Christianity has been reduced to the plucking of souls from hell. We no longer stake our claim to a full orbed world and life view; a religion that transforms individuals, families, societies and nations. Rather we are fed a Christianity that is a no rules, exclusive relationship with Jesus in our tiny weeny hearts. Quite frankly, it’s absurd. Religion means bond. It is our covenant or promissory bond to God through the blood of Christ shed for us. The whole worldview of "not polishing the brass of a sinking ship" pervades western Christendom. This modern impotent gospel denies the very Lordship of Christ over all of life and thus leads to an obscure Christianity good for the waste paper bin of history. And so Western civilisation or Christendom is crumbling around our very eyes. Friends, the powerful gospel of Jesus has been blurred. We have sold our birth right for a pot of stew. It is our responsibility to navigate back to the old paths, to study the Scriptures and apply them as the only rule for all of faith and life.
What we must return to is the truth that the glorious gospel of Christ and His Kingdom changed everything. Just a little over 2,000 years ago God victoriously reclaimed the world through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son. That is the pivotal point in all of history. God took on flesh and established His kingdom here on earth through His Son. But on the one hand, we affirm this all conquering gospel, and yet we are witnesses to the retreat and marginalisation of Christianity across the Western World, even here in the deep deep south of New Zealand. Our generation is living in a time when everything is being challenged. Nothing is sacred; secular humanism is fighting hard for the hearts, minds & souls of the next generation. The war is raging between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. New Zealand has been at the coal face of this battle. On the 19th April 2013 same sex marriage laws received royal ascent in your parliament. Just two days prior your House of Representatives astonishingly voted 77 to 44 in favour of this abomination. My home state of Tasmania has the worst abortion laws in the western world. A woman can murder her baby in utero up to the day of birth. After 16 weeks two doctors simply need to state that the abortion is necessary either for the benefit of the mother’s physical health and/or for psychosocial reasons. Your New Zealand Crimes Act 1961 allows abortions post 20 weeks on the grounds of saving the mother’s life or to prevent serious permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother. Legalising euthanasia is also a hot issue of debate.
Biblically consistent answers are needed. And we need the truth of God's Word to be declared & lived as the only standard for all of faith and life. Will our legacy be that of a retreating religiosity or a triumphant gospel that transforms our lives, our story, our community, our generation with the Word of God?
But there is great danger to stop here, navel gaze, become depressed and hole ourselves up in a holy sorrow. We must not look to Google or Wikipedia or Facebook to exegete the Scriptures. Let’s consider the gospel of the kingdom.
Firstly, let me reaffirm the gospel. Getting this wrong has disastrous multi generational effects. The gospel is the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus for our sins, all in accordance with the Scriptures; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 and Acts 5:31. Dead people cannot save themselves therefore, God by His grace through faith alone saves sinners. Yes, the gospel is about the salvation of individuals and glory to God; multitudes of individuals have been saved through it.
But here’s the rub, the very heart of our discussion: is it possible that the word gospel means more than individual salvation? The biblical answer is a resounding 'yes.' The gospel is bigger than Smith's salvation but, lets be clear, it is not smaller than it.
The Bible uses the word gospel in the context of individual salvation AND it also uses the word to describe the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In Mark 1:1 we read; “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This is the introduction to one of the books that detail the gospel. Thus part of the gospel is the simple historical fact that James and John sat mending their fishing nets (Mark 1:19).
Further than this Paul also says that God “preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'in you all the nations shall be blessed'” (Galatians 3:8). The fact that the Great Commission to the Gentile world will be successful is part of the gospel. All the nations streaming into Christ (Ezekiel 47:1-12 & Isaiah 2:1-4) & being blessed as descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3:8) is part of the gospel. The gospel is the history of Israel. Jesus became the ultimate Israelite, the new Israel. We are already starting to see some kingdom themes here.
