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THE GOSPEL, CHURCH AND GODS KINGDOM

Despite the fact that they use the same material, they each write from a different perspective. THE FOUR GOSPELS REPRESENT DISTINCTIVE VERSIONS OF OUR LORD’S LIFE. Each has a distinct point of view with a specific audience.

In Matthew, we are aware of a Jew writing for Jews. Mark, on the other hand, was written, according to a number of early traditions, for Gentiles, probably located in Rome. Luke’s two-part work of Gospel and Acts is dedicated to one man, Theophilus, who was clearly a Gentile, who seems to be receiving Christian instruction at the time. John’s Gospel may have been written with both Jews and Gentiles in mind. If the reading leadership cannot be described with certainty there is “no doubt as to its purpose. John carefully selected miracles for a reason. ‘These have been written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

And that through your faith in him you may have life

” (John 20:31)

1 A basis for belief

Each of the Gospels was written with a clear evangelistic purpose, to introduce enquirers to the authentic and essential facts of the gospel, and as a basis of instruction for me who were preparing for baptism.

Michael Green draws attention to the fact that the’ Gospels represent an entirely new literary form, which was neither history, nor biography, but a highly selective weaving together of fragments using preaching and teaching ‘arranged in order to show what sort of person Jesus was, to give the evidence on which the disciples had followed him and had adjudged him the Messiah and Son of God, and by the strongest possible implication, challenge the readers to make the same act of faith in Christ as they themselves had done.’ (Green 1970:229, 230).

In a more recent book, he suggests that the gospel was also made available as widely and cheaply as possible

by a novel process. The gospel was bound in a compact book form rather than produced as a bulky scroll, with

paper made from cheap papyrus^ rather than the very expensive vellum (i.e. treated skins) (Green 1979:125-):

These also made for easier reference with page-turning being easier than unwinding a scroll to find your place. – The early Christians may therefore be credited with the invention of the forerunner of the popular paperback.

There has been a great deal of argument as to what a new enquirer needs to know before or immediately upon making a decision to follow Christ for that decision to be meaningful. As we have seen, the Gospels were written to meet that need, so by examining carefully their contents we will gain an overall impression of the range of information that the early Christians deemed to be necessary for an adequate ongoing commitment to be made. In the great majority of cases, this teaching would be communicated orally, for Gospels were in short supply ~” and many converts were illiterate. As a general rule, those who could read had to make their own copy. Having to write it out was a good way to absorb the contents.

By switching from concentration on a few ‘proof texts’

in evangelism, to a more balanced and comprehensive approach adopted by one of the four Gospels, we might see better short and long-term results in our evangelism. They give a clear picture of the identity of Christ, show the radical all-or-nothing nature of commitment to him, describe the life of discipleship as a corporate, not individualistic activity, spell out the cost involved, and show how our present experience relates to the Kingdom of God, which is both presents and yet still to come.

The first three Gospels each place a heavy emphasis on the ‘Kingdom’. Matthew, to suit Jewish susceptibility, prefers to speak of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ rather than the ‘Kingdom of God’, because Jews were reluctant to -utter the divine name. He refers to the Kingdom fifty-two times, while Mark uses it nineteen times, Luke forty-four times and John only four.

The lack of Kingdom emphasis in John is probably explained by the fact that he is: writing more in retrospect and possibly to play down false expectations. the temporary Jewish understanding of the Kingdom. The ‘Kingdom of God’ is only mentioned twice (3:1, 5) because it ‘calls to mind apocalyptic Judaism which John seems for the most part to avoid. Perhaps this general avoidance suggests his criticism of that Judaism which was content to await the miraculous vindication of Israel in the Kingdom of God and to ignore the necessity for inward conversion and rebirth’ (Barrett 1960:173). If John, apart from the important reference in Chapter 3, which we shall consider later, avoids the term the Kingdom of God, he does on the other hand lay more stress than the other three Gospels on Jesus as King of Israel (Barrett 1960:346). The Gospels, therefore, lay a heavy emphasis on the gospel of the Kingdom and the Kingship of Jesus. In our consideration of the Old Testament role of the people of God among the nations of the world, we saw that Israel attracted people to herself as she pointed beyond herself. It was as she manifested the reality of God in her midst through her life of obedience to his commands and faith in his promises that she succeeded in fulfilling her God-given “mission as a witness” to the nations. In their response, the nations were not coming to Israel as such, but to God who dwelt in Israel. The same emphasis appears when we turn to consider the relationship of the Church to the Kingdom of God. Here, once again we see the Church as a magnetic presence.

I BELIEVE IN CHURCH GROWTH

also fulfilling a missionary role in actually going to the nations. But her witness is still to point beyond herself. She points upwards to the Lord who is the head of the Church and forwards to the Kingdom, which, although inaugurated, is still to be consummated. The Neglect of a Kingdom, emphasis on church growth thinking. The writings of Donald McGavran do not make clear the relationship he sees between the Church and the Kingdom. At several points, he seems to use the terms interchangeably. Church planting becomes synonymous with Kingdom building. The mission is not simply self-proliferation, for the Church is not the Kingdom. As Rene Padilla cautions, ‘To speak of the kingdom of God is to speak of the purpose of God, of which the empirical church is little more than a pale reflection’ (Padilla 1975:43). The failure of church growth thinking, at least in its early formulations, to differentiate between Church and Kingdom has led to a great deal of misunderstanding and criticism. It has resulted in Christian mission being caricatured as denominational aggrandisement, or a plan for survival for western-based churches and their related mission agencies. Church growth thinking has been slow to come to terms with the problem of nominality within existing churches and has consequently given the impression that the mission is simply making more and more people become like ourselves. It has not sufficiently emphasized that the Church itself is in the process of becoming and through its disobedience can present a distorted or even completely erroneous picture of the Christian life. In recent years this aspect has been corrected to a large extent through the response of Third World Christian thinkers and the radical discipleship movement which is emerging among younger Christians in the more affluent nations.

The criticisms of McGavran come thick and fast in the July 1968 issue of the International Review of Missions. Matthew P. John from the Syrian Orthodox Church draws attention to the fact that the denominational churches cannot simply be equated with the Church of Jesus Christ, ‘. . .it is not at all clear that the multiplication of churches is the chief aim of the Christian mission. The consistent use of the plural “churches” implies a distance from an essential dimension of the meaning of church in the Bible. It may be meaningless to talk of an invisible church except in the context of a visible one, but it is also relevant to remember that the visible church or churches share in the ambiguities of human existence and can become demonic like other human institutions’ (IRM July 1968:280),. And again, ‘Dr McGavran’s proposals about classifying .societies for the purpose of seeing what particular technique is to be applied to them to turn the raw material into churches, treats them as less than human and justifies the non-Christian critics of mission who describe it as a form of imperialism and domination (IRM July 1968:281).

