Wanting the Growth Without Taking the Risk

JesusAppearsToThomasI have been reading through Acts and one thing that has jumped out at me was their willingness to take risks for the kingdom. It starts fast…Acts 2 Peter preaches a bold sermon, telling the crowd that they killed the Messiah but that God was still inviting them to repentance and reconciliation. The result? Three thousand are baptized! After that they challenged the Pharisees and Sanhedrin, disobeying the orders of the religious “authorities” of their day. They were imprisoned, flogged, and mocked.The result? They grew to five thousand! All that and you are only to Acts 5!

Why were they so willing to step out like they did? What was it about all that had lead up to this in the Gospels through Acts 1 that was so influential in emboldening these men to do these things? Two things are mentioned in Acts 1 that are pivotal to their boldness and risk-taking behaviors. 1) Their encounter with the resurrected Lord. Jesus underwent the worst possible treatment and experienced the most agonizing death imaginable. Even through all of that, God raised Jesus back to life. Experiencing the risen Lord would embolden you. It would ready you to take great risks for the kingdom. 2) The coming of the Holy Spirit. God equipped and empowered them through the Holy Spirit to take on the task of taking the Gospel message to the world.

One thing you will notice in the early chapters of Acts is that the church is growing and that growth is usually preceded by a risky presentation of the Gospel or a manifestation of the power of God (like miraculous healing) that results in the growth of the church but also further persecution. Each time they faced challenges, they prayed harder and God responded with further confirmation of their ministry and preaching by giving them grace (Acts 4:33) and growth (from a few hundred to over 5000).

Church growth doesn’t come easy. Many ministry movements have tried to provide riskless solutions that will draw people in but we learn in Acts that ultimately we are going to have to take some risks to see the kingdom grow. When we do, God will be right in the middle of it all. How many things do we start that if God doesn’t show up and bless it the whole thing is destined to fall apart? We all want the growth but few are taking the risks that are required to get there.

21 Responses to Wanting the Growth Without Taking the Risk

  1. edwardfudge says:

    Right on! The same point characterizes the message also. Of seven informal conversations/presentations (hardly “sermons”) in Acts, six include a statement that men had killed Jesus but God raised him from the dead. Those are not gratuitous or wasted incidental remarks but are the core of the message.

  2. The church (even that built upon Christ) is not the Kingdom of God.

    Jesus said he would build his church upon the Rock (himself) but when his disciples thought that the Kingdom should immediately appear, he told them a parable explaining that first the king has to return from a far country and delivery judgment to his servants and his enemies… (see Luke 19:11-27)

    You wrote:

    Church growth doesn’t come easy. Many ministry movements have tried to provide riskless solutions that will draw people in but we learn in Acts that ultimately we are going to have to take some risks to see the kingdom grow.

    Do you see how you stated an equivalence of “church” = “kingdom?” If the church was the kingdom of God, you would expect it do destroy all other kingdoms, to “break in pieces and subdue” all these other kingdoms, not to coexist within and among them (see Daniel’s vision in Chapter 2).

    Why (for what reason) are you stating an equivalence between “church” and “kingdom of God?” This is important, because that assumption seems to be a central theme among many of your posts, not just this one.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Good question. It is part of eschatology – already/not yet. The kingdom is already here but not yet in all its fullness.

      • I do not understand how you mean that the kingdom is “already/not yet”:

        * The king is not here, he has gone away into a far country, but has promised his return.
        * The kingdom is not here, it shall be established upon his return.
        * Even the membership of that kingdom is not written in stone, Christ has not yet taken his bride.

        So if the kingdom is not here in all of these aspects, in what way could the kingdom be already here? All of the parables I can recall (including “Occupy Till I Come”) are there to teach us that the kingdom will not immediately appear, and I cannot recall any of the apostles teaching that the kingdom was already come, or that the church was the kingdom.