Sovereignty and ownership
But let's not rush. A quick pause here will be wise. If Abraham is a spiritual father in the faith we must not only be interested in that he believed God but also what he believed. Abraham not only believed in God, he also believed what God promised and how He promised to bless him. It's simply not ok to want to imitate Abraham in his belief and then not believe “all the nations shall be blessed” through his seed, Jesus (Romans 4:1-25).
Jesus not only atoned for Smith to get to heaven; but God also reconstituted humanity in Him, the Second Adam. God is restoring His defaced image in man by the gospel and through the means of the church preaching the gospel and discipling the nations. The gospel is a cosmic renovation. The enthroned Jesus is now the centre of the universe and all things revolve Him, the Son, S-O-N. King Jesus is no passive ruler. He is reigning until all His enemies are brought under His feet (Matthew 28:18-20, Hebrews 1:13) so that He will deliver a completed kingdom to His Father at the end of this age (1 Corinthians 15:24-25).
But none of this diminishes the fundamental evangelical position. Jesus is the Lord of man’s heart and He is transforming the world under His reign and rule. So, is Jesus your personal saviour? Alleluia, praise the Lord. Is He king of your heart? Glory be to God, and never deny it. AND there are other questions, greater and larger questions that must be asked and answered. Is the rule of Jesus broader than your heart? Of course. But is He king of the nations of the world, even of New Zealand? As Christians we must answer yes; Jesus is king of the world.
But as always, we must tread carefully. It is not that Jesus must become king of New Zealand, or Turkey, or China, or Indonesia or dare I say it…modern day Israel. He is the King over every nation. Consistent Christianity affirms that “all authority has been given to Jesus in heaven and on earth;” (Matthew 28:18), and “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). We must affirm with the writer of Hebrews (1:13), who is quoting Psalm 110:1 that Jesus is sitting “at [the Father’s] right hand, till [He] makes [Jesus’] enemies [His] footstool.” Friends, the Messiah's death, burial, resurrection and ascension meant something in history. As the “firstborn from the dead, [Jesus became]...the ruler over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5). Every king rules a kingdom.
Dat kingdom of God
This gets us to the kingdom of God, the kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:27-28). So what exactly is the kingdom of God? It is simply the reign and rule of King Jesus over all the nations and all of creation (Matthew 28:18-20). But let’s be clear: Christ’s Kingdom is not some ethereal, spiritual thing in the itty bitty corner of believers’ little hearts. No, it is real; as real as you can get. Jesus is reigning and ruling this world from the position of power at the Father’s right hand now. Not tomorrow or next year or when He returns. He is reigning and ruling now.
Hear Paul in Ephesians 1:20-23. God “raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” The Father raised Jesus and enthroned Him above all principalities, power, might and dominion. All things have been placed under His feet, which is a sign of authority and rule. Paul leaves no wriggle room: the crown rights of King Jesus are in force in this age and in the age to come; and His rule is exercised through His church. This does not mean that the church and the civil magistrate are one and the same thing as the Roman Catholic church has taught. No, the family, the church and the civil state all have their interdependent spheres of sovereignty. Jesus’ rule is political. He rules the world. However, this rule is exercised through the church baptising or emerging the nations in God’s Law and discipling them to obey everything Jesus has commanded.
Discipleship is an important theme in the kingdom of God. Scripture positions it as a family by family ministry approach. Wherein the head of each family is responsible for the spiritual growth, well being and development of those within his household. As we progress in these talks we will see what economics means. Essentially economics is family law or stewardship. It’s all about the discipleship ministry of the household being applied to all of life. The law of a household is to be shaped by the Law of God. Husbands are to train up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and wash their wife in the Word of God. This is accomplished within the context of day-to-day family life. The kingdom of God is thus extended through families being drawn into right relationship with the living God and right lifestyles before their King. We have lost this familial structure and mindset in the 21st century. Our modus operandi has capitulated into individualism. We no longer have the grandiose vision of the kingdom of God being extended into the world, beating down the gates of Hades as it extends to take dominion over all things. Fear enters our minds when we hear such clear Biblical overtones. We shy away from the old glorious paths of the truth found in Scripture and desire to hold fast to our idols. Individualism has such a hold on the western church that when we see family discipleship being done and achieving success we think it odd.
Let me be clear though, the preaching of the gospel is the means the Holy Spirit uses to bring individuals into the kingdom. But each individual is connected to his/her family or if not inherits family within the church. Each family within the church is a mini church. It is the engine room for church growth. When you have strong families you have strong churches.
Correcting common misnomers
Satan is not in charge here anymore, he is a defeated foe, the strong man who was bound and his house plundered (Matthew 12:29).
All the nations have become Christ's inheritance (Hebrews 1:1-4 & 13; Matthew 28:18-20, Revelation 11:15). People from every tribe and tongue have been grafted into the one true olive tree as co-heirs of the promise (Galatians 3:29) and children of Abraham (Galatians 3:9).
Pentecost was the reversal of the great Babel dispersion (Genesis 11:1-9). Jews from every nation heard the gospel in their own tongue (Acts 2:5-12). Pentecost ushered in the last days of the old world (Acts 2:16-21) and was the fulfilment of God's promise to bless all nations through the reign of Abraham's Seed, Jesus.
We are not waiting for Jesus to return and establish His rule from an earthly Jerusalem. It really is preposterous to even entertain the idea that the Lamb of God, the once for all sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:11-14), will return to reinstate animal sacrifices from a rebuilt temple in physical Jerusalem. My friends, the Scriptures declare that the dividing partition has been rent asunder (Matthew 27:51), the Old World system of Temple worship and sacrifice was shaken in the first century, grew old and faded away with Jesus' once for all sacrifice. And having sacrificed Himself for us Jesus became both the new High Priest and the new Temple (Hebrews 8:13). The old creation order of earthly priests who offered a continual sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:11) was finally abolished in AD 70 when Christ rode the clouds of heaven, via General Titus' Roman army.
Jesus prophesied about the last days of the old world, the old covenant. In Matthew 24:1-34 and Luke 25:5-36 He said that the last days culminated in the destruction of the Temple. This was the finality of the animal sacrifice atonement shadows. The old world then faded away to make room for the new (Hebrews 8:13). Thus the Kingdom of God was ushered in as a tiny mustard seed (Matthew 13:30-32) in Palestine. And from there, from a small upper room in Jerusalem it grew out to the furthest parts of the Roman Empire and then spread across the face of the entire world.
Friends, we now sit on the other side of the cross, the other side of redemption secured, and the other side of the judgment and destruction of the old covenant world. We sit in the kingdom of God.
All through the New Testament we read that the Kingdom of God is at hand and right upon those in the first century. Context is king. We are not still awaiting the Kingdom some 2,000 years later. Words have meaning; “near” and “upon us” cannot be rendered to mean thousands of years later.
First century nearness of the Kingdom
Let me draw your attention to some key passages that are clear about the nearness and arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven in the first century AD:
John the Baptiser said; ”repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew3:2). We hear is like this in Mark 1:15; “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.
In Matthew 4:17 Jesus preached; “'repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”
When sending out the 12 in Matthew 10:7 Jesus commanded; “as you go, preach, saying, ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
After refuting that He was demon possessed Jesus says; “if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28).
In Matthew 16:28 Jesus told His disciples; “assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Or Mark 9:1; “And He said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.’”
Luke 10:8-9 is part of Jesus' commissioning service to the 70, He says this; “whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.’”
Boom...the Kingdom of God enters the scene in the first century AD. There is no waiting; no gap of 2,000+ years. No end times madness in the 21st century. No blood moons or Russian armageddons. Brothers and sisters, please note that the one thing you cannot get out of these texts and a study of the entire New Testament is the idea that the Kingdom of God will arrive thousands of years in the future. The kingdom of God, the reign and rule of Jesus over the entire world, was at hand and near in the first century. It was close, even there among Jesus’ contemporaries.