While multiplying Christians may result in a more just society, it does not necessarily follow. If Christians see their spiritual vocation in life simply in terms of making other Christians, many areas of life can be conveniently overlooked. Their light may shine with the narrowness of a laser beam rather than provide the illumination of a beacon.

When people are being added to the Church it is legitimate to examine what they are being converted to. Jordan Bishop, a Roman Catholic missionary, on the basis of his Latin American experience, reflects that thousands of Indians were forcibly baptized during the time of the Spanish conquest of Latin America and, today, Protestant converts are made through material advancement their allegiance offers. He concludes that ‘the authenticity of conversion to Christ (freed, one should add, not only from economic but also from sociological and psychological pressure) is more important than the number of men converted or churches planted.’ (IRM July 1968: 287).

The Anglican professor J. G. Davies also takes McGavran to task for not distinguishing the Church from the churches. ‘When he speaks of planting the. Church, he can only mean the planting of denominations. This immediately reduces such a definition of mission to well nigh an absurdity, as it would mean the increase of Methodists, Lutherans, etc. Can it seriously be maintained that this is God’s purpose for the world? Is this not to reduce the living God of radical monotheism to a tribal deity(IRM July 1968: 291). Davies writes these words against a background of English church life where many churches ‘are groups- of inward-looking people, introverted to such a degree that their ecclesiastical interests are primary’ . . . they are ‘frequently judgmental, non-acceptive, conservative and backwards-looking. To many people, their religious practices belong to a dream world that has no point of contact with the real world. Their structures, devised in a bygone day, have petrified and institutional loyalty seems to command more respect than faithfulness to God’ (IRM July 1968:292).

He concludes, ‘To define the goal of mission as church growth is to indulge in an ecclesiastical narrowing of the concept of the Kingdom of God. The Church is an instrument of the kingdom, or should be; it may also be conceived as the first fruits of the kingdom; but it is not to identify with the kingdom, which is what we are doing if we rest content with church growth as our objective5 (IRM July 1968:293).

These extended quotations illustrate the heart of the concern and the depth of feeling of church growth critics.

The nub of the matter is the relationship between the Church of Christ and the Kingdom of God. More specifically, what is the relationship between the growth of the Church and the coming of the Kingdom? (what many think)

Biblical scholars have understood the ‘Kingdom’ in a variety of ways. Those who regard the kingdom as entirely ‘future’ or ‘present’ have emphasized one or other aspect of the biblical evidence while ignoring or explaining away other strands of teaching. We will summarize their views under three general headings:

1. The Kingdom is considered as lying entirely in the future. This view was propounded at the end of the last century by Johannes Weiss as a result of the rediscovery of many documents of the apocalyptic type which threw fresh light on Jewish expectations regarding the Kingdom

in New Testament times. It was Albert Schweitzer’s book,

The Quest of the Historical Jesus brought them to

the notice of English readers, and his famous name added

support for this futurist understanding of the Kingdom.

Relying heavily on Matthew’s material Schweitzer argued that Jesus envisaged that the Kingdom would come within his own lifetime. His ethical teaching was therefore an ‘ethic of the interval’ which could remain in operation for a brief span of time as an interim measure. Schweitzer portrays Jesus as the Apocalyptic Messiah fired with Jewish expectation of going to Jerusalem to be crowned as King either by popular acclaim or by violent action. The failure of the Kingdom to materialize at that point resulted in Jesus dying in despair and disillusionment. From Schweitzer’s reconstruction of the events, it is difficult to understand why Jesus understood in his terms should have been subsequently followed – especially by Schweitzer himself!

2. The Kingdom is considered as an accomplished fact realized in the coming of Christ. This understanding of

the Kingdom as fully present is the view of Professor C.H. Dodd, who describes his theory in terms of ‘realized

eschatology – that is, the End Times are with us now. He uses the word ‘realized’ in opposition to those who

Look for the Kingdom in an anticipatory sense. In his original formulation, he emphasized the Kingdom as a transcendent order, which while being beyond time and space, had yet broken into history in the mission of Jesus.

He emphasizes the many strands of evidence in the Gospels to the Kingdom as a present reality while explaining

I BELIEVE IN CHURCH GROWTH

the future references as a re-setting by the Church of Jesus’ original teaching in terms of the Apocalyptic expectations of the day, as a way of coping with the non-fulfilment of Kingdom expectations. More recently Professor Dodd has modified his position, admitting that he awaits a consummation of the Kingdom beyond history. In company with C. H. Dodd are many liberals who understand the Kingdom in humanistic terms. Among them, we may mention Ritschl who regarded it as a sort of Utopia; an organization of humanity through action inspired by love. Harnack regarded. the apocalyptic element in the Kingdom as only a time-conditioned husk. For him, the kernel of the message was the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man and the ethic of love. Such an understanding is also popular among many theologians identified with the Ecumenical Movement and propounding ‘Theologies of Liberation’.

3. The Kingdom is considered as partly present but mostly future. This is perhaps the most popular position among contemporary New Testament scholars as it seems best to explain the totality of the New Testament teaching on the subject. Rudolf Otto used the phrase, ‘anticipated eschatology’. For him the fact that the Kingdom has drawn near means that it has already come in an inaugural sense – but there is yet more to come. For C. H. Graig it is like the coming of dawn before the sunrise. For J. Jeremias the Kingdom is eschatology. Others speak of the Church as a sign or even a sacrament of the Kingdom. The emphasis of T. W. Manson and G. El don Ladd on the other hand is on the present reality of the Kingdom is eschatology others speak of the believer. It is the eternal fact of God’s kingship, manifested on earth at present in the community of individuals who accept it and have a future consummation at the end of time.

Having briefly outlined the main positions taken by New Testament scholars we now turn to examine the. biblical material on the theme of the Kingdom.

The gospel of the Kingdom

From the outset, the Gospels establish the relationship between the coming of the Kingdom and the appearance of Christ. John the Baptist, as the last in the long line of Old Testament Prophets, called upon the nation to repent to prepare for the Kingdom whose coming was imminent (Matt. 3:2). When his public voice was silenced through imprisonment, Jesus established the continuity • of his ministry with that of John. Like him, he calls the nation to turn away from their sins because the Kingdom of heaven is near (Matt. 4:23; 9:35). This is the. the new element which Jesus introduced. Whereas for John the Kingdom came as a threat to a people who were unprepared, for Jesus it represented good news to those who felt unworthy or excluded.

