Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Gospel of the Kingdom by Dr Ern Baxter

Last week I published Ern Baxter's amazing words on "The Gospel of the Land". Truly God has saved us from our Egypts and is bringing us through the wilderness of immaturity. But the training of the desert is for a purpose! To bring us into the Land. One misconception is that it all ends when we cross the River Jordan and make it into the Land. The Word of God makes it clear that is not so. It was never God's intention to be limited to a small section of land! He has got the whole world in view. So I pray these faith-building, vision-enhancing words soak and thrill you at the beginning of this new week. By the way, these messages are available on MP3 if you email me.

The Gospel of the Kingdom

Adam failed.

Israel failed.

It looked as if God's plan for a royal and righteous family would never succeed. But God not only speaks the first word but has the last word as well. And the story of His will on earth was not yet done! In the beginning God declared His purpose for mankind. It was His will that man would express and extend the beautiful and majestic life of His Son. When the first family sinned and failed to fulfill God's plan for man, God made a promise. In that promise was the sure word that one day His will would be done. Truly His Kingdom would come - right here on earth - as it had been planned in heaven.

1. Kingdom Purpose Restored in Christ.

A. Christ: A New and Royal Seed.

What man could not do for himself, God Himself would do for man. God's desire for a beloved family would begin in a new way. He would start over again with a "new family". The first member of that family would be a very special Person - a new Adam. He would be the Seed from which all the other family members would come. Where the first Adam failed to fulfill God's plan for his life, the last Adam would not. Yes, God's plan would succeed for this new Seed would be His only Son!

As you recall, this had been God's word to the serpant in the garden:

"I will put emnity (hatred, conflict)

between your seed (Satan's offspring)

and her seed (Eve's offspring)

And He (Christ, the divine Seed)

will bruise your head (a fatal, final wound)

And you (Satan, the evil enemy)

will bruise His heel (a temporary wound; Christ's death and resurrection)

The apostle Paul clearly explains the fulfillment of this prophetic truth in these words;

Galatians 3:16; "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. God did not say, "And to your seeds" meaning many seeds. Rather He said, "And to your seed" meaning One Seed - who is Christ".

Yes Christ is the divine Seed Who once and for all crushed the head of the serpant upon the Cross. But something else is involved. Paul tells us that Jesus is also the first-born among many brothers:

Romans 8:29; "God knew us and chose us before the world began to become like His Son - formed into His image. God did so that His Son might be the first among many brothers".

In other words Christ is our:

1. Redeemer Brother - the divine Saviour of mankind.

2. Elder Brother - the first member in God's new and beloved family.

3. Royal Brother - our source of power and authority.

4. Model Brother - the ideal and perfect Man.

5. Glorious Brother - the glorified Son of Man.

B. Christ: Our Redeemer and Elder Brother.

Jesus Christ was both wholly God and wholly Man. In His humanity He lived a sinless life. Therefore when He died upon the Cross, He could take upon Himself our sins and their penalty - physical death and broken fellowship with the Father. The resurrection power of God's Holy Spirit restored Jesus to life as the First-Born of God's "new family" (Romans 8:11, 14, 29). When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Lord and Saviour, we too are born into the family of God. God is our Father and Jesus becomes our Redeemer and Elder Brother. We receive His Spirit, His life and His nature.

The Holy Spirit provides the power for our "new birth". He also is the source of our strength by which we "grow" into Christ's likeness - are formed into His image. The Lord Jesus is our model, pattern and ideal for our life.

C. Christ: Our Royal Brother.

Christ is also our Royal Brother. In His death and resurrection, He overcame sin, hell and the grave. Satan's kingdom was destroyed. Jesus Christ not reigns in heaven at the right hand of the Father as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Moreover His Kingdom is established - fixed and known - on earth as well. As members of His royal family we have a role to play in His earthly rule. As we come under His authority, His authority comes upon us. As He reigns in our lives, we shall rule in the power of His Kingdom here on earth. "As He is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17).

Jesus put this truth into words to His disciples just before He returned to heaven;

Matthew 28:18-20; "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations. Baptise them into the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to trust and obey everything that I have told you. And I will be with you always - even to the end of the age".

We are members of Christ's Body. The Church. He is the heavenly Head of His earthly Body. It is through us that His will on earth shall be done. It is through us that His Kingdom shall come. Truly this is our mission in life: to rule with Christ!

Earlier in His ministry Jesus had set the eyes of His disciples in the same direction;

Matthew 16:18-19; "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church. And the power of death and hell will not be able to defeat My Church. I will give you the keys - the authority - of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever has already been bound or loosed in heaven, you will be able to bind or loose on earth".

