The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (4)

September 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

…Continuing from (3)

 

Matthew and the Kingdom

The Gospel of Matthew is the good news about the King. The heavenly King coming to introduce the heavenly kingdom and demonstrate the life in this Godly kingdom.  A life with all its relevant battles, its provision, its miracles, its choices and its principles.

 

Each Gospel tells a different story, or rather, more or less the same events but from a different angle.  In the book of Matthew the face of a lion[1] is portrayed, indicating the king of the animal world.  Mark represents the face of an ox – the willing servant.  Dr. Luke focuses on Jesus as a man – the Son of man. And the Apostle John sees the face of an eagle – which soars on the wind of the Spirit – ever higher unto the throne of God[2], the rightful place for the Son of God.

 

We find most of what is said about the kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew, the first book in the NT.  Matthew 1 details the genealogy of Jesus the King and in Matthew 2 an exact description of the birth of the heavenly King.  John the Baptist – the voice crying in the wilderness[3] – is the intermediary for the kingdom of heaven and coming onto the scene in Matthew 3.  He baptises Jesus at the river Jordan and Jesus then equipped with the Spirit, enters the desert to be tested in Matthew 4.  Here Satan tries to sidetrack Jesus by offering him the kingdoms of this world and its riches[4] on one condition; Jesus must fall down and worship him.  But Jesus, knowing that His Father’s kingdom is not of this world[5], declines the offer and stays faithful in worshipping the only true and living God, His heavenly Father.  Satan still uses the same manner of temptation today and many Christians oblivious to his deception, are daily bowing before Mammon, not knowing it is impossible to serve two masters[6].  After He had overcome the temptations of Satan, Jesus began to preach, and say, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”[7].  Thereafter, He began to heal all manner of sicknesses and all manner of diseases among the people[8]

 

Deliverance from evil spirits only occurs in the NT.  It is a demonstration of the battle between the two spiritual kingdoms – the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.  The OT has its accounts of many wars fought over territory, people and food.  But the NT expressly states we have a different war on hand.  This is a spiritual war, against spiritual forces in the unseen (with the physical eyes) realms of the spirit.

 

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV)

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

(AMP) For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons. For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds.

 

Ephesians 6:12 (CEV)[9]

We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.

 

Jesus demonstrated this fact very well in the Gospels of the NT.  Those who are His disciples can do the very same work today.  In fact every child of God has been given the right and authority to cast out devils and command them to stop their work and leave the premises.

 

Mark 16:16-18 (NIV)

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Luke 10:19-20 (NKJV)

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

 

After displaying the authority and power of the kingdom of God, the crowds started following Him.  From then on He was able to start teaching them the principles and commandments of this new kingdom.  This brings us to Matthew 5, 6 and 7, beginning with what is generally known as the beatitudes[10].  Here I would like to pause and look into the beatitudes as well as the rest of chapter five to seven.

Although we generally read the beatitudes and choose just one or two, they actually follow progressively one on the other.  Jesus uses the word blessed in every one of the beatitudes.  Again I would like to quote from the Complete Wordstudy Dictionary[11] on its explanation for the word blessed[12].

“It indicates the state of the believer in Christ.  One who becomes a partaker of God’s nature through faith in Christ.  Makarios differs from the word happy in that the person is happy who has the good luck (from the root hap meaning luck or favourable circumstance).  To be makarios, blessed, is equivalent to having God’s kingdom within one’s heart.  Makarios is the one who is in this world yet independent of the world. His satisfaction comes from God and not from favourable circumstances.”

 

Blessedness, as everything else in God’s kingdom, is not static but progressive.  There are certain conditions set out in the beatitudes, and if one fulfils them, the state of blessedness becomes yours.  The first step to this state of inner blessedness is the realisation of one’s own impotent spiritual condition.  The poor[13] in spirit are those who cannot help themselves.  These spiritual poor people become those who mourn their own inner condition.  Then follow meek ones, those who are of a lowly heart and a contrite spirit[14].

