This is probably my last article in which I will discuss the kingdom of God, at least for now. It’s been a long time coming, but I have been able to lay out what I believe is a healthy beginning to understanding the kingdom. If someone is only just finding this article now, you can click here for the first article and work your way through the series as you find time.
Though my conclusion was that the kingdom of God and the church are not synonymous, I do believe the church is the greatest tool of the kingdom since we are the ones who have submitted to the King. Thus, in the last post, I pointed out three ways in which God uses the church in advancing the kingdom of God:
- Proclaiming the kingdom
- Prayer for the kingdom to come
- Walking in the authority of the kingdom
In the last post I looked at the first two, but in this post, I take up the final aspect: walking in the authority of the kingdom.
Not only are we called to proclaim the kingdom and pray for it to come on earth as it is in heaven, but Christ has also given His church the authority of the kingdom.
How do we know such? Let’s consider a few points:
The Authority of the King
We have made much of the fact that Christ is King. Therefore, we know that He is the one with the greatest authority:
28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29; see also Mark 1:22)
And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mark 1:27)
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)
We also see Jesus’ authority in such passages as these:
…19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:15)
There is no doubt that Christ, the King, has been given all authority!
The Authority of the King’s Servants
As those who are in Christ, we are, then, able to participate in all that Christ participates in. So, this includes, as we saw, proclaiming the kingdom and praying for it to come on earth. Yet, we must also realise that we are called to participate and walk in the authority of Christ’s kingdom.
Below are a few pointers to show the authority of Christ’s body, the church:
1. Authority over the demonic
17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)
Here we see Jesus, in a pre-Pentecost mission, had given authority and power to the seventy-two. And when they returned from this assignment, Jesus even said that He saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (vs18), a statement announcing Christ’s conquering victory over the power of Satan and that it was going to happen suddenly (‘like lightning’).
Amazingly, Christ wanted to share His conquering rule and victory with those who were His followers. We do this only in His strength, not our own. But He wants to participate in all that His activities, since we are His body.
‘When they expressed delighted surprise at the power they had exercised, he [Jesus] replied that their mission only illustrated the defeat of Satan – his fall from his place of power (Luke 10:17-18). This is the most important passage illustrating the fact that the Kingdom of God was present not only in Jesus but also in his disciples, both in the smaller circle of the twelve and in the large circle of the Seventy [or seventy-two].’ (Ladd, The Presence of the Future)
2. Authority to resist temptation and the devil
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Paul encourages us that even when we face temptations, with all temptations being common to humanity, God will provide a ‘way of escape’, or literally, an exit or end to the temptation. So this can give us encouragement to endure such temptation. And, one way to endure would be by following in the footsteps of Christ – with the power of God’s Word (see Matthew 4:1-11).
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Not only can we resist temptation, but we can resist the evil one, the devil himself. Now, let us remember that our standing against Satan is to be done with recognition that the battle ultimately belongs to God and Christ. Hence, James reminds us to, ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God.’ Then, and only then, does he encourage us to ‘resist the devil.’ And the good news is that, as we submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee from us!
Though Peter’s words were specifically written to a people going through major persecution for their faith, his words prove very helpful in all areas of our lives. He uses the image of a roaring lion seeking to devour its prey as a description of the devil. Yet, here we are also encouraged to ‘resist him’. And how does one do so? By standing firm in our faith, which is parallel to James’ words about submitting to God.
Such words of Paul, James and Peter remind us of the armour of God that we have been given as described in Ephesians 6:10-18. Take time to slowly read through and consider this passage.
3. Armed with the power of God
Christians have been armed with the power of God, as expressed in many ways in the Scripture:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:4)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might (Ephesians 1:19)
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, (2 Peter 1:3)
That’s a lot of Scriptures to consider, but I share them to remind us of the truth of God’s Word. What power we have in Christ! What authority we have in Christ! We are the ones submitted to His rule and kingship, and, thus, the church stands as God’s greatest tool for the expansion of His kingdom.
Of course, God can utilise nature, aspects of culture, non-believers, and even Satan himself to advance His own purposes. But it is the church that is now called to pray for and seek God’s rule, proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to the ends of the earth, and even be used in the power and authority of the kingdom.
‘The disciples of Jesus not only proclaimed the good news about the presence of the Kingdom; they were also instruments of the Kingdom in that the works of the Kingdom were performed through them as through Jesus himself.’ (Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament)
As theologian Wayne Grudem says:
‘Therefore those who believe in Christ will begin to experience something of what God’s final kingdom reign will be like: they will know some measure of victory over sin (Rom. 6:14; 14:17), over demonic opposition (Luke 10:17), and over disease (Luke 10:9). They will live in the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:28; Rom 8:4-17; 14:17), who is the dynamic power of the coming kingdom.’ (Systematic Theology)
Thus ends my detailed introduction to the kingdom of God. This truly is one of my favourite theological topics to study as I think it was the most important message for Christ, the King.