Thy Kingdom Come.... Part 1
There are two realms of existence extant on this planet. They are: 1. The Natural and 2. The Spiritual. These realms must needs be recognized and understood in view of relationship between God and man. Human beings of all time have been born into the natural realm. They will live and die there, regardless of their highest cultural developments, unless they are converted to God through faith in Jesus Christ. There is only one way by which man can ever get into the spiritual realm; that is, by being “born again”.
Three basic characteristics identify the human creature before he is divinely regenerated. 1. He is totally natural (he may be ‘religious’ but utterly dead spiritually). 2. He is wholly self-centered (his entire world orbits around him). 3. He is a sinner (God and His Word mean little or nothing to him). The thinking of Adamic man is governed by worldly principles. His behavior is determined by conclusions resulting from the normal function of his five senses. Only a Spiritual birth (work of the Holy Spirit) can bring him to life in the new, heavenly realm.
Thy Kingdom Come
by H. Jack Stanley
After this manner therefore pray ye; Our Father which art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. — Matthew 6; 9,10
Thy Kingdom Come
AcknowledgmentThe assistance of Miss Arline Reschke in the preparation of this manuscript is recognized and appreciated. With out her spiritual and literary help this book would be missing some of it’s instructional content.
Thy Kingdom Come
Copyright © June 1992
All rights reserved
By H. Jack Stanley
Scripture quotations are from the King James Version
unless otherwise indicated.
Thy Kingdom Come
Table of Contents
THE AIM OF THE GOSPEL
THE NEW BIRTH A MUST
WHO IS RUNNING YOUR LIFE?
THE KINGDOM BEGETS THE CHURCH
THE CHURCH CONSTRUCTED
SINGLE HEADSHIP CONTINUED
IN RECOGNITION OF THE NEED TO UNDERSTAND SPIRITUAL REALITY
IN CONFLICT WITH NATURAL ACTUALITY . . .There are two realms of existence extant on this planet. They are: 1. The Natural and 2. The Spiritual. These realms must needs be recognized and understood in view of relationship between God and man. Human beings of all time have been born into the natural realm. They will live and die there, regardless of their highest cultural developments, unless they are converted to God through faith in Jesus Christ. There is only one way by which man can ever get into the spiritual realm; that is, by being “born again”.
Three basic characteristics identify the human creature before he is divinely regenerated. 1. He is totally natural (he may be ‘religious’ but utterly dead spiritually). 2. He is wholly self-centered (his entire world orbits around him). 3. He is a sinner (God and His Word mean little or nothing to him). The thinking of Adamic man is governed by worldly principles. His behavior is determined by conclusions resulting from the normal function of his five senses. Only a Spiritual birth (work of the Holy Spirit) can bring him to life in the new, heavenly realm.
The Spiritual life he receives from God is not something added to his old life; neither will it improve the old life — ethically or morally. A Spiritual birth produces a completely different species of life which is utterly other-than the natural life — opposite, antithetical. In fact, the new life will eventually enter into conflict with the old. Beware! — the old life can intellectually be taught Christian doctrine and theology so that it develops a rhetoric that may sound genuine, but it will ever remain phoney. There is no such thing as the old evolving into the new. In the redemptive plan and purpose of God there is only one thing that must happen to the “old man” — HE MUST DIE — and this is the primary reason for the CROSS OF CHRIST in spiritual experience and right relationship to God.
In 1 Corinthians 15 we find Paul speaking on the matter of burial and resurrection. In verse 44 he writes, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body.” Verse 46, “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.” When a sinner is converted to Christ he receives a position in the Son of God, which was pre-determined by the Father. This position in Christ constitutes the sinner’s spiritual history which includes his having died, having been buried, and having been resurrected. All that happened to the Lord Jesus Christ in His redemptive work also happened to the redeemed sinner who is now IN HIM. His true spiritual experience in Christ began with death and burial. When anything is dead, for certain the life has gone out of it. Thus we see that the believer has LIFE OUT OF DEATH — resurrection life, indestructible, uncreated, eternal. The Christian must learn to live in Romans 6:1 1 where we are instructed to “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In the mind of God there was not to be the coexistence of two natures in the child of God after conversion. This is THE TRUTH, but it ever remains the way of faith, and therefore will always be a fight. (1 Timothy 6:12)
Since man remains an earthly creature even after conversion, his natural existence has been programmed to function by the use of his five senses and not by the Word of God. Therefore, his normal tendency is to always react in response to his earthly reasoning. Of course, after salvation the new life will strive to counter the expression of the old life-style.
It will tend to build up resistance to the manifestation of the carnal nature. This is all a part of the lifelong process of sanctification.
It is true that when one is genuinely born again, and has been positioned by the Father in Christ he will never be more perfect. God’s grace, by the redemption of Christ, makes the repentant sinner instantly perfect (in Christ) before Him. An apple on the tree in early spring is a perfect specimen, but it has months of growth ahead in which it will develop, mature and ripen. So it is with the new born believer. He has coming years to grow in grace; to mature in the divine qualities of the Jesus Christ life; to develop in love, compassion, forgiveness, and holiness. He yet will have to experience the blessing and power of his position in Christ so that his faith will become deeply rooted in truth — in God’s Word, God’s Spirit and God’s Son.
In Deuteronomy 6:23 Moses articulates a vital divine principle. He tells Israel that God brought them OUT of Egypt for the purpose of bringing them IN TO the land which He gave to their fathers. Then in 7:22 he advises them of another sacred principle in the working of God. Moses tells them that for reasons determined by the Almighty their possession of the land will be accomplished “by little and little”. God brings unbelievers, through the redemption in Christ, OUT of life in the natural realm in order to bring them INTO life in the spiritual realm. Only in this place of spiritual existence will there ever be the reality of a true love relationship with God. He brought us OUT that He may bring us IN; and it is experientially correct to understand that He brings us in “by little and little”. In God’s patient processing machine “by little and little” we learn to die to our natural reactions and live to spiritual action by obedience to God and His Word. It is the manifestation of sanctification in the faith life we have in Christ.
Remember that spiritual growth — development and Christian maturity — is not an improvement of the old natural life. Today we have outstanding men in the religious community who purport to be “Christian Psychologists” — sorry, but his is a misnomer. In the spiritual realm there can be no such professional. You see, psychology can only improve the natural man. He only can solve problems for people who fail or refuse to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord. In other words, he only has answers for man in the natural realm. In this realm the mind of man can be manipulated so as to improve the level of moral or ethical conduct; but psychology can never touch the spiritual man. The ministry of the Holy Spirit — through the ANOINTING, predicated on the Atoning work of Christ is the EXCLUSIVE SOURCE AND MEANS of the development, the discipline, the correcting, and the healing of the spiritual man within the believer. This is the man dwelling in the spiritual realm.
The natural realm is something of earth. It is of physical, and visible human existence. Its sphere of activity is within the limited thinking and reasoning of the Adamic mind. Sentient experience is the normal function of life in this realm. Some religions deny the existence of such reality when it appears to be in conflict with their erroneous concept of truth. This, of course, is all wrong and may be catalogued as “metaphysical heresy”.
The spiritual realm is something of heaven, of the unseen and immortal. As life in the natural realm lives from the soul faculties, even so life in the spiritual realm lives by the function of the spirit. Consequently, the affirmation of truth in this realm will often be contested by soul decisions; because the testimony of the natural realm is based solely on the human deduction of the five senses. The testimony of the spiritual realm is based on God and on His Word, “All things are possible to him that believeth.” When inner conflict is present, the person who is acting by faith (and is in the spiritual realm) will not deny “feeling” results experienced by the senses. However, he will reject the witness which they furnish. Whenever the senses give a testimony that is in conflict with scriptural truth (currently being believed by the Christian) that testimony must be refused and strongly rejected.
