Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 4, 1968

New Testament Concepts Of The Church (II.)

Gordon Wilson

The church is presented to us in the New Testament under the figure of a kingdom. It emphasizes the spiritual nature of the church. This kingdom is a purely spiritual one in every aspect.

The word translated "kingdom" is "basileia," which means sovereignty, royal power, dominion. The kingdom of God, then, means the reign of God or His dominion. The kingdom of heaven means the exercise of the royal power of heaven within whatever realm such power may be established. That God rules in the church, therefore that the church is the realm of the kingdom, is seen in the acknowledgement of the Lordship of Jesus by the church. Now let us examine some passages showing the spiritual nature of the kingdom of Christ.

The parable of the sower, according to Luke 8: 9-15, is a revelation to the disciples of Christ of the mysteries of the kingdom. It is a fact, then, that when Jesus says that the seed is the word of God, He means the seed of the kingdom. The seed is said to be planted in the soil of human hearts. The good soil in which the fruit is borne is the good and honest heart. Jesus declares that this is an explanation of the kingdom. This kingdom, the reign of God, is exercised within the good and honest heart.

In Luke 17:20, 21, the kingdom of heaven is expressly said not to be visible, but to be "within you." This reading is preferred over the rendering "among you." The Lord did not mean that the kingdom was in the particular persons to whom He was speaking. Nor is the explanation of the verse to be found in the fact that the kingdom is where the king is. The passage simply shows the character of the kingdom; that God rules within the person who submits voluntarily to His will.

The kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36.) The word "world" is from "kosmos," meaning order or arrangement. Standing before Pilate, who represented the Roman kingdom, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this order," it is not seen in pomp and splendor, and does not consist of an outward and physical display. It is in the world, but not from the world. Our Lord recognizes the necessity of earthly kingdoms, being of the order which they are, being defended with the sword, but His kingdom is not of such an order as to require such weapons.

The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but is the inner submission to Him evidenced by the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17.) The context of this passage shows that it does not matter to the Lord whether one eats meat or not; what does matter is that one show the right spirit toward his brother, and that he not practice that which will impress others for evil (verse 16.) The kingdom, then, is not concerned with outward practices so much as it is with inner qualities which will produce correct behavior.

John 3:3-6 stresses the spiritual nature of the kingdom. First, it is seen only with spirit-eyes, by one who is born again of the Spirit. But of course, (verse 6), that which is born of the Spirit is the spirit of man, not the flesh. So, the flesh cannot see the kingdom at all; only the spirit can see it. Second, the kingdom is not only spiritually perceived, but it is entered through the new birth. We can say that the kingdom is within the man, and the born-again man is in the kingdom. This is necessarily true, for when God begins to reign in the individual's heart and over his life, that individual enters a realm of submission, a realm of state in which heaven's authority is recognized as supreme. Thus, the kingdom is in us and we are in the kingdom. These are the internal and external aspects of the kingdom. It is the external aspect which is identical to the church.

Colossians 1:13: The whole of the spiritual world is divided into two spheres. The first is that sphere in which God does not reign due to the failure of men to acknowledge His power. The power in this sphere is the "power of darkness." The other sphere is that in which Christ is acknowledged by those who are enlightened, and is accordingly called "the kingdom of the Son of His love." Men enter this latter sphere by an act of grace, being translated by God, upon the provision that they will to do so and freely accept His terms.

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