Luke 10:17-19; "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. Behold I give you authority to crush serpants and scorpions under foot. Yes I give you authority over the power of the enemy. Nothing will be able to hurt you".

These promises speak of great power with divine purpose. Their full meaning fills our hearts with holy wonder and awe. The disciples could not totally understand everything that Jesus was trying to say at first. After Pentecost that power and that purpose set them on the move - and they turned the world upside down! What they started in their day is to be completed in ours. There is to be an end-time witness of Christ's Kingdom in power throughout the earth. God's plan for a royal and righteous family will be fulfilled. This time it will not fail for it rests on - upon and rises from - Christ's victory on the Cross.

The Son of God became the Son of Man that the sons of men may become the Sons of God!

As the Son of God, Christ Jesus is the Way to the Father. Only as God could He forgive sins and give us right standing before the Almighty. As the Son of Man Jesus sets the way for us to follow in fulfilling God's will on earth. In this sense He is our model Brother - Someone Who is an example or pattern for our lives.

D. Christ: Our Model Brother.

In His humanity, Christ Jesus lived a perfect life of faith and obedience. He did so by relying upon the authority of God's Word and the power of God's Spirit. As the Son of Man He did not depend upon His deity but upon the same resources which God has given to us - His Word and His Spirit. The reality of Christ's humanity is an important truth which is worthy of further study. It is an important key to Kingdom authority here on earth. Without it we will fail. With it we are sure to succeed. Let us therefore consider this concept more in detail.

We shall begin by listening to these unusual words from the Lord's prayer before going to the Cross;

John 17:1, 4, 5; "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son that Your Son may also glorify You ... I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do".

"Now O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself. Glorify Me with the glory which I had with You before the world began".

When Jesus asked the Father to glorify Him with the glory He had before the world began, He was not talking as God but as man. As God He already had that glory. He was speaking therefore of His humanity - His manhood. (John 17:1-5). As said before Christ Jesus was not only wholly God but He was also wholly man. He took upon Himself our human nature. Yes it was His being as a man that Jesus wanted glorified.

The Man that was born of the virgin Mary and grew up in the carpenters shop.

The Man that walked upon the hot, dusty roads of Judea and Galilee with His disicples.

The Man who ate fish when He was hungry and slept under the stars when He was tired.

The Man who cried real tears when He was sad and shed real blood when He was crucified.

It was that Man - as a Man - that desired to glorify the Father and be glorified by the Father. And that is exactly what happened in Christ's victory on the Cross! It is this Man - the glorified Man - that stands before the disciples and says, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). Jesus didn't say that because of His divine nature. He said that as one of us. He said that as the perfect Man of faith and obedience, Who in His humanity had proven the truth and power of God's Holy Word!

That is the reason He can say to His disciples of every age;

John 20:21, Matthew 20:19; "As the Father has sent Me, so I send you ... Go therefore and make disciples of all nations".

If Jesus was only speaking as God this world-wide commission or command would not be fair. He would have an authority because of His deity which we do not have in our humanity. But, He is not only speaking as God but as a man. Therefore He is also one of us and we are one with Him. When Jesus returned to heaven after His resurrection, He didn't leave His humanity behind. The eternal God will forever share in our manhood. No, He did not seperate Himself from us when He returned to His Father's throne. His royal ministry in heaven now becomes our mission here on earth. Precious indeed is the tie that links our life with His!

Yes we abide in Him and He abides in us. We are joined as one spirit (1 Cor 6:17). Therefore as members of His Body we share in His divine life and authority. There is a Man in the heavens - the God-Man. Our glorified and divine Brother Jesus Christ!

E. Christ: Our Glorious Brother.

Truly He is our Brother. We say that with great respect, honour and reverance. But it is true. The mighty King of the universe is our royal Brother. Moreover His rule here on earth will be through you and me. We are to reign with Christ here on earth because we share in His divine nature. He was the First-Born of a new race to which we belong. In fact one day we shall share in His glory! Listen again in holy wonder to these amazing words from our Lord's high priestly prayer;

John 17:20-22; "Father I do not pray only for these My disciples but for all who believe in Me through their word. I pray that they all may be one as You are in Me and I in You. It is My desire that they may be One in Us that the world might believe that You sent Me".

"And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One".

The apostle Paul speaks of our glory in Christ Jesus in this way;
2 Corinthians 3:10; "We will all behold and clearly reflect like a mirror the glory of the Lord. For we are being changed into His image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord".

