This month we conclude the series of articles about the offices of our Savior, as we consider Christ Our King. As with the other two offices of Jesus (prophet and priest) this one, too, defines who you are and gives purpose and direction to your life.
Like the offices of prophet and priest, the office of king is rooted in the Old Testament, finding its fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth. The office of king was the last of the three offices instituted in the Old Testament, being filled by Saul and then David and his heirs. This does not mean that this office is less important than the other two. Reading through the gospel accounts, it is the aspect of kingship that is most in people’s minds when they think of the Christ. It was for the kingdom of God that the Jews longed. They hoped that Jesus would bring it about. The parables Jesus told were often said to be teachings on the kingdom of God. The charge that Pilate had written above Jesus’ head while He hung on the cross was that He was the King of the Jews.
The office of king was often the most visible of the three offices, as the king was responsible for ordering and governing the people, as well as for defending against enemies within and without the nation. It was especially through him that Israel understood God to be ruling and guiding and directing the affairs and well-being of the nation. When the king was exalted, it appeared as though God’s blessings were upon the nation, but when the king was defeated, it appeared as though God’s punishment was being poured out upon them.
This office of king was very important to the church in the old covenant, and it is as King that our Lord came; it is as King that our Lord continues to be praised, even to this day. Therefore, I proclaim to you that God rules through His royal servants. Let us look first at Our Humble King.
Our Humble King
We do not have a king in our country. Kings are all but gone in the governments of our world. Kings of earth often reigned by might and by force. They had an army for just that reason. Think of Pharaoh, Manasseh, Nebuchadnezzar, and the Roman emperors; they were often despots, able to reign because they were cunning enough and ruthless enough to gain and maintain rule. They did not hesitate to shed blood in order to assert their authority and power.
By contrast, our King Jesus governs us by His Word and Spirit. While on earth, Jesus turned water into wine; He multiplied the loaves and fish; He calmed the stormy sea. Consider the miracles He worked: was there any devastation? Was there any disruption? Was there any death? While on earth did Jesus summon an army of peasants to Himself to march upon Jerusalem and take it for His capital city? The Jewish leaders worried that He might try this, but they feared it only because it is what they themselves would have done, for it is what sinful man has always done. Not so our King, who is sinless, who is altogether and completely righteous. Sinful man would use miraculous power to destroy enemies and frighten foes; Jesus ruled gently.
Yet this King conquered greater foes than all the other kings of man. Nebuchadnezzar conquered Assyria and Egypt; Julius Caesar conquered Gaul and his rival for the Roman throne; consider today that the Allies in World War II defeated the German war machine and the Japanese military; but all of these are nothing in comparison to the enemies that Jesus conquered, for He conquered sin, Satan, and death.
Yet, how did He conquer? Was it by might as the world considers it? Was it with visible power and strength? No, it was by something completely unexpected by man: the shedding of His own blood. It was by offering Himself as the only atoning sacrifice that Jesus conquered. It was by the one sacrifice of Himself that Jesus satisfied God’s justice and released His people from God’s wrath unto God’s favor.
If you are trying to defeat a competitor on the basketball court or the soccer field, do you lie down and let him roll over you? If the nation of Georgia sought to defeat the Russians, would they move to the side and allows Russian tanks to enter into their capital? No, such is not how earthly victories are won. But that is how Jesus conquered the greatest of foes—He laid down His own life, shedding His blood, allowing sinful man to judge Him, to flog Him, to crucify Him. It is by doing this that Jesus paid the price for our sin: He suffered the penalty—the full penalty—for our sins against God’s law.
It is in the foolishness and weakness of the cross that Christ has conquered. It is through the weakest of means—that of faith—that we lay hold of this righteousness. Those who trust in Christ for forgiveness of sins have complete forgiveness. Do not doubt your status with God simply because God uses the weakness of the cross and the weakness of faith to deliver you from sin, from condemnation, and from death. We have a humble King.
His humility is mirrored in how He rules over us—the humble means of His Word and Spirit. The church is the greatest of organizations, the greatest of institutions, for in it the kingdom of heaven is opened and closed. Eternal destinies are realized here. But what are the means of its government? We have a Bible. There is the invisible Spirit of God.
We do not have great works of art. We do not have lavish instruments. We do not have swords or guns. We do not seek to control or coerce. The extent of discipline within the church is not capital punishment, not physical death, but it is exclusion from the body, from the congregation. These are very humble means, as earthly things are measured. As the apostle Paul says, we do not fight using the weapons of this world. That is how some other religions fight. That is how the crooked crusaders fought. That is how extreme Islamists fight. Our warfare is a spiritual warfare, demolishing arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. It is by the Word, which is the revelation of truth, and the Spirit, who convicts us of the truth, that Jesus governs us.
Jesus governs us by His Word. He makes known to us in His Word what we ought to know concerning salvation. He clearly states for us how we are to live for Him. In Matthew 28, Jesus commands us to make disciples, and part of that is to teach those being discipled what Jesus taught, all that He has commanded us. Jesus rules us through His Word when we are instructed in the doctrine of Jesus.
Therefore, you must listen to the Word of God. Read and study the Word on your own, as families and individuals. As you hear, read, and study it, believe it and obey it. There are many in our world who live life as they think best, who disregard some or all of God’s Word, because it seems outdated, old-fashioned, or disagreeable to our culture and society. Realize that these are not man’s words but God’s Word, and that by them Jesus governs us. Jesus exercises His office of King through the Word.
