Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dynamics of the Kingdom of God

Christians often speak of the kingdom of God as something that we bring in or advance in the world. But the New Testament uses different language to speak of the dynamics of the kingdom. First, it is God’s kingdom. It comes from and belongs to Him. It comes into the world as a matter of God’s grace and the initiative is always His. Our part is to respond to it in faith. Let’s examine some of the dynamics.
  • The kingdom of God has come. Mark tells us that Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). In saying, “The time is fulfilled,” He was announcing that the wait was over. “The kingdom of God is at hand,” means that it has now come into the world. The proper response is to turn to God and believe the good news about His kingdom, and God’s Anointed King, Jesus.
  • We seek the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). The Greek word for “seek” does not speak of a casual activity but of an intense and focused one. The kingdom of God has come and we are to make it our priority in everything. In one of His parables, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46). Seeking the kingdom of God is about our purpose and priority.
  • The kingdom of God is anticipated yet unexpected. Jesus said, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). The idea of the Greek word phthano is that what was previously anticipated has now come. Ironically, though, for those who are unprepared for it, the kingdom comes suddenly and unexpectedly. So the J. B. Phillips translation puts it this way: “But if I am expelling devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has swept over you unawares!” On the other hand, there are some who, though they do not expect the kingdom, are ready to receive it. In another of His parables, Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). The man was not looking for it, but coming upon it, he recognized its value and gave everything for it.
  • The kingdom of God is given to us. Jesus said, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). It is an inheritance we receive from the Father. When Jesus returns to judge the nations, He will say to those at His right hand, who received His brothers and sisters and the message of the gospel, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
  • We receive the kingdom of God. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28). The Greek word for “receiving” is paralambano, from para, what is near, and lambano, to take hold. Receiving the kingdom means taking it unto ourselves. It is not passive but active. The kingdom is given to us, but we respond to it by taking hold of it.
  • The kingdom of God is forcefully advancing. Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12 NIV). There is a parallel passage in Luke: “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached [Greek, euaggelizo, ‘gospeled’], and everyone is pressing into it” (Luke 16:16). The kingdom of God continues to press into the world, and those ready to receive the good news about it are pressing into it.
  • We proclaim the kingdom. The end of the book of Acts finds Paul under house arrest in Rome, but still continuing his ministry there. “Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:30-31). The word for “preach” here means to announce or proclaim. In the Great Commission, Jesus announced that all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth. Then He sent out His disciples to announce the good news to all the world and make disciples of all nations.
The kingdom of God has come into the world because of God’s grace and initiative. It is His kingdom but is given to us as an inheritance. The nature of the kingdom is that it starts small, like a seed, but increases until it pervades everything. Our part is to believe the good news of the kingdom and turn to the King, to take hold of the kingdom, seek the rule and reign of God in everything and proclaim it wherever we go.

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