In the summer series at church, our pastor (and staff) has been unpacking the meaning of God’s kingdom. The working definition has been from Jeremy Treat’s book, Seek First: How the Kingdom of God Changes Everything, and it says, “The kingdom is God’s reign through God’s people over God’s place.” We have spent most of the summer exploring, developing the story of God’s kingdom through the narratives of the Old Testament, and examining the covenants that move the story forward. This week the emphasis was on the people of the kingdom. There are at least five notable characteristics: People of the kingdom of God are –
- Called by God
- Commissioned by Jesus
- Empowered by the Spirit
- Known by how they reflect the King’s attributes
CALLED BY GOD
God has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.2 Timothy 1:9-10
In the kingdom of God, God reigns through His people. We have seen in earlier lessons that in the creation mandate, men and women were to rule as God’s vice-regents, to be His representatives in this world. We know from the story that we surrendered our place in leading with God because Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. But in God’s great plan of redemption, He picks us even before the foundation of the world to be His people. God is at work in our lives long before we are aware of His presence. God calls us by His Spirit to be His children. He saves us and calls us to a holy life to satisfy His purposes and grace. God calls people of the kingdom!
COMMISSIONED BY JESUS
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.Matthew 28:18-20
As a called people, we have work to do. We are created as God’s masterpieces and set apart to complete the good work He ordained for us to do. Jesus called His disciples, saying, “I will make you ‘fishers of men.’ In what we call the ‘great commission,’ he says that we are to go into the world to make disciples, baptize and teach them. We are to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation! Our message is a message of reconciliation with God, repentance, and forgiveness of sins. Jesus told His disciples that even as the Father sent him, He was sending them, not just them, but also us! King Jesus commissions the people of the kingdom!
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.Acts 4:31
In the Upper Room Discourse, when Jesus taught His disciples that last week before His death, He told them He had to go away. That it was better for HIm to go so that He could send the Helper, the Spirit of God, who would dwell within them and guide them into all truth. Then right before His ascension, Jesus reminded them to wait for the gift He had promised, the gift of the Spirit.
Before Pentecost, before the infilling of the Spirit, the disciples were curious when Jesus would usher in His kingdom. They had in mind an earthly reign, conquering the Roman government, setting up the “kingdom of Israel.” But instead of an earthly kingdom decided by war, Jesus initiated His kingdom through His resurrection and planned its expansion by preaching the gospel. The book of Acts tells how the gospel reached all of the known world at that time.
The Spirit of God comes to dwell in believers at the moment of salvation. Ezekiel prophesied that the Spirit would move us to follow God’s decrees and help us obey God. The Apostle Paul reminds us of that same truth as he points out that our salvation, our obedience is not part man, part God, but that it is God who works in us to both will and to do His good pleasure! The Spirit dwells within the people of the Kingdom!
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.1 Peter 4:8-10
God added about three thousand to the church on the Day of Pentecost. Luke summarizes the activities of the early church, explaining how they were discipled, how they fellowshipped with one another, and how they prayed together. The young church devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching. The Apostles were the stewards of the knowledge of God – they had walked with Jesus and shared the stories they had learned under His tutelage. They met together, sharing meals, building relationships with one another. They met any needs that cropped up, either by giving or selling items to provide for others. And they prayed for one another.
Sometimes we minimize prayer or express doubt about the power of prayer. This young church at Jerusalem didn’t know yet the persecution they would experience. Those early days of praying with and for one another built a foundation of faith that would see them through future trials.
I’ve belonged to several small church communities. We have studied together, shared meals, taken communion together, laughed, played, visited in one another’s homes. BUT praying together made all the difference. Especially as we were transparent about our needs, got serious about spiritual issues – then the Spirit of God knit our hearts together in amazing ways. The people of God thrive best in community with one another.
KNOWN BY HOW THEY REFLECT THE KING’S ATTRIBUTES
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.Romans 13:8
Obviously, as the early church fellowshipped together and shared their possessions, they demonstrated the goodness and kindness of God. They also illustrated the love of God.
On their last night together in the Upper Room, Jesus had told them a new commandment – although it was not brand new. Just that the commandment to love was newly defined. It was the commandment to love one another – not as we love ourselves which Jesus had previously taught, but that we love one another with the same love that Jesus himself had loved us. And that by this love, all the bystanders in the disciples’ lives would know, and those in our lives will know that we are His disciples. Our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is the defining factor in our relationships in the church.
To be saved into God’s kingdom is to embrace God’s comprehensive rule over every aspect of life. This is a far cry from merely “asking Jesus into my heart.” It means a new life, a new identity, and a new kingdom.Jeremy Treat
Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
our comforts and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.
When we are called to part,
it gives us inward pain;
but we shall still be joined in heart,
and hope to meet again.
This glorious hope revives
our courage by the way;
while each in expectation lives
and waits to see the day.
From sorrow, toil, and pain,John Fawcett 1782
and sin, we shall be free;
and perfect love and friendship reign
through all eternity.
*This past Sunday, our administrative pastor, David, preached about the people of the kingdom based on Acts 1 and 2. Definitely take time to listen! You’ll find the sermon here.
** If you want to follow this series of notes on the king and HIs kingdom, here are the previous links: