The Gospel of the Kingdom

I am starting a 7 week Summer Bible Study on Wednesday nights called, Jesus and the In-Breaking Kingdom of God.  I have come to believe that the gospel that we have been preaching in much of the Western Church is too small. Many people believe that the gospel is just the good news of the forgiveness of sins. They are to turn from their sins, ask for forgiveness, and believe that their sins are forgiven. Then, they are to stop sinning, or at least try real hard. But, that is a gospel that is all about sin. Sure, sin is what keeps us from God and solving our sin problem is essential to having a relationship with God and to having eternal life. But, somehow I don’t think that Jesus saved us just so we could continue a life long focus on sin. Jesus saved us so that we would be a people unto Himself. He saved us so that we could participate in His Kingdom. The gospel of the Kingdom is much bigger than just having our sins forgiven. Through the gospel of the Kingdom, we participate in the reign and rule of God. We live our lives for Him. We love others sacrificially. We put the needs of others above our own. We humble ourselves. We give up all to pursue the Kingdom of God. It has direct results on how we live our lives now. The Gospel of the Kingdom is more than just forgiveness of sins, although that message is central. It affects our whole life and the lives of others, both near and far.

I am beginning to believe that the some of the weaknesses in our churches may stem from a lack of preaching and living out the Gospel of the Kingdom. Instead, we are often preaching and living an individualistic substitute that makes the work of God in space-time all about us, when in reality, it is all about Him and His glory. God wants to catch us up in what He is doing because He loves us and He wants us to co-labor with Him.

Any thoughts on what the Kingdom of God is and how it might make a difference that we believe the full-orbed Gospel of the Kingdom instead of just the message of forgiveness?

10 Responses to The Gospel of the Kingdom

  1. I did a study several years ago of every time the gospel is proclaimed in Acts. Its interesting. The death of Jesus is mentioned, but the emphasis is always on the resurrection of Christ.
    Jesus died for our sins (and this sinner thanks God for that) but he rose from the dead as Lord of all. We are buried with Christ by baptism into death and raised to walk a new life in him.
    As you said, we are more focused on the death of Christ for our sins than the new life God wants to infuse in each of us, a kingdom-focused life.
    The death Christ died was designed to lead us to new lives of spiritual import and impact.

  2. Alan: I believe it would change our lives radically. We should be to the point in most of our walks where we want more of God Himself. More of Him. I have gotten to this point the last month. I soak deeply into the Bible, studying deeply because I want so much more of Him in my life. I want Him to permeate every area of me.

  3. Alan,
    I think you identified two masts which we modern western Christians hang our sails: sin focused and self absorption. The one I think you succinctly articulated, namely the focus on forgiveness and sin as opposed to the forgiveness and life. The other one you mentioned in passing is to me one of the more subtle and possible insidious errors we gladly embrace today, self centeredness. The reason I think this is of great danger is that in our cultural independence and expressiveness, and even more so with the advent of technological venues (blogging and iPods to name a few) we have made the glory of God an individual pursuit displayed in people and not community.
    You state: “we are often preaching and living an individualistic substitute that makes the work of God in space-time all about us, when in reality, it is all about Him and His glory”
    While you we referring to the sin focus in this section, I noticed the self focus raise its ugly head, it goes something like this:
    I am fully alive in the resurrection, I am consumed by my God, I am so full of Him I want to explode, and I don’t understand why you don’t want this fullness too.
    While this is understandably and experientially satisfying, it falls short of the Kingdom we are to pursue. I think you catch the idea in the next line where you state:
    “God wants to catch us up in what He is doing because He loves us and He wants us to co-labor with Him.”
    Indeed I agree, but let us not fall into the trap of self-fulfillment by fantastic living, rather like Paul, fill up in ourselves the sufferings of Christ- namely whatever it takes to penetrate the Kingdom reign in our lives (collectively) and into the world. If we only fill up ourselves with God we may erroneously be blinded that we have made this too a self centered gospel. We can blindly make ourselves trophies of Grace put on display as opposed to tools of Grace put to work in the Hand of the maker.
    Chris Gilliam

  4. Good comments all.
    Dave…great thoughts. If Jesus only died then he is just one more dead Jew among thousands killed by the Romans. The disciples understood the resurrection as the inbreaking of the kingdom.
    This has been a subject that we have spent a lot of time on in the last 12 months. I think you are right about the kingdom. I think we see our salvation as a ticket to a heavenly all-about-me amusement park. Jesus calls us to be a part of the in-breaking kingdom. Salvation is a summons to serve the king.
    Here are some thoughts from my studies:
    We tend to see the kingdom as a place. Maybe we need to see it as a person (the King Jesus), a power (power of God’s reign, the Holy Spirit) and a people (redemptive rule and reign over those who acknowledge his authority and walk in obedience). It is about present power and reigning as much (more?) as it is about a future reign and we need to understand the difference between the two.
    We need to understand the importance of the kingdom in Jesus teaching and in the Words of the NT (Matt 4:12, 17,23, Lk 4:42, Jn 3:3,Acts 1:3, 8:12, 19:8, 28:23, 28:30-31, Rom 14:17, 1 Cor 4:20, 15:24 Col 1:13, Heb 12:28). I think it was and is all about the King and the kingdom.
    God redeems us, so that He can reveal Himself to us, so that we can walk responsibly, so He may rule in our lives, so that we live redemptively. Notice the plural here. Look in scriptures and see how many times it says God is saving a people (Exod 19:4, Jer 31:31-33, Acts 15:12-14, 2 Cor 6:16, Titus 2:11-14, 1 Pet 2:9-10, Phil 2:12-13). We are saved individually, but we are not saved to be individuals.
    I have some good materials that I can share with you if you like. Send me an e-mail. Debbie is right, it may change you (it has me) radically.
    Keith Price

  5. Great comments, everyone. I am going to try and post on this over the summer as I continue to explore this topic. It seems that a good section of Biblical theology is missing if we ignore the implications of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
    I appreciate the feedback.

  6. Great post. I’ve noticed over the years how man-centered our presentation of the gospel is. We don’t pre-disciple people that life is about serving King and Kingdom. We pre-disciple people to believe that salvation is all about them….they respond….they pray….and their sins are forgiven. We present it like God exists to serve them….then we wonder why they don’t tithe, serve or live out missionally. I’m looking forward to seeing more comments and more posts.

  7. Fantastic post, Alan. This is something we spent a week on during my CDTS last year and I’ve continued to study into ever since. When we begin to see the reality of the two kingdoms – the world system versus Jesus’ Kingdom – we can begin to understand the spiritual battle and what our lives are to be about.

  8. This is a crucial subject for all of us. In Rev. 11:15 the seventh angle announces that the kingdom of this world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and he shall reign forever and ever. As has been said and resaid well, we focus on the individual while Jesus announces the Kingdom. It is within us as he said, but it is not just us! It is much more and we must find it if we are to proclaim it. The place to start is with the Greatest Commandment. Jesus said it was to fully love God but refused to stop there by announcing the second- which is like it- that we are to love each other. We live in an age of broken communities. Many of you reading this do not not know your neighbors much less love them. I am not casting stones at you- it is the nature of the broken society we have become. The true Gospel will redeem our souls and more than that it will redeem our communities. Wholeness begins with forgiven sin, but it is only complete when we live in loving relationships with God AND MAN. This is what His Kingdom is and is becoming.