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Commentary on the 25 Articles On the Kingdom of God
By Dr. Jay Grimstead
Throughout this short commentary on the 25 Articles, we will give very little attention to those articles which have
had almost universal acceptance in the Church and will concentrate most of our explanations on those articles touching on the greatest controversy.
1. God’s Eternal Sovereign Reign
We affirm that the Triune God has reigned sovereignly as King of the universe throughout all time, both before and since the incarnation, and will continue to reign eternally.
We deny that the reign of Jesus Christ, the God-man, beginning in the first century, suspends the providential reign of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Article 1 will find itself accepted by most Christians since it is probably the least controversial. Neither before or after the incarnation has Satan and the forces of evil ever gotten out from under the sovereign control of the Almighty God nor have they ever done anything God could not stop at any moment.
2. Definition of the Kingdom
We affirm that the term Kingdom of God has several applications and may denote (a) the universal rule of Christ over all things, both redeemed and non-redeemed; (b) the special, saving rule of Christ over His people: (c) the life, wisdom, holiness, power, and authority that Christ grants to His people; or (d) the permeating influence of the Word and Spirit in the world.
We deny (a) that the term Kingdom of God refers only to the providential rule of the Triune God, and (b) that Christ’s rule and realm are limited to the Church.
Again, most of Article 2 will probably be accepted by most Christians no matter what their theology. However, the last half of the denial portion, which rejects the belief "that Christ’s rule and realm are limited to the Church," will generate controversy. That is the very point (dealt with also in Articles 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14 and 18) at which most Pietists, a-political and anti-activist Christians and Dispensationalist brothers and sisters tend to disagree. This point is right at the heart of the question being put to the Church right now: What are the outer limits geographically, relationally, sociologically, legally, governmentally, economically, educationally, scientifically, artistically, etc., to the legitimate, proper reign of King Jesus on this earth during this present period of history?
It must be clearly understood that the authors of these articles see God’s Kingdom as a Kingdom of love. Representatives of His Kingdom must be loving as God is loving.
3. Purpose and Fall of Man
We affirm (a) that God purposed from the beginning to share His rule over the earth with man; (b) that God created man in His own image and endowed man with faculties for ruling the earth; (c) that God, in the Creation Mandate, commissioned man to rule the earth and granted him delegated authority to fulfill this commission; and (d) that man, by God’s design, was made to be the highest created being in the universe because he is the only creature that bears God’s image.
We deny (a) that man’s fall into sin eradicates the image of God in man; (b) that the fall eliminates or reduces man’s responsibility or mandate for exercising dominion under God over the earth; and (c) that all mankind, the righteous or the wicked, ever ceased to be responsible to live under the rule of God in grateful obedience to Him as Lord and King in every area of life.
Affirmation 3 will generally be accepted. However, two points need to be amplified. First, man is a much greater being than most Christians have been taught to believe. An overstated teaching on the results of the Fall and an under-appreciation of the extremely high place man holds by virtue of his being created in the image of God has caused most Christians to carry with them a very low "self-image" as a human being in this universe. This has had disastrous effects both in personal lives and in an emasculation of our energies and motivation as we endeavor to bring the physical/social/political world into submission to Jesus, the present King of this universe. Also, a number of false teachings on sanctification such as "let go and let God" have prevailed the past 60 years because of this misunderstanding of the high value of humanity.
Another significant matter in Article 3 is point "c" of the Denial section. Some theologians falsely think that fallen and
unregenerate men somehow have escaped the responsibility to live in obedience to King Jesus just because they are unwilling to do so.
4. Inauguration of the Kingdom
We affirm (a) that the New Testament phase of the Kingdom of God was inaugurated in fact and history at Jesus’ first coming to earth, and (b) that it now operates in reality and power among men in this present age.
We deny that the Church must await the second coming of Christ for the Kingdom of God to be inaugurated on earth in time-space reality and in power.
The timing of the inauguration of the Kingdom is a major point of controversy. We clearly affirm, and don’t see how it can be contested in the New Testament, that the Kingdom of God was inaugurated at Jesus’ first advent, death and ascension to the throne of this universe at the Father’s right hand. This affirmation separates the Dispensationalists from the historically Reformed theologians.
Our fathers and grandfathers during the past five generations have been wrongly taught (and so they wrongly but sincerely taught many of us) that there will be no real, actual, historical, political, economic, legal, functioning model of the Kingdom of God on earth until King Jesus comes back again. This is a foundational point and most Christians in most denominations these past 160 years have made a foundational and grave error in believing this falsehood.
5. Consummation of the Kingdom
We affirm that the Kingdom of God will increase until it is consummated when Jesus delivers it to the Father and that, at the present time, this Kingdom is both already present and not yet consummated.
We deny that the Kingdom of God will be either consummated or realized totally, comprehensively, or perfectly on earth before the return of Jesus.
Affirmation 5 will probably not be seriously contested. By stating in the Denial that we believe the Kingdom will not be realized on earth (prior to Christ’s return) in a total, perfect and comprehensive way, we give Dispensational opponents much less with which to quarrel. Many opponents of our viewpoint as stated herein have mistakenly overstated our optimism about how far we can take the Kingdom of God here and now and claim that we claim we can make a perfect, Golden-Age world prior to Christ’s coming. This we deny and we hope some of our more hysterical critics will read this and believe what we are and are not saying.
6. The Kingdom Touches All Spheres of Life
We affirm (a) that the Bible reveals God’s intentions for the growth of His Kingdom in all nations of the earth during this present age through the proclamation and obedient application of His stated will in Scripture, and (b) that His intention includes the increasing manifestation of His rule over individuals, voluntary associations, families, the church, the state, and all spheres of human activity, some of which are law, government, economics, business, occupations, education, sports, medicine, science, technology, arts, and media.
We deny that God’s rulership is limited to transforming only the private lives of individuals to His will.
Affirmation 6 will draw fire from our opponents. This affirmation was created as a broadside blow to Pietism. For the past 160 years, most of our best and most eminent teachers in Bible-believing churches have been telling us wrongly (it was all they had ever heard) that God’s Kingdom and God’s concerns are not to touch the realms of life outside the four walls of the church or outside our private lives. This we now see is a lie of Satan from the Pit to emasculate our efforts and render us ineffective in those areas of life important to the rest of the human race. The Denial of this tenet is a strong statement of the same.
7. Man’s Dominion Over the Earth Restored
We affirm that Christ alone, as representative man and last Adam, by His life, death, resurrection, and ascension to the throne at the right hand of the Father, accomplished redemption, the defeat of Satan, and the beginning of the restoration of man’s godly dominion over the earth as God’s vice-regent.
We deny that the restoration of man’s God-ordained dominion (a) lies outside the scope of Christ’s redeeming work as mediator on the Cross, or (b) awaits the physical presence of the returned Christ for its inauguration and expansion.
This article relates back to Article 3, "The Purpose and Fall of Man." When Christ died and destroyed Satan’s power over the earth and over mankind, and when He was enthroned at the right band of God as the One who has absolute and invincible authority and power over heaven and earth, He was given this authority not because He was God (which power and authority He already had as the second Person of the Trinity from eternity), but because He was a righteous human being, Adam’s offspring, the "Son of Man," and of the "lineage of David," the human king, and thus, heir to David’s earthly throne (now and not only later).
Christ, at His first coming, fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 and was declared as the present fulfillment of those prophecies in Acts 2:34-35 and Acts 4:25-26.
In essence, Adam, before the Fall, was the human king of this earth, reigning as God’s vice-regent over the earth. Christ, "The Last Adam" and "Son of David," restores that earthly kingship to Adam’s seed in His own person, and wonder of wonders, desires that we who come under His blood and become His brothers and sisters should share the power and authority of His throne now on this earth as "joint heirs with Him" and see that things are done on this earth the way He wants them done ("Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," and "Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.")