‘The transition from “the days of John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:12) to Jesus’ independent career was signalled by the priority of “the reign of God” over “the wrath about to come”. The call to baptism bore immediately on the restoration of Israel and the concomitant salvation of the nations. The key to the difference is the motif “free gift”, with which Jesus charged the expression “the reign of God”. This is why his proclamation came eventually to be known as “gospel” or “news of salvation” ‘ (Meyer 1979:130).

As the Gospel narrative unfolds we are quickly made .aware that the good news signifies more than rescue from divine wrath. It is the establishing of God’s Kingly rule, which entails both God’s provision for his people and requirements from them.

The inauguration of the Kingdom is an act of God and not the result of human achievement. However, its coming is not automatic: it requires a response from the man. For this reason, the message of the Kingdom has to be both proclaimed as fact and promise. Christ himself came preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, describing its

nature and calling for a response. His silent presence was

not sufficient itself. The Kingdom needed explaining and people needed exhorting. If presence was inadequate by itself as a strategy to extend the Kingdom in the ministry of Christ, it is even more deficient when left to his” stumbling followers.

This need for a proclamation is expressed with sensitivity in section three of the World Council of Churches Conference on World Mission and Evangelism Report (Melbourne May 12-24, 1980) The Church Witnesses to the Kingdom, in the following paragraph:

The proclamation of the Word of God is one such witness, distinct and indispensable. The story of God ~ in Christ is the heart of all evangelism, and this story has to be told, for the life of the present Church never fully reveals the love and holiness and power of God in Christ. The telling of the story is an inescapable mandate for the whole Church; word accompanies deed as the kingdom throws its light ahead of its arrival and men and women seek to live in that light (1:3). In fact, Christ explicitly commanded his disciples to proclaim the Kingdom. He sent out the Twelve to the towns and villages of Israel with this charge, ‘Go and preach, “The Kingdom of heaven is near!” ‘ (Matt. 10:7). Subsequently, with the sending out of the Seventy, they were to announce, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you'(Luke 10:9).

Seeing the extent of the need and the readiness of the response, Jesus calls upon his followers to pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to Gather in his harvest (matt.9:37; Luk 9.2) Elton’s true blood comments, ‘when Christ said the labourers were few, He and those to whom He spoke were surrounded by large numbers of priests and semi-professional religious men. The priests in Jerusalem were so numerous that they had to take turns in performing Temple ceremonies. The dearth was of persons who could give the only kind of witness that counts with those looking for help, the kind that is couched in the first person singular’ (Trueblood 1961:51). The Kingdom must be announced by ‘insiders’ and not simply treated as a subject for speculation.

Within hours of his death Jesus sets forth a world-embracing scenario. ‘And this Good News about the Kingdom will be preached through all the world for a

witness to all mankind, and then the end will come.-

(Matt. 24:14). This leaves no doubt as to the universal and abiding significance of the Kingdom concept. Gospel preaching will be seriously deficient if this dimension is omitted. The Kingdom gives content and purpose to the act of commitment. It represents a radical and all-embracing transfer of allegiance. It is therefore essential for the Christian witness to understand what ‘the Kingdom’ refers to in Scripture.

4 The Old Testament expectation of the Kingdom When John the Baptist and then Jesus spoke of the ‘Kingdom of God’ or the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ they were not introducing a novel concept that needed explaining from scratch. On the contrary, the idea of the Kingdom had a long history in the life of Israel, and the coming of Christ coincided with a feverish wave of expectancy within the nation. They longed for deliverance from Roman oppression and were encouraged to think that they would not have much longer to wait as the prophetic voice was heard once more in the land after centuries of silence. As the crowds listened to Christ’s unconventional preaching and observed his miracles they acknowledged him as sent from God. After Jesus feeds the Five Thousand the crow respond by declaring, surly this is the Prophet who was to come into the world!’ As they advance on him Jesus realizes that they are about to seize him to make him King (John 6:15).

Similarly, when he enters Jerusalem crowded with pilgrims and with a politically charged atmosphere, they prepared a royal route and cry out, ‘Praise God! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! God bless the coming kingdom of King David, our father! Praise God!’ (Mark 11:10). Matthew in his version makes clear that this was no mistaken identification. The event was staged to fulfil Zechariah’s prophecy of the Messianic King riding into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:5). However, the crowd missed the symbolism of his riding on a donkey in humility rather than a horse as a military conqueror. UP Chief among the political activists were the zealots. who were the Jewish first-century freedom fighters. Their motivation was not simply political or patriotic, but religious. By their guerrilla activities they hoped to generate a revolt against Rome, thereby hastening the coming of the Kingdom. In the New Testament we read of the insurrection under Judas and Theudas (Acts,5:36, 37), and a further revolt under an’ unidentified Egyptian Acts 21:38). The eventual destruction of Jerusalem was brought about by the Romans to crush the rebellion of Bar Kokhba who was styled by the Akiba, the most famous rabbi of the time, as the Messiah (Ladd 1974:62).

Israel’s expectation of the Kingdom was not confined to political activists and zealots. It was also shared by the pious saints, referred to as ‘the quiet in the land. If Other groups such as the Essene sect had withdrawn completely from society to await the eschatological consummation of the Kingdom. They expected the angels to come down and join battle with them – ‘the sons of light’ against their enemies – ‘the sons of darkness – and to give them victory over all other peoples (Ladd 1974:62).

Within the New Testament, we find reference to pious “Individuals who were awaiting the redemption of Israel through the mission of a Messiah who would be king David’s greater son. Such longings find expression in the

Song of Mary (Luke 1:46:55), the prophecy of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79). Among Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and

Nathaniel as disciples of John the Baptist, who were encouraged by their self-effacing master to transfer their allegiance to Christ (John 1:29-50), by spiritually discerning Pharisees such as Nicodemus (John 3), and in the case of Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jerusalem Council, who ‘was waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God (Luke 23:50. 51).

So Christ ministered in Israel to those who had preconceived notions about the coming Kingdom. His many references to the Kingdom recorded in the Gospels must be seen in the light of this context.

