Climbing Aboard the Ship of the Kingdom

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After His ascension to heaven, Jesus was seated on His throne at His Father’s right hand to begin His rule over His recently-received  kingdom of God. In His first act as King, He delegated the kingdom to His people on the earth, thereby establishing the principle of delegated authority as its modus operandi.

In theological terms, this rule is called Christ’s “session.” The word means “the sitting together of a court, council, or legislature for official business.” Generally it refers to ruling, judging, or mandating, such as “This court is in session,” or “Congress is in session.”

The conclusion to Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost is one of the most powerful testimonies to the fact that the Godhead is now in session, just as it was at creation when God said “Let Us make man in our image . . .,” with Jesus, now as then, the Chief Operating Officer.

“He has been exalted to the right hand of God, has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, and has caused you to experience what you are seeing and hearing. For David did not go up to heaven, but he said, ‘The Lord (God the Father) told my Lord (Jesus Christ), “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”‘

“Therefore, let all the people of Israel understand beyond a doubt that God made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!” (Acts 2:33-36).

Notice this session does not begin at Jesus’ 2nd coming, or, as Peter tells us,  during the reign of King David; he was but a picture or type of The King. The session of King Jesus began at His coronation after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.

The session had not met to rule since creation, and there was work to do. As we saw last week, the first item on the agenda was the delegation of the kingdom specifically to us, His people. This is no nebulous, general delegation of some spiritual, indefinable, mysterious feeling of “I am now in the kingdom.”  What does “being in the kingdom” look like on the earth today?

All authority relationships on the earth are kingdom relationships. Someone “rules” (has some degree of authority in some area), over someone else. There are three earthly institutions ordained by God that include this relationship: the family, the church and the civil government. Each is a separate jurisdiction of His kingdom through which He extends His rule over the whole earth. The following diagram (which I call “the ship of the kingdom,” because it resembles a sailboat) illustrates how this transpires.

The diagram includes only institutions formally established by God in the Bible. There are obviously other authority structures where the same principles apply as the kingdom is brought into its particular sphere of activity, i.e., the marketplace, education, the arts, organized athletics, charity, medicine, education, etc.—wherever we have been given authority and responsibility. God is in the process of extending His kingdom—His rule according to His law—into every sphere of life.

There are three essential elements always on display when Jesus delegates His kingdom to us, as pictured in the diagram, and they are very unpopular in today’s culture: authority, responsibility and accountability. “Ain’t nobody gonna tell me nothin’” is a much more common attitude in 21st century America, and these three kingdom components are increasingly ignored and even vilified.

However, they are markers that are always synonymous with the kingdom of God. Without the practical expression of each actually worked into our lives, there can be no kingdom of God on site.

In the diagram, each of the vertical lines represents the delegation of the kingdom. First, God the Father delegates the kingdom to His Son Jesus Christ at the ascension. Second, Jesus delegates the kingdom to His saints through His three ordained institutions and through other associations as well. Remember, God’s goal is to extend His rule into every area of life.

We often give these practical expressions lip-service, but flee from actually “entering the kingdom” in our experience when an opportunity arises to turn theory into practice. According to John in the third chapter in His gospel, his famous “born-again” chapter, one can “see the kingdom,” and may not as yet have “entered the kingdom.”

For example, when a wife is called upon to submit to her husband’s authority, as she is told to do in Ephesians 5, in a real life situation where there is disagreement and something at stake, what does she do? Though she may be fully on board theologically and theoretically with “wives, submit to your husbands,” she may not actually do so in experience.

Or, when a husband looks for ways to evade assuming responsibility as the head of his home for the difficulties that his wife and children are experiencing, but instead thinks, “It’s certainly not my fault.” He does not realize that the authority to lead and make final decisions in his family, which he so readily embraces, always comes with full responsibility for the outcome of that leadership. “It’s my fault” are the most powerful words a leader can utter when the Lord has shown him/her that it is!

Or, when an employee seeks a way to avoid accountability to his employer for the mistakes made in his department, and looks for a way to evade responsibility and make the buck stop somewhere else. 

These responses are ways we desperately seek a back door to flee from authority, responsibility and accountability. That is as natural to us as breathing. Authority and responsibility flow downward; accountability flows upward.

However, any talk of the kingdom of God is just blowing smoke until we begin to recognize, own and repent of all the ways we try to blame someone else, to preserve our “rights,” to look for ways to keep from saying “it’s my fault, I was wrong.”

Walking in the kingdom of God, either as the one in authority or the one under it, always involves a person learning at Daddy’s knee to “deny himself and take up his cross” (Matthew 16:24). This means being a real-life sinner in a specific situation, be it in the family, church or civil government. This is how, contrary to all logic and rational thought,  the kingdom advances like a flood!

And that flood never flows because we decided to “enter the kingdom.” We can never do so, no matter how hard we try. Neither can we “extend the kingdom,” “bring in the kingdom,” or, shockingly, even “receive the kingdom!” We can do nothing but be—who we already are: repentant sinners who pray, as Jesus instructed us, “Thy kingdom come . . . in me.” In the King’s good time the flood will come, bringing unreasonable love, unspeakable joy, and overwhelming peace.

Next week we will examine the jurisdictional parameters that separate and distinguish each institution.

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