How God establishes His kingdom
The Lord learning obedience through suffering
God set up the principle of submission in the Lord. As a result, God established His authority through Him. In this chapter we want to see how God establishes His kingdom through submission. When the Lord came to the earth, He came empty-handed; He did not bring obedience with Him. He learned obedience through the sufferings He went through, and He became the cause of eternal salvation to all those who obey. His obedience on earth, even His death on the cross, was learned through times of suffering. Through all these sufferings He perfected His learning. The Lord came forth from the freedom of the Godhead to become a man, and He was made a weak and suffering man. Every suffering that the Lord went through bore fruits of obedience. All the sufferings of the Lord did not bring out any murmuring or complaint. However, many Christians pass through many years without learning obedience. Although their suffering increases, their obedience does not increase. When they experience sufferings, words of frustration often come from their mouths. This is a mark of not having learned obedience. The Lord went through all kind of sufferings. His submission was manifested in everything. As a consequence, His submission became the cause of our salvation. Through the obedience of One many received grace. The Lord’s obedience is for the kingdom of God. The goal of redemption is the increase of the kingdom of God.
God desires to establish His kingdom
Have you ever realized how much the universe was affected by the fall of the angels and man and how big a problem this made for God? God desired that His creatures would accept His authority; however, both kinds of creatures rejected His authority. God was unable to establish His authority over the creatures. Nevertheless, God did not call back His authority. God can call back His presence, but He will never call back His system of authority. Wherever God’s authority is, God is given a position of prominence. On the one hand, God maintains His system of authority, and on the other hand, He establishes His kingdom. Although Satan rebelled against God’s authority, and although man daily violates His authority by rebelling against Him, God will not let this rebellion continue. He will establish His own kingdom. The Bible calls the kingdom of God the kingdom of the heavens because rebellion is not limited to just the world (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15). The angels in the heavens rebelled as well.
How did the Lord establish God’s kingdom? He did it through submission. Whatever the Lord did on earth was entirely based on submission. He did nothing that opposed God’s authority. Everything was in submission, in perfect cooperation with the authority of God. In this realm the Lord set up the kingdom of God and executed His authority. The church today must also allow God’s authority to have a free way and manifest His kingdom through submission.
God desires that the church be the kingdom of God
After Adam fell, God chose Noah and his family in his generation. After the flood this family also fell, and God chose Abraham to be the father of many nations. The kingdom of God was built upon him. Then He chose Isaac and Jacob. Later, the descendants of Jacob suffered in Egypt. In their sufferings, their number multiplied. God then sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt in order to establish a kingdom. Because of the rebellious ones among them, God led them through the wilderness to teach them obedience before He would establish the kingdom (Deut. 8:3). But they were still rebellious against God in the wilderness. As a result, all were strewn along in the wilderness. Even though the second generation entered, they were not yet fully obedient; they did not completely drive out the Canaanites. Saul, their first king, was not able to establish the kingdom because of rebellion. We do not find the first king after God’s heart until David was chosen and became submissive to God’s authority. But there was still rebellion within the kingdom. It was God’s command that Jerusalem be the place where His name should be set, but the people chose Gibeon and set up altars there. Because of the lack of submission, there was no content to the kingdom even though there was a king. Before David there was a kingdom without the people. During David’s time there was a people with the kingdom, but without the content of a kingdom. For that reason, the kingdom of God was still not established.
The Lord came to the earth to establish God’s kingdom. There are two sides to the gospel. On the one hand, there is the individual aspect. On the other hand, there is the corporate aspect. Individually, the gospel gives eternal life to those who believe. Corporately, the gospel calls people to repentance unto the kingdom of God. God’s eyes are upon the kingdom. In the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, the kingdom is spoken of at the beginning and the end. Verse 10 says, “Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth.” The kingdom of God is the sphere where His will is accomplished in an unhindered way. Verse 13 says, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” The kingdom, the power, and glory are related. Revelation 12:10 says, “Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ.” The kingdom is the sphere of authority. In Luke 17:21 the Lord said, “For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (He did not say that it is in you.) This word indicates that the Lord Jesus is the kingdom of God. For the Lord Jesus to be in the midst of you is for the kingdom of God to be in the midst of you, because the authority of God is fully executed in Him. The kingdom of God is upon the Lord. It is also upon the church. Because the Lord’s life has been released to the church, His kingdom must also be propagated and established through the church. From the time of Noah, God established a kingdom. But that was just a kingdom of man; it was not the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God began with the Lord Jesus, but how small was its sphere! Today the one grain of wheat has produced many grains. Today the sphere of the kingdom of God is not limited to the Lord alone. It is also in the many believers.
