In Core Teaching Stage 1, we learnt how we can prepare for Jesus’ Second Coming by becoming the people He wants us to be, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:11-14.
Jesus is coming to fully establish His Kingdom on earth. “Fully establish,” for His kingdom already exists to some extent today. So we need to look at the concept of the kingdom of God.
a]. We saw in previous articles how Jesus lived perfectly under the rule of God.
b]. Due to His intimacy with God, He was able to know, to speak and to do what God had planned for Him to do and say in His ministry as He lived on earth.
c]. Jesus is the only perfect human and is the only perfect example for us to follow as we seek to become the willing, loving subjects of the King in His kingdom under His kingly rule.
1]. THE CENTRALITY OF THE KINGDOM IN CHRISTIANITY
A]. The Old Testament preparation. The people of God were to live in obedience to Him, under His rule.
God spoke to Israel through Moses, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” Exodus 19:5-6.
God’s people in the Old Testament period would reveal His kingdom through their witness, “All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! 11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, 12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendour of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. [The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.]” Psalm 145:10-13. See also Daniel 7:18, “But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.”
In fact, St Peter described the church, as belonging to God and as a royal priesthood and a holy nation, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10. These words are similar to those God gave to Moses in Exodus 19:5-6.
B]. The Kingdom Was Central In The New Testament Preaching. The Kingdom arrived with the first coming of Jesus into the world.
John the Baptist witnessed to Jesus saying, (Mt 3:2)”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 3:2. Then he pointed to Jesus as the Spirit-giver, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11
Jesus was later to associate the Spirit of God with the coming of the kingdom of God, Mat 12:28 “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Matthew 12:28. He also taught that one had to be born of the Spirit of God to enter the kingdom of God, “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:5.
Jesus preached and demonstrated the kingdom
Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom and healed people, thus demonstrating the power of the kingdom, “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Matthew 4:23.
Matthew 9:35 “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”
Luke 8:1 “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out.”
Luke 9:11, “When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.”
It seems that healing was very much a part of the preaching of the kingdom. Jesus spoke of the kingdom and then demonstrated its power in healing people.
The Ministry Of The Apostles
Jesus commanded His disciples to proclaim the kingdom, (Mat 10:6-8, “but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”
Luke 9:1-2, “And he [Jesus] called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.”
Matthew 24:14. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Philip. (Acts 8:12-13) Luke wrote of the ministry of Philip, “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.”
St Paul. Luke wrote of the ministry of St Paul, Acts 19:8 “And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.”
28:23, “When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.”
Acts 28:30 “He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”
St Paul described his ministry as proclaiming the kingdom of God, Acts 20:25, “And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.”
C]. The Power Of God And The Kingdom. Kingdom power was seen in the world and in His word.
King David prayed to God as the King of His kingdom, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11.
Paul wrote of the power of the kingdom in 1 Corinthians 4:19 “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”
D]. The demonstration of Kingdom power in healing
Seen in Jesus’ ministry. Matthew 4:23 “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”
Matthew 9:35, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”
Luke 9:11 “When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.”
Seen in the Disciples’ ministry. Jesus gave a commission to His disciples. (Luke 9:1-2) “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.”
Luke 9:2 “and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.”
Luke 10:9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.'”
2. THE WISDOM OF THE KINGDOM. DIFFERENT FROM THE WORLD’S WISDOM
A. God’s wisdom is above human wisdom. Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
James wrote in 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
James contrasted earthly wisdom with the wisdom of God from above, 3:15-17. “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”
B]. Human wisdom doesn’t understand the purposes of God.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:20-21, “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”
1 Corinthians 2:6-8,“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
C]. God’s kingdom wisdom is given by the Spirit to His people
We as believers have the mind of Christ because of the Holy Spirit teaching us His truths,
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:12-16.
3. A NEW WAY OF KINGDOM LIVING BY THE SPIRIT
A]. True And Ongoing Repentance. The Greek word [metanoia], means a change of mind about God, Jesus, the way to God, and ourselves. Repentance is commanded, but leads to forgiveness, eternal life, and a new life in the Spirit. (Acts 2:38) “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 3:19) “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (Acts 17:30) “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 20:21) “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”
True repentance is characterised by spiritual fruit. Acts 26:19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”
God wants His opponents to come to Him in repentance. (2 Timothy 2:25) “Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.
God’s patience gives time for people to come to Him in repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) “…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
It is true that everyone who enters into the kingdom of God has come by the path of true repentance and faith in Christ. However repentance is not a once for all time experience. As we continue to mature in the Christian life we come to acknowledge that from time to time we allow things in our lives that we need to repent of. Or it may be something we said or did for which we feel ashamed. Or it may be an attitude that has formed in us that is unloving and unheathy. That is why it is helpful for us to pray the prayer for openness to God from Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” This allows God to show us anything in our lives that is not pleasing to Him and with His help we can make the necessary changes.
B]. A Deepening Intimacy In Our Relationship With Christ. By Abiding in Him
Jesus taught, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4. AND John 15:7 “ If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit is able to help us in our prayers to pray according to the will of God, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 and he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27.
C]. Allowing God To Make Changes In Our Lives.
John R.W. Stott wrote these very helpful words in his book, Christian Mission in the Modern World… “Life is a pilgrimage of learning, a voyage of discovery, in which our mistaken views are corrected, our distorted notions adjusted, our shallow opinions deepened and some of our vast ignorances diminished.” God’s word can make great changes in our lives, by showing us wrong beliefs and deepening our understanding of the things of God.
We can have a new way of living, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. This new creation is something that God does inwardly in people who trust in Him. He changes their way of thinking about Him and about themselves. Galatians 6:15, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
Paul wrote that in our faith-union with Christ, we died with Him and have been raised with Him to newness of life, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4.
Peter recognised that believers are new born into God’s family and must long for the true spiritual word to grow to maturity, 1 Peter 2:2, “ Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”
D]. It Is Not What You Know, But WHO You Know.
Paul’s desire was to come to a deepening personal knowledge of God, ”I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.” Eph 1:16-17.
Paul’s desire was to “know” Him and the power of His resurrection, ”that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Philippians 3:10.
4. HOW THE NEW LIFE IS DIFFERENT FROM THE OLD LIFE.
The Old Testament promises of God about establishing His rule in human hearts have been fulfilled in Christ. Ezekiel prophesied God’s words, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” Ezekiel 11:19-20.
AND in Ezekiel 36:25 -28, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rule.”
Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12-13 that God is at work in believers by His Holy Spirit to give them the willingness and the ability to please God. The supernatural work of God in human hearts, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Our part in serving in Christ’s kingdom is to work out in practice what He is inwardly working in us by His Spirit. He gives us the willingness and the ability to do His will for His good pleasure.
Paul also described the kingdom of God as being spiritual and not just material, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking (natural) but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17.
Blog No.435 posted on Wednesday 05 October 2022.