I knew a man several years ago who was miraculously healed of cancer but he had some lingering symptoms. He was healed AND HE KNEW IT. However, when he was asked as to how he felt he would give a positive confession to his healing. Then he would add — “but so and so” — by which he testified to his feeling (natural realm testimony). One day the Lord gave him a corrected witness. His future reply to the question as to how he felt was, “I FEEL very thankful.” This was a faith answer performed in the spiritual realm. Soon the lingering symptoms left him and he lived for seventeen more years as a preacher of the Gospel.
To deny actual feelings is sheer lying. Physical feelings which exist in the natural realm are very real. However, when one moves into the spiritual realm and begins to think and act by faith, based on God’s Word and promises, that person has the right to deny the TESTIMONY which the senses give (feelings), and confess a Witness to divine truth. To this kind of action performed by a “TRUSTER” in God, the imminent ministry of the Holy Spirit will be a blessed reinforcement.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and His work is perfect. His timing to His work is accurate. His love and motivation is without flaw. In every soul — spirit confrontation, as the believer learns to submit to Him, he will be led to victory and spiritual achievement in every faith contest. Submission to the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Jesus) is synonymous with embracing the Cross of Christ, and this is always the termination of inner co-existence. The spirit has triumphed over the flesh. Christ has won the day.
There is natural actuality and there is spiritual reality. Both may be truth in their separate respective spheres. However, spiritual truth operates in the realm of God where the supernatural occurs. This realm is transcendent over the natural. Wherever there is positive scriptural faith, one may expect God to do a work that will miraculously supersede truth in the natural realm. The witness of the senses will vanish as the power of God brings visible demonstration according to His gracious will.
Please, without belaboring the subject, let me once more emphasize the imperative need of “seeing” our position in Christ. This is God’s answer to the question of whether or not the old nature remains after conversion. REMEMBER! God has identified the believer with His Son as being IN Him, on the cross, in the grave, and on into resurrection and ascension. God has likewise given the believer the Holy Spirit in order to make the Living Christ an inner reality. God sees the saved person as not merely being in “unity” with Christ, but in FULL UNION with Him joined with Him together as one in spirit and life. This is the Christian’s relationship wherein “all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The spiritual realm truth declares “that we have been crucified with Him” (Romans 6:6). The “blood of Christ has cleansed us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
In the sight of God the saved person will never be more alive to God or more dead to sin. He will never be more clean, pure and holy than he is at the moment of his new birth. Salvation instantly provides this blessed “position” in Christ, which is absolutely perfect. However, in “experience” he will mature in knowledge and understanding throughout his lifetime. This is all something of truth in the spiritual realm and the child of God needs to believe and realize that it must be lived out by faith. It is God’s grace that has given us this marvelous position in His Son.
Beware of the “doldrums”— a time when the believer allows his faith to “sag” (backsliding). He will find the natural realm and the old life very much alive with its selfish and sinful bent. Even though by the faith of the believer the “old man” is dead, because of some sin some disobedience to God and His Word — he will find the old nature a real entity with which he must reckon.
It is here that he must “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:2). Life in the spiritual realm is to be lived out in terms of scriptural truth, in the midst of the sinful world, by the power of the Holy Spirit. The believer can enjoy conquest in the midst of “faith conflict” which Paul speaks of in Romans 7 :14-25. He also points out the “flesh vs. spirit” struggle in Galatians 5:17. To fail to recognize the presence of sin in the natural realm (1 John 1:8) will bring deception and disaster. We shall show directly that by obedience to God this sin factor is rendered static. Its active power is “paralyzed” and its effects utterly destroyed. The saved person’s faith — that is, his complete trust in Christ — becomes reality by his ongoing submission to His Lordship. Oswald Chambers once wrote, “The organ of spiritual knowledge is obedience, not intellect.” The believer in Christ is made free from the witness of actuality in the natural realm by his obedience to truth in the spiritual realm. It is based on this fact that I write this book.
Years ago Dr. A. B. Simpson, founder of The Christian & Missionary Alliance, was discussing spiritual terminology with his colleagues. They were all in deep and serious thought in order to come up with one Word that would apply to the very teaching we have been setting forth here. One suggested the word “suppression” — that by sheer moral strength the sinful and negative functions of the carnal nature may be held in check. Another offered the word “eradication” — believe the old nature is dead and gone and no longer a factor with which to be reckoned. A third said, “No, it is a matter of identifying in crucifixion, of maintaining the faith position of co-crucifixion with Christ.” This was the best so far. None of these words seemed to satisfy Dr. Simpson; then he introduced his word — “habitation”. This word removed the experience, and the resulting faith, from an “it”, replacing it with a “Him”. Individually or corporately, it is “Christ” IN you the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). It is Christ Himself personally present and active within the believer, who has come to trust the Lord and live daily by Him in the spiritual realm.
The death of the old man, with his carnal nature Within me, may be accepted by faith at an altar of prayer in a regular church service. I may be utterly sincere, but what takes place there must be only the beginning. The substance of the experience must be worked out in life daily. The reality is this — “I die daily” (I Cor. 15:31). I die to the natural and live to the spiritual (daily, not at some altar of prayer) by obedience to God and His Word in flesh and blood, everyday living.
Oswald Chambers put it this way; he said, “we sacrifice the natural to the spiritual by obedience”. This is it. There is no other way. There are things that we must receive by faith when in prayer — but the bottom line in spiritual experience is ongoing surrender to Christ; continuous submission to Him in all of life’s circumstances. There is no substitute for obedience — nothing can compensate for its absence. God has given us “The Spirit of Power” so that we can live the truth every day of our lives. Obedience to God equals the death of the sinful nature.
Christ is in me — in His Spirit and in His Word. He is my Lord, my Head, and my Covering. The government of my life is on His Shoulder (Isaiah 9:6). My life-long spiritual education consists in my learning to have Him reign-in-me over me-in-me in consequence of His great redemptive work. This is what constitutes the immediate Kingdom of God government. By the grace of God I supply the willing vessel. He becomes the Occupant.
May Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians be extended to every reader of this book . . . “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man, THAT CHRIST MAY DWELL IN YOUR HEARTS BY FAITH.”
INTRODUCTIONThe Kingdom of God is a major subject in the New Testament and a vital doctrine of the Christian religion. Books and sermons by the thousands have been devoted to this basic subject. What could be said about it that has not been said before? Could anything spoken about this age-old biblical matter actually be something new, something that has never before been heard? Yes! — perhaps. In my years of receiving teaching and ministry I do not recall having ever heard or read of anyone defining the Kingdom of God exactly as the Lord has given it to me. The Kingdom of God has a living relation to every other part of our glorious salvation. It is imperative that the child of God have a correct and complete understanding of the purpose and function of God’s government if he is to experience all the rich blessings provided in Jesus Christ. To properly see the place and power of the Kingdom of God, will accelerate spiritual growth and facilitate the believer’s holy walk. There is no substitute for knowing the Kingdom.
First, let me say that I am in no wise espousing the current heresy of “Kingdom now”. This error along with other seductive teachings have no part in what I shall be sharing here. However, The Kingdom of God does exist in an immediate invisible form with which I shall be dealing. But the Kingdom of God also looks forward to an existence in an ultimate form which will be material. It will have a physical, visible center in The New Jerusalem where Jesus Christ will have total dominion. His rule will be universal.