God’s purpose is not only for us to become the church, but also for the church to become the kingdom of God. She is to be the sphere of God’s kingdom, the place where God executes His authority. Hence, God’s desire is not only to gain ground in a few, but to have the whole church free from rebellion. There must be an absolute submission and an absolute position for God so that His authority can be perfectly carried out. In this way authority is established among God’s creatures. Not only does God want man to submit to His direct authority, He wants man to submit to all of His appointed, deputy authorities as well. God does not ask for a little submission; He demands a perfect submission.
The gospel being not only for man to believe but also for man to submit
The Bible speaks not only of faith. It also speaks of obedience. We are not only sinners; we are sons of disobedience. In Romans 10:16 we have the obedience to the gospel. In principle believing in the gospel is obeying the gospel. Second Thessalonians 1:8 says, “Rendering vengeance to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Those who do not obey are those who rebel. Romans 2:8 speaks of those who are disobedient to the truth. This is also rebellion, and God will render wrath and anger to those who rebel against the truth. First Peter 1:22 says, “Since you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth…” By this we see that salvation comes through obedience. To believe is to obey. A disciple in faith should really be a disciple in obedience. Not only must there be the faith; there must also be the submission to the Lord’s authority. When Paul was enlightened, he said, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). He not only believed in the Lord; he became obedient to the Lord. Paul’s conversion not only made him realize grace, but also made him submit to authority. When he was moved by the Holy Spirit to see the authority of the gospel, he acknowledged Jesus as Lord.
God has called us not only to receive life through faith, but also to maintain His authority through obedience. God’s plan for us in the church is for us to submit to His authority and to all the authorities He has established. This covers our home, our government, our school, the church, and so forth. He does not want to specifically mark out whom we should submit to. As long as we have met God’s authority in the Lord, we should learn to submit to authority.
Many can submit and be obedient if they are under certain ones, but to others they cannot submit. This is due to a failure in seeing authority. It is useless to submit to man. What is needed is to see authority. All kinds of systems are for us to learn submission. After a man has touched authority, a slight disobedience will cause him to have an inward sense of rebellion. Those who do not know authority do not realize how rebellious they are. Before Paul was enlightened, he did not know that he was kicking against the goads (26:14). After a man is enlightened, he will first see authority. Then he will see many authorities. When Paul met a little brother, Ananias, he did not see just a man. He did not ask who Ananias was or whether or not he was educated. He recognized Ananias as a sent authority, a deputy authority. Therefore, Paul submitted to him (9:17-18). How easy it is to submit when one has met authority!
God desires to make the nations the kingdom of God through the church
If the church does not take God’s authority, He has no way to establish His kingdom. First, God gained the kingdom in the Lord Jesus. Then He established His kingdom in the church. In the end His kingdom will be established on the whole earth. One day there will be a declaration, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Rev. 11:15). Between the time in which the kingdom was in the Lord Jesus individually and the kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, there is the church. Only when the kingdom was established in the Lord Jesus could it be established in the church. Only when the kingdom is established in the church can the kingdom of the world become the kingdom of God. Without the Lord Jesus, there is no church. Without the church, there is no expansion of the kingdom of God.
When the Lord was on earth, He was obedient even in the smallest thing. For example, He was not negligent in the matter of paying the temple tax. Even when there was no money, a coin was found in the mouth of a fish to pay it (Matt. 17:24-27). He also said, “Render then the things that are Caesar’s to Caesar and the things that are God’s to God” (22:21). Although Caesar was rebellious, he was set up by God, and as such, one must obey him. When our obedience is perfect, the Lord will rebuke the disobedient ones. When we become submissive, the kingdom can be expanded to the whole earth. Many have strong feelings concerning sin, but they have no feeling concerning rebellion. Man must not only have the consciousness of sin; he must also have the consciousness of authority. Without the consciousness of sin, one cannot be a disciple of Christ. Without the consciousness of authority, one cannot be a disciple of submission.
The church must submit to God’s authority
We have to know how to submit in the church. There is not a single authority in the church that we can ignore. God wants to see the kingdom issuing forth from the church. He wants all authority to be executed through the church. When the church is so submissive, the earth will submit to the authority of God. If the church will not give the kingdom of God a free way, the kingdom of God will have no way among the nations. For this reason, the church is the highway to the kingdom. If this is not the case, the church will become a hindrance to the kingdom.
Today if the church cannot submit to God because of a little difficulty, how can the kingdom of God be manifested? When men reason with one another and argue with one another, how can God’s kingdom come? We have delayed God. We must rid ourselves of all disobedience so that God will have a free way. When the church submits, the nations will submit. For this reason, the church bears a great and heavy responsibility. When God’s life, God’s will, and God’s commands are executed in the church, the kingdom will come.