Jesus does not rule over us if we own a Bible and never open it. Jesus rules when we have that Word in our minds and in our hearts. That is how Jesus governs us by His Word, which is related to how He governs us by His Spirit.
You and I can memorize the Bible and know the truths of the Bible; we can ceaselessly debate theological issues, but unless the Spirit of God changes our hearts and plants that Word within our hearts, we will not be governed by Jesus. We need both—Word and Spirit. It is the Spirit who takes the Word and changes us according to it. We read of this in Matthew 28:20b, where Jesus said that He is with us always, even until the end of the age. Of course Jesus is no longer physically present, because He has ascended into heaven, but by His Spirit He is never absent from us, even for a moment.
The Holy Spirit works within our hearts as individuals. He also works by calling and equipping men to serve as officers in the church, through whom the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, and Christian discipline are maintained. The election of office bearers is one of the tools Jesus uses to govern us by His Word and Spirit, a wonderful means by which Jesus calls men into the offices of the church so that, by their labors, Christ governs us by His Word and Spirit. These office bearers are servants of the King, instruments in His hand whom He uses to govern us by His Word and Spirit.
Our Powerful King
Even though Jesus is humble, that does not mean He is weak. Many people turn their back on God, thinking Him to be weak, since He does not openly punish wickedness to the fullness of its deserving. Yet such people err.
Jesus’ power is veiled from our earthly eyes at this point, even though He is reigning in power and glory, but there will come a time when His glory is manifested to all. Consider the glory and power of the one who commands the angels. Consider how powerful Jesus is: He will gather all the nations, the living and the dead; He can confer upon some the blessings of the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world; He has the keys of death and Hades, as well as the keys of heaven. Jesus is the mighty King, King of kings and Lord of lords. This is what will be revealed on the last day.
On the last day, Jesus will commend those who gave something to eat to the hungry, something to drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, and cared for the sick and imprisoned. Did they do this out of the goodness of their hearts? Look into your own heart and answer this question: is it in your own piety, from your own resources of goodness that you do any good? No, all the good we do comes from Jesus working in us by His Spirit. He powerfully works faith and obedience in us so that we are guarded and kept in the freedom Christ has won for us. On that last day when the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will look upon His children and recognize their good works, done not from their own resources, but from the working of the Holy Spirit within them, upon them, pointing to the basis of their righteousness in Jesus Himself. This does not come from us, but it is the powerful working of Jesus within us.
Our Kingly Office
As with the offices of prophet and priest, believers in Jesus share in His anointing as King. You are anointed to strive with a good conscience against sin and the Devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity. You share in Christ’s anointing as King.
The Christian life is not one of ease, but one of struggle. The Devil works all the harder to distract Christians from their purpose in life—living for Jesus. The Devil does not have to work hard on unbelievers, but he does against believers. He will seek to cast doubt within your heart that God is your Father for the sake of Christ His Son. He will seek to sow pride that you are a Christian because of your good deeds, or that God is pleased with you because you have made such progress in sanctification, along the path of holiness, rather than resting and relying upon Jesus alone.
If you let down your guard, if you are not striving against sin and the Devil in this life, then you are opening yourself to their attacks. Consider the temptations that await a young person or an adult as he goes about finding information on the Internet: many wicked people try to lure others in by seemingly innocent offers or chat. Consider how the Devil works so hard with television and movies and books to introduce sinful thinking and sinful behavior, seeking to make such sins as homosexualism or living together while not being married appear to be normal and routine. Our striving against sin and the Devil includes being aware of these influences—not blindly or uncritically reading books or watching television or movies—but also exposing the errors. Striving against sins is not only to cluck our tongue at them or shake our heads, but to speak up, to work against them, exposing evil for what it is, even if our society mocks and derides us.
We are, in this life, part of the ‘church militant.’ We are striving against sin and the Devil, not with weapons of warfare that the world uses, but with spiritual weapons, putting on the full armor God, and above all praying, praying that God would give us opportunity and boldness to testify to the gospel of Jesus, that God would have the preaching of the gospel fill every corner of our world.
This is not optional. You are a member of Christ and so you share in His anointing. God has commissioned you to strive with a good conscience against sin and the Devil in this life. You must not refuse this commission; it is your duty. To ignore your royal duty would be as if the president of our nation would refuse to act as commander-in-chief, as if he would take a vacation in the days immediately following a national disaster. Your entire life long is to be involved in this conflict. There will be no truce, no peace, until Jesus comes again. You will not cease striving until you join what is called the ‘church triumphant,’ until you leave this life, having your body buried in the earth and your soul taken to Jesus’ side in heaven. Therefore, strive. Fight the good fight of faith until the Lord takes you home. There will come a day when the battle is over, when our King will come and destroy all dominion, authority, and power, when God will have put all enemies under His feet. On that day there will be no more need for striving against sin or the Devil, but instead we will reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.
This is your future; this is your destiny. Are you living with this in mind even now? Do you live as though you are a pauper, as though you are still in Satan’s slums? For those who are not trusting in Jesus and have not turned to Him in faith and repentance, there is only wrath and condemnation; there is nothing good awaiting you after this life. Unbelievers will experience the wrath of King Jesus. But for those who trust in Christ, who by faith are members of Christ, be comforted and encouraged.
Rev. Talman Wagenmaker is the pastor of Grace United Reformed Church, Waupun, Wisconsin.