Although the Old Testament nowhere expressly mentions the Kingdom of God, the world is represented as existing under his cosmic rule (Ps. 24:1; 93:1^ 95:3)? His’ sovereignty is not confined to the created order but Includes political powers. As the King of the Nations (Jer. 10:7; Ps. 47:3; 99:2), he exerts his sovereign power by guiding their fortunes and acting in judgment. Certain individuals and peoples become instruments of his justice and anger. Thus, in a number of ways through the Psalms and Prophets, the Old Testament continually reminds us that God is King (Snyder 1977:14). While for the prophets the envisioned universal rule of God is an eschatological event, for the Psalmist the enthronement of Yahweh is ‘a present reality experienced in the cultic ceremony’ (Klappert 1976: Vol. II, 372-389).

For the prophets, the new age of the Kingdom represented an era of peace, prosperity and justice for Israel brought about by radical economic and social changes (Mic,4:l-5; Zech. 9:10; Is. 2:4; 9:7; 42:3 and 65:21ff). would also transform the created order., resulting in geological changes bringing about a favourable climate and fertility of the soil, so that Israel surpassed her early reputation of being a land of ‘milk and honey’ (Is. 11:6—9:32:14-20: 38:If; Zech. 14:3f; Amos 9:13). Conflict in nature would be resolved. With the lion lying down with the lamb. Humanity would also be renewed. Both physically with the disappearance of sickness, and the diminution of the power of death; and spiritually with men being given a ‘new heart’ through the Spirit coming upon all flesh and spreading a universal knowledge of God (Jer. 23:5f; 31:31; Ezek. 36:24-28; Zech. 8:20-23; Joel 2:28). As we noted in the previous chapter, the nation of Israel occupied a central place in the realization serving as the gathering point of the nation (is 24:23; Zech.. 14:9; Obad. 21). She would not achieve this position of prominence through conquest but through example and inspiration.

While the coming of the Kingdom is clearly and consistently portrayed as an act of God and not the result of consistently portrayed as an act of God and not the result of human striving ‘and achievement, it. Does manifest itself in concrete terms” m tins world. As the Latin American ” theologian Jose Miguez Bonino has well commented, there is no question of ‘two histories”‘. ‘Yahweh’s sovereign act does not appear in history as an abstract act or an interpretation but as announcement and command. . . . Every attempt to separate the political from the religious areas in the Old Testament is completely artificial’ (Bonino 1975:134).

Against such a background we can begin to appreciate the expectations of our Lord’s followers as they emerge

in the Gospel narrative. ‘It involves the whole notion of the rule of God over his people, and particularly the

vindication of that rule and people in glory at the end of history. That was the Kingdom which the Jews awaited’

(Bright 1953:18). After being so intimately with Christ and hearing his parables of the Kingdom and private

commentary interpreting those stories, his disciples still expected the Kingdom to come in the material and nationalistic terms of the Old Testament (Acts 1:6). To what extent were they in line with Jesus’ teaching?

5 The New Testament realization of the Kingdom Our Lord emphasizes the continuity with the past when he inaugurates his public ministry with the announcement, ‘The right time has come, and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News (Mark 1:15). ‘The two Testaments are organically linked to each other. The relationship between them is neither one of upward development nor of contrast; it is one of beginning and completion, of hope and fulfilment.

And the bond that binds them together is the dynamic

concept of the rule of God. There is indeed a “new thing”

the New Testament … it has introduced a tremendously significant change of tense. In referring to the

Kingdom the Old Testament spoke in such terms as “Behold, the days are coming”. But in the New Testament, we encounter a change: the tense is a resounding present indicative – the Kingdom is here (Bright 1953:196, 197).

For Jesus, the Kingdom of God represented an approaching new order of things. This new order was no distant hope but already operative . . . God’s final saving act was already operative in Israel: now is the new creation, time of the new wine and the new cloak (Mark.2:21)! The fields are ‘white’ (John 4:35), the harvest ‘great’ (Matt. 9:37)! Now is the wedding, the espousal of Israel! ‘Can the wedding guests mourn?’ (Mark 2:20). The young man dead through sin ‘is alive again (Luke 15:24, 32), ‘so it is right to be glad’ (Meyer 1979:131). The reign of God has already come upon you.

But in what sense can the Kingdom be understood to have arrived in the person and ministry of Jesus? Part of the mystery is unravelled by our appreciating the differences in the concept of ‘time’ within the Bible and our modern western understanding. For us time is measurable; it is a quantity concept. For the Hebrews, on the other hand, it was a quality measure. They thought in terms of a right or wrong time, rather than a long or short duration. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 well illustrates their way of thinking, there is a time for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven: a time for giving birth, dying, planting, killing, healing, knocking down, building, etc’ ‘For the Hebrews, to know the time was not a matter of knowing the date, it was a matter of knowing what kind – of time it might be, Was it a time for tears or a time for laughter, a time for war or a time for peace? To misjudge the time in which one lived might prove to be disastrous’ (Nolan 1976:74). Recent studies in anthropology have enriched our theological understanding by cautioning us from reading back into the Biblical text presupposition from our own culture.

The task of the prophet was therefore supremely to interpret ‘the times’. So when our Lord spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, he was referring to its being qualitatively present. His public ministry inaugurates this new ‘quality .time1, and his ascension to the throne of power and sending of the Spirit upon his disciples represents its coming in power. The Kingdom of God as a new dimension of living opens up to those who turn away from their sins, symbolizing a radical break with the past. For them, it begins to be present as an ‘insiders’ experience. At the same time, for those who have not arrived at, or hold back from such a step of faith, the Kingdom is not yet.

Our Lord came to inaugurate the Kingdom., As he began his ministry it was present in his person. He represented Resented the dawn of a new age which would never be overcome by darkness. His amazing words and miraculous deeds were signs of the coming kingdom. As his disciples were identified with him in his ministry and experienced the healing powers of the new age operating through them, they became partakers of the Kingdom.

Wherever they went represented a frontier of the Kingdom (Luke 10:1). To the Pharisees who were blind to the evidence before their eyes and were postponing their hopes to the future, our Lord responded, ‘No one will say, look, here it is!” or there it is!” because the Kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke17:21). The Greek word ethos translated here as ‘within’ should more accurately be rendered ‘among’ you or ‘in your midst’ (Nolan 1976:46). The point Jesus was making was that it was all around them and they hadn’t noticed!

