Does the fact that misgivings have been voiced in THE OUTLOOK about what some have been saying or writing about the Kingdom mean that there is no interest on our part in positively seeking the Kingdom first?
Don‘t you believe it!
Please be sure, we are eager to be second to none in doing precisely that—to seek the Kingdom first. And may God be gracious to grant that our performance in this may increasingly match our profession.
Another idea that seems to be floating around is that the CRC is asleep and deserves something like the booby prize for her lack of kingdom consciousness and activity. We have badly botched the Kingdom program and we had better wake up, do an about face on the double-quick, and get with it.
The kingdom, the kingdom, the kingdom!
Of course, we’re all for that, even a thousand per cent!
But here too we must be on our guard against zeal without knowledge. It is of the essence that with respect to the Kingdom we think clearly and also define our goals with Scriptural precision.
Some comments first, however, before offering definitions.
Warning by Dr. G. Vos – Even in speaking about the Kingdom, we must be on our guard not to overdo it, Now that may sound strange in the light of what Jesus tells us about seeking the Kingdom first. But here too it is possible to drive a good thing too far. That sage and highly respected theologian, the late Dr. Geerhardus Vos, warned against this as follows:
“While thus recognizing that the kingdom of God has an importance in our Lord’s teaching second to that of no other subject, we should not go to the extreme into which some writers have fallen, of finding in it the only theme on which Jesus actually taught, which would imply that all other topics dealt with in his discourses were to his mind but so many corollaries or subdivisions of this one great truth. The modern attempts to make the kingdom of God the organizing center of a theological system have here exerted a misleading influence upon the interpretation of Jesus’ teaching. From the fact that the proximate object of his saving work was the realization of the kingdom, the wrong inference has been drawn, that this must have been also the highest category under which he viewed the truth. It is plain that the one does not follow from the other . It is only with great artificiality that the various component elements of our Lord’s teaching can be subsumed under the one head of the kingdom” (The Kingdom of God and the Church, Geerhardus Vos, p. 11).
The Kingdom in the New Testament – However, notwithstanding this word of caution from Dr. Vos, he would also be the first to acknowledge, as he does in the opening sentence of this book from which we have just quoted: “In the body of our Lord’s teaching as recorded in the Gospels the references to the kingdom of God occupy a prominent place. . . . If this be true from Jesus’ own standpoint, it is no less true from the standpoint of his disciples” (p. 9).
In a recent issue of De Wachter (July 16, 1974 – p. 3) Dr. Simon Kistemaker writes about the Kingdom of God in which he also calls attention to the frequent mention of this in the New Testament. Without going to the trouble of consulting Young’s Concordance, we gladly take his word for it that Matthew mentions the Kingdom four times, Mark fourteen times, Luke thirty-two times, John twice, Acts six times, Paul eight times, and Revelation once.
Obviously then, the Kingdom of God is mentioned so frequently in the New Testament that it must be a matter of extreme importance for us as Christians in our teaching and life.
Definition of Terms – In my judgment and from my reading I conclude that the old, familiar distinctions and definitions as given by Reformed theologians regarding the Kingdom still remain unsurpassed.
1. The Kingdom of Grace is our Lord’s gracious rule in the hearts and lives of His redeemed people. To enter this Kingdom, as the Lord made so emphatically clear to Nicodemus, we must be born again. This is the Kingdom already present now in principle. If this Kingdom were not also a present spiritual reality, how could we seek it first?
Paul writes about the blessings of this Kingdom in Romans 14:16, 17: “Let not your good be evil spoken of; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
The citizens of this Kingdom of Grace are the redeemed or the members of Christ’s true Church.
A familiar figure to show the relation of the true Church to the Kingdom is that of the Church as a smaller circle in the center of the Kingdom depicted by a larger circle. Obedience to Christ as their King radiates from the lives of the redeemed in that smaller circle out and into every area of their lives: the home, the school, the state, business, art, science, and into all of society. Calvinists are accustomed to speak of their religion as a life-and-world view, according to which all of life is to be lived before the face of their God and Savior, according to His will, and unto His glory.
2. The Kingdom of Power refers to the rule of Christ as King of kings and as Lord of lords over the entire universe. Many others have aspired to grasp power for themselves throughout the whole world. Think of the rise and the fall of all would-be world conquerors throughout history. Not one of these is ever allowed to achieve his ambitions and self-seeking goal.
According to Revelation 5, John saw in a vision that no one of all the rulers of this world was found worthy by Cod to take the book of rule out of His right hand. John wept at what appeared in this to be a dire predicament.
But wait!—suddenly there was a dramatic turn of events. The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, appeared in heaven at His ascension—the Theanthropos or the God-man, our Lord and Savior. God counts Him, and Him alone worthy to take the book of rule out of His right hand and to reign supreme over all the universe as King of kings and Lord of lords.
And that is when the great oratorio burst forth: “Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).
As King of kings and as Lord of lords, Christ has been given unto the Church. What a consolation and encouragement it is to know that our Jesus is reigning over the whole universe. This is His Kingdom of power. The headquarters of the whole world is not Washington, D.C., Moscow, Peking, or any other seat of earthly power but at God’s right hand where our Savior now reigns supreme, simply because His Kingdom of Power is already totalitarian, complete; and as the King of kings Christ has already been given to us as His Church (Eph. 1:20–22).
3. With good rcason we spcak also of the Kingdom of Glory. This is Christ’s Kingdom over the redeemed in all its glory and consummation as it will be ushered in at the time of our Lord’s second coming.
It is of this that Christ will speak on that great day when He will separate the sheep from the goals and say to those on His right hand: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). This will be the Kingdom of Grace in all its fulness, its consummation, and eternal glory. We seek this Kingdom as we work and pray that it may come.
In view of some confused and confusing thinking being propagated among us about the Kingdom, it is very important that we keep the above distinctions and definitions clearly in mind.
The CRC and the Kingdom – It is certainly not my intention now to overrate the Kingdom consciousness or efforts as these, throughout the years, have been found on the part of members of the Christian Reformed Church.
We have every reason to guard against smugness and complacency and also to realize that we have made only a small beginning in seeking the Kingdom first.
Moreover, our present affluence is undeniably having a secularizing influence upon us so that we are in no small danger of reducing the Kingdom to a secondary place in our lives or of placing it even further down on the list of priorities that we cherish, or of losing our interest in it altogether.
C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters warns that prosperity is “excellent campaigning weather” for the Devil. “Prosperity,” says Lewis, “knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.”
But, be that as it may, I believe that I may humbly challenge anyone to find a church or denomination of its size that has done more or is doing more across the whole spectrum of Kingdom activities and interests than the CRC. And I say this not to boast, for whatever has been and is being done is all of grace and it falls far, far short of what our Lord and King requires of us.
However, an inferiority complex does not behoove us any more than a superiority complex. To fail to recognize what God has enabled us to do would be to dishonor Him. If the above claim is marred by boasting let me revise it by saying: in the providence and by the grace of God, the record of the CRC is hardly one that calls for an abject apology or berating from those who may speak and write as if wisdom has been born with them. We should not be blind to the faults of the CRC but neither may we close our eyes to her virtues. Let me call attention to the following.
Christian schools, as these are promoted officially by the CRC, and as they are still being maintained regardless of mounting costs, are a monument to the kingdom stewardship of CRC members. The same tribute is due to other Reformed brethren and also others who give sacrificially for this kingdom cause.
Consider our Christian hospitals or institutions of Christian mercy. From ten years of membership on the Pine Rest Christian Hospital Board I know how the CRC congregations have led the list of donors. The Christian Sanatorium Quarterly, recently received, lists a year‘s donations from Churches and Societies and leaves no doubt that the same is true in their case.
The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee with its growing ministry of mercy is another cause for gratitude and rejoicing. Interest in Christian Labor Associations has not captured the CRC but their dedicated leaders have been found among us. There are good reasons to believe also that a considerable number of CRC members are also actively involved politically. Without taking honors away from anyone else let’s give credit where credit is due.
Mission work as carried on by the denomination is also directly related to seeking first the Kingdom. Every soul that comes to know and believe the gospel is another life into which the Kingdom is extended and from which the kingdom of darkness is driven out.
Be sure of this, my only interest in mentioning the above is not to boast and not to encourage resting on our laurels but rather to point out that CRC interest in seeking first the Kingdom has not been, and hopefully is not, as dead as some may seem to want us to believe.
A Kingdom Series of Articles – All of the preceding was preliminary to the announcement about and our introduction of a new series of articles on “Seek First the Kingdom,” of which the first appears elsewhere in this issue of THE OUTLOOK. In addition to this month’s article on “Seek First the Kingdom – in Literature” the plan is to have articles on the following topics:
Seek First the Kingdom – in Science
Seek First the Kingdom – in Business
Seek First the Kingdom – in Politics
Seek First the Kingdom – in Recreation
Seek First the Kingdom – in Education
Seek First the Kingdom – in Music
Seek First the Kingdom – in Evangelism
Seek First the Kingdom – in Counseling
Any suggestions anyone for additional topics? Let us hear from you. As readers and publishers of THE OUTLOOK let us pray that this new series of articles may yield not only words of wisdom but also an ever growing consecration in the service of our King in every area of life.
Lead on, O King Eternal, Till sin’s fierce war shall cease, And holiness shall whisper The sweet amen of peace.
ITEMS OF SPECIAL INTEREST
Generous Contributions – From Holland, Michigan a subscriber writes: “I am sending you [$100.oo] check to keep THE OUTLOOK coming.” Also enclosed was $5.00 to renew his own subscription as well as $3.50 to pay for a gift subscription. From Des Plaines, Illinois comes a heartwarming and most encouraging letter with a $50.00 contribution enclosed. THE OUTLOOK receives no denominational quota; and, therefore, with the Lord’s blessing, generous, voluntary gifts like this help make it possible to continue publishing with all bills paid. A hearty thank you also to these anonymous donors!
Annual Meeting – Members will be interested to know that the date of the Annual Meeting of the Reformed Fellowship, Inc., has tentatively been set for October 3 and 4. Plan now to attend.
Every Family Plan – In response to an inquiry about this, the Board of the Reformed Fellowship has decided to make THE OUTLOOK available at $3.50 per subscription when all the copies are mailed to one address.