The Glory of the Church

One passage to which God awoke me a few months back is found in the short by powerful letter of Ephesians. This little epistle, written near the end of Paul’s life, is packed with so much from the first verse until the last verse. It makes for one of my more favourite sections of Scripture.

The specific passage I am stirred about is found embedded in chapter 3. Within this section of the letter, Paul takes time to explain his specific ministry to the Gentiles, or the importance behind it. He had been given an amazing stewardship of God’s grace, which was to make known the mystery of Christ, or the mystery of the gospel. Actually, this mystery is referred four times in vs2-9.

The mystery of Christ was 1) made known by revelation, 2) it had not been made fully known in previous generations, and 3) it was now being revealed to the apostles and prophets of the new covenant.

And the revelation of that mystery was that the Gentiles were fellow heirs, members of the same body, partakers of the promises in Christ through the gospel. What fantastic news for planet earth! That, in Christ, we can become heirs, joined to the one body, and become partakers of the promises that are found in Christ. This isn’t just religious mumbo-jumbo, but a rich inheritance that we now have in Christ!

Paul goes on to share that he was made a minister (or servant) of this good news via the gift of God’s grace, given by God’s power, and he was to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ, continuing to bring light (or unveiling that revelation he has received) about the mystery that had been hidden for ages.

A fantastic ministry of which we all reap the benefits to this day!

But here is the passage that stirs me quite deeply. It’s found in vs10-11:

10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realised in Christ Jesus our Lord

Did you catch that?! Maybe read it again slowly.

The manifold wisdom of God is going to be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. But through whom?

The church – The ekklesia. The body of Christ. The people of God.

That is outstanding news! That God would display and reveal His wisdom via His church.

I know we look around and think, ‘Huh? What?’ We believe we don’t see it. We believe this can’t be true.

But the thing is, this is true. This is connected to the revelation Paul is bringing and part of that revelation is not only that the Gentiles get to be included in this body, this ekklesia, but that this ekklesia, this church, is the main vehicle of displaying God’s wisdom. And our call is not only to display it to ourselves or humanity (thought that is also true), but to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This is a far-reaching ministry we have.

Not only that, but Paul says this was God’s eternal purpose, but only now is it [fully] realised in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This was his plan from the beginning, or from eternity. This is why I am convinced that the ekklesia is true Israel and true Israel is the ekklesia. There is one body, one people in Christ – believing Jew and Gentile. And that was God’s eternal purpose from the beginning. And it would be through this one new humanity (see Ephesians 2:12-22) that God would display the glory of His manifold wisdom.

What do you do with these two verses?

Hope is stirred. Prophetic vision is stirred. Faith is stirred. Agape is stirred. This stirs deep inside to the greater thing that God is doing in this world, including the unseen realm.

Let us take up this charge, this exhortation, this reminder of Paul. Let us align our lives with the eternal purpose of God.

Why It All Matters

When I write or teach, I tend to talk a bunch of theology and doctrine while forgetting to consider many practical matters. And we all know that, theological talk (or jabber) without practically walking out the truth, this is not true biblical theology. Or we should know that.

So I’m aware of my tendencies. I can try and wax eloquent about certain things (I said try), but, in the end, I really want it to be a practical reality that affects our lives.

In the midst of this series on the Ephesians 4 ministry gifts, some might ask, ‘What’s the point? Why does it all matter?’

And the question is more directed at me, not the Scriptures.

Really, why does it matter? Is it really that important whether or not we believe apostles and prophets still exist today. Not to mention, if we want to lean towards such a belief, we’ve got a lot of Christianity standing against such a belief.

Well, let me start off by saying I do not believe this is an essential doctrine of the faith. I do not see this up there with things such as the divinity-humanity (yes, both) of Christ, monotheism and the Tri-unity of God at the same time, salvation by grace through faith alone, as well as a couple of others. This does not belong with those.

But, I do believe this whole thing comes down to a very important part of the praxis of our faith, what it means to live out our faith in a practical way in the earth.

It’s not just about whether one believes apostles and prophets still exist today. It comes down to what I have emphasised from the beginning: Jesus was the great apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher, and His desire is that His body, His representation on the earth, continue on in the ministries of the Christ. We are to be all of Christ in all of the earth.

The broken record is still turning, I know. But I cannot emphasise these things enough. And thankfully Jesus has sent the Spirit, the apostolic-prophetic-evangelistic-shepherding-teaching Spirit to indwell and empower God’s people to be all of Christ in all of the earth. That’s just how it is whether we like it or not.

