13 December: “The Kingdom of God”

Crown, Golden, Royal, Shining, Shiny

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
13 December 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

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Welcome

We are planning on having a Carol Service at Bethel on 20 December at 2pm. This will be about an hour long and will be child-friendly. The morning Service at 10.30am on that date has been cancelled. This Service will be recorded and sent out in the usual manner as will the Service at Home sheets/emails.

Testimony

“The conviction of sin in a season of revival is too terrible for words. I was, brought up in a moral and religious society, and yet I felt such a sinner in the sight of God that I couldn’t see how He could save me. But that night, after the minister closed in prayer, he quoted a verse, Isaiah 53:5. Suddenly it seemed as if I were transported from that prayer meeting to that place called Calvary, and I was there alone: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” And I felt healed. Nobody needed to tell me. The Spirit of God through His Word witnessed with my spirit that, miracle of miracles, I was a child of God! I couldn’t go to bed that night. A crowd of us walked the shore, singing above the noise of the waves: “Now none but Christ can satisfy None other name for me. There’s love and life and joy, Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”

(Mary Peckham who came to faith in 1950 in Hebridean Revival)

Worship

(Chosen by Mary Peckham)

Word

Reading: Acts 1:1-14

After His suffering, He presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God

Acts 1:3

Introduction

Although the terms “The kingdom of God / Heaven” dominate the ministry and teaching of Jesus, they are more rare in the book of Acts. However, it needs to be noted that with its inclusion here in Acts 1:3, 6 and in two verses at the end of Acts: “He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and … he tried to persuade them about Jesus” and He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:23, 31), that the whole of Acts is framed by teaching on the kingdom of God, meaning that everything in between is to be read with this theme of the kingdom of God in mind (‘Inclusio’). Also, nearly all references to the kingdom in Acts are summary reports about preaching (Acts 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31). So Luke is bringing in the kingdom right at the outset of Acts to show a continuity with Jesus teaching in the Gospels, and finishes with reference to the kingdom – it is still ongoing …

(1) Definition of the kingdom

“The concept of God’s kingdom seems … to have become a universal expression of God’s rule

(James Dunn).

“Our traditional English phrase [for kingdom] derives from the King James Version … which was translated at a time when “kingdom” in English still carried this dynamic sense of ‘kingship’”

(R T France).

In other words a better understanding of the word ‘kingdom’ in the NT would be conveyed by the word ‘kingship’ (meaning rule, reign, sovereignty) rather than the word ‘kingdom’ (meaning realm, a place, a group of people under a common rule) – hence “the rule of God”; “God’s rule as King” (Dunn);

“The kingdom of heaven has arrived” might thus be paraphrased as “God’s promised reign in beginning” or “God is now taking control”

(R T France).

“In Greek the original word ‘basileia’ sometimes means kingdom, sometimes kingship (rule, reign, sovereignty).”

(Leon Morris)

(2) The kingdom is within

“Jesus declares that the kingdom – or preferably kingship, reign, rule – of God is basically spiritual in its essence. It is within, or, if one prefers, inside a person. Wherever God is truly recognised and honoured as King, there one finds His kingdom or kingship”

(William Hendriksen)

God’s hour had arrived (cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; Matt. 12:28): that to which the OT had looked forward:

“God’s reign upon earth … the reign of God was not to be a cataclysmic external triumph by an earthly Messiah, but a quiet rule over the hearts of men; the rule of God, said Christ, was ‘within’ His disciples (Luke 17:21)”

(R. A. Cole)

(3) The presence of the kingdom is synonymous with the presence of the Spirit

Dunn has discovered that there is an inverse ratio between Jesus emphasis on the kingdom and the Spirit and the apostle Paul’s who:

“chose to make little use of it [kingdom] perhaps for the simple reason that a preacher travelling through the  Roman empire speaking of another kingdom could leave himself open to the charges of sedition (cf. Acts 17:6; Mark 15:26; John 18:33-37)”

(James Dunn).

Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels uses kingdom around 105 times and Spirit 13 times; the apostle Paul uses kingdom 14 times and Spirit over 110 times. Jesus said ..

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Matthew 12:28

Paul wrote:

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17

“For both Jesus and Paul … the Spirit is the presence of the kingdom still to come in its fulness”

(Gordon Fee)

The manifestation of God’s rule in the last days is through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, bringing people out of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s Son; setting captives free to live under God’s rule, Amen!

(4) Who is the greatest in the kingdom?

This question occurs frequently: cf. Matthew 18:1-5; 20:26-28; 23:11-12 and even at the Last Supper! (Luke 22:24-27). Such requests may be linked to the fact that Jesus has told them He is leaving them, and the disciples want to know who will take over as leader. We often hear the phrase “unless you change and become like little children” (Matt. 18:3) explained as the need to adopt ethical characteristics of children, innocence/humility/receptiveness/trustfulness etc –

“One wonders whether some commentators who speak of children as ‘unself-conscious’, ‘unconcerned about status’, and the like have ever been parents!”

(Ulrich Luz)

However, the emphasis Jesus gives is

“about accepting for oneself a position in the social scale which is like that of children, that is, as the lowest in the hierarchy of authority and decision making, those subject to and dependent on adults.”

(R T France).

This is confirmed by Jesus words:

Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven

Matt. 18:4

Compare this to Jesus’ own “visual aid” about status when He takes up the towel and washes the disciples feet (John 13:2-15). These lessons on the kingdom of heaven and the need to accept the low social status are vital and need to be put into practice:

And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 18:3

cf. Matt 5:20; 7:21. Jesus Himself practised what He preached:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

(5) The kingdom is both now and not yet

It is present now:

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Rom. 14:17

but awaits a future consummation at the coming of Christ e.g.

Do you not know that wrongdoers [those who habitually do wrong] will not inherit the kingdom of God?

1 Cor. 6:9

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Cor. 15:50-52

If one examines the entire evidence available in the Gospels, the kingdom appears to be both present and future, as is widely recognised today”

(Craig Keener)

Throughout the OT we see repeatedly the declarations that God is sovereign, reigning, ruling even though in reality this was not yet the case. However, there also is the expectancy that one day:

The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His name the only name.

Zech. 14:9

and this ran through into the NT: e.g.

Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the ‘kingship’ of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.

Mark 15:43

The Good News is that with Jesus First Coming the kingdom is already here and with His Second Coming it will be fully consummated. Hence the Spirit is the first instalment of the inheritance which is the kingdom:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Cor. 1:21-22

Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Gal. 4:6-7

(6) To enter the kingdom we must be born-again

Whether we inherit the kingdom of heaven or do not inherit the kingdom of heaven depends on whether we are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and hence born-again of the Spirit of God:

Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again … no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of … the Spirit.

John 3:3, 5

“It is the perennial heresy of the human race to think that by our own efforts we can fit ourselves for the kingdom of God. Jesus makes it clear that it is impossible to fit oneself for the kingdom. Rather it is necessary to be completely renewed, born anew, by the Spirit. These solemn words forever exclude the possibility of salvation by human merit. Our nature is so gripped by  sin that an activity of the very Spirit of God is a necessity if we are to be associated with God’s kingdom.”

(Leon Morris)

(7) The world must ultimately submit to God’s sovereign rule

Satan tempted Jesus to take a short cut to sovereignty over the kingdoms of the world:

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended Him.

Matt. 4:8-11

Jesus knew the only way to establish God’s rule upon earth was through the cross, through His death and resurrection, and in God’s perfect timing:

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign for ever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.”

Rev. 11:15-17

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth”.

Rev. 5:9-10

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah’.

Acts 2:36

Quote of the Week

“Revival cannot be organised, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again”

(G. Campbell-Morgan)

Verse of Week

Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him.

Psalm 115:3

Let’s Pray

“Heavenly Father we worship You; You are the King of Glory, the Sovereign Lord. Let Your kingdom come and Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Lord we pray for the nations of the world that they might in these days, turn to You in repentance and faith, in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Amen.”