        I can say that the kingdom is prophesied, and that the prophecy is sure, that we have faith that that this kingdom shall appear, and thus pray “Thy Kingdom Come” … but I could not say that the kingdom is already here, not when I expect his literal return as King of Kings and a literal establishment of his rule over the nations, a literal resurrection of the dead, and a literal destruction of all evil.

        On the flip side, if the kingdom is “already here” then it seems to be somewhat lacking, and not a great indicator of what we should expect in the future. On top of that, it begs the question, “Which one of these guys is the real kingdom?” This preacher? Or that church tradition? Which one is it?

        But weren’t we told that the kingdom would not come with observation? That it would not be “over here?” or “over there!” And then to elaborate, he tells his disciples that they should look for the return of the Son of man, as lightning from one end of the sky unto the other? (Compare Luke 17:20-37 with Matthew 24:7, etc)…

        If the church is operating with a paradigm that they are the Kingdom of God, it is going to make a difference in how they approach and respond to certain questions, it will influence their behavior. So which is it? Are we the rightful rulers of this world, or are we told to “Occupy Till I Come” even in a land that is foreign and hostile to us, strangers in a world that serves another god?

        John 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

        Aside from an eschatology view of “already/not yet” … is there any place where Jesus or the apostles spoke that gives the impression that the Kingdom of God is already here, other than by promise, that is, of a promise that we trust as sure by faith?

        James 2:5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

        … because telling people that the kingdom is already here is bound to result in letdown sooner or later. Disillusionment. And a weakened view of the actual kingdom that arrives in glory and power.

    • mattdabbs says:

      “Aside from an eschatology view of “already/not yet” … is there any place where Jesus or the apostles spoke that gives the impression that the Kingdom of God is already here, other than by promise, that is, of a promise that we trust as sure by faith?”

      Yes…here are some examples,

      Already:
      “Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” – Matt 21:31-32

      Right after that verse Jesus tells the parable of the tenants and concludes it with this,

      “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” – 21:43-44

      Also Mark 9:1/Luke 9:27,

      “And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

      Luke 9:62,

      “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

      How is it they are serving “in the kingdom of God” if it isn’t present for them to be serving in? What did Jesus mean that some of them wouldn’t taste death before they saw the kingdom of God come with power?

      “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” – Luke 11:20

      Not will come upon you…has come upon you.

      Not yet:
      ““Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” – Mark 14:25

      “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,” – Mark 9:47

      “When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” – Luke 14:15

      If that isn’t enough, Jesus was directly asked when the kingdom of God would come. Here is his response (Luke 17:20-21),

      “20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

      There are more but that is enough to show that Jesus taught the kingdom of God had already/not yet qualities. Hope that is helpful in your study. Thanks for commenting.

      • Thank you for giving me some material to work with.

        One) I’m looking at some translations of Matthew 21:31, including:

        KJV “Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you”
        NASB “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.”
        ESV “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”
        Amplified “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the harlots will get into the kingdom of heaven before you.”
        Tyndale ” … shall come into ye kyngdome of God before you.”

        The NIV is the only translation I found that reads “are entering in the kingdom of God ahead of you” as if it was something that was already there… There might be others (I cannot claim to have them all) but I did attempt to take a sampling of most of the recognized ones. In that case this seems to be an NIV-specific interpretation that wouldn’t work with (or might even be contradicted by) other texts.

        Two) I do not understand how the part of taking the kingdom and giving it to another is supposed to establish that the kingdom was one that was already existing. Could you elaborate a little please? (Matthew 21:43-44).

        Three

        Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:27 … I can see why you might give this as a reference… but do you really think (does it feel like) that the Kingdom of God has come with power? Seriously, … with power?

        On the other hand, I can think of at least one person who was standing there that day, who did see the kingdom of God come with power, who did not taste death until they saw the kingdom of God.

        And he recorded it for us in the book of Revelation. His name was John, and he told us what he saw on that great and dreadful day of the Lord, when he was on the Isle of Patmos. Christ returned in power and glory, and the kingdom was established. He saw it happen … while he was still alive, and he recorded it for all to read.