Now the present form of the Kingdom is spiritual. It is not possible for man to make contact with the Kingdom through his five senses (cf. Romans 14: 17). It is a “faith” Kingdom and consists of “faith” citizens living within its “faith” government. Communication between the subjects of the Kingdom and the King is effected by the Holy Spirit and is based totally on belief of the Word of God. Fellowship in the Kingdom relies on trust, that is, on confidence in the King’s authority and power to back it up. This is the faith of which We are speaking. Let’s briefly examine the Greek words used in connection with the Kingdom. ‘KINGDOM’ is the translation of the word ‘basileia’ (pronounced bas il’ i ah). It refers to a realm governed by a sovereign power (king dom — the king’s domain). A certain monarch reigns over a specific realm. He has dominion or power to rule. He dominates according to his decisions and choices, he governs. ‘King’ comes from the same root word. In the Greek it is ‘basileus’ (pronounced bas il yooce’). It refers to the person, the source or the foundation of power. ‘Reign’ is also from the same root word; it is basileuo (bas il yoo’ o). It simply means to rule as a monarch, as an emperor, or as a king. This tells us that the whole picture of this Kingdom is seen as God reigning over His creation as a sovereign ruler. It is where He brings human life on this planet into a right order of living, of thinking, and of acting as His infinite wisdom and knowledge make the determination. God knows not only what is best for man, but He knows what is right according to the loving will and holy standard of Him who created it all. When His kingship is submitted to by humankind there will be true peace and prosperity with plenteousness on earth. The millennium will be but a sample of what life will be like in eternity. The subject of the Kingdom of God is exhaustless. In this book we can only lift out certain meaningful truths that will edify the reader in matters of faith.
Much of the foundational material for this book was obtained by the author over past years. It came from certain doctrinal writing that captured his attention. The structure built on that foundation will, no doubt, be revolutionary to the average church member of today. All the author asks is to check it out with the whole Word of God. You will find this message firmly established on TRUTH.
— H. Jack Stanley
THE AIM OF THE GOSPEL
According to the Bible, the purpose of the Gospel message is to bring lost people into salvation through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The Son of God made atonement for the sinner’s sins in order to provide him with forgiveness. Receiving the Gospel message will bring the lost to life from otherwise death, and establish the believer in a relationship to God, as a child to its father. To act in positive faith on this “good news” (the Gospel) will save a man from eternal hell. It will likewise give him a certain assurance of heaven. These are just a ‘few of the provisions of Divine Grace which God has made available to man through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But beyond these glorious details there is a specific aim to which the Gospel is directed; there is a single goal to which it plans to bring every believer . . . and that is to make the Kingdom of God an immediate SPIRITUAL reality, which points to a future, eternal MATERIAL reality.
One and the Same KingdomI’d like to take a moment to clear up the matter concerning the words “heaven” and “God” as applied to the Kingdom. Matthew 4:17 reads “ . . . repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The same statement is thus recorded in Mark 1:15 “ . . . the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand.” In reference to the Kingdom of God, both words are used many times but the same kingdom is always in view.
When the word “God” is used — the King, the Sovereign Ruler of the Kingdom, is recognized. When “heaven” is used, the reader is directed, thought-wise, to the nature and character of the Kingdom, usually in contrast to an earthly kingdom.
Beware of the Counter KingdomThe chief aim of the Gospel is made clear as we zero in on the first recorded words of ministry by both John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 3:2 “Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 “Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The initial call of both these men was for their hearers to repent . . .REPENT, not necessarily of evil and wickedness per se, but of being under the wrong government, in the wrong kingdom. There is a counter kingdom in existence. It is the “kingdom of darkness”, “the kingdom of this world” (of whom Satan is the prince). One author has called it “the kingdom of self”. This kingdom remains at perpetual antagonism with the Kingdom of God. All mankind is born into this God-opposing kingdom. Humankind has no say in this matter. Due to the sin of Adam all men are born with an anti-Christ bent. They spontaneously flow in the culture and live by the philosophy of the evil world, Throughout history, this satanic kingdom has ruled over the affairs of men and nations. To leave it for the Kingdom of God demands a radical 180 degree turn, This is the reason for the words of Jesus found in Matthew 1 1:12, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” This is the repentance to which John and Jesus calls all people. This brings us to the question; what is the Kingdom of God? Where and how does it realistically govern? What all is involved?
The counter kingdom into which man is naturally born is essentially the kingdom of self. He enters human life a totally self-centered being. By his carnal mind he lives to control himself. He considers himself to be self-sufficient, self-dependent, and self-righteous. He naturally worships himself. To break from this ego-kingdom demands an awesome wrenching; repentance from this kingdom and into the Kingdom of God means a complete change of inner government that reaches to the uttermost depths of his being. In fact, apart from the working of the grace of God, no one could ever do it. This is the repentance to which God calls, and to which He can bring us. In View of this truth, the Kingdom of God in its immediate action may be described as follows — the Kingdom of God is THE REIGN OF CHRIST-IN-ME OVER ME-IN—ME, NOW.
The Two Inner Monarchs in ConflictWe know that salvation is the reality of Christ-in-me, but there is still a problem because me is still in me. Even though I am a Christian, me-in-me still wants to reign in me. Me-in-me even seeks to serve God according to my own human ideas and thoughts. Christ-in-me is so other-than me-in-me. He is so different, so heavenly, holy, and full of love. He is so pure and so compassionate. Me-in-me is just the opposite. I realize that it is impossible for Christ-in-me and me-in-me to reign over me at the same time. This is the “wretched” man of Romans 7:14-25.
There must come a time in Christian experience When the issue of “who governs my life” is settled. This Was the place where Paul arrived as we read in Romans 7:24:25, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
He goes on in Romans to further explain this statement. The flesh, the sinful self-life, can never serve God or His law. But Paul has seen that it is this part of himself that Christ took to death on His cross. Thus, liberating the apostle to set his mind on God and HIS law, as his ongoing way of life. The question of who Was running his life was finally put to rest. He saw that it was a matter of faith — faith that was secured in the total redemptive work of Christ.
The CROSS OF CHRIST,
God’s Solitary Means of Deliverance from the Counter KingdomIn Christ we not only have the gift of life — resurrection life — but we have the gift of death — death to me-in-me. Jesus Christ not only took my sins to the cross, but also took me to the cross where, in Him, my old man was crucified with Him (the me-in-me part), (cf. Romans 6:6, Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:3, etc.). However, in the actuality of life, me-in-me remains a relentless negative, anti-God activist. Nevertheless, in the reality of eternal truth, as I have just stated, Jesus Christ took me-in-me to the cross and there I was crucified in Him — NOW THE FACT OF MY DEATH EXPERIENCE IN HIM CAN AND MUST BE LIVED OUT BY FAITH. True Christianity has no part of psychology, visionism, role acting, or make-believe. There is no human method of seducing or overcoming the old man (me-in-me) that will ever work to God’s satisfaction. Only total faith in the complete redemptive work of Jesus Christ will release the Holy Spirit to bear witness and bring power into the life of the saint to the point where his submission to Christ is real, and the Kingdom of God has come.
In Isaiah 9:6 we read, “For unto us a child is born unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder . . .” The prophet is speaking of Jesus Christ, foretelling of the relationship between Him and His subjects. “Government” speaks of order, authority, discipline, and rule. It also includes punishment for those who violate its laws, and promotion where such is respected and obeyed. The person who heeds the call of God and repents of serving the wrong government, turning to the right one, will find Jesus waiting to receive him. Where full trust is given, the Lord will assume responsibility for the loving care of that individual in all his tomorrows. He is able to “shoulder” the life control of anyone who will believe the truth and shift his governmental allegiance. One who responds to the call of John and Jesus will find a new sign over the door of his being — “Under New Management”. Isaiah even goes on to write in verse 7, “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the Throne of David, and upon His Kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” By this I understand that the reign of Christ-in-me over me-in-me is a growing and developing experience. I am learning and maturing under His government in preparation for the eventual endlessness of it. The “zeal” — that is the purpose plus the power of Jehovah, the self-sufficient God — WILL PERFORM THIS. The Aim of the Gospel is definitely the Kingdom of God, and it is processed by the Holy Spirit, based on the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Kingdom of God Living . . .
