Part 10 in the series.
By: Tom Casey
We have been examining Biblical stewardship in light of the presence of the Kingdom of God. When Jesus came to the earth, He brought the Kingdom of God to rule in the hearts of men and to demonstrate the realities of the Kingdom to mankind, as the Kingdom’s representative. As the steward and representative of the Kingdom on earth, Jesus proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom and demonstrated its presence and reality through the Kingdom resources made available to Him (Luke 9:10-11; Acts 10:38). The apocalyptic signs anticipated by the Jews did not accompany this coming of the Kingdom. Only a prophetic sign, the sign of Jonah, accompanied this coming of the Kingdom – announcing the defeat of the domain of darkness and the reign of God in the hearts of men.
Jesus’ message did not announce the overthrow of Rome which ruled the Jews, but the overthrow of the domain of darkness which ruled the human heart. Jesus’ message proclaimed the rule of the Kingdom of God over the hearts of men through the impartation of the nature and character of God within the human spirit. Righteousness was no longer a matter of influencing man’s external behavior through a written code of conduct (the Law), but of changing the nature and motives of the human spirit. It was no longer God’s expectation to simply be an after-thought to His people, as they pursued their own interests with abandon. It was now God’s expectation that He and the rule of His Kingdom would be upper-most in the hearts and lives of His people, and that they would pledge allegiance to the culture, standards and activities of His Kingdom just as those who enjoy His rule and reign in heaven.
When Jesus began His ministry and proclaimed the Kingdom of God, He drew attention to this greater expectation of God toward those who are now His Kingdom people. For instance, Jesus proclaimed that for those who are God’s Kingdom people, simply refraining from the act of adultery does not satisfy the expectations of God because lusting after a woman in your heart (or in the case of a woman, a man) was the same as committing the act of adultery (Matthew 5:28). Again, He declared to those who would be His Kingdom people that getting a certificate of divorce from their spouse before separating does not satisfy the expectations of God because the nature of the covenant they enter into together, in the presence of God, as husband and wife calls for complete commitment, as two becoming one body, and breaking that covenant (except for adultery) is contrary to the nature and character of God and His Kingdom (Mark 10:1-9). Jesus made other such statements, declaring God’s righteous expectations for those who are His Kingdom people (Matthew 5:21-22; 33-47).
In short, God’s Kingdom people are not simply sinners saved by grace; who are waiting to go to heaven to be with Him. They are citizens of a Kingdom whose King has great expectations for them and who have been given a tremendous responsibility from Him as His representatives. Jesus declared that they are to be complete, as their Heavenly Father is complete (Matthew 5:48). His grace is abundant toward His people and there is no condemnation for them as they endeavor to grow and mature in the Kingdom of God.
As a result, God’s expectations are much greater for His Kingdom people under the New Covenant than they were for His Old Covenant people under the Law. The Law was a written document which focused primarily on influencing the external behavior of God’s Old Covenant people. They had not yet received the Kingdom of God and their human spirits were still ruled by the domain of darkness (Hebrews 11:39-40). If any of them truly trusted in God and His promises, desiring and endeavoring to live according to them and welcoming His rule from a distance, God credited His righteousness to their account but they did not receive the righteousness of the Kingdom, for it had not yet come (Hebrews 11:13-14).
Why God has such great expectations of His Kingdom people is very important as we understand our responsibilities as stewards of the Kingdom of God here on the earth. We will continue to investigate these responsibilities as representatives of the Kingdom in my next post.