Monday, January 25, 2016

The Power of the Gospel in the Kingdom of God

For a while now, God has been expanding my understanding of our great gift of salvation by looking at it from the standpoint of the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, particularly in Jesus’ teaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”[1]

Those of us who have grown up in the individualism of the western mindset often think of salvation as a one-on-one relationship between ourselves and God. We miss much of what is taught about being “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”[2]

However, when we consider all the New Testament teaches about the kingdom of God, the church, the one body of Christ, the one new man, the holy temple, the bride of Christ, we cannot escape that becoming a disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ means entering his kingdom, and serving our King with the one people of God.

Once we begin considering the teachings about the kingdom of God, we discover that, because Jesus is the King of his kingdom, the gospel brings the kingdom to us with power. Which brings me to things God was teaching me this morning as I considered Paul’s lessons on the kingdom in II Timothy 3.

1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (II Timothy 3)

  • First, I must “understand”. I must get this, “that in the last days there will come times of difficulty”, because people will be the way Paul described them, particularly, that they will have “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”. As we watch these things happening in churches all around us, it helps to “understand” that this is right in line with what the word of God continues to tell us.

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. (II Timothy 3)

  • Second, I must “follow”. Timothy “followed” Paul’s teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, persecutions, and sufferings. I must do the same (Note: this is in the context of avoiding the people Paul described above).

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (II Timothy 3)

  • Third, I must accept. While the end times will be characterized by churches that promote “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (vs 5), it will also be characterized by “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” This applies to “all” who seek the power of a godly life; it is distinguishing the powerless appearance of godliness, from a godly life that is “in Christ Jesus”, and it encourages us by putting the focus, not on how well we are attaining godliness at any given moment, but that we “desire” to live a godly life. That is a very encouraging way of saying it.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (II Timothy 3)

  • Fourth, no matter how bad things get around me, there is the apostolic exhortation of, “but as for you…” (vs 14) This takes away any excuses about what others are doing, or how they are treating us. No matter what the current state of people going “from bad to worse” may be, the “but as for you” still applies. Even before considering what that “but as for you” involves, I must accept that this distinction is a necessary quality of the kingdom of God.

  • Fifth, I am to “continue” in what I have “learned and have firmly believed”. Timothy knew from whom he learned the things he firmly believed, and had grown up with these things from his childhood. This is the perseverance of the saints, the steadfastness of hope that Paul saw in the Thessalonians.[3] It stands in contrast to the ongoing deterioration of the church. Even while evil men and imposters fill the churches, we are to keep our eyes on what we have learned and firmly believed and continue in those things. When we look at the people we received our teachings from, the apostles who are the foundation of the church, we continue in the reality of godliness we see in them, rather than abandoning the faith because of all the new gloss and glitter of the deteriorating church.

  • Sixth, it is the scriptures, or “the sacred writings,” that “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (vs 15). That seems to echo Paul’s reminder to the Roman church that, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”[4]
On one side, this tells me that I must never abandon the “sacred writings” that are “the word of Christ”, in favor of any new teaching.[5]
On the other side, I must tell the church that Satan will continually scheme to sabotage our times in the word of God (both privately and corporately) because he does not want us to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. After all, if we hear what the Spirit is saying through the word of Christ we will have faith, and if we have faith we will follow Jesus in unstoppable obedience, giving glory to God instead of to the world, the flesh, and the devil, and the devil does not want that. However, our King does, so let’s get to it!

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3)

  • Seventh, I must relate to the Scriptures as the “whole counsel of God.”[6] that will teach me, reprove me, correct me, and train me in righteousness, so that I “may be complete, equipped for every good work.” In other words, the power of godliness comes through the word of God that will train and equip me to do the “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”[7]

When I was looking up what Paul said about proclaiming the “whole counsel of God” in Acts 20,[8] I noticed another example of the association between the gospel and the kingdom of God. While I “knew” these things before, they are hitting me with a profound sense of transformation. This is what stood out to me:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.[9]

There is a lot in this passage. However, the thing that stood out is that Paul’s ministry was “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God”, and this meant that he had “gone about proclaiming the kingdom”. The grace of God is expressed in, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”[10] Paul testified to the grace of God revealed in bringing Jesus’ kingdom into the earthly realm where people could repent and enter the kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ and all his redemptive work.

So, consider once again that we are, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”[11] This is the kingdom of God the gospel brings us into. Let us live in the power of this kingdom so that we are the loudest, and most loving, in proclaiming the “excellencies” of our King.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Mark 1:15
[2] I Peter 2:9
[3] I Thessalonians 1:3
[4] Romans 10:17
[5] We are to apply the sacred Scriptures to whatever new experiences, circumstances, traumas, brokenness people find in their lives, but the truth we apply to our needs is the same sacred writings that made first century Christians “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.
[6] Acts 20:26-27
[7] I Thessalonians 1:3
[8] Acts 20:17-38
[9] Acts 20:24-25
[10] Mark 1:15
[11] I Peter 2:9

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