The Manifold Wisdom Of God
Kingdom of God Today
"... the kingdom of God is ... 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,"
For true Believers these words of Paul are crucial. They are second only to John 3'3,5: "Jesus answered and said ... 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'” and "is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God".
So, for all such Believers Paul is expressing the essential features of living in the Kingdom of God. Their acts of righteousness and peace and joy are to be served to Christ. Not serving self nor man.
Only then will these responses and behaviours be acceptable to our heavenly Father.
Much is said about the Kingdom of God/Heaven in the New Testament. And it's also a common topic from the pulpit. But ideas about it seem vague.
However, way back then, in his powerful and encouraging letter to Believers living in Rome, Paul lays it out. And the first thing to notice about it is that it has to do with daily life in relationship to God.
He was responding to those who were promoting their version of serving God. They were saying that it was about keeping certain rituals and particular days and eating, or not eating, certain foods.
And this is where Paul shows that he is, first and foremost, a Kingdom thinker (our example!). He defines what Kingdom of God life is:
"... the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit," Romans 14'17.
It is notable that righteousness and peace and joy are "in the Holy Spirit" - not in the flesh. Furthermore, he says:
"... he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men," Romans 14'18.
So, if it is to be acceptable to God His Kingdom is all about serving these things to Christ in the Spirit.
But, what does it mean to serve the Lord in the Spirit? What Paul says in 1 Timothy 3'16 can be helpful with understanding what being in the Spirit is. He says, "God was manifested in the flesh". And, of course, God is Spirit.
Now when God came in the flesh as the man Jesus (and also as Christ the Messiah), He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And while in the flesh He glorified His Father in heaven. In all that He did and said His desire was to please His Father by doing His will, His way.
Jesus was the example of living in the Spirit. So, all who repent and receive Christ and born again of the Holy Spirit can follow in His steps. Subsequently, His characteristics begin showing through in the way they speak, behave, carry out tasks and do every day things.
As they serve Christ with righteous things and peace and joy they, like Him, desire to please their heavenly Father.
Living It - Kingdom Service
People like those who wanted to introduce unacceptable things into the Roman Believers' lives are still around today. They range from doing good works in order to earn some sort of spiritual credit toward gaining eternal life to varying mis-interpretations and mis-applications of scripture.
But Christ's New Covenant Kingdom People understand that only the work that He did is good enough to achieve eternal life. Therefore, they are acceptable to the Father.
Serving Christ in the Spirit is a privilege. It arises out of gratefulness for what He's done for us and consequently serving Him with acts of righteousness and peace and joy. They can be things like giving thanks or worshiping or doing some simple daily chore. It is worship that can be offered at any time:
"... 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.
Kingdom righteousness ...
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, which is referred to in Romans 3'21,26:
"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed ... being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets." And "... to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus".
Then there is the gift of righteousness credited to all who believe ...
"...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.
Thirdly, there is the kind that could be called Kingdom righteousness. It has to do with actions that are right before God, making them acceptable to Him.
Jesus led the way in this kind of righteousness. And it was on His first public occasion as an adult, when He presented Himself to be immersed in water.
John strongly 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, this act of being immersed in water was an act of righteousness before God. It's His example for all who would follow Him. Jesus knew it would be acceptable to his heavenly Father. And it was:
"... a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'”.
Jesus, the Messiah, displayed His disposition of wanting to do the Father's will. And, for Believers, the word of Christ and the Kingdom says:
= "present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness," Romans 6'19.
= "... 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.
= "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them," Ephesians 2'10.
= "the righteous acts of the saints" are referred to in Revelation 19'8.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom ... And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him," Colossians 3'16-17.
Kingdom Peace and Kingdom Joy
In Paul's description of the Kingdom of God, peace and joy follow on from acts of righteousness. It seems that peace and joy are the manner in which these acts are done. Here's what Jesus said to His disciples about them:
“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.
He displayed both of them in His ministry. They were part of the way He was. The peace and joy He is referring to are His own Kingdom characteristics because His desire was for His Father's Kingdom to come.
When He said, "the Kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17'21) He was living it as its representative. Later, 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).
Today He is with His Called-Out Ones in "Our Father's Kingdom".
So Jesus bequeathed His peace and His joy to all who believe Him. One time "... the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit," Acts 13'52 says.
And Believers are to keep this in mind:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus," Philippians 4'6-7.
"... for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints," Revelation 19'6-8.
Next. The Kingdom of God Today - 3: KINGDOM CONFUSION?