        Matthew 16:28 also states this conversation with slightly different words, which adds further weight to my explanation,

        “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”

        So the full event of “the kingdom of God come with power” is equated with “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” … Did the Son of man actually come into his kingdom in power yet? So when did anyone see the Son of man coming in his kingdom? John qualifies… but who else? It is fair and proper to compare the gospel accounts to one another for agreement, right?

        Four

        Luk 9:62 KJV
        (62) And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

        Regardless of the wording of the NIV any other version here, I don’t see how this passage is relevant as to the when and where that kingdom shall appear. Your reading has “fit for service in the kingdom of God” but that says nothing as to when that kingdom shall be.

        Luk 9:62 NIV
        (62) Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

        You asked:

        How is it they are serving “in the kingdom of God” if it isn’t present for them to be serving in?

        Your question doesn’t seem to follow from your verse…

        … but I’d like to address something that may lie behind that question… when Christ returns, when he destroys the armies of the world at Armageddon, was every last man, woman, and child present at that battle, or will there be a whole world that needs reconstruction, in dire need of kings and priests to serve them? That’s what true kings and priests do: they serve. “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11).

        As such, service in the kingdom of God is a little more drastic than learning rituals for church services, and if someone isn’t ready to make that level of commitment, they aren’t fit for that kingdom. God isn’t looking for people who want to sit back with iced tea while other people serve them, he’s looking for people who are willing to commit themselves to serving others.

        Five

        Luk 11:20
        (20) But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

        You noted, “Not will come upon you…has come upon you” … which is correct.

        … but how was the kingdom of God come upon them? Would you please think of how you would answer that question? My answer is simple: the kingdom is defined first and foremost by its king, and without the king, there is no kingdom. Christ is the kingdom, and he was the Christ.

        The same with Luke 17:20, “The kingdom of God is within you” … Jesus was the Kingdom, and he was within them when he spoke. It doesn’t make much sense to read that as “the Kingdom of God is within your hearts, ye Pharisees which I decry for your faithlessness and hypocrisy” … does it?

        In essence, Christ was stating that HE was the kingdom of God. How else could that be read? And a little later in the same gospel, he tells the Pharisees that they shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, “… and you yourselves thrust out.” (Luke 13:38) They all understood that Abraham was dead until the resurrection, so his statement places this kingdom as a quite future event.

        … from here you went with some of the “not yet” evidences, including one I had on the tip of my tongue (Luke 22:16,18)

        “I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God”
        “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come”

        Of what you have given me thus far, it seems that the Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:27 object might lend the most support to “the kingdom must have arrived” … but one of those verses is used in a similar fashion by Preterists to claim that Jesus must have already returned (I think they chose the date of 70 A.D.) … I think that passage is resolved by paying careful attention to the exact words (remember John 21:23, “If I will that he tarry till I come?”).

        The reading that did imply “already here” was specific to the NIV (not in KJV, NASB, ESV, or Amplified… ) but didn’t the “kingdom now” interpretation exist before the NIV? With your other examples I didn’t see how they required a “kingdom present” instead of a “kingdom future.”

        If you have other examples for “already here” I would like to see them… (I do have email).

    • mattdabbs says:

      Also,

      “On the flip side, if the kingdom is “already here” then it seems to be somewhat lacking, and not a great indicator of what we should expect in the future.”

      That is the whole point of the already/not yet distinction. It is not that it is lacking…the present kingdom reality (the partial in-breaking of God’s kingdom) it is a foretaste of what is to come.

      • If that is the case, then that foretaste is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Not too long ago I was talking with someone who thought the kingdom of God was about “women keeping quiet in church” (and they had better wear hats!) Is that the kingdom of God?

        If I slapped down a bowl of Alpo (or even a Chicken McNugget) and said that this was a foretaste of the Passover lamb, that would seem a little insulting, would it not? The kingdom of God requires such drastic overhaul that it cannot possibly coexist with the god of this world or his kingdoms. It is radical, and revolutionary,and vital… and cannot possibly be properly represented by a church. It needs a present King.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Andrew,

      If God’s kingdom is already breaking into this world in some ways I would be very careful saying things like how distasteful it is to you and comparing what God is doing to Alpo. Remember, be humble. You might be wrong on this.

