, they would demonstrate that by manifesting the power of the kingdom in their daily lives. Mere profession was not a sufficient demonstration of salvation or participation in the kingdom of God; that relationship must be established and demonstrated by the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the power in the present form of the kingdom of God.
James made reference to the kingdom in James 2: Therefore, many sought riches as a basis for assurance of their acceptance by God. James, however, said that it is not those who are rich in this world's goods, but those who are rich in faith, who will "inherit the kingdom. As a final note, according to Colossians 4: From this survey, then, we see that the most frequent reference to the "kingdom" or the "kingdom of God" in the epistles is a reference to the present form of the kingdom, in which individuals by faith in Jesus Christ, and because of His death and resurrection, receive salvation and the gift of eternal life.
All these are a part of the kingdom of God. The Covenants in the Epistles As we have already seen, biblical covenants dominated the thinking of the writers of Old Testament Scripture. And while those covenants play a prominent role in the Gospels, little reference is made to covenants in the New Testament epistles.
The Church vs. the Kingdom
This supports the idea that during this present age, in which a new form of the kingdom is being developed, God has temporarily set aside the nation of Israel, His covenant people, and is developing a new kingdom program. Romans We must also recognize, however, that the New Testament writers most certainly recognize the existence of the biblical covenants and refer to them when appropriate.
For example, Paul, in his great epistle to the Romans, wrote to vindicate the righteousness of God. Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, argued that God is righteous in judging sinners 1: He is righteous in justifying men by faith 3: He is righteous in providing for a believer's sanctification by identifying him with Christ in His death and resurrection 6: And He is righteous in providing for the believer's ultimate glorification vv.
Paul then showed that God is righteous in dealing with the nation Israel Rom. Paul proved this by pointing out that Israel's hope is based on the covenants and promises God gave to that people 9: God is sovereign in His display of mercy vv.
Therefore, Israel's covenanted promises are not realized, not because God is unfaithful, but because Israel refused to acknowledge their sin and to believe God Paul also said that though Israel has been set aside and is not now experiencing the fulfillment of the covenants, that does not mean God is unfaithful, for some in Israel are experiencing the blessings of salvation In fact, the setting aside of Israel opens the door of opportunity to the Gentiles to find the salvation through Israel's Messiah vv.
Israel, in keeping with the sovereign purposes of God, had been put in the place of blessing and became the channel through which God would accomplish His purposes in the world. Israelis viewed as a branch in a tree, drawing its life from the root. But because the nation was an unproductive branch it was cut off, and wild branches, that is the Gentiles, were grafted in. The Gentiles were put in the place of blessing and could by grace draw life from the root.
Warning was then given to the Gentiles that if they became unfruitful branches, they could be removed just as Israel had been removed. But the setting aside of Israel was not permanent, only temporary.
Paul wrote, "if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
Paul assured his readers that, "The Deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins" vv.
We can see clearly that in the analogy of the olive tree, Paul was viewing the root as the covenant that put Israel in a privileged position and guarantees restoration to that position when the Deliverer comes out of Zion and turns away ungodliness from Jacob. God's covenant program was prominent in the apostle's thinking as he vindicated the faithfulness of God in dealing with His people Israel. Hebrews Since the writer to the Hebrews was writing to Jewish believers, it's not surprising that we would find reference to the covenants in that epistle.
In Hebrews 5, in order to contrast the priesthood of Christ with the Aaronic priests, the writer referred to Psalm The Melchizedekian priesthood of Christ was then developed in chapters The author went on to point out that the Aaronic priests derived their authority from the Mosaic covenant, but of the priesthood of Christ the author says, "The ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which He is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises" 8: Some feel that the "superior covenant" is a reference to the new covenant of Jeremiah This understanding may have some validity.
However, the better covenant also may refer to the covenant God the Father made with God the Son at the time of His ascension into glory.
There are two aspects to this covenant. First, in Psalm 2: Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance, the ends of the earth Your possession. You will rule them. The begetting of the Son referred to v. This authority was conferred on Christ at the time of His enthronement at the right hand of the Father following His ascension.
The second aspect of the Father's covenant with the Son is recorded in Psalm ,where the Father welcomed the Son into glory at the time of His ascension.
There, He is seated at the Father's right hand until the time comes for Him to exercise the authority conferred on Him. There, He also is appointed "a Priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek" v. The covenant that was the basis of the authority of the Aaronic priest was a conditional covenant, but the covenant that constituted Jesus Christ as King-Priest forever was unconditional, and therefore it is considered a better covenant, established on better promises.
The writer to the Hebrews makes specific reference to the new covenant in verseswhere he quoted Jeremiah And while some say that the writer was quoting Jeremiah's new covenant in order to assert that the church supplants Israel as a covenant people, and that there is no future for the nation Israel, a careful study of the context reveals that this s not the author's intent.
Some to whom the author was writing still believed that the Mosaic covenant was a permanent covenant, and that men therefore were bound by the Mosaic law. It was the author's intent to show that even during the period in which the Mosaic law operated, it was viewed as a temporary, not a permanent, arrangement. He did this by quoting Jeremiah This is the point the writer was making when he said, "By calling this covenant 'new' He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear" Heb.
The writer made no attempt whatsoever to show that while the "old" covenant was made with Israel, the new covenant was made with the church so that believers today become God's people in place of Israel.
However, he did effectively demonstrate that the Mosaic order was a temporary arrangement and consequently not binding on believers, who are participants in the new form of the kingdom. In that covenant God promised, "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. At best, they provided only a temporary covering for sins, referring of course to that which was accomplished on the day of atonement.