In the Acts and Epistles Christians are regarded as experiencing the Kingdom as a present reality. It is evidenced in the lives of believers who serve Christ in .’Righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives (Rom. 14:17). By virtue of the saving work of Christ, Paul describes the Christians in Colossae as having been rescued from the power of darkness and ‘brought’ (past tense) into the Kingdom of his dear Son (Col. 1:13). The church in Thessalonica is urged to live the kind of life that pleases God, who calls them (now, not one day) ‘to share in his own Kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:-12). While John the Divine describes himself to the seven churches in Asia as ‘your partner in patiently enduring the suffering that comes to those who belong to his Kingdom Rev. 1:91 Alongside this emphasis on the Kingdom as a present reality to be experienced and enjoyed, there is an equally strong strand of teaching which speaks of the Kingdom as in the future to be anticipated and longed for. This second strand, like the first, runs through the entire New Testament. It is associated with the final curtain descending on present world history when Jesus will descend from heaven in power to destroy his enemies and restore the entire creation. This coming of the Kingdom will be a time of separation (MatL_25iJ4; Luke 13:28) and judgment (Matt. 8:12; 2 Tim. 4:1). It will also be a time of rejoicing and feasting in the Messianic banquet (Matt. 26:29; Luke 22:28-30).

The Kingdom is at the same time a heavenly as well as an earthly reality. Our Lord left this earthly scene to occupy his throne and to sit at the Father’s table. For the believer, the Kingdom as a heavenly reality is no more than one generation away. Jesus said to the penitent thief, Today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:42). Paul expresses his assurance to Timothy, the Lord will rescue me from all evil and take me safely into his heavenly Kingdom (2 Tim.4:18) The coming of Christ was, therefore, to inaugurate the Kingdom in a provisional form. Its final consummation still lies in the future.

This future emphasis on the Kingdom is most strongly present in the Apocalyptic books of the Bible. In the Old Testament, the eschatological expectation is elevated to a transcendental level (Dan. 7:13f, 27), while the book of Revelation represents the Kingdom as final consummation (Rev. 11:15; 12:10). The coming glorious age co-exists with the present evil age. In other words, ‘The Age to Come has overlapped with This Age’ (Ladd 1974:42) “which results in intermingling and close combat. Thus in his embodiment of the Kingdom Jesus confronts demonic powers which openly manifest their opposition. We, therefore, find ourselves living in disputed territory. ‘The Kingdom has come, but is yet perfected (Mark 9:1; 13:26);

( The enemy is stricken, but not yet destroyed (Stauffer 1975:125).

We have noted the cultural problem in coming to terms with the Biblical understanding of time. There is one further related problem that we must now briefly consider, namely our temporal distance from the events described in the New Testament. In the Gospels, there is a powerful. sense ojf4mmmence regarding’ the Kingdom, Then it seemed that the consummation would follow soon on the heels of its inauguration. Indeed it would come within the lifetime of Christ hearers (Matt. 24:34; Mark 9:1). Whatever the intended meaning of those ^ words, there is strong evidence in the New Testament that many of the early Christians expected the Lord’s return at any moment.

The German theologian, Wolfhart Pannenberg, emphasizes this impact of the future on the present in Jesus’

leaching. Thus, the present is not independent of the future. Rather does the future has an imperative claim upon the present, alerting all men to the | urgency and exclusiveness of seeking first the Kingdom of God. As this message is proclaimed and accepted, God’s rule is. present and we can even now glimpse the future glory’ (Pannenberg 1975:54).

The Kingdom is not and cannot be relegated to an appendix that follows the turning of the last page of world history.

This is an attitude of life that the twentieth-century Church urgently needs to recapture. We must avoid the temptation to project time spans from the past into the future. We need to feel time as well as measure it. ‘The eschaton is a future event but, to the extent that our lives are determined and qualified by it, it is also, a

contemporary event, an event that can be seen in the signs of the times’ (Nolan 1976:76). ‘Now’ is not a panic word, but one. which conveys the idea of both opportunity and urgency. It is not a command from God to advance on all fronts but is a strategic arrow word identifying and emphasizing what he wants to be done.

The signs of the Kingdom

The signs of the Kingdom. are clear pointers to the coming Kingdom. The sign contains sufficient the content signified to be more than a symbol. But the sign acts as a shield as well as a pointer. It shows enough to reveal the nature and genuineness of the reality, but not so much .as to overwhelm. Thus the sign can be ignored or disputed. The clearest most powerful ‘sign’ of the Kingdom is the presence of Christ himself. In much recent talk about the Kingdom Jesus’ centrality has been overlooked, or refuge has been taken in the concept of his anonymous presence which does not square well with the New Testament Kingdom emphasis. This led to the vague talk about the Kingdom which aroused McGavran’s protest in the International Review of Missions.

Jesus stands at the of The Kingdom of God is equally described as the Kingdom of his dear Son or the Kingdom of Christ (Eph. 5:5; Rev. 11:15). The verdict passed on men in the final judgment will be determined % by the attitude they adopted toward Christ during their lifetime (Matt. 10:32 cf. Luke 12:8). The unrepentant cities will be condemned because they did not turn from their sins despite his mighty works (Matt. 11:21; Luke 10:13).

Christ himself will appear as the judge of all men to separate the sheep from the goats (Matt. 25:31). He will

discern between those who say ‘Lord., Lord’ as an empty profession from those who yielded their lives to the service of God (Matt. 7:23; Luke 13:27). He will plead before the Father the cause of those who confess him (Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8). The presence of the Kingdom in the person of Jesus faces the individual with a clear cut decision (Matt, 5:30; 15:8f; Mark 9:43-48, Luke 9:62).

The signs of the presence of God are various. It is to be seen in the healing ministry of Christ (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; Luke 9:11) and of his disciples who healed in his name (Luke 9:2; 10:9). These healing acts follow directly from his teaching about the Kingdom. Yet these signs in themselves emphasize the provisional nature of the Kingdom because all of those who were healed in the New Testament subsequently became sick and died. In the subsequent experience of the Church in exercising this ministry, there have been many instances of failure, partial delay and Temporary healing, reminding us that we live with the tension of the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’ of The kingdom.

Closely marked with healing the casting out of demons. This ministry was also exercised by Christ and his disciples:

Torn Smail, writing from a charismatic perspective maintains a healthy balance. ‘Within that tension of the

already given and the still to come all Christians have to live – including charismatic Christians. God gives enough evidence of Christ risen to call to faith, but not enough to compel acceptance In the realm of healing much to authenticate Christ’s present will and power to heal the otherwise incurable, and yet often distressingly, enough fails to happen to serve to remind us that we are not yet at the last day. And to leave the mystery of the “ not yet” all around us’ (smail 1975: 124)

closely linked with healing is the casting out of demons. This ministry was also exercised by Christ and his disciples. Deliverance provided proof that the Kingdom of God had already come (Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20). This was especially significant for a society in which demonic possession was so prevalent and feared.

