The Church, the Churches and the Kingdom

About a year ago, I sensed the Lord challenging me to take another look at His Kingdom. Eager to see what other resources I could find, I searched our reasonably extensive home library of Christian books (14 shelves worth) and came up with precisely one title. I was shocked! The Kingdom of God was the focus of Jesus’ ministry, and we had one book on the subject? (I suspect we are fairly typical.)

So I set myself to study. Over the past 12 months I have read the entire New Testament noting every verse that could possibly have anything to do with the Kingdom (believe me, there are a lot!) I discovered that the Kingdom of God was the main thing that Jesus spoke about. When he healed the sick or cast out demons, He told people that the Kingdom had come near them. Many of His parables were about the Kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount was a description of the principles of the Kingdom. Following His resurrection and before His ascension, at a time when one assumes He covered the most important things the disciples needed to know, Jesus spent 40 days talking with them about the Kingdom. Paul had a similar emphasis in his life too. And I had just one book on the subject!

During this year I also took recommendations from others on books about the Kingdom and I have now read eight or ten of them. I’m beginning to reach a few conclusions but still have many unanswered questions. But each of the books I have read has given me pointers as to the nature of the Kingdom.

The first book I read on the subject (the one we had on our bookshelves) is called The Church the Churches and the Kingdom. It was written by Philip Mauro, a brilliant lawyer on the bar of the Supreme Court from the earlier part of the last century. The main argument he puts forward is that we have failed to distinguish between the Church (by which he means that which Jesus is building—His people across the nations and the ages), the churches (or local expressions of the Church in a location) and the Kingdom. We ascribe to the Church or to the churches, many things that the Bible only ascribes to the Kingdom and vice versa, and in so doing, rob them both of the meaning Jesus gave to them.

Let me quote from Mauro:
“The essentials of a kingdom are: a king, his people and a domain. In the case of the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ, …was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, is the King all glorious, who rules that Kingdom from the throne of God in heaven; His people are all they who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and translated into His Kingdom by God the Father; the domain of that Kingdom is this earth, which God has given to the children of men. Manifestly, those essentials of the Kingdom of God do not pertain, and cannot be fitted to the Church, which is the building of God, the body and bride of Christ. Nor do they pertain to any one or more of the churches of God. In the light of all the Scriptures these distinctions are perfectly clear.

Therefore … we cannot regard it as a matter of indifference but rather of grave concern that in our day the existence of the Kingdom of God as a present reality, the place and responsibility of every regenerated person therein and the great and precious truths and promises that pertain thereto, have all but faded out of the consciousness of those who have entered into that Kingdom by the door of the new birth; while at the same time the important word “church” has been divested of the meaning it invariably has in the divine vocabulary and is forced to do duty for the forsaken word “Kingdom.”

The book is not necessarily for the faint of heart, but contains some great material and I would thoroughly recommend it for anyone interested in studying the subject further.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Brian Hogan

    Have you read “The Gospel of the Kingdom” by George Eldon Ladd? It is a timeless classic on the Kingdom of God.

  • Brian Hogan

    By the way: Check out this YouTube Page on Simple Church:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/ChurchPlanters
    and make sure that you watch this BBC take on Simple Church from Doctor Who:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAIfaMyeWf4&watch_response

  • unkleE

    I agree with you about the importance of the kingdom, and of getting back to Jesus’ teachings generally. Jesus was obviously in a very different position to us (that’s an understatement!), but I can’t help feeling that we too easily reinterpret his teachings without understanding them in their original context.
    For example, our modern evangelicalism tends to talk about people “accepting Jesus as their personal saviour” or “becoming a christian” (as if it’s a passive thing), whereas Jesus called people to follow him (a more active thing) and to live as people in the kingdom (i.e. under the rule of God). All this suggests different ways for us to do evangelism today, and instead of having the separation between faith and good works which we have, Jesus seemed to connect the two far more.
    There’s heaps more we could explore here, but I’ll refrain! : )
    Thanks

  • Marty Nickel

    I agree with uncleE’s.
    We too often think of citizenship in the Kingdom like citizenship in a modern country – “I was born here and I live here so I am one”. Citizenship in God’s Kingdom is defined by submission to the King (Matthew 7:21,22).

  • Knucklehead

    Our group has been looking at the Kingdom of God (KoG) for the past few months. It has been eye opening! I could have been linked to Mauro’s quote, “all but faded out of consciousness”.
    My recommendation is to get out a concordance and see how many times the KoG is mentioned also include the Kingdom of Heaven.
    Vine’s says the KoG is (a) the sphere of God’s rule and (b) the sphere in which at any given time His rule is acknowledged.

  • peter

    great point. there is no question that the KoG is the focus of Jesus’ ministry. yet, we little know what that means.
    what does it mean for Jesus to be King?
    what does it mean for us to be His people?
    what is His domain?
    i think we are all searching for what these mean in our lives, but it is often difficult to see.
    peter

  • JK

    Watchman Nee has some powerful writings on the church. One in particular is “The Normal Christian Church Life”. It was very eye opening to me and its hard to forget the truth he reveals about the operation of the church as its found in the New Testament.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/fdale Felicity Dale

    JK, we were brought up on Watchman Nee’s writings. Tony’s parents went to the church in London that was his base when he was in the UK. His writings are classic on so much of the Christian life.