Now Obtainable by Grace
The number of times that words are used, attest to the importance of their subject. For instance, we realize how imperative and how indispensable the church is to the purposes of God — yet in the Gospels the word “church” is only used three times while the word “kingdom” is used over a hundred times.
Then, however, beginning with the Book of Acts, there is a decrease in the use of the word “kingdom” and an increase in the use of the word “church”. We shall see that this fact also serves a vital purpose in the economy of God.
Our Lord’s first great discourse, called “The Sermon on the Mount”, is the charter of the Kingdom of God. Some teachers have erred in placing this great doctrinal message in future history concerning man’s realization of its outworking. They say that in the millennium men will be able to live out its holy precepts. Obviously such preachers have failed to see the extent of Christ’s redemptive work and power. They are blind to the truth that He has broken the authority of the kingdom of self. That he has released believers’ thralldom of the flesh so they can NOW live in the glorious standards set forth in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. With the advent of the Redeemer, grace has replaced law in the divine program — spirit has transcended soul Christ has replaced “me”. The legal system in religion was powerless to ever bring men under the reign of righteousness. But what the law failed to do, the grace of God in Christ is fully able to accomplish. In the Sermon on the Mount, heaven’s righteousness is set forth as the result of life being lived in the Kingdom of God NOW. At the very start of His message, the Lord articulates a most basic truth which is 100% contrary to the way natural man thinks and lives. He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The Bible states that one of the fundamental elements of the World is “the pride of life”. Of course, this pertains to the nature of mankind. The pressure of this constitutional drive will never abandon its purpose to prevent man from knowing what it is to be “poor in spirit”. His normal self-mechanism constantly struggles in an attempt to impress others with his own importance. In Adam, he is strong in his human spirit and everything in him hates the very thought of being humbled. “Self-esteem” is number one in today’s scramble for personality development, and is diametrically opposite to the teaching of Jesus. The “poor in spirit”— those who are bankrupt in that section of ego outreach where position and power matter — to such belong the kingdom of heaven. These are believers who have learned to receive the grace of God, and have humbled themselves before Him and before other people. Obviously they are those who have come to a child-like learning level of life. They have been disciplined by the Heavenly Father to be wholly submissive to the Lord. Jesus Christ. They have been awakened to realize their need to learn everything; willing to be reduced to zero and begin re-living life from there. Kingdom of God living consists in remaining ever teachable and, therefore, “poor in spirit” — humble before the Lord. Truly the kingdom belongs to such a believer.
Heaven’s righteousness is not equitable in anywise to earth’s levels as conceived in the mind of sinful man. In Matthew 5:10 we have the results of Kingdom righteousness when lived out by the saint, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Righteousness — the heaven kind — brings persecution. The world applauds the shrewd manipulator who uses legal but unrighteous means to obtain his goals. His can never be the kingdom of heaven, but always and only the kingdom of self. Demonstration of heaven’s standards of righteousness by the Christian will always convict the opposition. He will become guilty; in anger he will seek to vent his wrath by persecuting the cause of it.
In Matthew 5: 19, Jesus tells us that there are levels of recognition in the kingdom of heaven, which are predicated on the believer’s observance of God’s MORAL law. We know that no one is saved by trying to keep the law. However, when one is saved, God’s law is written in his heart. He will thus seek to obey the commandments, not in order to get saved, but because he is saved. Being a partaker of the divine nature transforms a person’s biological genes, giving an affinity for righteousness and for keeping the law. Doing and teaching God’s commandments is as normal to the Spirit-filled person as breathing is to his physical being. This is evidence of his existence within the Kingdom of God.
In verse 20 Jesus states that one must have “pharisee-exceeding-righteousness” in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. This is righteousness as God sees it and not as men see it. The righteousness of the pharisees sprang from a motivation which desired men to see it and, in recognition thereof, to praise and glorify the demonstrator. Desire for self-worship is the dynamic for this kind of righteousness, which is manufactured by the flesh. The righteousness that is pleasing to God is what Jesus speaks of in verse 16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Jesus Christ Himself is the source of this kind of righteousness. It is performed by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The motivation is the glory of God.
In the model prayer recorded in Matthew chapter 6, after the opening worship-address, we are directed to the first statement — petition — verse 10, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” Here we recognize how absolutely imperative it is to have God’s government solidly established in the life of the believer.
God in heaven has a will and plan for every one of His children, which must be communicated to earth and then lived out by flesh and blood in terms of human action. Because heaven and earth are so opposite, the coming of the Kingdom into the Christian is basic and fundamental. For the divine will to be actualized in the child of God the inner reign of Christ must be unquestioned and unchallenged. To utter these words to God, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done”, is to validate faith in prayer that we know He hears, for Jesus has told us to say these very words. To offer this prayer is to expect the answer. God has such beautiful ways of bringing the revelation of truth to deal with the rebel — me-in-me.
Matthew 6:33, in its all encompassing understanding, is the primary priority in all matters pertaining to life here and hereafter. We read, “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” The Kingdom of God does not come automatically; it comes by seeking it. The kingdom of the flesh (of self) is automatic. It is always present in human nature. As the believer seeks the Kingdom of God FIRST he will find himself in a raging battle. He will really be “fighting the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). When the saint sets out to seek first the Kingdom of God he has no idea of the hundreds of things that normally take priority in his ambitions, plans and habits. So the war is on — but God is hearing his prayer (verse 10). It is God’s desire to bring His child before His Throne in pristine honesty, and in this great faith struggle He has many ways of doing it. Yes, the seeker will want God’s will to be done, but first . . . ? In Luke 9:57-62 we have certain classes of those who say “Lord , suffer ME FIRST”, etc., when the Lord has already spoken and revealed the will of God.
The inner conflict is often bitter. However, as the Kingdom of God is faithfully sought, the believer will find God steadily bringing him on to the place where Christ-in-him will reign over himself-in-him to a greater and greater extent. Things in his life that were formerly number one will became secondary as the Kingdom takes priority. It sometimes may take months, or even years, for the Kingdom of God dominion to blossom into reality But God is faithful, and as surely as the seeker persists in following through, he will find the kingdom; then God will add the “things”.
The final verse that completes and concludes the central theme of this great message is found in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.” This is a reiteration of what we have said above, only with strong emphasis. It brings out the ancient truth concerning mankind, that it is one thing to verbally state a belief; but it is another thing to live it out. In Matthew 15:7-9 Jesus castigates the religious hypocrites of His day for doing this very thing. He quotes from Isaiah 29:13 where the prophet has taken the people to task, “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you saying, ‘This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men’.” God’s government is not established in man merely by what he says. God’s words must get into his blood stream, into his nervous system. His worship and confession of God must react in his shoe leather, into his sweat, into his heart of love, into his mind and hands. God’s word must be worked out in his daily life — then the Kingdom of God has come to him. Christ-in-him is reigning over himself-in-him. This is the AIM OF THE GOSPEL.
THE NEW BIRTH — A MUST
The Primary Purpose for . . .
