What To Do And How To Do It In The Kingdom of God

By Alfred Bouter

God is King: the true and living God and the eternal King (Jer. 10:10). It was God’s plan to put everything under the control of a man – ultimately, this will be Christ (Eph. 1:10). When God created all things He saw that they were “very good” (Gen. 1:31 NASB). God put Adam in charge of everything (2:19) as His representative, or king if you will. Genesis 3 records how the innocent Adam and Eve failed and thus the whole human race fell away from God (Rom. 5:12). God’s plan to put everything under the control of a man was postponed but not cancelled.

To realize His plans, in the fullness of time God sent His Son. Though born of a woman (the woman’s seed, Gen. 3:15) and through her a descendant of Adam (Lk. 3:38), in Him was no sin. He came to His own (Israel) and was born under the Law (Gal. 4:4), but they rejected Him (Jn. 1:10). Working together with the nations, they had Him crucified (Acts 2:23). God, however, raised His Son from the dead and exalted Him, giving Him a place of honor at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (Acts 2:34,36; Heb. 1:3). Today Christ is crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:9) and soon, in “that day,” God will introduce Him in majestic splendor (2 Th. 1:10). In the meantime He has delegated His interests into the hands of His servants. 

Now it gets complicated because these servants, who confess to belong to Him, have failed and still fail. Some of them are not even born again, being God’s servants in name only – professing Him through baptism or other means without a real change of heart. The Lord had foreseen this development and announced it to His disciples (Mt. 24:43-51; Lk. 19:11-27), and the apostles elaborated on this teaching (Acts 20:29; 1 Jn. 4:1-3; 2 Pet. 2:2).

During the period of grace in which we live, a mixed condition and confusion exists. But God is pleased to have His interests taken care of by disciples, representing their Lord. He helps them as they acknowledge being a failing people – but with the desire to honor the rejected King in the same world that rejected Him. Such disciples need to put the Lord before the public. Even though He is physically absent from this scene, through His Spirit He is present with them: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Pet. 3:15). In other words, by giving Christ His rightful place in their hearts He may have full control – because from the heart are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23) – and believers can be His witnesses in a world which is not (yet) visibly under His control. Here our topic, “The kingdom of God in its significance today,” combines with true discipleship. In other words, genuine disciples are needed to work out in actual practice what the kingdom of God really means.

The Book Of Acts Provides Further Help 
When giving His answer the Lord Jesus did not say that the question posed by His disciples as to whether He would restore the kingdom to Israel was irrelevant. Instead, He explained to them what they needed to do while He would be absent (Acts 1:6-8) and spoke with them for forty days about the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (v.3). The Lord Jesus, the King, would be absent and His disciples – servants, representatives and witnesses – needed much teaching about what to do and how to do it. Led by God’s Spirit, the New Testament writers elaborated on these instructions in their writings. Therefore we have many Scriptures which address the topic of what to do for the honor of the King while He is absent from this world and at God’s right hand. 

Acts contains seven key verses about the kingdom of God and most of them, except for chapter 14:22 which refers to the future though linked with our present walk, are connected to our topic of the kingdom of God in its present significance. Generally speaking, a close connection exists between our role and actions in the kingdom of God today and our position in the kingdom’s future manifestation [presence or appearance]. The Lord explained it in some of His parables and it was further taught in the Epistles. 

The absent King’s interests are linked to the good news, the gospel. We read that as Philip the evangelist “preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (8:12 NKJV). In baptism these new disciples acknowledged the rights of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In addition to these passages just mentioned in Acts (1:3, 8:12, 14:22), we find the four others about the kingdom of God – all associated with the apostle Paul:

  1. “He went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” (19:8). This was a Jewish setting. Israel had rejected the Messiah and God’s claims through Him while He was with them on earth and when He spoke to them from heaven. Jewish people, including those living elsewhere in the world, needed to be taught to acknowledge Him and to submit to His interests. Saul of Tarsus had learned to do so and many other Jewish people before and after him (see Romans 1:16).
  2. “I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more” (20:25). Here the setting is the assembly (church) at Ephesus, composed of men and women who were called out from among Jews and Gentiles. From Ephesus sometime before this speech, Paul had written to the believers at Corinth, “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32). Thus the believers called out from among Jews and Gentiles form a new testimony linked to the kingdom of God.
  3. “He explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening” (28:23). The setting is a prison in Rome. Paul invited the Jewish leaders in Rome because, being in prison, he was not able to visit them as he would otherwise have done. He explained how the Scriptures relate to Jesus the Messiah and how each one is responsible before God to submit to His claims, even though the leaders at Jerusalem had rejected them.
  4. “Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (28:31). “Preaching” in this verse, meaning “proclaiming,” refers to a public witness testifying about God’s rights – as Paul was doing. Disciples today should follow Paul’s example. Furthermore, the kingdom of God centers on Christ, who is the King and whom believers own as Lord in faith and obedience. Paul had written some years earlier, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9 NASB).