      Honestly, all I need is Luke 17 and the discussion is over. Jesus was asked when the kingdom would come. He said it is here. End of discussion. I wrote more in this comment and then took it out for now. I will save it for later if needed. I just don’t see what more I need to prove the kingdom is a present reality than Jesus own words in direct answer to that question.

      I will answer your translation questions.

      Matthew 21:31
      The word “go”/”will get in to” is the present active indicative 3rd person plural form of προαγω which is the word for to “lead” or to “go before”. It is in the present tense, not the future tense. Jesus is saying they are presently going before them or preceding them into the kingdom. How is that possible in the present if the kingdom only comes once and fully at the second coming? Implies the kingdom is accessible now. This is even before the church! So the question is why did the other translations change this to a future tense when that is not what it says? In this case the other translations did more interpreting here in their translation than did the NIV and actually changed the tense of the verb to future! Interesting.

      Mark 9:1/Luke 9:27
      You wrote, “but do you really think (does it feel like) that the Kingdom of God has come with power? Seriously, … with power?”

      Only if you consider the dead coming to life powerful.

      Matthew 16:28
      In the New Testament the Son of Man coming in power is also related to the transfiguration. Have a read of 2 Peter 1:16-18. If the kingdom is already breaking in during Jesus’ ministry (as that possibility was just demonstrated in Matt 21:31) then the transfiguration could qualify as could Jesus’ resurrection.

      Luke 9:62
      in context does talk about when. He is directly reply to people who want to follow him but are not very committed. When he says they aren’t fit for work in the kingdom he is talking about the present. He is saying that if people in his day aren’t devoted to following him they aren’t fit for that kind of kingdom work. It is very much about when but you have to read it in context and understand who he is talking to/about when he says it.

      Last, the kingdom now view existed long before the NIV. It goes back to the Bible! Just one more verse here – Col 1:9-14 Paul teaches that very thing very clearly,

      “9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[e] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

      Notice especially verses 13-14, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

      Can it get any clearer?

  3. Matt, so much of your “proofs” depend on first assuming that which you intend to prove…

    First, in Luke 17… it seems like you just ignored everything that was already demonstrated. You are forgetting that Jesus himself was in the midst of them when he said “the kingdom of God is in your midst”… But… you did admit that that “the kingdom of God” cannot be the church, didn’t you? I think I heard you say that… So the discussion is not over, because nothing Jesus said there has any bearing on whether the kingdom of God is now. Jesus was literally in their midst then, he is not literally in our midst now.Jesus preached a literal kingdom, where he would be a literal King.

    But let’s go back to the elephant I passed over while I was distracted with the NIV’s unique wording choice of Matthew 21:31… and we’re back to the original problem that you’re claiming a verse means something that it doesn’t actually say. For sake of argument, let’s use the NIV wording here:

    Mat 21:31 NIV
    (31) Which of the two did what his father wanted? “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

    And here’s the problem… when someone says “they are entering the kingdom ahead of you” it doesn’t mean that the kingdom exists at that time. To use a more modern example, when someone says “they are going to the Superbowl” does anyone think for a moment that they meant that the Superbowl is occurring or in progress right then at that instant? The reason this seemed like a “proof” to you is because you were already assuming what you sought to prove.

    You asked… do I consider the dead coming back to life powerful? That depends… is it with power? When Jesus was raised, it was in darkness: the greatest display of power was the rolling away of a stone and a visible angel. When you’re talking about the scale of God and the kingdom of God, that was not “in power.”