Such miracles constitute more than signs and wonders. They are ‘mighty works’ demonstrating the powers of the Kingdom in operation. They show that Satan has met his match (luke 10:18’ mark 3:27); the cosmic end-struggle has begun Bright 1953:218)7″ Instances of dead people brought back to life (Matt. 10:8; Luke 9:2; John 11:44) were also a sign of the life in abundance which Christ came to bestow (John 10:10).

When Jesus began his ministry he made his manifesto the prophecy of Is. 61:1-2 which he selected and read in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:18, 19):

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.

Such promises were meant to be fulfilled in the life of Israel in the provisions of the year of Jubilee scheduled for every forty-nine years. However, there is no evidence for that provision of the law ever being implemented. If this is indeed the case the significance of Jesus’ words to the congregation as he gave back the passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being” read’ (Luke 4:21) is even more poignant. Jesus was liberated not through a programme of political activism, but simply through his spoken word. His word conveyed power and achieved results as it had from the time of creation itself.

Western commentators have frequently ‘spiritualized’ this prophecy in the sense of individualizing and internalizing its application. The ‘poor’ become the spiritually impoverished, the ‘captives’ those who are enslaved to sin, the ‘blind’ those who are unaware of their spiritual plight. On the other hand, there are those who turn this prophecy into a programme for political and economic emancipation: the poor are the exploited proletariat, the captives are the prisoners of conscience and the recovery of sight to the blind is achieved through ‘awareness building'”(or to use the Spanish loan-word which has gained popularity of recent years, through conscientization), so. that the exploited recognize the factors which have contributed to their plight and come to realize that their situation is not inevitable. The victims can become victors by taking power forcibly into their own hands.

we can talk about the ‘redeeming of structures’ without an effective Christian presence. This is not to say that there are not many people of goodwill who are working conscientiously for a more humane society, but such is inevitably succumb to the demonic. They are like

(Matt. 12:43-45),

Neither of these interpretations does full justice to the text. There can be no separating of the vertical from the horizontal dimensions of reconciliation. The preaching of the Good News brings reconciliation with God and makes reconciliation possible with our nej^hbourj1 Repentance includes turning away from social as well as personal sins. £ Salvation is not simply individualist and other-worldly. means saving race working through individuals Saviour and Lord
Life in the Kingdom presented a challenge to the status quo. Where the gospel of Christ has faithfully proclaimed

it is always subversive. It undermines the power-seeker, the affluent materialist and the self-righteous. It comes

with an equal challenge to the religious as to the irreligious. Many wealthy people will be prevented by their love of

money from entering the Kingdom. Although the entrance is free we have to lay aside everything to enter

through the narrow gate, so that it costs us everything.

The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor who have with them. The ‘poorer Scripture’

does not simply refer to those living at or beneath subsistence level it ‘can be extended to cover all the oppressed, all those who are dependent upon the mercy of others. And this too is why that word can even “be extended to all those who rely entirely upon the mercy of God.

Whatever our position in society, the Kingdom makes an absolute demand; we either seek it first or not at all (Matt. 6:33). Having accepted the prior claim of the no longer have to worry about what we eat or drink or wear, we will know his provision. However, this is only practicality within the economy of the Kingdom, ‘.’…. where God’s will reigns. The adequacy of God’s provision is dependent on our corporate responsibility, including our stewardship _of resources and equitable

…distribution”. individual saints may testify to God’s

surjernaturaTprovision, but their experience cannot be uni-vernalised. Among the millions who die each year through ni^rrutritioji^there are many children of the Kingdom.

For we still live with the tension of the ‘now’ and ‘not yet of the Kingdom. This is allowed to happen not only •because of the sin in the world, but .also because of the smart Christian Aid slogan because we refuse ‘to live more simply that others may simply live’. The parable of the servants in Matt 25 and luke 19 .emphasises the point that to whom God gives generously he expects to exercise their stewardship effectively. They are each held accountable for their actions.

BELIEVE IN CHURCH GROWTH

Poverty – the recognition that we possess nothing to buy privilege with God, and prosperity ~ which results from our readiness to receive from God. are both “characteristics of the Kingdom. A third characteristic of the Kingdom is an attitude of ‘ forgiveness which pervades all our relationships. It comes about as a result of our gratitude to God for his wiping out of a colossal debt that we could never have paid back (Matt. 18:22ff). We are able to forgive because we know what it is to be forgiven, and the love of God shed abroad in our hearts gives us a new capacity to do so. ~ Fourthly, the Kingdom is shown through a willing audience to the law~of God (Matt. 5:19, 20). This is not the keeping of the letter by escaping through the loopholes which we have opened up through clever casuistry. This is a joyful response to the spirit of the law, as we see its deeper meaning and wider application. Heaven is like the owner of a house who takes new and

old things out oTliis storeroom” (Mat 3:52). The”new contemporary worth. comes inevitably to those who belong to the Kingdom precisely because it is ‘not of this world’ and presents such a challenge that arouses hostility. ‘Happy are those

who are persecuted because they do what the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them Jesus assures the children of the Kingdom. Such was the experience of the believers through subsequent years (2Thess 5; Rev. 1:9). The faithful Church has been described as suffering.

8 Entering the Kingdom, It is difficult for the twentieth century, non-Jewish reader of the Gospels to appreciate just how radical Jesus appeared to his contemporaries, and especially to the religious establishment, who held such a powerful pos¬ition in Jewish life. He completely disregarded strictly enforced social conventions and religious restrictions in order to contact the outcasts of society. He was not afraid to be seen deep in conversation with a Samaritan woman who he knew was cohabiting with another man after hav¬ing gone through five husbands. who anointed his feet with costly perfume, and he dined out on a number of” occasions with tax collectors and sinners, who represented the social outcasts – the ‘untouchables’ of the day.

Within an eastern culture, table fellowship and the. sharing of a meal is regarded as a particularly intimate form of association. The fact that Jesus was prepared to act in such a fashion, and to be seen doing it, communi¬cated as powerfully as any pronouncement, both to his friends at the table and his enemies at the window (Matt. 11:19; Luke 15:2; Mark 2:15; Matt. 9:10; Luke 5:29). For a man who claimed and was popularly acknowledged to be a man of God, such behaviour was extraordinary, to say the least.

His actions were deliberately intended to demonstrate the present reality and radical nature of the Kingdom. In contrast to contemporary society which denied social mis¬fits and those deemed ‘irreligious’ their civil rights and spiritual privileges, such people are especially welcomed into the Reign of God. ‘By accepting them as friends and equals Jesus had taken away their shame, humiliation and guilt. By showing them that they mattered to Him as people He gave them a sense of dignity and released them from their captivity. The physical contact which He must have had with them when reclining at the table, compare (Luke 7:28, 39) must have made them feel clean and acceptable’ (Nolan 1976:39).