In the first eight verses of John, chapter 3, Jesus speaks of people being “born again”. In speaking of religious people, these words have become popular both within and without the church community. In the evangelical culture “being born again” is understood to mean “converted”, “saved”, etc. But as we examine the statement of Jesus, we see that the “new birth” is specifically related to the Kingdom of God. He clearly explains that the “new birth” has no connection with physical birth or re-birth. It is totally a spiritual birth. It is an entirely new dimension of life coming into a human being; a species of life that was never in existence before. The Holy Spirit communicates this life to man; bringing him a consciousness of heaven, of eternity, of holiness, of divine love, etc., etc. In this new life, there is an apprehension of sin with powerful opposition against it. There is a sacred sensitiveness for righteousness and the desire to live it. In the “new birth” is rest of spirit and peace of soul which comes with the assurance of sins forgiven. The realm of God and all His domain suddenly come into view as a blessed reality when one is “born again”. It was there all the time as an invisible entity requiring the “new birth” with new life in order to be seen by the inner eye. John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
The Value of Spiritual VisionIt is imperative to understand that the issue involved in the new birth is the Kingdom of God. Being related to God, by life, is a tremendous thing, but according to these words of Jesus the primary purpose for this new life is to enable one to “see” the Kingdom of God. This new inner seeing instantly creates a comparison in my mind between this new life and my old life. I discern how totally my past was lived under the dominion of self. I determined my own courses of action; I ruled over my own environment; I was king in my own authority. When my rulership was challenged or rejected, I became angered and reacted in resentment. Then one day I was born again and saw the existence of a new King, a new Kingdom, a new Throne — planned by the Lord to replace the entire old order. As I grew in spiritual knowledge and experience, I learned that the Lord had not only planned this great replacement, but, by His redemptive work, He made every provision for its reality. I learned that the New King had slain the old one by the cross, and by His resurrection, had set up His new government in my life for the purpose of reigning in me, over me-in-me. This is all truth to be received by faith. The one who is born again can say aright, “The king is dead, long live THE King!”
Kingdom Citizenship . . .
Requires Living Action
According to verse 5, the new birth brings the new heavenly life with desire and power to submit to God’s government. Whenever the old life of self-government acts to resurrect itself, new life strength is also there to refuse and repudiate the rebel. Jesus is saying that it takes divine-life power to make this change.
The energy of the Holy Spirit is the requirement in order to process this dimension of commitment. Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” In the New Testament, “water” is used figuratively many times. It generally means “the action of life”. Water has the property to fit into and fill any size or shape container into which it is poured; yet it will always remain fluid. This water (the action of life in which the Holy nature is integrated) is man’s confession, repentance, and faith. These steps are not mere mental affirmations; they are dynamic actions — visible, physical, faith demonstrations. It is this divinely ordered combination of obedience-to-the-word action that results in the new birth. Until man performs these acts (the water), he cannot be born again (the Spirit); and until he is born again, he has no life power to ENTER the Kingdom of God. However, with the new birth secured in his experience, he can now enter into an on-going life of surrender so that Christ-in-him can reign over himself-in-him.
The good news of the gospel is contained in the truth of the Almighty Kingship of Christ. It is the knowledge that God has so wrought in Christ —— through death, burial, resurrection, and ascension — that a man on earth can have a new controller of his life NOW! Through His great atonement, Christ was transfigured from flesh to Spirit. It was in Spirit form that He arose from the dead, bringing His bloodless body with Him. It is in Spirit that He returned to earth on the day of Pentecost. It is in Spirit that He has been alive on this planet ever since. The sphere of His spiritual domain includes His rulership over me. In Romans 5: 17 we read, “For if by one man’s offense death reigned by One; much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”
Again, we must see by faith that God, through the redemptive work of Christ, has so dealt with man as to release him from flesh-control, and world-control to CHRIST-CONTROL. By the cross, human nature, which is selfish and sinful, has been X’d out as the source of life control.
The Steps to “Christ-Control”Here is the order:
125]1. The sinner meets God’s terms by faith and is born again.
125]2. He begins to live and operate in the spirit by faith; to receive that abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness — all from God.
125]3. He joyfully recognizes the love, power, and position in Christ; and by faith submits to Him as the Source and Center of his life.
125]4. He is learning to identify by faith with the vicarious sufferings of Christ.
125]5. His full commitment and total surrender to Christ becomes his daily walk.
125]6. Thus the Lord becomes responsible for him as he learns to reign in life NOW by the wisdom, love, and knowledge of God. Righteousness is the banner of his behavior. Compassion is the expression of his attitude. God’s glory is the motivation of his ambition.
The Results of Christ-ControlLet us look back for a moment to Matthew 5:20, where Jesus speaks of the necessity to obtain “pharisee-exceeding-righteousness” in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is nothing other than the life which God has put in us, through the new birth, submitting to the word (logos) which He has given.
To carefully note the word in John 3 concerning the new birth, we see that this vital experience does not put one INTO the Kingdom of God. It places him at the entrance with the AUTHORITY TO ENTER. “Pharisee-exceeding-righteousness” is the result of submission to Christ and to His Word. This submission is FAITH IN ACTION which gives admission to the Kingdom. Such faith in action will produce miracles. This will happen wherever the Kingdom has become a reality in the Body of Christ (the reign of Christ-in-me over me-in-me). Look to the scriptures where the teaching of the Kingdom of God and divine healing are linked together; ( 1) In Matthew 4:23, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”; (2) Matthew 9:35, “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”; (3) Matthew 10:7-8, “And as ye go, preach, saying, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND, Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”
Kingdom Commitment . . .
The End Time Message
The end of the age and the return of Christ is distinctly united to this aspect of the gospel. Evangelization, converting the heathen, bringing unbelievers to faith in Christ, establishing churches across the world, and bringing believers into the Spirit-filled life are all excellent and must be included in the gospel message.
However, in Matthew 24:14 Jesus states that, “ . . . this GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” The ministry of calling believers to this dimension of surrender — of God’s government actually set up in their he arts and lives (of Christ-in-them reigning over themselves-in-them) — this is the particular message that must be preached in all the world before the end comes. Listen to most preaching — It is a call for men to come to Christ for what He can do for them — for what they can get out of Him. But the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM is special — it calls BELIEVERS to come to Him for what they CAN MEAN TO HIM; for what they CAN BE TO HIM; for what they CAN GIVE HIM. It is of this quality material that Jesus can build His Church. In this dimension of commitment by the members of the church, we shall see God’s will brought to pass “in earth as it is in heaven”. Anything other than this, at best, is only a collection of saved people still missing the mark.
We are seeing that the purpose of the new birth is to establish the Kingdom of God, in human — spiritual beings, on earth. When the government of Christ has become a living reality in the lives of the saints, we have the formation of the Church. When the headship of Christ is uncontested in the members of a given segment of His Body, there will be true worship, honest fellowship, and miracle producing faith. Harmony, peace, and spiritual power will characterize that assembly . There will be a uniting of the members IN Him with purposes and goals that are common to all, and even the methods for obtaining such will be in a oneness capsule. Let me emphasize this once again God is primarily interested in the salvation of sinners so that they may become material for church building; the divine aim of salvation is not to ultimately get people into heaven when they die, but to get them into the Kingdom of Heaven NOW. The authority of heaven must be submitted to by earth men if the church truly belongs to Christ.
God’s Twofold Purpose for the ChurchThe Lord has a dual purpose for His Church as an earthly — spiritual organism:
125]1. To be His Body. A vital functioning vessel through which He can manifest His life and express His disposition. His desire always is to bring pleasure to His Father by showing to the world what heaven’s life is like.
125]2. That the Lord may have a body to deal with the enemy and his works. Jesus Christ’s redemptive work is established. It has been done once for all and forever, and can never be undone. But now the benefits of this work must become reality in everyday living. How? By the church enforcing redemptive truth as it encounters the opposition in fighting “the fight of faith” to win! (1 Timothy 6:12). Such victory is only possible in consequence of the new birth and the required commitment to enter the Kingdom of God.According to 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 we understand that this warfare is spiritual; that the enemy is a spiritual foe. Me-in-me is an anti-christ. Therefore it is absolutely imperative that Christ-in-me (through the new birth) communicate spiritual authority as the weapon of conquest. In this flow of His power, I can, by faith, embrace redemptive truth (my death in Him on the cross), and experience triumphant submission to Him.
The church, as we see it today, is not even a close facsimile of the original. Ecclesiastical leaders assume and convey authority for which there is no scriptural basis. Spiritual authority cannot be delegated by man — church authority, yes; but spiritual authority, no! There is no such thing in the Bible as “constituted spiritual authority”.
In Luke 19:12-25 we have the parable of the pounds. The nobleman had given a certain amount of money to his three servants with orders to “occupy till I come” (return). The word “occupy” means to be industrious, to be enterprising, to get a return on money. The first two servants obeyed his instructions and brought forth an increase. The third servant failed to obey. He did not manifest submission to his master; he remained in the “kingdom of self”. Notice the words of the nobleman as he addressed the first successful servant, “And he said unto him, ‘Well done, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in very little HAVE THOU AUTHORITY OVER 10 CITIES’.” Spiritual authority comes only one way — by submission to spiritual authority. This means obedience to God and to His Word when everything in me is intellectually and physically opposed to it. Nevertheless, I believe that spiritual authority is always within reach of faith, even as God is always within reach. When His terms are met by obedience, I will experience Christ-in-me reigning over me-in-me and I will find that I have spiritual authority. The Holy Spirit, Who knows all, is immediately present to minister the power and reality of this sacred authority.
Thus we see that the Kingdom of God is not only a matter of something relating to the future — to prophecy connected with the coming of Christ — but it is also an immediate reality where people function together under the Government of God; where there is divine order under the Headship of Christ. The church does not operate as a “chain-of-command”, but as a “flow-of-love” in God and under God.
The Kingdom of God is literally the kingdom of love because GOD IS LOVE and His children have a living mandate to “love one another”. In Judges 21:25 we have the scripture that tells of a religious system that is totally unethical in relation to the Kingdom of God. It says, “In those days there was no king (authority headship) in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
All sin stems from non-acceptance of God’s government. The New Testament message is eternal truth proclaimed to rebels, to rejectors of God and of His dominion. It is the natural self-god attitude and feeling in the normal human being that must be repented of in order for man to enter and to live within the Kingdom of God. He must be born again!
The Fundamental Kingdom StatuteIf there is one great overriding law in the Kingdom of God governing human relationships, it would be the “law of love-one-another”. This is the keystone of the Kingdom. It is the identifying expression of the Kingdom’s function. Love-one-another is the manifestation of the character of the Kingdom and the substance of its real existence. The visibility of this love demonstration is evidence that the Kingdom of God has come into a human heart.
Some of the last words which Jesus spoke in His passover chamber discourse, concerning lateral relatedness, are found in John 13:34,35, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one for another.” This statement of Jesus is not simply a good suggestion, a bright idea, or an ethical guideline for living. This is a command of Jesus Christ, and not something to be considered objectively. It goes way beyond a mere kind thought or good feeling toward another. Some years ago, I read of this description of love “Love is always acting in the best interests of the other person at any cost to yourself”. This is exactly how God loves and it is how Christ will love through you — using your physical members providing He is uninhibited by you-in-you. This is the reason for the need of spiritual authority in the believer — so he can love this way. Divine authority is not given so that I can play God and dominate other lives.
It is given so that I can control myself; so that God will be God TO ME in order that I may abide in love submission to Him. Wherever this is true of me, and likewise true of other believers gathered together with me, we will have the real manifestation of the Kingdom of God. The Body, functioning together under the Government of God, is the Church, in divine order, with spiritual authority. Salvation, deliverance, healing, the manifestation of spiritual gifts, true worship of God, spiritual growth, and many other blessings may be expected and received in the ministry of such an assembly.
The Importance of ReiterationGod’s command, for believers to function toward one another in love and righteousness, is issued some 60 times in the New Testament. However, the specific words “love one another” are John’s particular way of making the direct statement. Let’s look at an additional quote in chapter 15, verses 12 and 17, where the Lord reiterated this command emphatically. “This is My commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you” (verse 12). Jesus insists that those who follow Him, continuously act in the best interests of one another at any cost to themselves. This is the quality of love the Lord is talking about. This is exactly what His love did for us. Redemption is His love on exhibition. Christ leaves no doubt in the mind of anyone concerning the level of life to which He longs to bring His followers. In fact, He wraps lateral relatedness and vertical relatedness in exactly the same package. To love one another even as He loved us, is a divine order that cannot be viewed objectively. It is the vital command of our Holy God and the believer is accountable for producing a positive response. Obedience to this command constitutes a way of life that must become the on-going demonstration of the believer’s faith.
Once more in the 17th verse Jesus says, “These things I command you, that ye love one another.” Some of “these things” to which He refers here in verse 1 7 are found in verses 16 and 18. He speaks of bringing forth “fruit” which should remain. Obviously, this fruit is the result of loving one another. Where love action is taken, there will always be something of heaven and holiness; something of divine beauty WHICH WILL REMAIN. This “loving one another” is like a sacred perfume. It is like a Godly fragrance which penetrates and permeates any environment where it is displayed. Its blessed influence lingers — sometimes for years. More often than not, it is never forgotten. Where this kind of love goes into action, there is a permanent impression that remains.
In this verse, Jesus also directs His disciples to pray as part of “these things”. Here, most certainly, the prayer would be for God’s help and God’s will to be done; because it must be recognized that there are traits of character, and aspects of personality, that tend to make some people obnoxious. There is no natural attraction, no personal affinity toward such a one. Sometimes this type of person is offensive, repulsive, and we want no part of him; we seek to stay as far away as possible. Still that one is a brother or sister in the Lord. This is exactly the point where we need to pray in Jesus’ Name for the power of God to do whatever is required so that we can truly love one another. Our Lord has promised that if we pray, “He will give it you”. The command of Jesus must be carried out toward every other Christian — regardless.
Verse 18 is a part of “these things” — “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. ” Here we have a sharp contrast between the church and the world with regard to feeling and attitude.
Remember that every believer was once in the world and therefore a part of it. Before conversion, we all demonstrated hate, envy, bitterness, resentment, and a desire for revenge whenever we were hurt. There were people whom we despised. It was our delight to “badmouth” them, to invoke insult, and to do them damage whenever possible. This was our way of life when we came to Jesus and received Him as our Savior and Lord. However, much of the old life, with its selfish and sinful bent, was immediately cleansed away when we were born again. Absolutely no doubt — there is a great change when salvation comes to the heart. Nevertheless, we must recognize that former traits of negative personality tend to hang on, and sometimes are even brought over into our new life in Christ. These can become handles by which the devil can limit and manipulate us. Yielding to the temptations which come from this satanic activity constitute the works of the flesh, and must be dealt with by faith in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.
Carnal reactions have no place whatever in the Kingdom of God. It is imperative that the Christian constantly take his “death position” by faith in Christ, and learn to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts (Gal. 5:25). The saint can repudiate and refuse hate as a non-existent entity, for in truth, it is dead — it died in the “old man’s” death in Christ. Hate has been replaced by love. Since the world hates the believer as it hated Christ — his reaction must characterize the attitude of the child of God. In the Kingdom of God, love is returned for hate; the other cheek is presented for the “hit”.
The Kingdom of Love - SelahIn 1 John 4, verses 8 and 16, we are told that “God is Love”. Since the heavenly kingdom is THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and as God is Love, we can accurately label this kingdom as THE KINGDOM OF LOVE. Remember, the keystone of this Kingdom is “love-one-another”.
