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June 25, 2007

“THE NATURE OF THE KINGDOM”Part II

by Professor Robert J. Barth

We enter the kingdom of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. We live in the kingdom by that faith — the reality of our redemption from sin and of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2). As we grow in the knowledge of God and His ways through the study of His Word illuminated by the Spirit of truth, we understand more of the promises, provision, and precepts of the kingdom of God. In the kingdom, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7) and agree with the Apostle Paul that “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The kingdom of God is a kingdom of faith.

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of multiplication or growth. The kingdom is not a static kingdom, but is a dynamic kingdom that grows and multiplies. Consider Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the sower and the seed.

Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:18-23, see also Mark 4:13-20, Luke 8:11-15)

Jesus said that faith begins as a tiny seed. It can be snatched away by the devil if the hearer does not understand the “word of the kingdom,” which is the word of faith. If the seed is received but not with deep conviction (no roots), when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word of faith, the person will be embarrassed or ashamed and will wither away in their faith. If the word of the kingdom is received but not nurtured, the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches can choke the word and make it unfruitful in the kingdom. But when one hears, understands, and nurtures or meditates on the word, it will bear abundant fruit in one’s life, thirty, sixty, or even a hundredfold.

The parables of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32) and of the leaven (Matthew 13:33) also illustrate how the kingdom of God is a kingdom of growth. Faith begins small (as a mustard seed) but grows and spreads if it is in good soil (honest and good heart) and is watered by more of the word (Ephesians 5:26). You can only reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7) and the harvest is always after a time of nourishment and growth. You reap in a different season than you plant.

The kingdom is a kingdom of giving. The world’s wisdom says that one needs to get, keep, and look out for oneself. But the kingdom of God is one of giving to the needs of others, having faith that our heavenly Father will provide for our needs. Jesus said:

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:38)

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. (Matthew 6:31-32)

The kingdom of God is one of stewardship. The Bible tells us that our eternal rewards will be impacted by our present stewardship. This stewardship is not only of the material things God entrusts to us, but also of our time and talents. A faithful servant is one who uses his time wisely and who invests his energies into efforts as directed by the Lord of the kingdom.

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey . . .  After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord   . . . Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant . . . Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents   . . . And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:14-30)

Notice that God will only hold us accountable to the ability he has given us. If one who has less ability is faithful, the rewards are the same as one with greater results because of greater ability. But the one who was fearful and lacked faith, the consequence is denial of entry into the kingdom. Again this shows that one enters and lives in the kingdom by faith. 

The kingdom of God is one of serving. When Jesus was asked who was the greatest in the kingdom of God, He said, “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). When his disciples were disputing about whom among them was the greatest, Jesus said:

Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25-28)

The Apostle Paul exhorts us to:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name. (Philippians 2:5-9)

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of sacrificial love for others. It is this love that is the true test of those in the kingdom. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). He also said, “By this shall all men know that yea are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). 

There are many different aspects of the kingdom of God, but these are certainly important ones. Understanding and living in the kingdom of God is the focus or passion of those in the kingdom. Jesus analogized the kingdom to a “treasure hid in a field” (Matthew 13:44) and a “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46) that is worth selling or forsaking everything else we have. In fact Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26). But “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first” (Matthew 19:29-30).

One Bible teacher has said that there are true believers in the church today, and there are “make believers.”  True believers are, and will forever be, in the kingdom of God and will receive rewards for their devotion and acts of love for their Lord Jesus Christ. In the parable of the “wheat and tares” Jesus said, “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:3). Tares are false grains or weeds. From the outside, they look similar to true grains of wheat, but on the inside tares are filled with a dark and useless powder. This again emphasizes that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of the heart. It is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit manifested through acts of service and love toward the Master and others. The Apostle Paul tells us that what is important is faith “which worketh by love” or which is energized, manifested, or expressed through love (Galatians 5:6).

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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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