But don’t get me wrong; the arrival of the kingdom was like the planting of a mustard seed that must grow over time. It was not like the transplanting of an advanced, mature tree. The Kingdom was established through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, ascension and enthronement. And according to 1 Corinthians 15:20-26 the end only comes after Jesus’ kingdom on earth is completed by all of His enemies being placed under His feet as seen through the Great Commission unfolding in history. And this friend fulfils God’s promise to bless all the nations in Abraham’s Seed (Galatians 3:8).
Disciple the nations
The church’s Great Commission to baptise, disciple and teach the nations to obey King Jesus sits on top the premise that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to our new King. Your cannot remove the one from the other. Because Jesus reigns and rules we go out as heralds of the kingdom. We are not mercenaries seeking to ride out and establish that there is a new king. Rather we declare that the new King reigns and rules from His heavenly throne and commands all men everywhere to repent, believe and obey His every Word.
The good news or gospel of the kingdom of God is that there is a new kingdom with a new king. All of the world is now the kingdom of God under the reign and rule of the Messiah. The good news is that Satan, death and evil do not still reign supreme in the majority of planet earth. Yes, we have much to accomplish but the war has already been won at the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and enthronement of the Jesus. Long live the King.
I know what you may be thinking...He’s crazy. What about ISIS, earth quakes, volcanic eruptions, wars, famines, Global cooling, global warming, population explosion, starring children and everything in between. Surely if what I am saying is really true the kingdom of God has failed? Friends, don't let your view of Scripture and the Kingdom of God be guided by what you read in the papers or see on the news. Tweets and Facebook feeds are not the source of truth about the reality of the kingdom of God.
Thousands of years ago Daniel revealed & interpreted king Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the Great Metal Man who represented future glorious & powerful world kingdoms or empires: the Babylonians, the Medes & Persians, the Greeks and the Romans. In Daniel chapter 2:44-45 we read how; “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.”
Boom...yet again we see that the Empire or Kingdom of Christ enters the world and destroys all rival kingdoms by the preaching of the gospel. God is in charge here. His will is done and shall come to pass. God established His kingdom in the last days of the old covenant world (Acts 2:5- 12). “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” This kingdom, Daniel’s mountain hewn from the Rock, is not of this world. It cannot be and never was established by human hands. The very hand of God established it and His zeal will see its increase through history. Nothing will stand in the way of God blessing all the nations through the Seed of Abraham.
In our times we must be like Abraham and turn back to the Word of God and believe what it says. Jesus' kingdom will not fail. The rock of Daniel 2, the Kingdom of God, is growing into a great mountain and it will never be destroyed or lost.
The new covenant has the same level of confidence in the Kingdom of Christ. Remember kingdom means the reign and rule. If you think the church will slowly retreat listen carefully to what Jesus says about her to Peter in Matthew 16:18; “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The kingdom of darkness is on the defensive, shut up behind gates. But the church is on the offensive; she overcomes those gates and breaks into the retreating darkness. Christianity, in the long run, is moving onward and upward.
Building the kingdom ~ family by family
We are now starting come a complete circle. Ideas have consequences. Your theology comes out of your fingertips. Over time you become more and more consistent with what you believe to be truth. So, what is at the heart of today's defeatists theology? A belief that the world is going to hell in a hand basket? Quite simply, a dualism that demands a sharp distinction between that which is sacred and secular; it unbiblically segregates those things that are pious and those that are worldly. The common mindset of this train of thought is distinguishing between pious ministry work (like preaching the gospel, missionary work, church work etc) and worldly or secular work (like your vocation, university studies, food, culture). Such thinking is ungodly and unbiblical. Friends, the Bible knows nothing of such a dualistic worldview. Peter, drawing from what Moses stated in Exodus 19:6, tells us that all who are in the body of Christ are a royal priesthood; for "you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, [God's] own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Your vocation does not determine your ministry participation. Rather, all those who are in Christ are royal priests and thus by necessity are always in full time ministry. Your ministry standing rests upon being in Christ's body not your particular calling. The Protestant Reformation rediscovered this old concept of the priesthood of all believers. It is powerful stuff. The heart of it is that every lawful vocation is just as important as another. We are all part of the one body, the church, and all have different functions and responsibilities. So, when you are standing around the barbecue and asked whether you are in full time ministry your answer ought to always be; "yes, I'm a mother or a father." But usually the response is; "no, no, I mean, are you involved in full time ministry." "Well, yes I'm a Dad." Inevitably the reply comes; "you really aren't getting it. Are you in full time gospel ministry? You know, real Christian ministry?" "Well, yes, I'm a businessman, you know the free market really is all about serving others and if I don't serve others my business fails." To which we hear; "you still aren't getting it." No, you aren't getting it; every Christian is in full time ministry and building the kingdom of God either faithfully or unfaithfully. There is no other option. All who are in Christ are in full time ministry. The choice is not over full time gospel ministry participation; but rather are we being faithful or unfaithful in our full time gospel ministry.
