This post first appeared in the Christianity for Life blog
This is a question that is pondered by many. Is the Kingdom of God here and now or will it be established at some future time? Am I supposed to have a role? Can I choose one or will God assign me something?
Once we understand the true nature of the Kingdom of God it becomes easier to understand our role, and the answers to our questions begin to emerge.
Many believe that the Kingdom of God is a place in Heaven, others think it’ll be established here on Earth upon Christ’s triumphant return. The truth lies elsewhere. The Bible uses the terms, “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” interchangeably, but a closer look at the scriptures reveals the true nature of God’s Kingdom.
Notably, we find that the term, “Kingdom of Heaven” is used by Jesus only in the Gospel of Matthew. This is most likely a paraphrase employed by Matthew in the Jewish convention of avoiding use of the divine name, i.e. “God”. For instance, in the Beatitudes, Matthew quotes Jesus as saying that the poor will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, while in Luke’s gospel Jesus says they will inherit the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3; Luke 6:20).
When we take these particulars into account, comparing the Gospels, we know that Jesus spoke consistently of the Kingdom of God, and this helps us to better understand that He wasn’t referring to a place in Heaven.
In fact, when Jesus came to earth to die for our sins, He established the Kingdom of God as a concept or state of affairs, without a physical location. We see this in the words of John the Baptist and Jesus Himself;
Matthew 3:1-2 – In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
Luke 11:20 – But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
The Kingdom of God was established by Jesus Christ when He started His ministry here on Earth. And when Jesus reconciled us with God by taking the penalty for our sins on the cross, God’s Kingdom was cemented in place, coexisting with ‘the world’ (which itself continues under Satan’s rule to this day).
We might live in the world, but the Kingdom of God comes into being wherever the kingly authority of God is acknowledged. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we’re essentially handed the keys to this Kingdom, but it’s entirely up to us as to whether we go ahead and use them.
Jesus counts on His Church, i.e. Christian believers, to use the power He has conveyed upon us to give effect to His Kingdom. Whenever, by our Christ-like actions, we further God’s will, we enter His Kingdom and become an essential part of it!
And thus, one’s role in the Kingdom of God becomes clearer. At least the purpose of that role.
If one’s purpose as a Christian is to give effect to the Kingdom of God, we need to stay tuned into what God expects from us. We need to achieve a state of mind that habitually keeps one open to His will. We need to pray. We need to study His word. We need to commune and coordinate with the rest of the team.
Remember that Jesus established His Church to further the Kingdom of God. There’s a team!
So we need to think of our role in the Kingdom of God as a position on that team.
The Bible tells us that we should view the Church metaphorically as Jesus’ body (Ephesians 1:22–23) and that we are members of that body (1 Corinthians 12:27).
In Romans 12:4–5 the apostle Paul says, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”
In his letter to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 4:11-16), Paul expands the concept:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. In this we learn that as the individual members of a body each have different uses, so do we, as members of the body of Christ, His Church, each have different functions.
So we now have some context within which we can answer the question, “What’s my role in the Kingdom of God?”
My primary and steadfast role is to give effect to the Kingdom. I can fulfill this role by Christ-like thoughts and actions. When I engage the power of Christ through His Holy Spirit and allow Jesus to live through me, I further the Kingdom of God.
My role as a member of the body of Christ, His Church, is an adaptive role that must vary according to the will of God in the present circumstance. My function in this moment is to write this article. On Sunday, you might find me ushering folks to their seats in church. I might even conduct a home Bible study from time to time.
When I walk in His Kingdom, God places before me the opportunities to serve Him. I find He engages my fellow travellers to present these opportunities. It’s through my church community that I might learn of someone in need of prayer. At that time my role is to pray. Through the words of a visiting missionary I may be inclined to offer financial aid or other assistance to a distant work. At that time my role is to support missions. I may be led to help elderly or shut-in folks get to church on Sunday by offering a ride. At that time my role is to be a driver.
What a privilege it is to discover my daily role in the Kingdom of God.
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