Such socialising had significance not just at the time but for the future, for table fellowship was, in Jesus’ thinking, the anticipation of that great feast that will mark the consummation of the Kingdom. Those in company with Jesus, therefore, occupied seats that represented a future inheritance as well as present fulfilment. Jesus pressed home the truth that the Kingdom breaks through all social and religious barriers not only by his startling personal actions which sent shock-waves through society but also by a story with a sting in its tail. To that representative of the religious elite who by his bland statement, ‘How happy are those who will sit down at the feast in the Kingdom of God!,’ revealed that he counted onaTe served seat, our Lord told the parable of the Great | Feast. In the story, those invited to attend made excuses; J a response which so infuriated the host that he ordered his servant to ‘Hurry out to the streets and alleys of the town, and bring back the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. . . .’ tell you to ail that none of those men who were invited will taste the dinner’ (Luke 14:15-24). The implication is clear. Those who were rejecting Christ’s ministry were thereby refusing their invitation and relinquishing their place.

However, Jesus’ free association with the poor and despised should not be interpreted to indicate their automatic admission into the Kingdom by virtue of their downtrodden position in society. In addressing them he utters no words of condemnation as he does in the case of the scribes and Pharisees, yet he nevertheless looks for a life-changing response from them. Having assured the woman caught in the act of adultery of forgiveness, he tells her, ‘do not sin again’ (John 8:11). It is after Zacchaeus has stood up and said to God, ‘Listen, sir! I will give half my belongings to the poor, and if I have cheated 1 any will pay4tim acLicnniJimes as much’, that ‘J Jesus exclaims, ‘Salvation has come to men’ (Luke 19:8, 9). Of the two thieves crucified with Jesus, it is only to the one who expresses his penitence that Jesus responds, T promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me’ (Luke 23:39-43). Entry into the Kingdom is not automatic. It is not a consequence of heredity. Neither is it a reward for human effort. Indeed Jesus warned that those who came with the attitude of exclusive nationalism or spiritual complacency were in danger of being thrown out (Matt. 8:11, 12). He

used the display of faith by a Roman officer who was a pagan ‘outsider’ as an occasion to rebuke the ‘insiders’.

The key to entry into the Kingdom is the acceptance of Jesus as Saviour. death to the old man and resurrection to the new man, a matter of formal profession but of whole-hearted, life-yielding response (Matt. 7:21V

Peter was given the keys of the Kingdom when he came to the point of confessing Jesus as the ‘Messiah, the!>on of the living God’ (Matt. 16:19). But his profession was deficient at the time in that he failed to recognise the necessity of suffering.

Entering the Kingdom is by invitation only, and that invitation must be given top priority. Other commitments must be held over (Matt. 22:1).

For some people, they stumble across the Kingdom without looking for it, like discovering a hidden treasure

while turning over the soil in the field (Matt. 13:44). For others, enter the Kingdom after an intense search,

like the pearl merchant who sells his entire assets to buy one pearl which was everything (Matt. 13:45). Membership in the Kingdom is non-transferable. No one can shift responsibility onto others or trade-off their resources. The five foolish virgins with no oil for the lamps could neither buy nor borrow from those who had. supplied their own lamps. Life in the Kingdom is one of my constant readiness (Matt. 25:1-13). There is no gate To enter the Kingdom of Heaven one had to come as a little child, who had no rights before the law, had an instinctive attitude of trust towards his parent, and was at a stage in life when he was teachable and flexible

BELIEVE IN CHURCH GROWTH

This same point was made to Nicodemus who came to consult with Jesus cautiously and privately under cover of darkness. The. Lord told him plainly that entering the Kingdom demanded a new start. He had to be born of water – that is, new life after the burial of baptism – and of the Spirit. Kingdom membership was only possible through an act of God. The work of the Spirit cannot be predicted or controlled by the religious profession! (John 3:1-13).

Growth of the Kingdom

As”we noted previously, ‘Kingdom’ “is a dynamic concept- -which might better be rendered ‘Kingly rule or government’. Its growth, therefore, does not come about by territorial gains, and groups submitting their wills to that of the individual element, it also has profound and extensive community ramifications. Individuals make their response not as one man islands, but within a framework of family, group, community and national involvements. Dr McGavran has drawn attention to the corporate dimension of conversion in describing ‘people movements’ to Christ, which we will be considered later in greater detail

At This point, I simply want to underline the fact that Scripture demonstrates clearly that it is God’s intention that the Kingdom should grow and not merely remain static, shrink or disappear altogether by seeping into society. For the growth of the Kingdom, a man plays a secondary role as sower and husbandman of the seed; it is God who provides the seed and makes the plant grow. the mustard seed which grows into a sizeable bush that provides sufficient shade for the birds to come and shelter in its branches (Matt. 13:31; Mark 4:30; Luke 13:18, 19). At first, people may discount it.

‘If he really had a divine mission, ran the objection, he would not be surrounded by this rag-tag band,

but by the best and the brightest. Appealing for faith and confidence, the parable invites the nearer to see in Jesus’ followers the seed of the vast communion of the saved . . . out of this unprepossessing band of disciples is destined to come to the restored people, not only the lost sheep of Israel’s house but the nations, as well (Meyer 1979:164).

The spread of the Kingdom might be unobtrusive like yeast in the dough (Matt. 13:33) which causes the whole mixture to rise, or like salt rubbed into the meat to preserve and flavour it (Luke 14:34). On the other hand, the Kingdom might appear like a blaze of lights from a city located on high ground which can be seen from miles around (Matt. 5:14).

Although the Kingdom may have its origins in small beginnings in the majority of places, it is nonetheless capable of surprising growth. The seed planted in the good soil produced thirty, sixty and even a hundred times the original sowing. Even by the standards of modern high-intensity farming, this is a remarkable yield (Mark 4:3-8).

John Kessler wrote in the International Review of Missions in qualified support of Dr McGavran’s comments.

‘The parables of the mustard seed and of the leaven (Matt. 13:31-35) give an implied warning of the dangers

attending numerical growth, but at the same time, they confirm that such growth is characteristic of the Kingdom

of God’ (IRM July 1968:299);.

Other imagery, apart from husbandry, is also used to illustrate the growth of the Kingdom. It is represented as in which the places must be occupied (Luke 14:21-24).

