The greatest part of Jesus’ ministry was the proclamation of the kingdom of God through healing the sick, casting out demons, preaching the gospel, and teaching the truth (Smith 2012:57). When we talk about the goal of the Christian life we focus on becoming like the Lord Jesus Christ.
The kingdom of God arrived in Jesus’ person. Our duty then is to introduce the people of the world to Him. This introduction might only be a hug, a smile, a word or a touch as God is able to introduce Himself through everything we do. But it should include or be followed by healing, casting out demons, preaching the gospel and teaching the truth. As Kwame declared:
For with the proclamation of the Kingdom comes the power of the Kingdom. Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 4:20 "for the Kingdom of God is not in word but in power. For someone to present theological arguments with regards to the Kingdom of God and not produce evidence of the demonstration of the power of the Kingdom is to miss the very essence of what the Kingdom is all about" (Kwame 2012:70).
1. MODELING OUR MINISTRY ON JESUS’ MINISTRY
Looking at scripture, we are suppose to follow Jesus and do the things He did by believing in Him, and also do greater things (John 14:9:12). Jesus encouraged His disciples to follow Him and to do what He tells them to do just as He only did what the Father told Him to do (John 5:19). Paul on the other hand said: “…be imitators of me as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
We could never imitate Jesus’ redemptive work paying the price for the atonement of sin. We also know from scripture (Isaiah 53:12, Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:10, Luke 5:24 and Acts 5:31) that Jesus had (has) power to forgive sin, but I believe that we as His disciples does also. In John 20 Jesus spoke to His disciples and said “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:23). Even in Matthew 9:5 and Mark 2:9 Jesus compared the forgiveness of sins with being healed. Therefore if we are able and empowered to heal then surely it would also include the forgiveness of sins.
I do not totally agree with the fact that we need to preach about more than the Kingdom of God. I believe that everything we do in His Name proclaims and demonstrate the Kingdom of God.
The way Jesus used parables was unique to Him and also uniquely part of teaching and preaching at that time Jesus walked on the earth. I believe that we all are different and unique and have these unique qualities based on our past, personality etc. Our specific qualities are then used by God through the working of the Holy Spirit to proclaim His Kingdom. Just as the ministry of the early church was not 100% the same as that of Jesus, but it still carried the message of the Kingdom of God 100%.
“Sharing” and “love” are the threads woven throughout the ministry of the early church and that is exactly as Jesus wanted it to be, based on love! His commandment was to love one another and through this love be recognised as His disciples!
2. THE KINGDOM MESSAGE
Clairborne (2006:232) expounds on the portion of scripture in Matthew 5: 46 – 47, where Jesus says that it is not an extraordinary thing to love your friends and relatives because even the pagans do that. Jesus explained that it is extraordinary when you love people who are different from us and to love even our enemies.
In this it is clear that the Kingdom of God should be central to the message preached today. We are to model the early church as they had direct contact and instructions from the Lord Jesus as to how to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Jesus instructed the disciples to inter alia baptise new believers, preach the gospel, cast out demons and to heal the sick. Luke 16:15 – 18 (The Passion Bible 2003).
We see that the disciples during the time of the Early church executed these instructions in the book of Acts in encounters such as healing the lame man in Acts chapter 3; the conversion and baptism of the gentiles in Acts chapter 10.
In the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 13 it speaks about how we should love. When we love like this we will be able to live out the Kingdom of God on earth. It is therefore of utmost importance that "the kingdom of God" should be the central theme of the message and ministry of the church today. The church must then focus on healing the sick, casting out demons, preaching the gospel, and teaching the truth.
3. THE REALITY OF THE KINGDOM
I have notice that a specific understanding of the Kingdom of God is still not preached widely. We will all agree on the fact that we need to declare and proclaim the Kingdom just like Jesus did, but a certain reality is lacking.