    You also suggested that the vision of transfiguration might be the meaning of “in power?” But Matt, remember that the full gospel accounts tell us “…till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” and “…till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” That vision doesn’t satisfy either of those requirements, let alone both in harmony. They did not have a vision of the “Son of Man coming in his kingdom” and it certainly wasn’t a vision of power. That vision was not “the son of Man coming in his kingdom in power” … because the vision wasn’t about him coming in his kingdom! All of it has to agree, not just a choice fragment.

    But, there is a time when we are told that the dead will come back to life in power, which by the way, DOES happen to match with all these other signs of when we are told the kingdom of God shall come:

    Joh 5:27-29 KJV
    (27) And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
    (28) Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
    (29) And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

    That is the resurrection of the dead with power, not in the night when no one can see, but before the entire world, with an host of angels, before the armies of the world that have come to fight against the establishment of his kingdom, even bringing low the devil himself to account for his deeds. That is the meaning of power. When Jesus came the first time, it was not in power. He comes the second time in power.

    Luk 9:62 KJV
    (62) And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

    Sorry Matt, nothing in that verse does anything to establish that the kingdom of God is something (or was something) that was in current existence. You’ve got the words “kingdom of God” in the passage, but that’s where the resemblance ends.

    However, with Colossians 1:9-14, you do have a phrase that taken alone, does seem to support what you’re saying. But I think you missed the context. Back up one verse to number 12, please?

    Col 1:12-13 KJV
    (12) Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
    (13) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

    Paul is speaking of an inheritance, and that inheritance is the kingdom of his dear son. We are translated into that kingdom, but the kingdom is not yet. Paul is speaking of a promise, an inheritance, a potential. We find similar style of speech in 2 Timothy 1:10,

    2Ti 1:10 KJV
    (10) But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

    Paul also says that Jesus Christ hath abolished death… but aren’t people still dying? Aren’t the saints still dying? Or would you say that people used to die, but now they don’t really die and it is just an illusion? Or is Paul speaking of the promise of the abolition of death (I think that is obvious?)

    What I am seeing is that many of your points don’t find any purchase… but that you have been used to reading them a certain way from a certain mindset… and when Christ said that there would be some standing there that would not taste death until they saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom… you’ve probably wanted a way to explain that. But you’re also setting aside the numerous statements that solidly place the kingdom of God as something that cannot be in the then or now, but only as an exclusively future event.

    This would have multiple effects, including a reduced emphasis on Christ and the necessity of his return and rule… the second coming, the most climatic and dramatic event to happen on this earth since the Flood. And probably to the degree that when your churchgoers hear the phrase “kingdom” they are thinking of your church tradition and activities instead of the *actual* kingdom of God, and there is a world of difference.

    Luk 19:11 KJV
    (11) And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.

    When Jesus has very solid and clear statements to dispel the notion that the kingdom of God should immediately appear, why would you sweep the corners to try to bind together weak and non-conclusive statements to make a case that the kingdom of God already appeared, rather than allowing the passages to resolve themselves in a non-contradictory manner?

    Mat 6:10 KJV
    (10) Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

    In that model prayer, Jesus said it was not here yet… but we should pray for it. But I did think of something that might be confusing in that aspect…

    Mat 4:17 KJV
    (17) From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

    That kingdom was not the Jewish liberation from Roman rule, but neither was it the establishment of a church that would be persecuted for its faith. Remember the prayer of the thief of the cross, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom?” The thief on the cross understood that Jesus had not yet come into his kingdom.

    You did say that the “kingdom is now” concept was older than the NIV… with which I can agree. I even might agree that it existed in biblical times, which is already in evidence by the parable Jesus told to dispel that notion. But I think you will find it in most common practice among the Catholic and Calvinist churches, because the logic seems to follow thus:

    1. The kingdom of God is now.
    2. We are the kingdom of God. Us, not you.
    3. We are therefore God’s vicars on earth.
    4. Obey us or be damned. We can do that.
    5. You opposed us on scripture so now we will kill you.

    The kingdom of heaven is at hand, but that kingdom is not yet. That is why it requires faith, evidence of things not seen. We are translated into that kingdom… assuming that we endure to the end (we do have free will, we can turn back after setting our hand to the plough.)

