I’ve just finished probably the most difficult and draining paper I’ve ever researched and written: What is the Kingdom of God in Luke and how does Luke think it comes? I am now officially fed up with all simplistic answers to the question: What is the Kingdom of God? The reality is that its not an easy question and I think Jesus has deliberately left it out there like that. I suppose its quite ironic then that we throw the term around all the time as if we all know exactly what it means. I don’t think we do – so maybe we should be a bit more careful in our use of language. Here’s the crux of the matter (how the details work out I have no idea): Jesus is coming again one day to restore all things – something of that is going on in the present because of the cross - so get on board.
Archive for the 'Kingdom' Category
As always Tim Chester is extremely helpful on something I’ve been trying to get my head around. In chapter 5 of ‘Good News to the Poor‘, Chester discusses the relationship between social involvement and the kingdom of God. One of the fundamental questions he tackles is whether or not the kingdom of God is to be identified with social advances within history. Chester argues that no, it shouldn’t be. And so he says:
“…if we are to be true to the bible, we must maintain that salvation does not exist in history beyond the church and that in the New Testament the kingdom of God comes only as Christ is acknowledged as king.” (p.74)
Much of social advancement today is being tagged as God at work growing his kingdom. Like Chester I’m not convinced this is the most helpful way to categorize it – nor do I think it is consistent with the New Testament. If the kingdom is to be manifest then Christ is to be installed as King – without the King there is no kingdom. I would argue, as Chester alludes to later, that social advancement in this world that takes place apart from Christ being acknowledged as King is rather a case of the common grace of God being manifest.
Now this thinking might run contrary to lot of thinking in ‘missional’ circles – even in evangelical missional circles (that’s why in one sense I’m glad Tim Chester, a recognized missional voice, said it first). However at the moment I remain unconvinced by the text of accepting a wider view of the kingdom that embraces social advancement that takes place apart from the acknowledgment of Christ as King. I would maybe suggest that the ethics and ideals of the kingdom of God can be spread into areas that may not necessarily have entered into the kingdom. This will happen as kingdom members – Christians – live out the kingdom within close proximity of those who are outside of the kingdom. I think this spread is unavoidable, in a theoretical sense, since all Christians are called to live by kingdom ideals and ethics.
Chester concludes the chapter with the following words:
“Some Christians see advances in social justice in history as the coming of God’s kingdom, but in the New Testament the kingdom comes through the gospel as people submit to God’s word. God’s kingdom will be supreme over all things when Christ returns, but in the meantime it comes secretly and graciously through God’s word. The social dimension of salvation is anticipated in history in the life of the Christian community.” (p.81)
I must admit that after reading Michael Horton’s article I’m beginning to feel a bit confused. I’m battling to figure out the parameters of this whole discussion. These are my big questions at the moment:
1. How do we define the term ‘Kingdom of God’?
2. What is the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the Church?
3. Depending upon your answers to the above questions: What exactly is the church’s obligation towards mercy ministries?
4. Is Horton’s approach compatible with the concept of being ‘missional’?
5. Alternatively, does Horton’s approach redefine the concept ‘missional’?
Anyone want to have a go at suggesting answers to some of these questions? (Try not to make comments too long – my attention span is very short at the moment).
I’ve been studying Romans at college this semester, it has honestly been the most challenging and engaging course i have done in my Theologocial training. Today we looked at Romans 2:1-29, and again i was struck by how badly this book has been preached in many churches today. Paul’s argument is a monumental polemic for the fairness of God’s judgement. One of the questions that so many of the commentators ask is who Paul has in mind in v1. The Gentiles? The Jews? Or is he addressing the moral pagan? Yet, the identity of Paul’s hypothetical opponent in this diatribe and chapter falls into perspective in v5: ALL store up wrath for themselves, and judgement will be revealed at the coming of Jesus Christ.
But what has really struck me is Paul’s emphasis on works, by our works shall God determine who finally enters his Kingdom (v6). This is a critical point and i found it surprising that Wright in his commentary does not pick up on the NPP agenda at this point (ie following a works-righteousness theology) but rather follows Moo very closely. So in his resulting illustration of the two groups we are left scratching our heads as Paul seems to allude to a works-righteousness theology as he seems to contrast a group who will receive glory (v7, 10) and who will be judged (v8-9)…if not for v5 which programs this whole section. Which is why Paul can say that God shows no favouritism; because even if you look like v7 and 10 its really not enough! Why? because of v5 we can never meet those standards! Which is why a new righteousness needs to be revealed (3:21ff). (He goes on to blow the Jewish worldview to pieces in v12-29 by showing their historical hypocracy and how they are still in state of judgement). And yet our works are such an integral part to our salvation; as the evidence of it. This i think is something that we as evangelicals will leave out so easily because we have reduced the Gospel to something that it is not. We have confused the message of the Gospel with the mechanics of the Gospel. And so we have concluded that the Gospel is justification by faith alone. This is the heart of the Gospel as how the Gospel works but in itself is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the message of the Messiah, King Jesus, come to reveal the Kingdom of God. This includes the great Judgment day as integral to the Gospel message. Which makes the Gospel much bigger than we tend to preach it!
This can be a massive paradigm shift for anyone who has not realised this and has incredible pastoral and envagelistic implications. But the key to preaching or teaching this text is to use Paul’s own polemical device keeping as the sting in the tail as it were in v16. The secrets of men will be judged. It does not matter what you look like on the outside (yet it does) because God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ!