GOD DESIRES THAT THE CHURCH BE THE KINGDOM OF GOD
After Adam fell, God chose Noah and his family in his generation. After the flood this family also fell, and God chose Abraham to be the father of many nations. The kingdom of God was built upon him. Then He chose Isaac and Jacob. Later, the descendants of Jacob suffered in Egypt. In their sufferings, their number multiplied. God then sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt in order to establish a kingdom. Because of the rebellious ones among them, God led them through the wilderness to teach them obedience before He would establish the kingdom (Deut. 8:3). But they were still rebellious against God in the wilderness. As a result, all were strewn along in the wilderness. Even though the second generation entered, they were not yet fully obedient; they did not completely drive out the Canaanites. Saul, their first king, was not able to establish the kingdom because of rebellion. We do not find the first king after God’s heart until David was chosen and became submissive to God’s authority. But there was still rebellion within the kingdom. It was God’s command that Jerusalem be the place where His name should be set, but the people chose Gibeon and set up altars there. Because of the lack of submission, there was no content to the kingdom even though there was a king. Before David there was a kingdom without the people. During David’s time there was a people with the kingdom, but without the content of a kingdom. For that reason, the kingdom of God was still not established.
The Lord came to the earth to establish God’s kingdom. There are two sides to the gospel. On the one hand, there is the individual aspect. On the other hand, there is the corporate aspect. Individually, the gospel gives eternal life to those who believe. Corporately, the gospel calls people to repentance unto the kingdom of God. God’s eyes are upon the kingdom. In the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, the kingdom is spoken of at the beginning and the end. Verse 10 says, “Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth.” The kingdom of God is the sphere where His will is accomplished in an unhindered way. Verse 13 says, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” The kingdom, the power, and glory are related. Revelation 12:10 says, “Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ.” The kingdom is the sphere of authority. In Luke 17:21 the Lord said, “For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (He did not say that it is in you.) This word indicates that the Lord Jesus is the kingdom of God. For the Lord Jesus to be in the midst of you is for the kingdom of God to be in the midst of you, because the authority of God is fully executed in Him. The kingdom of God is upon the Lord. It is also upon the church. Because the Lord’s life has been released to the church, His kingdom must also be propagated and established through the church. From the time of Noah, God established a kingdom. But that was just a kingdom of man; it was not the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God began with the Lord Jesus, but how small was its sphere! Today the one grain of wheat has produced many grains. Today the sphere of the kingdom of God is not limited to the Lord alone. It is also in the many believers.
God’s purpose is not only for us to become the church, but also for the church to become the kingdom of God. She is to be the sphere of God’s kingdom, the place where God executes His authority. Hence, God’s desire is not only to gain ground in a few, but to have the whole church free from rebellion. There must be an absolute submission and an absolute position for God so that His authority can be perfectly carried out. In this way authority is established among God’s creatures. Not only does God want man to submit to His direct authority, He wants man to submit to all of His appointed, deputy authorities as well. God does not ask for a little submission; He demands a perfect submission.
THE GOSPEL BEING NOT ONLY FOR MAN TO BELIEVE BUT ALSO FOR MAN TO SUBMIT
The Bible speaks not only of faith. It also speaks of obedience. We are not only sinners; we are sons of disobedience. In Romans 10:16 we have the obedience to the gospel. In principle believing in the gospel is obeying the gospel. Second Thessalonians 1:8 says, “Rendering vengeance to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Those who do not obey are those who rebel. Romans 2:8 speaks of those who are disobedient to the truth. This is also rebellion, and God will render wrath and anger to those who rebel against the truth. First Peter 1:22 says, “Since you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth…” By this we see that salvation comes through obedience. To believe is to obey. A disciple in faith should really be a disciple in obedience. Not only must there be the faith; there must also be the submission to the Lord’s authority. When Paul was enlightened, he said, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). He not only believed in the Lord; he became obedient to the Lord. Paul’s conversion not only made him realize grace, but also made him submit to authority. When he was moved by the Holy Spirit to see the authority of the gospel, he acknowledged Jesus as Lord.
God has called us not only to receive life through faith, but also to maintain His authority through obedience. God’s plan for us in the church is for us to submit to His authority and to all the authorities He has established. This covers our home, our government, our school, the church, and so forth. He does not want to specifically mark out whom we should submit to. As long as we have met God’s authority in the Lord, we should learn to submit to authority.
Many can submit and be obedient if they are under certain ones, but to others they cannot submit. This is due to a failure in seeing authority. It is useless to submit to man. What is needed is to see authority. All kinds of systems are for us to learn submission. After a man has touched authority, a slight disobedience will cause him to have an inward sense of rebellion. Those who do not know authority do not realize how rebellious they are. Before Paul was enlightened, he did not know that he was kicking against the goads (26:14). After a man is enlightened, he will first see authority. Then he will see many authorities. When Paul met a little brother, Ananias, he did not see just a man. He did not ask who Ananias was or whether or not he was educated. He recognized Ananias as a sent authority, a deputy authority. Therefore, Paul submitted to him (9:17-18). How easy it is to submit when one has met authority!
(Authority and Submission, Chapter 6, by Watchman Nee)