    But you began by speaking of being careful… did you consider that the warning can cut both ways? If you take your own work or your own vision, and start to call that the kingdom of God when the kingdom is something entirely different, should that not merit caution as well?

    2Ti 4:1 KJV
    (1) I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

    Matt, could that be any clearer? Christ’s kingdom is ushered in by the judgment of the quick and the dead, power on a scale billions of times greater (even orders of magnitude) than what you were thinking of as “power” before. AT his appearing. When he returns from the far away country and delivers judgment.

    1Co 15:50-52 KJV
    (50) Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
    (51) Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
    (52) In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

    Matt, how could Paul be any clearer? He just flat out countered that “kingdom now” doctrine with a negative statement. But in a time and an age where the churches do not teach the resurrection of the dead, and where they minimize the second coming and attempt to assert their own authority over the people, the kingdom of God that Jesus and Paul preached is no longer popular.

    How might things change if your church started to put its emphasis on that Kingdom?

    • By the way… when people know what the real kingdom of God is about, that’s when they’re ready to take real risks. Death? That’s nothing, because the kingdom is a heartbeat away… we shall be changed.

      • mattdabbs says:

        It is easy to read these passages through the lens of our predetermined conclusions. We all do it.

      • The tricky part is that it is even possible for predetermined conclusions to be right. But even if one were to be right by sheer accident or circumstance, what merit is it if one were to “hold to being right” without actually caring to look any further? At least by talking with one another, we can start to see where we might have predetermined conclusions, and work from there. If we don’t talk, it is very hard to detect, measure, or evaluate our predetermined conclusions. As you said, we all start with something…

        I understand that what I am implying about the Kingdom (and what is not the Kingdom) might demand a large paradigm shift… and it fights against an existing tradition of (some folk) calling themselves (or their church, or denomination, or sub-denomination) as the “kingdom of God.” This of course leads to inherent contradiction, as there exists strife and division among these groups. Some will refuse to talk with or accept other factions.

        Mat 12:25 KJV
        (25) And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

        If the kingdom of God is the churches in this world, then we have the problem that they are divided against themselves, and shall not stand. If they were really about truth instead of ego, factions, and tradition, you would think they would be able to put their heads and hearts together and honestly thresh things out. But they don’t, and in anticipation of the obvious contradiction churches inevitably start branding other churches as not being part of that “kingdom of God.” Some will declare that *they* define the “one true church” …

        The problem is avoided somewhat if you allow the church to be the body of the saints wherever they are found, rather than a denomination, a set of rules, or a tradition. But those divers saints have no semblance to a kingdom… and interestingly enough, when you reasoned that “the kingdom of God is within you” was said before the church was formed, by that same reasoning you admitted that the church of the saints was not the kingdom of God either. So what is it? What’s left? I am left with a very hazy .. not even hazy figment, because now I really don’t know what you meant by a current kingdom. Most people that say that will say it is “the church” …

        I think it might be productive to define what we mean by (and expect from) the kingdom of God. It’s not like this is an unimportant topic: throughout the New Testament we are told that this was the gospel that was preached. How can we preach it if we don’t know what it is?

        • mattdabbs says:

          Andrew,

          The last time we had an in depth discussion I finally had to just let it go because I don’t see you conceding on much of anything when we get into these discussions. We all think we are right and we must all be willing to learn from one another. My experience from our past conversations is that you have much to teach but little room to learn from an opposing point. So before we dive into another discussion, especially one as important as this, it is important for me to know you are open and willing to listen and learn as much as you are willing to teach. We all must have a teachable spirit.

          Just want to say that on the front end. We all expect the other to learn or else we wouldn’t spend so much time on this and we are all pursuing the truth and the truth has much to teach us all, starting with me.

        • mattdabbs says:

          In saying that, it goes for me as well. I don’t have all the answers either. It also doesn’t mean at the end of the day I expect you to do all the bending, listening and learning. We would both agree that central in this is accurately interpreting scriptures as they guide us toward the truth in these matters.