Now this doesn't mean we become equal with God. God will always be God. Christ has a very special place in the Godhead which cannot be shared. But we will share in the power and glory of His nature. In fact the apostle John declares;

1 John 3:1, 2; "Behold how wonderful is the love which the Father has given us. We are actually called the children of God ... Moreover dear brothers we are the children of God right now! We don't fully understand how wonderful this will be but we do know that when Jesus is revealed we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He really is".

What a glorious hope! What a high and heavenly calling! And wonder of wonders in His majest we find our earthly mission. Think of it. It is almost beyond the little circle of our understanding and the limited measure of our minds. We shall all share in the glory of our Royal Brother and His Kingdom! Yes, God's plan of the ages involves people - a perculiar people. (1 Peter 2:9). The word "perculiar" in New Testament Greek means, prized, purchased and possessed. God places a great value upon our lives because of what we can become in Christ. For that reason, He redeemed us with the precious blood of Jesus. We belong to Him and He belongs in us. By His Spirit, we have been born into His beloved family.

God's beloved family is also a royal family with royal rights and duties. Privilidges and responsibilities. We have been restored to a royal priesthood. As God's priestly people, we are responsible for bringing the nations under the righteous rule of the Lord Jesus Christ.

II. Evangelism: The Key to Kingdom Rule.

A large vision of God's purpose will produce a large faith - and faith is necessary if we are going to win the world for the Kingdom of God. We have faith for saving souls, healing bodies and meeting our physical needs. But do we have faith to reach a nation? The Holy Spirit has been given to fire our faith and move us forth in Kingdom power. Satan's authority was destroyed at Calvary.

A. Two Kinds of Evangelism.

Yes we have a divine right and duty to preach, teach, baptise and disciple all nations. But how are we to do this in a practical and effective way? As we shall see it involves two kinds of evangelism;

1. Primary planting of the local church.

2. Secondary outreach through the local church.

This double principle in evangelism is seen in Paul's letter to the Church which he planted in Thessalonica;

1 Thess 1:5-8; "Our gospel did not come to you only in words but also with power and in the Holy Spirit ... And you became followers of us and of the Lord ... so that you became examples to all ... From you the word of the Lord has gone forth in Macedonia, Achaia and every other place".

The founding of the Church at Thessalonica is told in Acts 17:1-10. Paul and Silas were there only long enough to preach the gospel and ground them in the faith. Later Timothy further helped the young church as it grew strong in the grace of the Lord. Paul must have told the new converts at Thessalonica that he would write - and even return to help them if he could. Basically however they wre on their own. The Holy Spirit would be with them to raise up new leaders and elders. They were to obey the word which they had received. They were also to share their faith with everyone who would listen - just as Paul had shared with them.

Some time went by before Paul learned how the young church was doing. The report he received from Timothy was most encouraging. They were growing in the faith and had taken the good news of the gospel to all the peoples of the surrounding area. The planted had become planters!

B. An example of Evanglism in Action.
This principle of "spiritual reproduction" is God's means of reaching the world with the gospel of the Kingdom. It begins - and is carried on - in the hearts of His people. When the Church in Communist China was forced to go "underground" it did not die. In fact like the Thessalonian Church, the Church actually became stronger in the face of opposition. They even developed their own special missionary program. Of course they could not hold large evangelistic meetings or crusades. And they were unable to use radio or television in their outreach methods. So they used a simple method - one that worked very well.

People were allowed to move to another town if they had a trade or skill that was needed. So perhaps two or three families would move to a place that had no Christian witness. They would establish a fellowship in their homes and it would grow in a quiet but powerful way.

Jesus said that the Kingdom was within and among His disciples. He also said that the Kingdom was like salt and leaven or yeast. They act in hidden ways at first but soon effect the whole lump. (Luke 17:21, 13:20, 21). And this was exactly what happened - over and over again. These Chinese Christians did just what the Church at Thessalonica did. As they had been reached, so they reached out to others. This two-fold princple of evangelism really works. Whole nations can be reached for God and His Kingdom even in places where Christianity is opposed. In fact I will be surprised if history does not reveal that the most active and effective work for God was done in just this way. One to one!

III. The King is Coming!

A. The Future Fulfillment of the Kingdom.

We can be sure of God's promises. He always keeps His Word. And Christ as promised to build His Church and forever fix and establish His Kingdom here on earth. (Matt 16:18-19). John looking into the future saw this day of Kingdom power and glory;

Revelation 11:15; "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet. And there were loud voices in heaven which said; "The kingdom of this world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. And He will rule forever and forever".