I’m really not to bothered about titles. Well, matter of fact, I’m not sure we can find precedence that these five ministry gifts are to be considered as titles. They are ministries, meaning they are serving gifts. That is of utmost importance. They are given to the help equip and prepare the body of Christ for works of service themselves. And as they equip and prepare us, we will move towards unity and maturity, which is our goal. If you don’t believe me, re-read Ephesians 4:11-16. The mandate is quite clear.

I know plenty of people that get on with shepherding and teaching and evangelising, but have never been recognised in these ministries. I think Jesus is quite happy about that. He remembers what it was like to not be recognised by the established leadership of his day. But He was very faithful in being what He had been sent to do by the Father.

And so I suppose there are many apostles and prophets getting on with being apostolic and prophetic without any recognition. Matter of fact, I am pretty certain of it. And Jesus continues to smile upon that as well.

What He frowns upon are those self-proclaimed, self-titled men and women who don’t have any idea of what it truly means to lead (think first and foremost serve), no matter what ministry-gifting capacity they see themselves in. I think that might be worse than having a little bad doctrine.

So, this really does all matter. We really want to be all that Christ has called us to be. And so, if one is not interested in recognising present-day apostolic and prophetic ministries, I’m really not going to get too bent out of shape (as if one cares about my opinion). But, in the end, we must get on with being an apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching community. That is our call as the body of Christ, since He, Himself, walked in those five ministries.

I suppose I do see a little difficulty in the body truly being apostolic and prophetic if we don’t have apostles and prophets equipping us to be such. They are gifted people given to help us. We should be willing to receive such gifts of grace.

But I also know the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching Spirit indwells the body of Christ. So, of course, He will be our best teacher. Nevertheless, I do believe He wants to use those gifted in these five ministries.

So, if we want to split hairs in the end, if we want to categorise certain ministries as ceasing after a certain time period, after the canon was completed and passed along to us, I’m not going to fight with someone over this. Matter of fact, I have a good respect for those who have noble hearts to protect the apostolic faith handed down to us, which the Scripture so faithfully attests to. I share common ground here.

But, I will be passionate to argue that this truly matters in that we need to get on with being Christ in the earth. You, I, the entire body of Christ in every nation, culture and church background must get on with being all of Christ in all of the earth.

And, because it matters, it means we better get on with functioning as an apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching community. If we don’t do so, we will fall short. If we don’t do so, we will miss the mark that Paul points to in Ephesians 4:11-16. And we might just find ourselves waiting a little longer for Christ to come and consummate what He expected His body to continue on with.

Let us be challenged with why this really does matter.

You can click here for some thoughts on important characteristics of those functioning in these five ministries.

The Body of Christ Continuing the Ministry of Christ

I’m rolling out a longer series on what is known as the five-fold ministries of Ephesians 4:11-13. Here is my thesis thus far, as summarised in these three statements below:

  1. Upon His ascension to the Father, Jesus began gifting people in all five of the Ephesians 4 ministries – apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors), and teachers. As the Ephesians passage above makes clear, these ministries are given to equip the body of Christ and help prepare them to outwork the ministry of Christ in the world today. (You can read more here and here.)
  2. Jesus Christ was the greatest to function in all five of these ministries – the greatest apostle, the greatest prophet, the greatest evangelist, the greatest shepherd and the greatest teacher. We can only function in these ministries as we look to Him who was faithful in all five. (You can read more here and here.)
  3. The Holy Spirit was sent in the place of the resurrected and ascended Christ, all to continue the full work of Christ. As ‘another Helper’, just as if Christ were still here in active ministry, He is the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching Spirit. (You can read more here and here.)

But the major premise of this article is that the entire body of Christ, the one new man in Christ (see Ephesians 2:13-16), has been called to be all of Christ to all of the earth. Thus, with such a calling to fulfil the ministry of Christ, this means we, as the body, are to walk as an apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching community.

No, I’m not at the place yet of showing why I believe apostles and prophets still exist today (I won’t need to prove to anyone that evangelists, shepherds-pastors and teachers still exist). I’m simply showing how the body of Christ is called to fulfil all ministries of Christ by the power of the Spirit of Christ. Thus, we are inherently an apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching people.

But let’s move on…

God’s People in Their Apostolic Role

What is an apostle again? Essentially a ‘sent one’. That’s what it means to be apostolic in its essence.

Thus, I think we all can recognise that God’s people have been sent into the world to be a mission-minded people. This is our apostolic calling! We see this in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 and through the apostolic commission of Acts 1:8 in which we were sent to the ends of the earth.

God has called us to be ‘ministers of reconciliation’ proclaiming that, in Christ, God is reconciling people to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Therefore, we are to be a company of apostles with an apostolic mission in this world.