This is what is meant by being "Heirs of Christ" and "seated in the heavenlies with Him" at this moment, prior to our death and prior to His second coming. That is what man’s dominion on earth is all about. It is a very heavy weight, too heavy to be carried without Christ-like humility.
8. Satan’s Defeat and Christ’s Rulership
We affirm that Jesus Christ rules sovereignly over the kings of the earth not only as eternal God but also as the sole mediator between God and men, and that He lawfully defeated Satan de jure by His victorious life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
We deny that Satan is the ruler of this world in any sense that undermines the recognition of the rightful rule of Christ over the earth during this present age.
This simply states that King Jesus, not Satan, is now and has been (since His ascension to the throne of this universe), the rightful and very real Ruler over this earth and over the kings of this earth (Rev. 1:5), and He need not wait until He comes again to exercise that authority. One of the lies of Satan which has been taught in most evangelical churches the past 160 years (innocently but wrongly), is that Satan is ruler of this earth even after the resurrection and ascension of Christ to the throne.
That false doctrine, a doctrine of demons, has emasculated the Church during the past 160 years. Because of that false teaching, which is still believed by most Bible-believing churches, the Church during the last 100 years has been largely passive instead of aggressive. It has been fighting a defensive war instead of attacking offensively.
9. All Authority Given to Christ
We affirm (a) that Jesus, the Son of David and Son of God, was given all authority in heaven and on earth by God the Father; (b) that after His ascension He sat down on the throne at the right hand of God; (c) that from this position of absolute authority in the universe He is bringing all things into submission under His feet, exercising His authority ever more widely and fully on earth as the gospel spreads and people are converted to Him; and (d) that His exercise of that authority will become more fully manifest after His second coming.
We deny that Christ will ever be given any more power or authority over the earth than He was given at His first coming.
This article is the positive side of Article 8. It also includes the concept of a progressive growth of the influence of the Kingdom of God on earth through history as the Gospel is spread and individuals willingly bow the knee to Christ and bring their families, their vocations, their social life, intellectual life and all they have under Christ’s dominion eagerly and exuberantly.
History is replete with examples of how this actually worked in changing nations in Christianity’s progressive movement from the Mediterranean Sea westward and northward until the Reformation. Then, through the Puritans, Christians brought their faith across the Atlantic to America and then back south and east through the modern missionary movement. The critics of the idea of a growing Kingdom of God on earth appear to be ignorant of simple, documented history, both Christian and non-Christian. Until 1950, non-Christian textbooks on history generally referred to our period of history from A.D. 500, as "Western Christian Civilization."
In Crosswinds, Vol. I, No. 1, page 47, the
article by Ralph Winter
tells us, for example, that, according to the Lausanne Statistics Task Force, by the end of the first century there were 360 non-Christians to every one Christian. By around 1500 that ratio was significantly reduced to 69:1. By 1950 it was 21:1 and 1989, 7:1. We must assume these are nominal Christians, that is, those who call themselves Christians. Even so, these statistics show a remarkable flow from century to century.
10. Every Knee Should Bow to Christ Now
We affirm (a) that now, even before Christ’s second coming, every knee in every nation on earth should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of this universe and rightful Ruler of all lives, and (b) that only those who, trusting in His grace alone for forgiveness of sins, repent of their sinful rebellion and submit to Christ as Lord are justified and stand accepted at the bar of God’s judgment.
We deny that anyone, Jew or Gentile, believer or unbeliever, private person or public official, is exempt from the moral and juridical obligation before God to submit to Christ’s lordship over every aspect of his life in thought, word, and deed.
This article is simply the logical outworking of Articles 8 and 9 for all the inhabitants of all nations. Not only are willing Christians subject to King Jesus, but all humans on earth now are obligated to bow the knee to Jesus. The New Testament verses here identified (Phil. 2:10-11) are a quotation from Is. 45:22-23. This fits with Acts 17:30 where Paul tells the Athenians that "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent."
The Denial makes our point absolutely clear that all humans in any condition and in any position in society must submit to Christ’s Lordship over every aspect of their lives. Christ’s Lordship is non-optional, not only for the Christian, but for the pagan as well. This is what we must tell them as we present the Gospel message because the Gospel is "the Gospel of the Kingdom" (Matt. 4:23).
11. Submission to the Lordship of Christ is Essential to Salvation
We affirm that, because the King demands obedience from His subjects and children, (a) repentance is necessary for citizenship in the Kingdom of God, and (b) genuine repentance is evidenced by deliberate and continuing choice to submit obediently to the lordship of Christ.
We deny (a) that anyone can rightly claim Christ as Savior who does not submit to Him as Lord; (b) that Christ will save anyone who refuses to submit in grateful obedience to Him as Lord and King; (c) that this view embraces the idea of salvation by works; and (d) that Christians ever become sinless or outgrow the need for repentance in this life.
In this article, we focus on the Christian’s obligation to live under Christ’s Lordship, as in Article 10. We in the Coalition on Revival loudly proclaim that, in the present "Lordship Controversy," we stand clearly with Dr. John MacArthur’s position and proclaim that, if a person does not have Christ as His Lord, he does not have the right to claim Him as his Savior.
We, believe, with MacArthur, that this is not works salvation nor should it be called by the false name of "Lordship salvation." We simply stand with the old Baptist saying which states that, "We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone."
12. The Church and the Kingdom
We affirm (a) that the Church, which is Christ’s Body and Bride, consists of the redeemed and is manifested in the community of believers; (b) that Christ’s Kingdom authority is not limited to His Church but extends over all areas of life; and (c) that the Church is the focal point of Christ’s Kingdom work here on earth.
We deny (a) that the Church is to be equated with any denomination; (b) that Christ’s authority is limited to His Church or any group of believers; and (c) that any institution other than the Church is God’s primary instrument for the spread of the gospel and the extension of Christ’s Kingdom.
Unlike the previous five articles we don’t expect this article to generate much controversy.
13. The Great Commission
We affirm that the Church has an absolute responsibility to obey the Great Commission, and the task of the Church is: (a) to herald Christ as King over all the earth and Judge of all mankind, who now commands all men everywhere to repent; (b) to proclaim the good news of salvation by grace through faith in the atoning blood of Christ; (c) to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all of God’s commands in the Bible that apply to us today.
We deny (a) that the Church can disregard the Great Commission and still walk in godly obedience; (b) that the Great Commission is restricted solely to proclaiming the good news of salvation without the accompanying call to repentance and faithful obedience; (c) that the deliverance believers enjoy from the condemnation of the moral Law exempts them from the obligation to obey it; and (d) that obedience to the Law is a means of salvation.
There are two major areas where this article will be challenged by some. First, we claim here that the call of the Gospel and the proper response to the Gospel involves a commitment to obedience to the King who issues the call of the Gospel. This point restates Article 11 dealing with the Lordship of Christ as essential to salvation. Our Gospel call is a call, not only to get one’s sins paid for, but also to command all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30, KJV) and bow before this presently reigning King Jesus.
The second item some will oppose is related to Article 10, stating that every knee should bow to Christ now, prior to His second coming. The Gospel is not truly proclaimed by evangelists if that Gospel does not include the clear demand from King Jesus that all men, willing or unwilling, Jew or Gentile, believer or unbeliever, are obligated by the moral laws of this universe to bow humbly before King Jesus and His Father and serve Him obediently in every aspect of life; in thought, word and deed. This aspect of the evangelist's message has been almost universally left out of most Gospel preaching the past 100 years.
14. The Lord’s Prayer
We affirm (a) that the intention of the Great Commission is essentially the same as the intention of the second and third petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and the Creation Mandate, namely, that the Father’s will should be done on earth as it is in heaven, and (b) that these instructions from God call believers to participate by both prayer and action in the expansion of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven to whatever extent that is possible before Christ’s second coming.