The Book of Acts concludes with the important verse quoted at the beginning of the fourth point and it shows that no one can stop the work of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is now seated at God’s right hand. This verse implies a challenge: The things concerning His blessed person and the kingdom of God in its present meaning are to be proclaimed and taught on an ongoing basis, while those who do this place their trust in the Lord.

The Kingdom Of God Today And Its Link With The Future 
The future reign of Christ will be a rule marked by enforcement, when righteousness will publicly reign and every knee will bow before Him who will be acknowledged by “the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9-10). In the eternal state His rule will be marked by harmony and unity, when righteousness will dwell and enforcement will no longer be needed (2 Pet. 3:13).

However, the period of grace in which we live is marked by willing hearts who choose to submit to Christ’s claims because of love for Him – righteousness is reigning in grace (Rom. 5:21). On our side an ongoing exercise and a constantly renewed commitment to Him is needed, as we find ourselves in a world opposed to God and Christ and because we have the flesh (the sinful nature) still in us. Therefore, we need to “endure” and keep going while carrying a burden. A close link exists between this exercise and our future place in glory with the King: “If we endure, we shall also reign* with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12 NKJV). 

Among differences of opinion or convictions, and while surrounded by “strong” or “weak” believers, we need to remind ourselves of Paul’s teaching that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). When God’s rights are maintained – not only in theory but also in practice, “for the kingdom of God is not in word only but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20) – peace and harmony will be enjoyed. The Holy Spirit will add joy as these things are being worked out under His control or sway. Even though we are in a wicked world, this control by the Holy Spirit is realized because God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). How precious it must be for our God and Father to have sons who are committed to His interests and those of His beloved Son during a time and in a world where His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is still rejected. This must be special to our Lord Jesus, who is the King! That is why several Scriptures show the impossibility of mixing Christ’s interests with what belongs to this world. 

The Challenge Continues 
It is impossible to have entrance into His kingdom now or in the future while being under the control of this world, which is under Satan’s rule – “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Paul then says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (v.11). We see the moral power of God’s kingdom and the work of the Holy Spirit operating in the name of the Lord Jesus (the King), though still rejected in this world. The two systems – this present evil age and the world to come under Christ’s rule – cannot go together, as Paul confirmed: 

  • “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:50).
  • “Envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21).
  • “This you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:5).

In Closing 
Do we see the apostle Paul as our spiritual father? We should (1 Cor. 11:1) as then we will learn from him just as the young believers at Thessalonica did. He wrote to them, “How we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Th. 2:11-12).

As we are waiting for its manifestation in glory, we identify with Paul’s desire to “be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer” (2 Th. 1:5). The suffering is because of the fact that we identify with our Lord who is rejected in this world, and in so doing we prepare for the future aspect of His kingdom when He will reign in glory and the believers with Him. Praise God! GT

*The verb reign is literally, “to reign as kings together.”

The Kingdom Of God
The kingdom of God is presented in three distinctive aspects that all run on together today. The first embraces only those who are born of water and of the Spirit, as seen in John 3:3-6. The second embraces all who profess Christ as Lord, as seen in Matthew 13:24-50, while the third embraces the whole universe – heaven and earth, as seen in Daniel 2 and 4. 

A place where these three circles are clearly seen is in Ephesians 4:5-6. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” (KJV) is connected with the first circle in line with John 3. “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” associates with the second circle found in Matthew 13. “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” is the third circle as seen in Daniel 2 and 4. It has often been pointed out that only believers are in all three circles. Lifeless professors are in circles two and three; while the rest, outside of professed Christianity, come only under the rule of God as the sovereign ruler of the universe.

—George Davison, Precious Things (adapted).