God’s People in Their Prophetic Role

I’m not sure I need to put to much here, as I wrote a whole article on the topic of the prophethood of all believers. Yep, you read correctly. Of course we are a priesthood as well. But we are also a prophethood (and even what we might call a ‘royalhood’, but that’s another day and time.)

We can see this overall call to the body of Christ through Peter’s quotation of Joel in his Pentecost sermon. After the Spirit had been poured out, this is what Peter says:

16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:16-18)

Peter has a revelation that, what Joel had prophesied long ago, it was being fulfilled right in their midst. Joel had said that, in the last days, the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28-29)!

No longer would there be a gender divide of who is qualified to receive the Spirit – sons and daughters, males and females would both be included. And there would also be no more age barrier – young and old were both included. The Spirit was now available to all of God’s people, not just a select few.

What was the fruit of such an outpouring of the Spirit: ‘and they shall prophesy’ (Acts 2:18). Moses had made God’s heart clear long ago, but here was the fulfilment of those words uttered long ago:

Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them! (Numbers 11:29)

Thus, at Pentecost, we see the firstfruits of the prophethood of all believers. And for the past 2,000 years, God has continued to utilise his prophetic community in the earth.

God’s People in Their Evangelistic Role

We already touched on this somewhat in the apostolic role of God’s people, but just as a reminder, we are a people who have been sent into the world with good news. That’s what evangelists are – bearers of God news. And I would venture to say that the entire body of Christ, though maybe not each individual gifted as an evangelist, has good news to share.

We are an evangelistic people who bear the gospel, looking to make disciples of those who respond.

God’s People in Their Shepherding Role

Sure, as with the rest of these five ministry gifts, Jesus gifts specific people as pastor-shepherds, though I suppose we easily get off-base with what this gift really is about. But we, as a community of God’s people, are also called together to care for one another. With the Spirit in us, we can offer words of strength, encouragement and challenge as we sense God’s leading. What a great opportunity to care for those in our family, the body of Christ.

Below are just a couple of passages for consideration:

24…But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:24-25)

1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

I’ve always loved these words of spiritual writer Larry Crabb:

‘That cry from your heart is your longing to be part of a true church, to participate in spiritual community, to engage in spiritual conversations of worship with God and co-journeying with others. You yearn for a safe place, a community of friends who are hungry for God, who know what it means to sense the Spirit moving within them as they speak with you. You long for brothers and sisters who are intent not on figuring out how to improve your life, but on being with you wherever your journey leads. You want to know and be known in conversations that aren’t really about you or anyone else but Christ.’ (The Safest Place on Earth, p19)

God’s People in Their Teaching Role

The new covenant declares the great truth that God’s people could know God themselves. There would be no need for the mediatoral work of a special group of people.

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbour and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

This does not mean we completely negate the role and function of teachers, as other passages show the importance of such, especially the Scripture we are looking at in Ephesians 4. But we no longer need such a sacerdotal system to act as mediators, since we are all part of the royal and holy priesthood of God (see 1 Peter 2:4-10).

We are the ones who have been set free by the truth (John 8:31-32 ). Thus, we are not called to solely study God’s Word so that we can be puffed up with great theological knowledge (see 1 Corinthians 8:1 ). Such completely misses the point. Rather, we study His God-breathed Word so that we can be used in helping others know God for themselves, being set free by the truth. This we can do in the strength of God’s Spirit.

Some Summary Thoughts

Thus, the community of Christ continues to have the call to be all of Christ in all of the world. This means embracing our apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching ministry as the whole body of Christ together. Of course, Christ gifts various individuals in these ministries, with these particular people helping us be better equipped and more effective in this areas of ministry. But we should never negate our calling as a whole community.

And, I suppose that, as we do this together, we will have quite an effective ministry amongst the world in which we live.

Here I share why this all really does matter.

Each One Really Does Have

2006_wdacl_togetherI have previously posted along the lines of what I am writing about today. So, forgive me if I bore some of you. But I think it’s ok to share frequently about a topic that is dear to one’s heart. And so I take up the privilege of doing so.

One of my favourite passages in all of Scripture is found here:

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26 NASB)

Specifically, I love that little phrase, ‘each one has’.

Can you imagine it?

What if the church, the ekklesia of God, actually lived out the reality what this verse says? What if our gatherings actually consisted of the reality that each one has?

Well, I believe a few things would begin to happen:

1) Simply, we would be living out Biblical truth and the heart of God.

2) The saints, God’s people, would begin to more regularly grow up into maturity.

3) We would truly be walking out what it means to be the body.

4) We would receive greater blessing, encouragement and strength from the whole body of Christ.

5) There would be a lot more variety, which would inevitably lead to us being less stale. (Note: I am not up for variety just for variety’s sake, nor to make us somehow ‘hip’. I’m up for doing this because Scripture makes clear it is important and that we should do it for edifying the body.)

And there are probably a host of other things we could list.

Now, there is the other side of the coin as well if we look to walk out 1 Corinthians 14:26. We will have to utilise the wisdom of God a little more in our Sunday gatherings and even outside our Sunday gatherings.

What I mean is this – If the leadership of a local congregation does not allow for the possibility of each one to have, meaning everything is left down to one or two people, then there is a lot more control over the situation. You don’t have to worry if Suzy is going to share another ‘ethereal’ prophecy that no one understands. You don’t have to worry if Bobby will keep asking to share that important teaching that he believes God is stirring in him, but it actually is only something God is doing personally in Bobby rather than what God wants to do in the midst of the whole body.

But, if we let go of control, though we will have to consider dealing with those ‘dirty diapers’, I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will begin to see the heart of God enacted in our church communities more and more if we look to live out the truth of 1 Corinthians 14:26.

Good shepherds (elder-pastors) will watch over the flock making sure that unhealthy things are guarded against, or if something does happen, to then give a gentle correction to help refocus on what is true.

But true and Biblical shepherds desire to see the flock grow up and head towards maturity. And allowing for each one to be able to give and serve (not just in passing out a bulletin) through their spiritual giftings is important.

Now, of course, by no means do I believe this verse teaches that each one should share at every gathering. Rather, the potential of such is available to all those indwelt by God the Spirit Himself. Think about it: if 50 or 100 followers of Christ join together to meet with God and one another, I could only assume that there are more than two people in the midst of the congregation that have something to bring. It is inevitable, and even if not every single person is truly pursuing God, for there are those who are walking with Him.

Now, for the mega-church, this becomes somewhat difficult. But that is the problem. John on the 17th row can easily be forgotten in the midst of have 2,000 people joining together. And with such a large amount of people, you don’t have time to consider whether another 5 or 10 people might have something with which they could edify the congregation. Instead, you usually have the few qualified experts who can do it better than everyone else anyways. So why open the door for Suzy and Bobby?

Well, for starters: 1) You are missing an important teaching of Scripture and 2) you leave out an opportunity for God’s people to grow and step out in faith with the gifts He has given.

I know that such churches will say, ‘But we have small groups for that.’ And, you know what? I think 1 Corinthians 14:26 needs to be practiced in small groups as well. That is important.

But, read the context of 1 Corinthians 14. Paul is talking about the larger gathering of the church, not small groups. So, in our sense, he is talking about our Sunday gatherings. Paul expects the ‘each one has’ to be practiced in our Sunday morning gatherings (or whenever we meet). He does not want it simply relegated to small groups. But how many churches really walk this out?

For the mega-church that cannot walk out 1 Corinthians 14:26, then my suggestion is to expand outwards and stop building upwards. Take your 2,000 people and plant 10 new churches. Not only will you get more opportunity to enact these words of Paul, you will get more opportunity to train up new leaders and reach people like they did in Acts. This isn’t a novel idea. It is what they did in Acts.

For the ‘seeker-sensitive’ church that relegates such (especially tongues) to small groups for the sake of not disturbing seekers that attend a Sunday gathering, I would challenge such a perspective. The goal should not be to squelch what Paul says is important to practice. Rather it is to teach it and practice it in a healthy manner. So, when a prophecy or tongue is shared, give a healthy explanation of what has just happened. Hey, it will probably be helpful to those who are already part of the church community as well.

In the end, if something has been practiced in a Biblical manner and the shepherds have done well to guard against anything unhealthy, as well as giving an explanation to help clarify, then we really don’t need to worry about who got offended. It’s ok if one or two or a handful of people don’t return. The goal is not more people, per se. The goal is to truly reach people with Christ and see the church mature. At least that is the goal in Scripture.

And, not only that, but let me just go ahead and say that ‘each one has’ involves women as well. Each one has is not relegated to the male figure. For those who think the word brethren underlines that only men should be involved in such, then you need to go back and study what the word adelphoi means in the original Greek. Also, check out 1 Corinthians 11:5 – ‘but every women who prays or prophesies.’

And these women might just be used with a teaching or [prophetic] revelation. Yes, truly so! Read the verse again.

Of course this list is not exhaustive. I believe it to be a summary of things, especially knowing that Paul lists a few other things in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, as well as other places like Romans 12.

In all, my passion – no, God’s passion – is to see a healthy and mature church. He doesn’t want everything left down to the experts, if we can indeed somehow call ourselves experts. He gifts and calls people to serve in so many varying capacities. And we must give each one the room to serve and express their unique giftings and callings in Christ.

What a transformation that would take place if we truly walked out 1 Corinthians 14:26!

The Greatest Tool of the Kingdom (Part 2)

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.