Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Kingdom Living Here and Now

Romans 14:17-18 states, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing God and approved by men."  When the Apostle Paul wrote those words he was teaching about disputes between stronger and weaker brothers in the faith concerning the eating of meat that had been offered to idols. Verse 17 is a general axiom about the nature of the kingdom of God. Though some wanted to focus on disputes over what to eat and drink, Paul said the focus of God's kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. So, what's so important about these three aspects of the kingdom?
Righteousness: The kingdom of God is a righteous kingdom because God himself is righteous (Romans 1:17). It is also true that God demands righteousness of those who stand before Him (Psalm 1:5-6). But the best news is that God provided that needed righteousness in the finished work of Christ on the cross (1 Peter 3:8). Furthermore, God preaches righteousness in the gospel message (2 Corinthians 5:20), and He bestows righteousness on those who trust in Christ for salvation (Romans 3:22, 5:17). Not only is righteousness a central quality in the Kingdom of God, but it is also conspicuous in its absence from any other kingdom other than God's kingdom. Those who observe the kingdom of God can't help but notice the profound difference between what is godly and what is worldly. It is because of Christ, that our inheritance of righteousness becomes real in our daily lives, both now and for eternity.
Peace: This quality is related to righteousness in that one naturally follows after the other. The peace Paul wrote about was much like the kind of peace attached to the Hebrew word "shalom". This is not just an absence of strife, but it also includes the perfect well-being that comes from being reconciled to God. Because we dwell in a kingdom of righteousness, and because we have been declared righteous ourselves, we are able to be at peace with God and our fellow believers. Peace encompasses both a God-ward and a man-ward dimension that creates great blessing within the church.
Joy in the Holy Spirit: Once again, there is a naturally sequential relationship between righteousness, peace, and joy. The first two qualities are such delightful characteristics that they cannot help but result in joy. But notice that this is not just any kind of joy nor is it the same thing as common happiness. Joy in the Holy Spirit is not produced in the world, nor can it be received by the world in normal physical ways. This kind of joy is not related to circumstance. It is, however, a natural fruit of the Holy Spirit's presence.
These three qualities are not created by human effort. Furthermore, these fine qualities are unselfish in nature. They are not individualistic, but rather interdependent, and especially so since the kingdom of God is the domain of the church. Jesus didn't die on the cross solely for the sake of individual sinners. He gave himself as a sacrifice for the church, to bring her to himself as a bride without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:25-27) Therefore, the kingdom qualities we have just addressed are the same qualities God intends for the world to find dwelling in the life of the Church, not just in the heavenly hereafter, but in the here and now.

(This article is a condensation of Chapter 11, Life in the Kingdom, from Ed Skidmore's book, Our Spiritual Inheritance, )