In the OT we find a man of whom we can learn a lot.  Moses spent his first forty years in the Pharaoh’s courts.  Being brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter made him royalty.  History books talk of him as one of Egypt’s greatest generals[15].  But because of his own zeal, he killed a man and fled Egypt[16].  For the next forty years he tends to the sheep of his Father-in-law in the deserts of Midian.  There, far away from the distractions of the world, Moses had his own desert experience with God, learning from his Father-in-law – the priest of Midian[17].  As the years went by, Moses became the most humble person on the face of the earth[18].  Is it any wonder that such a man can be chosen to interact with God face-to-face[19]?

This brings us to verse six in Matthew 5 and the man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness getting his satisfaction, nourishment and fulfilment from God and being in right standing with Him.  As we are filled with the experiential knowledge of being in fellowship[20] with Him, we cannot but to extend mercy to those around us, and therefore obtain even more mercy from Him.  We give and live what we have received from Him and then reap again what we have sown[21].  The pure in heart are the children of God who live in obedience to God’s Spirit and Word[22].  The outcome of obedience is a pure heart, soul and conscience.

 

Titus 1:15 (AMP)

To the pure [in heart and conscience] all things are pure, but to the defiled and corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are defiled and polluted.

The first time the words son(s) of God occur in the NT and do not relate to Jesus as God’s Son, is found in Matthew 5:9

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

 

A peacemaker is not a peacekeeper.  Peacekeepers avoid tense situations. Usually these situations are filled with highly-strung or intense emotions.  A peacekeeper tries either to keep everybody happy or simply dodges these emotional places.  A peacemaker on the other hand has personally experienced God’s peace and knows how to stay in His peace regardless of circumstances[23].  When such a person enters a place, he or she brings that Godly peace along and it changes the very atmosphere of a place and every person in their vicinity is touched.  These have grown spiritually to a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ[24].  Although many may think this must be the highest state of blessedness, Jesus adds another dimension – the place of being persecuted.  When others begin to insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Christ[25].

So, after Jesus got their attention through demonstrating the power of the Spirit, He stipulated the progressive growing curve every person can experience when he or she accepts the conditions of entering the kingdom of heaven.   The one follows on the other.

 

When one continues to read chapter 5, 6 and 7, quite a few commandments[26] of Jesus are obvious.

  • Matthew 5:16        Let your light so shine before men…
  • Matthew 5:23-24 If you bring your gift before God and remember your brother has something against you, leave it there and first be reconciled to your brother…
  • Matthew 5:25-26 Settle matters quickly with your adversary…
  • Matthew 5:27-30 Do not even look at a woman lustfully…
  • Matthew 5:33-37 Do not swear at all… let your yes be yes and your no be no.
  • Matthew 5:39        Resist not evil… turn the other cheek.
  • Matthew 5:40-41 Walk the extra mile.
  • Matthew 5:42        Give to those that ask and don’t turn away from those that want to borrow.
  • Matthew 5:44        Love your enemies, bless them that curse you and pray for those who persecute you and do good to those who hate you.

 

Many a time we confuse the commandments of Christ concerning the kingdom and the Law of Moses from the OT.  The commandments of Jesus might look no different than the Law of Moses or the Ten Commandments – just more rules to live by – but the real difference is in the outcome.  Before I expound on this, let’s look at John 1:17:

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

 

The OT was based on works and specifically, being obedient to the Law of Moses – all 613 laws.  But we know that the NT is not based on any works but faith and grace.  During the 1500 years which the Law of Moses had been in effect, if any individual or Israel as a nation had not been obedient to the Law, the penalty prescribed would come upon them.  It is here that we find the contrast between the OT law and the commandments of Jesus.  The curses of not being obedient to the Law were stipulated in precise detail[27].  Jesus did not mention any penalty neither a curse that would come upon the person who does not abide by them. After giving all the abovementioned commandments, He interjects with the following words:

 

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

(AMP) You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect.

                                   

The Amplified Bible rightly describes the word perfect as the person who has grown to a mature state-of-being in character and godliness.  Therefore, the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ are a barometer of spiritual growth.  When I read through them I ask myself the question how many of these commandments come naturally to me – I’m not even trying to keep them, I already live it.  How many of these I really struggle with and which of them I experience as impossible.  This is then an indication of my spiritual growth.  The more mature I am the more I am living them with ease.  Spiritual immaturity in character and godliness is evident in the amount of effort I’m putting into trying to keep the commandments.  As my state of blessedness increases I am able to spontaneously live more of the commandments.  I do not live in any fear of a curse or punishment should I fail one of the commandments. Jesus became the curse on the cross of Calvary and redeemed us from the curse of the Law[28].

 

Looking at Matthew 6 we find Jesus emphasizing four basic ingredients which will help our spiritual growth namely:

 

When we read through the book of Acts, the book of the “actions” of the early Christians, we clearly see the four abovementioned ingredients form a vital part of their life.

 

 

On Giving

Acts 4:34-37 (NIV)

There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.  Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement); sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

 

Many Bible Scholars believe this Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus was the rich young man who encountered Jesus and asked the important question, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus’ answer was in line with his teachings of Matthew 5, 6 and 7; “If you want to be perfect[29], go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”[30]  The rich young man surely did not expect such an answer, something that he could not do.  However, the ways of the kingdom is not lived by any human effort but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

On Prayer

Acts 2:42 (NIV)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Acts 4:24, 31 (NIV)

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.  After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

One of the pillars of foundation of the early Church is prayer.  Prayer was as common as eating.

 

 

On Fasting

Acts 13:1-3 (NIV)

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 14:23 (NIV)

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 

 

There are numerous books written on fasting and I suggest that if you have never fasted, buy one or two books on fasting before going on a fast[31].  There are basically three different ways to fast: 

  • Without food or water.  This is done not longer than 3 days[32].
  • A Daniel’s fast.  Usually such a fast is only fresh fruit, vegetables and water[33].
  • A full fast with no food and only water[34].

 

 

On Faith

Acts 3:16 (NIV)

By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.

Acts 6:7-8 (NKJV)

Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.  And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.

 

Our Christian walk begins by faith.  Everything we do is by faith.  In fact, four times in the Bible it states that the just shall live by faith[35].  When we come to God, we have to believe that He exists and listens to us[36].  When we are baptised, prayed for, participate in communion, fast and pray, give of our money or need divine guidance, all is by faith.

 

In Matthew 7, the Lord Jesus Christ continues with his commandments:

 

 

Jesus was the living example of how to live all these commandments.  He came to show us it is possible, but only through the inner strength and ability of His Spirit.  Living the kingdom/Christ-life can never be done by and through our own abilities, power and wisdom.  It will tire us and we’ll come to a place where the Christian life becomes a burden.  That should never be.  The Law was carved out in stone[37] and heavy to carry.  Trying to keep the Law will be like a millstone around our necks.  Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”[38]

Yes, there will be persecutions, insults and false accusations, but the joy of the Holy Spirit will be your strength.[39]  The Christian-life is not about do’s and don’ts.  It is not a life lived with fear of punishment.  No, it is a joyful life, lived not from own strength but with full dependence on the inner strength and guidance of His Spirit.  It is about spiritual growth with Christ as our model.  He is the pattern-Son.

 

I would strongly suggest you read Matthew 5, 6 and 7 every six months.  Checking yourself against the barometer for spiritual maturity.

 

In Matthew 8 and 9 Jesus reiterates what He said, but this time through practical examples.  We could say the words of Luke 4:18-19 is now clearly and visibly performed.

Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”[40]

 

Jesus, through His actions, made the will of the Father very clear. When He was asked by a leper “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean”, Jesus answered “I am willing, be clean!”[41] When the Centurion told Him to only speak a word and his servant would be healed, Jesus marveled that a Roman soldier understood the way of the kingdom better than the Israelites (God’s chosen nation at that time[42]).  Through the laying on of hands, Peter’s mother-in-law was healed[43].  He displayed His authority over the forces of nature[44] and delivered two men possessed with devils[45].  This was not previously seen in Israel and the people started to follow Him.  Then He startled the scribes by pardoning the lame man his sins and when the scribes questioned it within themselves, He told them “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”[46]  Furthermore  He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead and healed two blind men by touching their eyes and saying “According to your faith will it be done to you.”[47] He ends the chapter by casting a devil out of a dumb man, restoring his ability to speak.  Now, after displaying the Father’s will and the kingdom’s ways, the Lord Jesus Christ makes this statement: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”[48]

 

 

To summarize Matthew 8 and 9:

 

  • Jesus cleansed people.
  • Jesus healed when people believed his words.
  • Jesus removed the cause of sickness.
  • Jesus displayed power over the forces of nature.
  • Jesus had authority over evil spirits.
  • Jesus forgave people’s sins so they could walk.
  • Jesus gave sight to the blind.
  • Jesus brought the dead back to life.
  • Jesus made the mute to speak.

