What follows is a special 3 part series by my good friend Dan Martin. He is one of the original 3 bloggers that I got close to when no one else ever read this blog Not only do we have some roots, but we challenge each other regularly and share many views on theology. You really should read these posts and then read his blog like crazy!
“Everybody knows” that Christians claim that Jesus is our King. The claim is celebrated in our worship and proclaimed in our platitudes. But have you thought about what this means? If Jesus is, in fact, king of anything or anyone at all, what effect does (or should) his kingship have on us?
Strange as it may sound, I’m going to invite you look to earthly nations and kingdoms for some help on the concept. I’m doing this, not because these nations have any similarity to the Kingdom of Christ (heaven knows), but rather because nations DO give us some helpful clues on what concepts like “sovereign,” “citizen,” and “nation” (or “kingdom”) actually mean. For though the kingdoms of this world acknowledge the wrong sovereign, they do know what a sovereign is, and what a citizen’s role is vis-a-vis that sovereign. All analogies break down, and these will too, but before they do, I think we can glean some helpful insights.
Just to establish a little foundation, here, we start by acknowledging that Jesus Christ is, in fact, a king. He was prophesied as King of the Jews at his birth (Matt. 2:2), alluded to himself as the ultimate king under the Father (Matt 25:34), was acclaimed king by the people of Jerusalem (Luke 19:38), and he acknowledged the title before Herod (Matt. 27:11) (note that each of these passages have their parallels in the other synoptic gospels). He is finally acknowledged as King of Kings and Lord of Lords in Rev. 17:14 and Rev. 19:6.
Perhaps more importantly, Jesus spent a huge amount of his ministry on earth teaching about the “kingdom of heaven.” A search in my electronic ESV shows 118 occurrences of the English word “kingdom” in the gospels alone, and a quick glance down through them shows that the vast majority are referring in some form to the “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven.” Whether Jesus was referring to himself or his Father as the sovereign (and there are plenty of each), his teaching was rich with the term.
So what’s a kingdom? The simplest possible definition I can propose, and one that certainly fits the biblical paradigm, is that a kingdom is a group of subjects or citizens who, along with their property, goods, and territory, are subject to a sovereign. This is a concept we in the democratic West, don’t entirely comprehend. We live in a nation where, at least in theory and doctrine, it is the collected citizens who are sovereign.
Our American Declaration of Independence teaches us that governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” that is, we ourselves grant the government its power (and can revoke it if we choose). To a certain extent, we hold that each individual is his own sovereign. It’s understandable, therefore, that we don’t fully grasp the notion that anyone else–even God–has in his very nature the right to command our submission. But he does. And when we acknowledge and submit to his sovereignty, it sets in motion a collection of realities that we need to confront far more directly than most of us have done. It is these realities to which I will turn in the next few posts.