In contrast to that, the one sacrifice made by Jesus Christ put sins away permanently. Therefore, instituting the new covenant with Israel by the death of Jesus Christ means there is no further need for the animal sacrifices required under the Mosaic law. This is the point: The answer, to those who felt that animal sacrifices continued to be efficacious, was to refer to the new covenant of Jeremiah Sins have been put away, so there is no further need for animal sacrifices.
The writer further asserted in Hebrews Another reference to the covenant is made in Hebrews That covenant is referred to here as an "eternal covenant.
This new covenant is an everlasting covenant. It is on the basis of the blood of this covenant that God will deal with sin. The work of Christ was to provide salvation and to bring all things into subjection to God's authority, so that this covenant will never need to be superseded by a better one.
It must be noted that, though reference is made to Israel's covenants in writing epistles to believers in the church, it does not mean that the church becomes Israel or deprives Israel of a future fulfillment of the covenants made with that nation.
Whenever "Israel" is used in the Scripture, whether in reference to an individual Rom. Paul makes this clear when he defines an Israelite as "a descendent of Abraham" in Gentiles, by faith in Christ and by virtue of their relationship to Christ, who is a descendant of Abraham, are called the seed of Abraham Gal. The covenants were made with the physical descendants of Abraham.
Those related to Abraham by faith may receive benefits from the covenants God gave that people, but they do not supplant the nation as recipients of the covenants. The covenants did provide for universal blessings, which are applicable to Gentiles and to the church. Universal blessing was part of the Abrahamic promises Gen. Universal blessings are promised through the Davidic covenant, for Gentiles will be a part of the kingdom ruled over by David's son Luke 2: These blessings come on the Gentiles who participate in Messiah's earthly rule.The Kingdom of God vs The Kingdom of Heaven
Universal blessings are promised through the new covenant Joel 2: These blessings will be experienced by Gentiles when the Spirit is poured out on all flesh, so that 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" v.
However, the enjoyment of these blessings that flow from Israel's covenants does not mean that the nation will not eventually enjoy the fullness of those blessings into which we enter by faith today.
The relationship of the Church to the Kingdom of God
Four Realms of Authority Following Israel's rejection of the Messiah, a new form of theocratic administration was instituted. Rather than investing authority in one individual, who would exercise authority in every realm of life, authority was assigned to administrators in four different realms in which we all live: Those in authority in these four realms are effectively God's administrators, and to them is given the responsibility of curbing lawlessness in those realms and bringing man into subjection to God's authority in each of them.
Civil Government The first realm is that of civil government. Paul in Romans The reason obedience is commanded is because these authorities are God's ministers Rom. Obviously a governmental authority is not a minister of the gospel; he is, however, an administrator of the theocracy in that portion of the kingdom to which he has been assigned. It is therefore the responsibility of the civil authority to curb lawlessness, to punish evildoers, to reward those who obey the law, and to provide an atmosphere in which righteousness may flourish and men may live in peace without fear.
The authority of the civil ruler extends even to the removal of the lawless by death, the sword being the symbol of that power. As these civil administrators exercise their God-given authority and provide benefits for men as they exercise that authority, they are to be supported by taxes and respected because of the position they hold as God's administrators in His kingdom. The Home The second sphere of authority is the sphere of the home. It was developed by Paul in Ephesians 5: These writers make it clear that the responsibility to curb lawlessness in the home is placed on the husband.
Church and Kingdom
Wives are to be in subjection to their husbands, because in subjecting themselves to their husbands they are showing subjection to the Lord.
Similarly, responsibility is placed on children to recognize the authority of parents and to submit themselves to the rule of their parents. In so doing they are subjecting themselves to the rule of God. Sarah's submission to Abraham is given as an example of the submission that God requires v. That home, in short, will constitute a miniature theocracy. Relationships in this sphere were designed according to God's principles of marriage, which were laid down in the Garden of Eden to show the relationship existing between a believer and God.
The husband or father portrays the authority that belongs to Christ, and he is to exercise his responsibilities in such a way that reflects the love and care Christ exercises over His own.
Likewise, the wife represents the believer, and as the believer is rightly subject to the authority of Christ, so she portrays this relationship by subjection to her husband. A home is not a Christian home because all in that home are Christians. A home cannot be considered a Christian home and a model of the theocracy unless those in the home are rightly related to each other according to God's established laws of marriage. Peter pointed out that one of the practical results of this relationship will be that an unbelieving husband may be brought to the Lord by the gracious submission of the wife to his authority.
It is crucial to recognize that the wife was not subjected to the authority of her husband as a punishment imposed on Eve for her rebellion against the revealed law of God. Rather, it was as a protection for her.
She was relieved of the responsibility of making decisions. That responsibility is placed on her husband. Her responsibility is to submit to his protection and oversight. In this arrangement, the more difficult responsibility is given to the husband, who is commanded to love his wife as Christ also loved the church Eph. Employer and Employee The third realm in which lawlessness may abound, and in which God assigns administrative authority, is in the sphere of employment.
Paul dealt with this in Ephesians 6: The apostles commanded slaves and hired servants to recognize and to submit to the authority of their masters or employers because God has given administrative responsibility in the form of the theocracy to the employer in that realm.
The submission that is given by the employee to the employer is the same submission he is expected to give to Christ. In submitting to Christ's administrator, he is submitting himself to Christ. Consequently any service that the employee renders his employer is viewed as a service for Christ. Of course, an employer is responsible to treat employees as Christ would treat them, and in fact he is reminded that he is a servant of a Master who is in heaven.
Thus they are Christ's representatives in that realm as theocratic administrators. The Church The fourth and final realm in which lawlessness may occur is within the religious realm, or the church itself. Peter in 1 Peter 5: The elders with whom Peter identified himself were overseers of the flock. The flock refers to the body of believers, meaning that the elders are responsible to oversee the flock, so as to curb lawlessness and to bring those in the flock into subjection to the authority of Jesus Christ.