Members of this Kingdom are persons who commit themselves to live together with others under the single headship of Jesus Christ. He lives in each one and reigns over themselves-in-them. There is no friction in such an assembly; no hostility, only harmony and mutual coordination of function. Such a corporate group exists as the Church. The divine mandate “love one another” is their standard of lateral relatedness. Their existence consists of “acting in the best interests of each other at any cost to themselves.” This is not idealistic nor is it a religious fantasy. It is God’s normal standard for lateral relationships in the New Testament Church for all time. Read again the prayer of Jesus in John 17 as He labored before God on behalf of the Church which He was to build. Six times in his small epistles John reminds his readers, with powerful admonition, regarding this holy way of life. Any lesser standard for the faith, and conduct of the believer, remains unacceptable to God and deficient in faith.
John’s Persistent EmphasisIn his first epistle, John’s use of this phrase, “love one another” is found first in chapter 3, verse 11, “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that We should love one another.” He is reminding them of those precious words of Jesus, of which we have already spoken. It is now 70 years after our Lord gave this commandment and there is not the slightest diminution. Today, after 2000 years, it still remains exactly the same. “Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, and today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8). His word is even as Himself eternal and unchanging. The command to “love one another” is obligatory and believers must be committed to its obedience.
By the life which God has given us in the new birth, this dimension of submissive action can be realized. The Kingdom of God has come and the demonstration of its presence is exhibited by the outworking of this “faith which worketh by love”. (Gal. 5:6).
The second time John repeats these words is also in chapter 3, verse 23, “And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another as He gave commandment.” This time it is with strong emphasis that John reminds his readers of the commandment of the Lord. There is a force here that leaves no doubt as to the imperative importance of obeying this sacred mandate. He unites our basic faith for salvation with the divine order to love one another. He puts forgiveness and eternal life in the same package of faith with the action of this love. In fact, verse 22 gives the reason for answered prayer, which is our obedience to God’s commandments; then back to verse 23 again which gives the two essential commandments to be explicitly obeyed — belief in the Name of Jesus Christ and love for one another.
John next uses this phrase in chapter 4, verse 7, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” John is saying that God Himself is the source and substance of this love. By the new birth a sinner becomes a saint . . . the saint then becomes a container of the Person of this source and substance, by which also he is brought into the glorious knowledge of God. God’s gift of salvation is not a “hand me” thing detached from Him. It is God dispensing Himself in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. The gift of God is God Himself. “He that hath the Son hath life.” (1 John 5:12)
Only God can truly and constantly love in this wonderful way. Now that He has come into me He can so love in me, and through me, PROVIDED I AM SECURED IN HIS KINGDOM . . . (Christ-in-me reigning over me-in-me).
Do you see that lateral relatedness as the Bible commands is wholly dependent on Kingdom of God reality in the lives of God’s children? That reality comes from true faith in Jesus Christ and His great redemptive work. John says (verse 7), “Beloved, let us . . .” etc. In other words, loving-one-another is NOT automatic. It does not come without spiritual effort. Positive faith is demanded on the part of the believer. That faith must be directed by “the mind of Christ” to produce an attitude of compassion and care that reaches into the sanctified emotions, thus igniting the volition to demonstrate the action of love. This is how God has provided for Himself within the Christian to produce love with its blessed work. God is so filled with mercy, kindness, and tender care — divine emotions and feelings within Deity Himself — that results in the outworking of the plan of salvation.
1 John 4:11 beautifully follows the above truth. He Writes, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” If God, the author of life, loved us to the point of giving His Only Begotten Son to purchase our salvation, “we ought also to love one another”. What a great and joyous privilege to so exercise our faith, that is, to act toward others in the framework of this holy love. This is life’s highest level by which we can demonstrate submission to our Lord and Head. We “love one another” — a divine performance in miniature, repeating what God has done in the immensity of His magnitude, “God so loved us.”
Verse 12 of this chapter further enlarges on this same theme, “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us”. This tells us that there is no such thing as the visible appearance of God in all of His universal work.
His character, nature and virtues are, of course, seen in His Son, and beyond Him they may only be witnessed through His living creation. God longs to be seen this way, and when the lateral relatedness of believers is in accordance with His own life passion (loving one another) — HE WILL BE SEEN. His holiness and beauty will be made manifest. His kindness and compassion will be on exhibition. His firm hatred of sin, while at the same time showing mercy toward the sinner, will be demonstrated. Yes, God will be seen in the lives, the attitudes, and the actions of His saints who love one another.
The sixth and final time John uses these words is found in his second epistle, verse 5, “And now I beseech thee, Lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that ye love one another.” John had been living in Ephesus since his release from Patmos. The great church there, which began under the ministry of Paul some 50 years before, apparently needed this powerful reminder of the chief commandment of Jesus to His saints. John tells them again and again to “love one another” — no change, no letting down, no letting up, press this vital issue, adhere to this primary directive. From this emphasis of John we must believe that God never intended this commandment to be anything other than fundamental — basic. In verse 6 of this epistle, John gives an abridged description of this love, “and this is love, that we walk after His commandments.” The word “walk” is from an old English idiom meaning behavior or conduct. In other words, love (acting in the best interests of the other person as per the instructions of the word of God) is to be the normal day-by-day way of life for the saint.
Friction in the Church . . .
Precludes the Kingdom
In view of carnal reaction to unpleasant circumstances, often demonstrated by “church members”, we are left wondering how many professed believers really know the Lord and are living in the Kingdom of God? Nine times in the writings of John alone Christians are commanded to love one another. How many “tellings” does it take to produce obedience? Church splits are almost a common thing today. Sometimes they are justified, but more often than not they are the result of those seeking to dominate one another rather ’ than to “love one another”. Fights between believers and factions develop many times due to a difference of opinion over some trivial detail. Heated arguments occur in the church because of opposing doctrinal viewpoints regarding methods of baptism and interpretation of scripture. There are so many occasions when professors of Christ fail to obey His fundamental command, and thereby exclude themselves from the Kingdom of God. Reader, if this has been a problem to you, repentance is your only saving action. Seek God today for His working in your life, to bring you into divine order — where you will begin and never cease loving one another.
The Kingdom Identity . . .
Loving One Another
The success of the church in doing the will of God is totally dependent on right lateral relationships — because where these relationships really exist, the Kingdom of God has come. God created man to be His representative in the universe to govern and wield authority and to have dominion.
However, this is only possible where the image of Christ is clearly visible in the lives of the saints. We see this in the revelation of God’s purpose for man as given in Romans 8:29, “For whom He did foreknow, He did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” God’s will is for man to have eternal-life-authority. That authority operates in the spiritual realm, enabling the saint to bring forth the fruit of TEMPERANCE (self-controlled by submission to Christ’s governing rule). Believers are to reign in life by One, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:7). No area of human activity can approximate the impact of Christian testimony on the world equal to the demonstration of loving one another in the Body of Christ.
WHO IS RUNNING YOUR LIFE?
Faith Action . . .
The Imperative for Kingdom LivingI must let God set up His government in me so that He can exercise His authority over me-in-me. This means that His kingdom has come, and it is for this purpose that His life has been given to me. My part in this heavenly operation is to fully embrace redemption by faith. If I fail to appropriate and experience the reality of my death in His death — then His life within me cannot function and all is in vain. The carnal “I” remains a rebel against His government. The strenuous demands of the Kingdom are exacting, intense and contrary to the flesh with its selfish orientation. This is why God’s gift of Christ has been given as a redeemer, not merely as a teacher or example. In Christ, God has placed His life in me for a twofold purpose. First: for the positive sake of the Kingdom — a holy inclination to do all of the will of God. Second: for the negative sake of the kingdom of self, which is the death of the source from which all rebellion springs. Jesus Christ is God’s gift of LIFE OUT OF DEATH — life that can and will satisfy every demand of the Kingdom of God, having been freed from the grip of king ego.
Duality of Inner Throne-ship . . .
Until carnal flesh has been taken through the crucifying power of the cross, the problems of church organization and business are endless.
