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June 18, 2007

“THE NATURE OF THE KINGDOM” Part I

by Professor Robert J. Barth

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). This was Jesus’ response when Pilate asked if He was King of the Jews. Consider all that Jesus said:

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. (John 18:36-37)

Because the kingdom of God is not of this world, the focus of the kingdom is not on the physical, or what we can experience with our five senses. It is on the spiritual first, and then the consequent physical manifestations of the spiritual reality. While the physical world has been impacted by sin and “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22), “the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). As the children of God walk in the ways of the kingdom of God, there will be physical manifestations of the character and power of God. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).

Jesus, by whom all things were created (Colossians 1:16), never taught that we should withdraw from the world and not enjoy the fruit of our labor as stewards of His creation (Genesis 1:26-28). But He did teach that the spiritual kingdom of God is to be our first pursuit and the focus of our attention. We are to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

While it may be contrary to our logical thinking, Jesus said the nature of the kingdom is such that if you seek Him first, all your physical needs shall be provided through opportunities to work and other means of provision. But if we elevate the pleasures of the world as being more important than the ways of God, it is covetousness, which is idolatry.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him. (Colossians 3:1-10)

In short, the spiritual kingdom of God often determines the physical realm that we experience with our five senses. There are numerous examples of this in both the Old and New Testaments. Elijah prayed that God would open his servant’s eyes to see the spiritual reality of the horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha when the Syrian army surrounded the city of Dothan (II Kings 6:8-23). Jesus took five loaves and two fishes and multiplied it to feed “five thousand men, beside women and children” (Matthew 14:13-21). Philip was transported by the Spirit to another place after he baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). When Peter was in prison, he was visited by an angel, his chains fell off, and he walked out of prison (Acts 12:1-11). 

Jesus spent all of His three years of public ministry preaching the gospel of the kingdom and performing great works to demonstrate the power of the kingdom of God that He has made available to each of us who believe. From examining what He said about the kingdom we can see the nature or characteristics of the kingdom.

First, the kingdom of God is a kingdom of faith. You do not get into the kingdom except through faith and you cannot live in the kingdom except by faith.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.(Ephesians 2:8-9)

And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. (Mark 11:22)

But Jesus turned him about, and when He saw her, He said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. (Matthew 9:22)

Then touched He their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. (Matthew 9:29)

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1;17)

 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (Galatians 3:11)

Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. (Hebrew 10:38)

It is so important to understand that we are not made just before God by what we do. We are justified before God if we have believed that Jesus is the just one who lived, died, and rose from the dead to atone for our sins, and in Him, we are just. Then, we who God has declared to be just through Christ are to live according to the grace and truth that came by Christ (John 1:16). Faith without works is dead (James 2:26), but works do not bring us to faith. Faith comes by hearing, understanding, and believing the word of God (Romans 10:17). After coming to faith, we are exhorted to live by, in accordance with, that faith. “The just shall live by faith” is descriptive of how the just should live. They live according to the faith — the truth, the promises, and the commands of Jesus. They live by the principles of the Kingdom of God, not by the ways of the world.  In considering the nature of the kingdom of God, I encourage you to meditate on these Scriptures and also read Jesus’ words in Matthew 13. We will consider some of these aspects of the kingdom of God in the next meditation.

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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.

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