THE MANIFOLD WISDOM OF GOD
The Kingdom of God Today - 2
AND LIVING IT
The first article of this series was about the spiritual fact that true Believers are born again of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, we are joint-heirs with Christ and have the ability to see the Kingdom of God and the opportunity to enter it and live in it. However, seeing, entering and living the Kingdom involve action and that calls for decision.Spirit
The Kingdom of God was Jesus' Good News and the foremost theme of His teachings to the Disciples. In addition to them preaching His New Covenant Kingdom teachings He chose Paul to go to the Gentiles. And it was he who laid down the primary understanding of the Kingdom in his letter "To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" (Romans 1'7).
These Saints of God had received Christ and were following Him, being immersed in water and receiving the Holy Spirit. Paul stated the Kingdom understanding when he responded to a problem. Some Believers among them were insisting that keeping certain rituals and particular days and eating or not eating certain foods as part of the faith. His immediate response is don't judge one another. Nevertheless he made it clear that:
"One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.
He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks," Romans 14'5-6.
He sums it up with: "We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves," Romans 15'1. Paul knows where he stands:
"I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.
Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.
Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another," Romans 14'14-19.
So, the kingdom of God is not in observing religious things, Paul says. It's all about serving Christ in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The question is, what does "in the Spirit" mean?
Earlier he had said to them that: "... those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you," Romans 8:8-9.
And to the Galatian Believers Paul said: "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5'16). But those who live according to their own passions and desires "will not inherit the kingdom of God. But ...
... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit," Galatians 5'21-25.
The answer to the question is that serving in the flesh is serving with ulterior motives. But, the fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of a Believer being in the Spirit and therefore ready to serve Christ in true righteousness, peace and joy; "For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men," Romans 14'18.
Saints are not self-serving people. Being born again of the Holy Spirit, they are in the Spirit. Paul says:
"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ," Colossians 3'23-24.
AND LIVING IT
The mention of serving the Lord with righteousness can be something of a challenge because it can mean three things.
In the Kingdom of God the first thing is righteousness. This is a familiar word to those who are born again. Nevertheless, it is a word that needs some clarifying.
First, there is the personal righteousness of God Himself. He is righteous. That is, He is always right in everything He does. Romans 3'21,26 says:
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed ... being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets" "... to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus".
Second, there is the gift of righteousness. It is the righteousness that is accounted to us and which makes us right in the eyes of God. It is credited to us when we repent from our unacceptable way of life, ask God’s forgiveness and receive Christ into our hearts. We are counted as righteous.
"...much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ," Romans 5'17.
Third, there is the righteousness of things (righteous things are Kingdom things). Or doing the right thing in the eyes of our heavenly Father. Or serving Jesus with things according to the Father's will. Nothing pleases Him more.
But Believers are likely to do things that are unacceptable to the Father making them unrighteous. Paul said to Timothy, and to us:
"I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," 1 Timothy 3'15.
Thankfully, our unrighteousness acts can be dealt with through God's grace. John says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,”1 John 1'9.
However, Jesus leads His followers in the ways of righteousness. He began with presenting Himself to John to be immersed in water, on His first public occasion as an adult.
John resisted Him, pointing out that it was not right for him to be immersing Israel's Messiah (Matthew 3'13-15).
But "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness'".
Although it was unnecessary for Him personally, being immersed in water was an act of righteousness before God as the example for all who would follow Him. Jesus knew it would be acceptable to his heavenly Father. And it was, because "... a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'”.
So the Kingdom word of Christ says:
* "... who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed," 1 Peter 2'24.
* "present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness," Romans 6'19.
* "And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus," 1 Thessalonians 3'12-13, 4'1-2.
PEACE AND JOY
Serving Christ with righteousness, peace and joy is Paul's description of the Kingdom of God. And like so many other things to do with God, they are inseparable.
Seeing as righteous acts come first it must be that peace and joy are the manner in which they are done. They were part of the way Jesus was. His own Kingdom characteristics became part of the Kingdom legacy, beginning with the Disciples:
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid," John 14'27.
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full," John 15'11.
And now He is with us in "Our Father's Kingdom" every day. When He said, "the Kingdom of God is among you” He was living it as its first representative (Luke 17'21). At His last Passover He said:
“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom," (Matthew 26'29).
So Jesus bequeathed His peace and His joy to all who believe Him. On one occasion His New Covenant Kingdom disciples "... were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit," Acts 13'52 says.
“... he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God,” John 3'21.
"'Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.'
"And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints," Revelation 19'6-8.
Next: Kingdom Confusion?