The variations of Adamic manifestations cover an almost exhaustless range. Bad tempers result in fightings and conflicts; sex lust will release inordinate activity of all kinds; greed, self-pity, and jealousy will produce gross competition; successful ministry will strain to maintain its reputation; ministry failure will resort to pride reaction. We could go on and on. What is the answer? One may repent over and over again of “old man” activity, and weep over these anti-kingdom evidences. He may fast and pray into the wee small hours of the night for victory. But let us ask a simple question — WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THE LIFE? Who really occupies the inner throne? Who is really Lord? — Jesus or self? Of course, I want God to ever remain on His throne in heaven; but I, in the natural, want to stay on the throne of my own heart. You see, the real problem is not the matter of committing sin, but the matter of WHO IS RUNNING MY LIFE! What man does not naturally desire to retain charge of his own life? He therefore asks God to help him with sin problems. However, God will never help the carnal you-in-you to improve one bit because that is the part of you that He slew in Christ. Life in the Kingdom of God will never exist due to the improvement of the carnal “me”. Believers come into Kingdom-of-God living one way through faith in the redemption of Christ, in consequence of which there can be a total shift of the inner government from self to Christ. Only then will the right Lord be on the throne within, as well as King on the throne above. This is the harmony of thrones and the glory of life in the Spirit.
King Peter DethronedIn Revelation 17:14 John writes of the Lamb (Jesus Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God) as being Lord of lords and King of kings. But until the Lamb is King Jesus OVER king Jack, I remain unrectified and out of God’s order.
In John 21:18 Jesus prophesies concerning the future for Peter. He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young, thou girdest thyself and walked wither thou wouldst; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands and another shall gird thee, and carry thee wither thou wouldst not.” Jesus is saying that up to the present time it was king Peter who determined his own life and way. However, there is coming a time when the apostle will make a total surrender (stretch forth thy hands) and Another will ascend the throne of his heart (Jesus) and lead Peter in ways and to places where he never would have gone. King Jesus in Peter would become the ruler over Peter in Peter. Such is Kingdom-of-God-living and it is God’s “perfect” will for all His children. Anything less than this represents a rupture in the divine relationship provided by Christ.
Jesus presents this same thought in John 5:25, “Verily, verily I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” “The dead” about whom Jesus is speaking, is the same classification of believers that Paul speaks of in Colossians 3:3, “For ye are dead (lit. for ye have died), and your life is hid with Christ in God.” These are those who have seen the truth of Galatians 2:20 (I am crucified with Christ, etc.) and have entered by faith into the co-crucified position with Christ. Self, having died in the death of Christ, by faith is no longer present within. The vacant throne is immediately occupied by Christ. Now that person hears the voice of the Son of God and, being free to obey that voice, he lives. Jesus Christ is in control of the life. He is running it. This is Kingdom of God living in victorious experience.
The Value of Submission to The KingAs we read the history of ancient Israel in the Old Testament, it is most interesting to see God’s reaction to their obedience or disobedience to Him. When God had His right and proper place over the nation, they were prosperous and always victorious over their enemies. But when they rebelled against His authority, and refused to let Him have dominion, they went down in defeat and their enemies reduced them to poverty and shame. God’s blessing or judgement upon Israel is consistent with the principle governing the Kingdom of God. Submission to Him or rebellion against Him produces His automatic reaction. The parable of the pounds tells us clearly that because we know the kind of a person God is, we are accountable to Him for the proper handling of His property (His creation). This means that submission to His dominion and authority is always the right course of action regardless of circumstances. Romans 14:17 seems to blend with this order — we read, “For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” A former great Christian scholar, by the name of Vincent, gave his understanding of this verse. He said, “Righteousness is, in it’s practical ethical sense, as shown in moral rectitude toward men. Peace is not peace with God, but mutual concord among Christians. Joy is common joy arising out of the prevalence of rectitude and concord in the church.” “In the Holy Ghost” means that it is by Him that these beautiful qualities are produced in the lives of the church members. Such expression is evidence of the existence of the Kingdom of God.
The Blessed “Kingdom of Peace”The N.I.V. translates this verse as, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (verse 17),
“Because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God, and approved by men” (verse 18), “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification” (verse 19). The word “serve” in verse 18 comes from the Greek “doulos” which means “slave” and interprets perfectly into our concept of one who is truly in the Kingdom of God. Christ-in-him is reigning over himself-in-him. To eat and drink is normal and necessary for life, but when such is done in any way to the detriment of others, it becomes anti-kingdom activity. The emphasis on “peace” in verse 19 leads us to understand that without it there could be no reality to either righteousness or joy. This Holy Spirit peace is priceless. It is the monitor of the quickened conscience by which the believer is led day by day in the precious will of God. The saint refuses to be involved in factions. He stays clear of carnal controversy. He disavows any kind of fellowship with wrath, strife and ego-anger. He is to “make every effort to do what leads to peace” — this includes the actions of mercy, compassion, confession, forgiveness, etc., etc.
The Christian who practices “seeking first the Kingdom of God” will experience the blessedness of divine guidance. This is imperative for Kingdom-of-God-living. In Romans 8:6 we are given the divine frame into which we bring our thinking. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (N.A.S.) . When the mind is set on the flesh and in control of the bodily function, it is certainly not in submission to Christ. The result of this inner procedure creates a sense of heaviness, darkness, uncertainty and insecurity — it is death. When the mind is set on the Spirit there will be an inner effervescence, a joyous buoyancy, a feeling of certainty and security. This holy serenity will exist in peace, the peace of God.
One will be hearing and heeding what is being communicated from heaven. The believer will know that he is moving in the will of God. He will be exhibiting Kingdom-of-God-action in the spirit of perfect peace.
The Emotional Reward for . . .
There are three other words which come from this same Greek root (peace). These words are translated in the King James version as follows:
125]1. In Acts 7:26 Stephen is recounting the time that the two Hebrew children were striving against each other when Moses appeared on the scene and sought to “set them at one again”. That is reality of Kingdom-of-God-peace. The fight is over, the sides are reconciled. Peace has replaced strife; love has won over hate. There is harmony, unity, oneness, and blessing.
125]2. After Paul had been converted and his persecution of the churches had ended, we read, “Then had all the churches rest throughout all Judea.” Turbulence, upheaval, and fear had characterized the condition of the churches. Now however, all had changed, and in place of the devastating disturbances, they had rest. This same thing can be said concerning the feeling and attitude of the person who is in the Holy Spirit and enjoying life in the Kingdom of God.
125]3. In Acts 24:2 we have a man named Tertullus testifying against Paul who was on trial. This man was flattering Annas, the judge, and high priest. He said, “Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness. . .” Once I heard a prominent speaker refer to the world as “the dominion of sin”. How correct this statement was — and is today. Everywhere there is confusion and noise. So much seems intended to destroy peace. The ads on TV come at you with raucous, screaming demands to “be there” — “buy their product”. Thank the Lord for Kingdom-of-God-peace — “great quietness.
It is true that there may be a large amount of “unquietness” in the believer during his times of struggle to ENTER THE KINGDOM; but once within, peace and quiet resignation to the Lordship of Jesus will be his on-going experience. In Matthew 11:12 we read, “ . . . the Kingdom suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. “ When faith is pressing through, seeking to bring the full redemptive work of Jesus to deal with the self-life, there is often a violent struggle. The “old man” is loathe to give up the throne; his desire to run the life remains strong until he is broken. But once the issue is firmly and finally settled, the violence is over and peace has come. Jesus Christ is running my life now, henceforth, and forever. The believer living in this relationship has arrived at this equation; “at one + rest + great quietness = PEACE — KINGDOM-OF-GOD-PEACE.”
Continued in "Thy Kingdom Come...." Part 2