 

Although I have personally either experienced or seen most of the above miracles, I also know too well that there is more in the spiritual application of His works than the physical.

The difference between the OT and the NT is that the first is the natural, the outward and earthly.  The second is all about the spiritual, the inner, and the heavenly.

 

1 Corinthians 15:45-48 (NIV)

So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.

 

Therefore, the kingdom of God is not an earthly empire as the Jews at the time of Jesus had been waiting for, but is a spiritual land, of a spiritual nature in the spiritual realms.  What Jesus was demonstrating in the natural, every person needs to experience in the spiritual.  It is the inner man[49] that needs the cleansing of the blood and the word[50].  This cleansing and inner healing is by faith.  The forgiveness received gives us the ability to begin a new walk in faith with Christ[51].  We do not have power over our own sinful, fleshly nature[52], but thank God, Christ has!  When we walk our new walk in obedience to the Word and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus[53], our sinful nature is being subdued, even mortified[54]. He brings us back to life[55] – a life with Him, living by the Spirit and makes us to see and understand spiritual realities.

 

It is only once we have passed from death to life, being cleansed and forgiven, are walking in the spirit, understanding the life in the spirit, and given the ability to speak that we are ready to be a labourers for the harvest!

 

To be continued…

 


 

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[1] These were the faces of the Cherubim seen by Prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:10, 10:14) and of the Seraphim seen by the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. (Revelation 4:7)

[2] Revelation 4:6-7

[3] Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23

[4] Matthew 4:8

[5] John 18:36

[6] Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13

[7] Matthew 4:17

[8] Matthew 4:23

[9] Contemporary English Version

[10] Matthew 5:3-12

[11] Zodhiates, Spiros (Th.D) 1993:  The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary NT, AMG Publishers, USA

[12] Blessed is the Greek word makarios.

[13] Ptochos: to crouch, cower like a beggar.  Poor and helpless.  Someone in abject poverty, utter helplessness, complete destitution.

[14] Psalm 34:18, 51:17; Isaiah 57:15, 66:2

[15] Whiston, William 1999: The new complete works of Josephus, Kregel, USA.

[16] Exodus 2:11-15

[17] Exodus 2:16

[18] Numbers 12:3

[19] Exodus 33:11

[20] 2Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:1; 1John 1:3

[21] Galatians 6:7-8

[22] 1Peter 1:22; John 17:17; Psalm 24:4-5

[23] Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6-9

[24] Ephesians 4:13

[25] Matthew 5:11 NIV

[26] Matthew 5:19 KJV

[27] Deuteronomy 28:15-68

[28] Galatians 3:10-13

[29] Perfect; spiritually mature as our heavenly Father. Matthew 5:48

[30] Matthew 19:21

[31] Swope, Mary, Ruth (Dr) 1998: The roots and fruits of fasting, Swope Enterprises, USA .

Chavda, Mahesh 1998: The hidden power of prayer and fasting, Destiny Image.

[32] Esther 4:16

[33] Daniel 1:12

[34] Matthew 4:!-2

[35] Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.

[36] Hebrews 11:6

[37] Exodus 24:12

[38] Matthew 11:29-30

[39] Nehemiah 8:10; Acts 2:28, 13:52; Romans 14:17, 15:13

[40] Quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2a

[41] Matthew 8:1-3

[42] Matthew 8:5-10

[43] Matthew 8:14-17

[44] Matthew 8:23-27

[45] Matthew 8:28-34

[46] Matthew 9:1-6

[47] Matthew 9:27-30

[48] Matthew 9:37-38

[49] Ephesians 3:16

[50] 1John 1:7; Ephesians 5:26

[51] Romans 6:4; 2Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:16,25,

[52] Romans 7:18-21

[53] Romans 8:1-13

[54] Galatians 5:16-25

[55] John 5:24; 1John 3:14

 

 

About Edgar Phillips
Husband, Dad, Ordained Minister and Missionary who loves God, Pastoral & Functional Therapist, Imago Professional Facilitator, EFT practitioner.

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