We have learnt that Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God in the first century. Every kingdom must have a ruler and a people. We are the kingdom of God people. We are the new nation, who are called to work to advance the kingdom in this world. And all of Scripture shows that the advance is generally family by family. Men, fathers, understand that the gospel of the kingdom of God must shape your life and how you lead your family. This world and all that is in it belongs to Christ. He is the ruler of the nations. All things are under His sovereign control and authority.
Men, as heralds of the new King it is our duty to instil in our families a desire to; “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Our first priority ought to be the kingdom of God and His righteousness applied into every area of life. Because this world is under the rule and reign of the sovereign King Jesus we are to “obey everything He has commanded” (Matthew 28:20) and His laws are not burdensome (1 John 5:1-3). This faithful obedience flows from a gospel transformed and regenerated heart, which has the Law of God inscribed upon it (Hebrews 8:10, 10:16). As people of the kingdom we must live our lives in faithful obedience to the Law of the King. We do not have the authority to autonomous lives. We are to live as members of the body of Christ. We are to lead our families in family worship, praying, reading the Scriptures, discipling our wife and children in the Word of God.
Friends, the gospel of the kingdom of God changed everything. God does not hate the world. He is no Gnostic. He so loved the world (John 3:16-17) that He redeemed it from the curse and is making it new again through the church going out heralding the gospel and discipling the nations to obey Jesus' Word. Our duty is to “cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and “whatever [we] do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Therefore, the gospel is the power of God. It transforms lives and this world. Redeemed individuals are to transform every aspect of life and this world to be consistent with everything that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). This includes economics, the overarching topic for this conference. Over the next three sessions I will be trying to answer the question - how? The short answer is: by applying the Law of God to every square inch of faith and life (Matt 5:17-19 & 1 John 5:1-5). If we want answers to our economic questions we must turn to the truth; the Triune God and His revealed Word to us in the Scriptures. All other ground is simply sinking sand. And where does this start? At the very beginning of course. By God transforming the hearts of individuals to see the kingdom of God and repent. This repentance leads to worship and then manifests itself in lives, families, businesses, communities and nations faithfully obeying the King through conforming all of their practices to His revealed Law. We have come full circle. The gospel of the Kingdom of God is that their is a new kingdom with a new king. This gospel concerns the salvation of individuals and the application of the Word of God by individuals to all of life to the glory of God. Friends, the gospel of the kingdom reveals that the whole universe revolves around King Jesus. Long live the King.
Find the whole series of articles here: http://www.reformedresources.com.au/index.php/component/tags/tag/55-biblicaleconomics-101
The Biblical Family Economics series was originally delivered as talks in New Zealand (2015).
I want to acknowledge that much of the material I covered in the Bibilical Economics 101 series was greatly endebted to the late Dr Greg Bahnsen's series Economic Ethics (http://www.cmfnow.com/economicethics-1.aspx).
Trevlyn McCallum presented this mini-series on Biblical Family Economics at a home education conference in Palmerston North New Zealand, 6-7 November 2015.
- The gospel of the kingdom
- The gospel and wealth
- The gospel and work
- The gospel and family economics
The audio for this mini series is available for free below. It is an introduction to Biblical Economics that gives you the Biblical worldview framework to examine your household rule or stewardship.