The Kingdom of God is expanded in four ways.
- Preaching the gospel (individual)
- Christians in positions of authority submitting to Jesus
- A Christian being promoted to a position of greater authority in an institution.
As people receive the gospel, they are born again into the kingdom of God (John 3:3; Rom 6:17,18). This is the process by which people are brought out of the dominion of darkness and into the kingdom of light (Col 1:12,13). The Government of God grows as individuals are born into it, and as they submit their lives to the authority of Jesus (Rom 12:2). People have authority over their own lives. As they obey Jesus, their lives comes under his authority. This is one of the most important ways that the Kingdom of God grows. Being born again is the only way an individual can enter the Kingdom of God
Ways 2-4 are institutional.
When a Christian, who has a position of authority in an institution, exercises that authority in accordance with the will of God, then that part of the institution over which he has authority, becomes a part of the Kingdom of God. The government of God extends as far as this authority extends.
Authority is often attached to a particular position or office. The centurion did not have authority because of his personal charisma or family connections. He had authority because of his position as a centurion in the Roman army.
Christians should seek positions of authority (as God calls), because it allows them to expand the Government of God. There has been a tendency for Christians to avoid positions of authority in the world, as it is seen as a distraction from being a Christian. This is a false view that comes from failure to understand the way of the Kingdom.
Learning to obey Jesus in a position of authority in an institution can be a difficult challenge. The church should be providing people in positions of authority with more teaching and training.
When a Christian, who is in a position of authority and exercising it in obedience to Jesus, is promoted to a position of greater authority, the government of God is expanded. This is something that should happen reasonably frequently. Christians should be:
- willing to take responsibility
- hard working
In a world, where many people are dishonest or unwilling to take responsibility, Christians should rise to positions of greater responsibility. Daniel and Joseph are two men who rose to positions of great authority, in a world, which was hostile to God.
It is important that Christians get promoted to positions of authority. Those at the lower levels of an institution have limited authority. They can only exercise the authority within the limits that have been delegated to them. They will not always be able to totally obey Jesus, due to the limits on their authority. If a Christian goes higher in an institution, two things happen. First, they get more authority, but more important, there are fewer limits on their authority. They will be freer to obey Jesus.
- People in positions of authority converting to Christianity.
When a person in a position of authority is won for the Lord, two things happen. First, he is translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light (which is great). More important, he brings with him a lot of authority. He can bring all the authority that he exercises in his institution with him, if he is discipled correctly. If he is taught to obey Jesus when he make decisions in his institutional sphere of authority, it becomes a part of the kingdom.
This is an area where the church has not done very well. We tend to assume that it will be hard to reach people in authority. However, the Bible tells us to pray for kings and people in authority (1 Timothy 2:2). Paul was keen to preach the gospel to King Agrippa (Acts 26:28). He longed for many years to visit Rome (Rom 15:23,24). I believe he wanted to go there because it was a centre of authority.
We should be praying for key people in the institutions that shape our society and looking for opportunities to share the gospel. One of the best ways to expand the Government of God is for key political leaders, business leaders, judges, and key people in the mass media to become Christians. We should be praying for this to happen.
If we are going to win people in positions of authority for the Lord, we will need to be ready to disciple them and teach them to exercise their authority in obedience to Jesus teaching. This is a task that the church should be getting ready for. For example, before the church will be ready to disciple a supreme court judge, it will need an understanding of the law and how a Christian legal system would function. It will need to know how a judge would apply the law in obedience to Jesus. This is not an easy task that can be taken lightly.
The church has not always done this very well. It has tended to tell people in positions of authority, who become Christians, that they should renounce their authority and come out of the world. For example, when Constantine the Roman Emperor became a Christian, the church was not ready to teach him how to exercise his authority in obedience to Jesus. A tremendous opportunity to extend the kingdom of God was wasted, because the church was not ready when a man with immense authority became a Christian.
Authority from Below
Note this very important point. As the government of God expands in each of the four ways, described above, the authority must always be from below. Christians must only take authority that is freely given to them, or take authority that comes with positions to which they have been appointed. Daniel did not have to seize authority. He was appointed to a position of authority by a king who recognised his ability (Daniel 2:46-49).
God will never force people to obey him. The maximum force that God will ever use to force a person to obey him, is the Holy Spirit working in his heart to draw him to the Father. The most force God will ever use is prevenient grace. He wants people to freely choose to obey his authority. He will not force them to obey. In the same way God wants his people to take back the authority of the world that has been lost, but we must never take if by force. As the Holy Spirit works in the world and draws men to himself, authority will be freely given Back to God's people.
Time for the Kingdom
After 2000 years the church has started to become very successful at sharing the gospel. Following on from this success, it is now time for putting more effort and emphasis on the second part of the great commission. Jesus said,
All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.
He then commissioned the church to make that statement a reality.
Return to the Kingdom of God.