The mystery of the Kingdom

This” phrase Is used by Jesus in a number of places:

Mark 4:11; Matt. 13:11; Luke 8:10, to introduce his ‘parable is presented as a ‘mystery’ because to the Jewish mind it would seem beyond the bounds of belief. Although the immediate context in the Pauline letters is the Jewish Gentile division, it also applies to any multi-racial situation in which groups harbour a sense of superiority or wish to retain a position of exclusiveness.
Theologians across the centuries have struggled to express the relationship of the Church to the Kingdom. Augustine identified the two completely, and this identification has been maintained in traditional Catholic doctrine. In recent years Lumen Gentium “has described the -Church as ‘the initial budding forth of the Kingdom’. Within Protestantism, such an identification has been carried over in a modified form from the time of Martin Luther in the concept of the ‘invisible church’. This distinction is made in recognition of the fact that not only is the Church in the world but the world is in the Church; that wheat and tares grow alongside each other until the harvest (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43).

Other theologians, for a variety of reasons, draw a sharp distinction between the Church and the Kingdom. Alfred Loisy has expressed this in a phrase that has become classic, ‘Jesus foretold the Kingdom of God, but > it was the Church that came.’ He regards the Church as a humanly devised institution to cope with the fact of the non-appearance of the Kingdom after the ascension of Christ.

Another group who make a complete separation between Church and Kingdom are the Dispensationalists. For them, the Church was given by God in response to the sign- the rejection by Israel of her Messiah in the person of Jesus. In this scheme, the Kingdom is still the future, to be~ inaugurated at the return of Christ with the Jewish people at its centre.

A third group, among them some Latin American liberation theologians, make the radical distinction between the Church and the Kingdom because they feel that the institutional Church has become so corrupted and compromised that her only option is to die so that God can raise up a new people to serve his purposes in the world.

Here we see a shift of focus from that of identifying the Kingdom with the Church to one which sees its realization in the world. The world is regarded as the Kingdom in the state of becoming.

In our concern for church growth, it is imperative that -we discern the relationship between the growth of the Church and the realization of the Kingdom. Too close an identification will blind us to the shortcomings of the institutional Church, so that church growth becomes denominational aggrandizement. As soon as our focus of attention moves from Christ to the Church we move towards ecclesiastical deification and our evangelism is in great danger of degenerating into proselytism.

On the other hand to disassociate the Church from the Kingdom breaks the nerve-cord of hope and destroys the community of commitment to Christ as Saviour and Lord.

‘Christ points the Church toward the Kingdom of God that is beyond the Church. To the degree that the Church follows his pointing and heeds his reminder, the Kingdom of God will manifest itself through the Church’ (Pannen-berg 1975:77).

‘But note that this is quite different. from attributing to! the Church in its established structures the dignity of being the Kingdom of Christ. The rule of Christ is effected wherever man becomes aware of the coming Kingdom of God and lives in accord with that awareness. use the Church mistakes herself for the present form. “God has often had to manifest itself in the secular world outside, and frequently against, the Church’ (Pannenberg 1975:78).

The New Testament provides strong evidence that the J Church occupies a central place in God’s redemptive purpose for the world. “We have already noted that entering; the Kingdom entails a personal, saving relationship with Christ. When Peter made his profession of faith at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus declared that this was the rock foundation on which he would build his Church, which realization provided the keys of the Kingdom (Matt. 16:17-19).

At the time of his ascension, how does Jesus respond to the question put to him by his disciples, ‘Lord, will you at this time give the Kingdom back to Israel?’ The way they phrase the question reveals the fact they are thinking in the old materialistic and nationalistic terms. His response is to impress upon them that the time is not now, that only God knows when it will be, and in the meantime, they are to concentrate on the number-one task of a worldwide witness for which the Holy Spirit would equip them (Acts 1:8). This is in line with his earlier command. When Jesus appeared after his resurrection to his disciples in Galilee, he told them, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.’ In other words, has assumed the throne of the Kingdom. The consequences for his followers are clear. He commands them, ‘Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples. . .’

(Matt. 28:18-20).

When Philip is preaching in Samaria and the residents believe his ‘message about the good news of the Kingdom of God and about Jesus Christ’, their immediate response is to be baptized in his name (Acts 8:12). Paul, in presenting the gospel to Jews during his missionary journeys, equated his message about the identity and saving work of Christ with the Kingdom (Acts 19:8; 20:25; 28:23; 28:31).
In his letter to the Colossians Paul describes Aristarchus, Mark and Justus, his companions in evangelism and church planting, as those who ‘work with me for the Finally, the Epistle to the Ephesians, looking forward to the consummation of the Kingdom, with Christ ruling above all heavenly rulers, sees him given ‘to the Church as supreme Lord over all things. The Church is Christ’s, thanks for your time reading this article.

From this part of the world, It is all thanks and be rupturable, from pastor Godstrong.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Louise

    Hi there,
    Great looking site. May I suggest thst you organise your menu. The sample page for instance can be deleted and the report scams option doesn’t work.
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    • Godspower nathan kc

      This is the best comment I have ever received since I joined wealthy affiliate marketing to learn how to work online. I am yet a student and my site is still growing and I have applied for google ads but yet to get accepted. I am learning to build my website and I love those things you listed out for me and I will love to implement them. I am a pastor and aimed at the continuous posting of Gods word and would love to monetize to aid me in paying for my yearly subscriptions. thanks and I am willing to take any advice and help from anyone to help me be successful. thanks and God bless.

  2. Millie "Pioneer Kitty" Zeiler

    This is a very lengthy article!  But, this is good because there are so many who lack understanding when it comes to Christianity, plus the gospel involved, and God’s Word!  From start to finish, John 3:3 was in mind the whole time.

    John 3:3 – Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

    One of my favorite ministers whom I love listening to is Doctor Charles Stanley.  I most especially enjoyed a sermon he did that covered how so many walks around, spiritually dead, and not even know it.  Even among regular church-goers, there is a void that is literally eating them alive as they’re doing exactly as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 15:8 as He quotes Isaiah’s 29:13; This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

    Whenever I come across articles such as this I feel blessed, firmly believing it was something God meant for me to find.  Whenever somebody talks about Christianity and does so in a manner that lifts His Word and His Church, I also find myself lifted in the process.

    • Godspower Nathan Kc Strong

      I am so happy meeting you Millie “Pioneer Kitty” Zeiler. I love your thoughts and knowledge. We need to learn, know and feed our spirit with more of Gods word. By so doing, we can have a clear understanding of Gods will for our lives. Thanks for your comments and knowledge placed here today.

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