      • Andrew Patrick says:

        I am not sure what you consider as the in-depth discussion. The last time we were talking on a different subject I was asking questions that weren’t being answered, and you were staking your credibility upon an absolute statement that Hebrew and Greek pronouns did not distinguish between singular and plural, the “thees and thous” of our older texts. I am not sure that counts as in-depth.

        If an opposing point is able to demonstrate merit I can be persuaded, which is precisely the reason that I am difficult for anyone to identify with any particular tradition: I have reviewed quite a few opposing points, and sometimes discarded positions that I had previously assumed. Usually I have done this on my own initiative. Few people are willing to challenge others on their beliefs, so if you want to be challenged, you need to willing to challenge yourself.

        If you were talking with someone, and they were unable (or unwilling) to answer questions that were designed to shape the discussion and lead it to resolution, would you be persuaded? Or would you remain skeptical and “unwilling to learn” until the subject was established (proven) upon merit? What would you do in those shoes?

        I would like to talk with privately by email: some things are better suited for public discussion, and other things are better discussed in private.

      • mattdabbs says:

        Let’s be fair…neither one of us answered all the questions of the other.

      • Andrew Patrick says:

        If you can show me a question of yours that I did not answer, I shall answer it.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Next,

      Let me give you a compliment. If the kingdom is only “not yet” and has nothing to do with the already/present, you are making that argument about as well as it can be made. I believe, though, that the already/not yet paradigm makes sense of the totality of verses than just a “not yet” view can do.

      Let me use one of your examples to demonstrate the fit,
      “If the kingdom of God is the churches in this world, then we have the problem that they are divided against themselves, and shall not stand. If they were really about truth instead of ego, factions, and tradition, you would think they would be able to put their heads and hearts together and honestly thresh things out. But they don’t, and in anticipation of the obvious contradiction churches inevitably start branding other churches as not being part of that “kingdom of God.” Some will declare that *they* define the “one true church” …”

      Your conclusion is that the kingdom cannot be already because the church is messed up. That is where the “not yet” comes into play. Let me give you a summary sentence to help you find the tension,

      The kingdom is already here on some level through the resurrection of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit and Christ and the Spirit’s embodiment in Christians/the church but it is not yet fully present in this world.

      I believe that makes all the verses coherent. So if the church has a problem it is because Christ hasn’t returned and reconciled all things yet…that has “not yet” taken place. But some things “already” have. Christ has been raised. God’s people have forgiveness of sins, new life in Christ, we are “seated with him in heavenly realms”, etc. In some smaller ways the kingdom is already expressing itself in this world but it is not yet all that it will be. More will be made known.

      Hope that explanation helps. I apologize if my lack of laying that out clearly at the beginning was a hindrance to the conversation. So, in summary, viewing the verses on the kingdom through the lens of already/not yet seems to me to make better sense of all the verses than just a not yet view and clearly better than saying the kingdom is completely, already here. It seems to me that where you are missing it is you aren’t letting the verses live in that tension and are spending all your time proving what is wrong with it all being “already” and finding problems with this take because you are seeing the already/not yet together. In other words, you are blasting a view that I am not taking – that the kingdom is already here in its entirety. I am not saying that at all and I don’t believe scripture teaches that.

  4. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Christians were to be found everywhere, for Tertullian, in an oftentimes quoted passage in his Apology, writes, “We live beside you in the world, making use of the same forum, market, bath, shop, inn, and all other places of trade. We sail with you, fight shoulder to shoulder, till the soil, and traffic with you”; yet the very existence of Christian faith, and its profession, continued to bring the greatest risks. “With the best will in the world, they remained a peculiar people, who must be prepared at any moment to meet the storm of hatred” (Workman, 189). For them it remained true that in one way or another, hatred on the part of the world inevitably fell to the lot of those who walked in the footsteps of the Master; “All that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” ( 2 Timothy 3:12 ).

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