But what can we expect between now and then? When will Jesus return to earth? Is He waiting for us to establish His Kingdom by the power of His gospel? Or are we waiting for His return that we will rule and reign with Him upon this earth? There is much mystery in end-time truth which should cause us to remain humble before God and each other. However I believe that God has revealed enough of His will and purpose for us to act in a responsible way.

I believe some things must wait for Christ's return for God's full and final purpose to be complete. This will be God's doing and not ours - although we will be involved. Two important things come under this heading;

1. The glorification of the believer. When we are raised up at the second coming of Christ we will have new glorified bodies like His. This is a part of our royal inheritance - to share in the full power of His resurrection. We experience the first fruits of Kingdom life now in the healing of our physical bodies. Even so our bodies age, weaken and in time we die. The full glory of Kingdom life waits for the return of our living Lord!

2. The renewal of the physical universe. Paul tells us that all of creation waits to be delivered from the law of disorder and decay. When Jesus rules and reigns over all the entire universe will be in order, peace and harmony (Romans 8:19-22).

The full glory of Christ's Kingdom will include a New Heaven and a New Earth. This amazing promise takes us far beyond our ability to understand. But it is a wonderful part of our blessed hope!

B. The Firstfruits of the Kingdom - Now.

It is true that some aspects of the Kingdom wait for Christ's return. However this does not mean that we don't experience some of the power, glory and majesty of the Kingdom now. As we have seen the first fruits of the Kingdom begin in our hearts and are expressed in our lives. Kingdom life then reaches out to our homes, communities, cities and the many nations of the world. Jesus said;

Matthew 24:14; "This gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world. It will be a witness to all the nations - and then will come the end".

Paul reaching forth as far as divine revelation can take us wrote these majestic words;

1 Cor 15:20, 23, 24; "It is the truth. Christ has been raised from death as a sure promise that those who sleep in death will also be raised ... Christ first of all - then at the time of His coming, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come. Christ will overcome all rulers, authorities and powers and give the Kingdom to God the Father".

This is one story that truly has a happy ending. One might say that it is a happy story that never ends. As we have seen the final chapters of earths history are important ones for the Church. As the Kindom of God grows in power and outreach, all the nations of the earth will hear the gospel.

This does not mean that all evil will be destroyed but I believe it will be brought under control. Christ will yet reign through His Church throughout the earth. When the Lord returns, He will have a Kingdom to offer to the Father that is worthy of the Gospel. In His Second Coming Christ will return as a conquering King. Every last enemy will be destroyed. The physical universe will then be restored and we shall enter into the fullness of the new heavens and the new earth. Clearly the future is bright with the glory of Christ's majesty.

C. Occupy Until I Come.

We must realise that the lordship of Christ Jesus must first be realised in history. The gospel of the Kingdom is truly the power of God for salvation. Christ is to reign through His Church in time until His enemies are beneath His feet. Then He will return and we shall rise to be with Him forever. Our duty and responsibility for now is to be about the business of our Master. Jesus told His disciples a parable or story when they thought the Kingdom was going to come right away. It was about a nobleman who went away to receive a kingdom and then he would return. Before leaving his servants behind he gave them this very important command, "Occupy until I come" (Luke 19:13).

The word "occupy" meant to do business for their master until he returned. Clearly this applies to disciples of every age - and all the moreso as we come to the end of the age. But what is our business? It is to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to the four corners of the earth. There is to be a world-wide witness of God's power and authority in the affairs of men. Every area of society is to become a mission field. God wants to raise up Christian leaders - godly people who will act as light, salt and leaven in a world that is headed for spiritual darkness, decay and death. The Scripture tells us that in the end the devil will come in great wrath because he knows his time is short. (Revelation 12:12). However we are also told;

Isaiah 59:19, 20; "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him".

"At last they will honour and glorify the Lord from west to east ... and this is My promise to them says the Lord, "My Spirit is upon you. And My words which I have put in your mouth and the mouth of your offspring will never depart ... from this time on and forever".

The final question the disciples asked Jesus before He returned to Heaven related to their earthly view of the Kingdom; "Lord will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?". (Acts 1:6). The last recorded words which Jesus spoke were in reply to their question;

Acts 1:7, 6; "These things are not for you to know. Only the Father has the authority to decide dates and times. But the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be My witnesses - in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth".

They listened, obeyed and reached their world with the gospel of the Kingdom. May we do the same!

Matthew 24:14; "And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations. And then comes the end".

Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

2 comments:

Peter Day said...

This is a truly excellent word. I have seen that scripture "occupy until I come" used to justify doing just that in the modern sense of the word - to sit around and wait for the second coming. But Ern points out that it means to do business for the Master until He returns.

Awesome!

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