Last week, in discussing the Ship of the Kingdom (our picture of the kingdom of God), at the conclusion of the post I explained Luther’s very critical idea —”what is above me” vs. “what is beneath me.” We saw that “above me” is my personal relationship with God, while “beneath me” is my relationship with the world around me, the domain over which Jesus Christ has given me to rule—my delegated responsibilities in His kingdom.
Jesus is extending his rule over the earth through His people, but many of us are not yet ready to participate. If we are not yet regularly walking by faith, the “righteous requirement of the Law being fulfilled in us” (Romans 8:4) is not possible for us achieve. A “walking by faith” relationship with Jesus, ”what is above us,” is a prerequisite if we are to express His law effectively in our rule, “what is beneath us.”
Many of us are still “held in custody and confined under the Law in preparation for the faith that was to be revealed. And so the Law was our guardian until the Messiah (Jesus) came, so that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:23, 24). This was true of the Jews historically, but it is also true of each of us right now—experientially. God has determined that we be “held in custody and confined” by the law of God until we have an experience with the Lord and then begin learning to walk by faith.
So, the kingdom of God beneath us runs by requiring adherence to the law, our “guardian.” It is administered by those who have personally experienced walking by faith in the God above us and live by absolute freedom from the law—the full-on, nothing-left-to-do, gospel of the grace of God!
Without this understanding, “ruling” is deadly legalism and will eventually destroy what could have been a kingdom-extending enterprise. Both edges of the sword of the word of God, law and grace, are sharp and active in the establishment of His kingdom. We are not ready to rule in the family, the church, or the civil government until we are experiencing this truth.
In the diagram of the Ship of the Kingdom, there are vertical lines that represent the delegation of the kingdom, from the entity at the top of the line to the entity at the bottom, i.e., 1.) God delegates the kingdom to Jesus, who then 2.) delegates it to His people in His institutions.
Notice the three words on the lines in the second kingdom delegation above, stating three principles without which there can be no kingdom: responsibility, authority and accountability, the three legs on the kingdom stool.
Responsibility – This is the first of these three words, which the culture calls “scary.” It implies, according to today’s cultural narrative, God has given me a job to do, and I better get with it. He is seen to be like Santa Clause. He’s made a list of the tasks He’s given me in His kingdom, He’s checking it twice and gonna find out if I’ve been naughty or nice (failed or succeeded in my assignment)!
However, we, as Jesus’ vice-regents on the earth, are living by faith, completely free from trying to obey and be “good” kingdom warriors and not disobey by being lazy or afraid, and thus “bad.” We are free—involved in His rule over the earth only because we want to be—and we can’t wait to go to work with Daddy in His business! If we still see the task as “ought to,” “need to” or “should,” we are not yet ready for the job.
Relax and be patient. Our Father has us all right where He wants us, is pleased with us there, and eventually will win our hearts. He will finally convince us that we can trust Him fully. Then we will be chomping at the bit to get to work! Then we are ready, and not before!
When that time comes, our avenues of rule are wherever there are authority structures, including, family (We get married and have kids), church (We participate in and contribute to the gathering together of God’s people) and civil government (We become involved in the self-government of the civil state).
Authority – This word is equally supposedly scary. It, according to today’s cultural propaganda, conjures up visions of the most feared, despised and deadly condition possible, and which must be avoided at all costs—”patriarchy.” The culture tells us today that this is the harsh, tyrannical rule of white males over docile, door-mat females, in family, church, or civil government.
Tragically, in marital counseling over the years, I have seen this cultural stereotype played out in real life. But it is far outnumbered by the countless examples of female matriarchy, with women either leading docile men like little puppy dogs (“Yes, Dear. Whatever you say, Dear”), or women leading each of the institutions by necessity because men have checked out.
True patriarchy was initiated by God at creation when man was created to rule and his wife was created to be his helper. Not only was that responsibility given to man, but also the authority to carry it out. The problem we face today has arisen because mankind has rejected God’s original plan of men ruling by serving, laying down their lives, and making all decisions for the good of those under their authority and never for themselves, just as did our ruling example, Jesus Christ.
In a true patriarchy in the kingdom of God, the one in authority uses both edges of the sword of the word of God, law and grace. The standard of the law of God is never lowered, but its demands come through one who loves those under his rule just as Jesus loves him—initially, sacrificially, and unconditionally.
Accountability – This third scary word suggests to many of us visions of disapproval, disappointment, and a shaking-finger-under-nose if I don’t measure up to the standard. Let me paint a different picture.
Imagine a loving father giving his son the task of emptying the dishwasher. Through procrastination, disinterest and passive rebellion, the job lies unfinished when the dishes are needed. After explaining the importance of prompt obedience, the son is given another chance the next day, but the results are the same.
With a smile of understanding, the father takes the son to the bathroom where discipline is customarily administered. There, after reading the appropriate Bible verses that clearly teach what he is about to do, the father explains to his son that he will never abandon him until they master this rebellion problem. He then places his son over his lap and spanks him so firmly that he will never want to experience this again. After the father loves on his son, prays for him and encourages him that they will defeat this rebellion together, the son is dismissed.
This is an example of an amazingly effective and biblical (Hebrews 12:5-8) method of child training, and it is also how God deals with us when our parents have not. It is an example of God’s redemptive accountability, the third indispensable leg in the stool of the kingdom of God. Lord, make us kingdom warriors who walk by faith in Your grace in what is above us, and then in faithful responsibility, authority, and accountability in what is beneath us!