In the model prayer that Jesus asked us to pray in Matthew 6, the first petition is this: ” Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9, 10).
For the past few weeks, we have been examining, according to the Bible, how this prayer is being answered NOW, through the institution of the family. Furthermore, the “kingdom comes” in the family only through the rule of the husband, assisted by his wife. He can know that God has answered this model prayer when he realizes that he is 1.) responsible for that to happen as he exercises his sacrificial 2.) authority, knowing that he alone is 3.) accountable if it doesn’t. “The buck stops” with him!
However, the family is not the only weapon God has in His arsenal to use as He exercises His rule through us, the task for which we were created (Genesis 1:26-28). These same three characteristics are present in both of His other two “weapons for victory” that He is also using to spread His rule—the church and the civil government. We have discussed each of these institutions at some length in the past in this blog.
The following diagram—that I call “the ship of the kingdom,” because it looks like a sailboat, puts the important, foundational ideas we have discussed into picture form for easy comprehension, for “one picture is worth a thousand words!”
The seed of these ideas was in the teaching of John Calvin, the Theologian of the Reformation, and developed and named “sphere sovereignty” by the Dutch theologian-politician Abraham Kyper in the late 19th century.
At the Ascension, as prophesied in Daniel 7;13, 14, God the Father rewards Jesus for His work on the earth of redeeming mankind, represented by the first vertical arrow. He gives Jesus the kingdom—the rule over the earth—that Jesus, 40 days earlier, had stripped from Satan and his emissaries at the cross, as we learn in Colossians 2:15: “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it”.
Then In Daniel 7:18 and in Psalm 110: 2, 3, Jesus, from His newly-acquired seat at God’s right hand in Heaven, delegates the kingdom to us here on the earth, expressed through the next three vertical lines. They lead to the three, human, God-ordained institutions through which we exercise the rule of Jesus Christ, by the work of the Spirit within us—family, church and civil government (Galatians 2;20)!
There are multiple secondary organizations that the “church scattered” (after being equipped by the “church gathered”) uses personally and individually to help mankind do its job. This includes business, the arts, athletics, charitable organizations, etc. If we are present, on site, anything for which we may have an interest or a passion fits into this diagram of the “ship of the kingdom, along with the three, main, God-ordained institutions. This beautiful plan happens naturally, spontaneously and unconsciously, as we simply pursue our passion!
Notice the three lines down which Jesus’ rule flows to us in the family, church and civil government. Through these also will flow the three kingdom characteristics always present when the rule of God is present: authority, responsibility and accountability. Biblically, each institution has its own, unique expression of these characteristics
It is always true that our addiction to the performance fruit of the Tree in the Garden (wanting to be “good” instead of “evil”) will be lurking in the shadows, waiting for us to “fall off the wagon,” and relapse into “doing God’s work” or “witnessing,” rather than just enjoying our lives and sharing the reason why we’re so happy, if they want to know!
“Sphere Sovereignty,” meaning that each institution is accountable to Jesus Christ alone, is pictured in the diagram by the fact that they are each connected only, by its vertical line, to Jesus Christ and not to another institution. This means that the state has no authority over the church or how a family functions. The church can’t tell the family how it must train its children, only teach them what the Bible says. Its ministry is therefore only “ministerial” ( teaching), not “magisterial” (compelling). Each institution is accountable directly to Jesus Christ.
Notice, however, there are also horizontal lines connecting the institutions, representing how they DO relate, biblically, to one another. The family supplies well-trained, educated, motivated young men and women to the church and civil government. The church proclaims both the gospel and the kingdom edges of the sword of the Word of God as it equips the family to do its job of supplying the other institutions, and it exhorts the civil government to follow the Scripture in its activities. The civil government’s sole activity as it relates to family and church is to protect each to allow it to perform its duties fully.
If the people of God, walking by faith alone, set sail on the Ship of the Kingdom, The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come on the Earth,” will be fulfilled!