I think that we do not advance the Kingdom of God because we do not understand the reality of the Kingdom. In Jesus himself, the King and his kingdom had come to earth. Wherever he was revealed and his ministry received, the kingdom advanced (Smith 2012:63). Paul wrote that the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17 ESV). To me it sounds like a delight, thus we need to delight ourselves in the Holy Spirit and so doing find entrance into the Kingdom of God. Even in Psalms we read that we need to delight ourselves in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalms 37:4). Paul also wrote that “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV).
4. PARTICIPATION IN THE KINGDOM
Our participation in the Kingdom of God is firstly spiritual and then it should also manifest physically. Paul made it clear that “…our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 ESV). Jesus also said that it “…is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (John 6:63 ESV). As we then participate in spirit we will also be able to do so physically. God said to Israel in the wilderness that they shall be unto Him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6a ESV). My understanding of the priesthood is that the priests were intermediaries between the spiritual (God) and physical (man). We are all part of the priesthood of God (Revelations 1:6) and we need to make Jesus real – part of our daily living and experiences.
Jesus came to serve and to give His life for others, imparting life (Smith 2012:58), this is easily missed. I believe the Kingdom of God is grounded in love, thus a true disciple needs to serve and give his or her life as He did because we need to take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23) and a cross was a tool of death at that time. Jesus said "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). The fact that He died that horrible death proofs His love for mankind. The more visible aspects of His Kingdom like healing the sick, casting out demons, preaching the gospel, and teaching the truth (Smith 2012:57) does not take away nor diminish His love for us. Jesus also said that we will be known to the world as His disciples through our love for one another (John 13:35). Thus the church’s motivation for demonstrating the power of the Kingdom should be love.
When John the Baptist doubted that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus answered "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (Luke 7:22-23 ESV).
Jesus came first as Servant and Saviour; he will return as King and Judge (Smith 2012:110). Thus we need to be servants and saviours. No I’m not talking about saviours instead of Jesus, but priests who sacrifice their own lives to establish the spiritual Kingdom of God physically where people needs it. We are then directing and guiding people towards Jesus (spiritual Kingdom). As I’ve said before we need to introduce people to Jesus for they do not have other opportunities to meet Him. Even if the introduction have to be repeated a few times before they realise the truth of Jesus and His Kingdom.
Jesus said "…whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these …" (John 14:12). I do not claim to know what greater means, but I do think we tend limit ourselves when it comes to proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
I do not believe that it is possible to separate the power of the kingdom from love. Smith also said that “it usually takes several exposures to the gospel before a sinner comes to saving faith” (Smith 2012:65). Thus love needs to be evident in such a way that the sinner will have the freedom and boldness to respond.
Dallas Willard said “All people desperately need to know about the Kingdom of the Heavens and their life in it. So, that’s how you evangelize, you call people to discipleship by announcing the availability of the Kingdom now. That’s what Jesus did and then when people understood him they also understood that He was the King” (Willard 2005)
The church should be encouraged by the example of the Lord Jesus as in Luke 4:18-19 to know that the Holy Spirit will anoint them to preach the good news of the kingdom of God.
Clairborne S 2006. The irresistible revolution: living as an ordinary radical. Zondervan. USA.
Kwame G 2012. Transformational Leadership: Empowering the church, transforming the nations. Xulonpress USA.
Smith KG 2012 (March). The Christocentric Principle: Promise, Pitfalls, and Proposals. SATS Conspectus 13:157-170. Accessed from www.satsonline.org/content/theological-research-conspectus-archive, 2013-02-12
Smith KG 2012. The words and works of Jesus. Johannesburg, South Africa: SATS press. Accessed from www.satsonline.org/satsecampus/mod/resource/view.php?id=10061, 2013-02-07
The Passion Bible 2003. Holman Bible Publishers. USA.
Willard D 2005. (August) The Gospel of the Kingdom. An interview by Keith Giles. USA. Available from www.dwillard.org.