We deny (a) that anyone can pray the Lord’s Prayer with sincerity and understanding without desiring that increasing numbers of individuals, private groups, and civil states should grow in obedience to the will of God the Father, and (b) that Christians need to agree in advance to what extent Christ’s Kingdom will be operational on earth prior to His second coming before they can work together humbly and productively.
We have come to believe that God’s concern for His Kingdom’s advancement on earth expressed in the Great Commission is also reflected in Matt. 6:10 of the Lord’s Prayer. In that prayer Jesus asks us to pray that God’s Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. This is powerful Kingdom language, and it is amazing that most of us missed what Jesus is really saying here. It is really His intention that the way His commands are obeyed in heaven is the way they are to be obeyed here on earth during this period of man’s history. That is what the Kingdom of God is all about.
When many off us prayed the Lord's prayer in the past, it was an "upper story experience" unrelated to time-space reality. We were not really petitioning God for the thing for which Jesus asked us to pray.
15. The Kingdom and the Holy Spirit
We affirm that the Kingdom of God, however guaranteed in the promises of the Father and embodied in the person of Christ, can never gain entrance or come to full realization in the fabric of human life apart from the agency of the Holy Spirit, who is indispensable to insure Kingdom entrance, to seal Kingdom membership, to implement Kingdom obedience, to build Kingdom character, to furnish Kingdom gifts, to empower to Kingdom outreach, to produce Kingdom growth, and secure Kingdom victory.
We deny that character strength, personal charisma, skillful management, creative imagination, evident talents, financial strength, political action, or educational prowess by themselves can build or advance the Kingdom of God.
We expect very little opposition to Article 15, since it states what most Christians of most theological perspectives believe.
16. The Church Responsible for Advancing the Kingdom
We affirm that God holds the Body of Christ responsible for advancing His Kingdom on earth, to whatever extent God has ordained, by applying His biblical principles through service in all spheres of human activity in all nations, prior to our Lord’s glorious return.
We deny (a) that any belief regarding the timing of Christ’s second coming, the sequence of events leading up to it, and the possible extent of the Kingdom’s growth prior to Christ’s return releases anyone from such responsibility; (b) that seeking to apply biblical principles to the stewardship of all earthly creation detracts from the believer’s heavenly hope; and (c) that one can properly lead without an attitude of humble servanthood.
This article will also attract very little opposition. What will be questioned by some brothers is our stating that the Church is responsible to apply God’s Biblical principles to all spheres of life in all nations prior to the Lord’s return. This ties in with Article 18, wherein we state that the Bible is the Plumb Line For All The Nations. In Article 16, we clarify that it is the Church which is to hold up that Biblical plumb line alongside all nations to see that their laws, governments, economics, media and families measure up to God’s standard.
Again, as the Church carries out its plumb-line task with society and itself, it must do so exemplifying Christ’s humility and love for mankind.
17. The Kingdom of God and Heaven
We affirm (a) that our primary citizenship is in heaven, though we are citizens of earthly nations as well; (b) that heaven is our true home and treasure; (c) that the Bible teaches us to be heavenly-minded and that only heavenly-minded men and women are useful for God on earth; (d) that we are seated in the heavenly places to rule in and with Christ; (e) that heaven is the pattern for earth; and; (f) that we are to live in eager expectation of our being with the Lord in heaven and of Christ’s second coming in glory, when heaven shall come down to earth in fullness.
We deny (a) that our heavenly citizenship reduces our responsibilities in society, and (b) that our expectation of heaven and of Christ’s coming gives us permission to neglect our duties in this world.
This article will receive very little attack from our critics. We included it in the outline to simply state for the Christian public what should be obvious but which, if we did not state it in words, would probably have provided an opportunity for undeserved criticism.
18. The Bible is the Plumb Line For All Nations
We affirm that the Kingdom task of making disciples of all nations requires us to hold forth the Bible as God’s standard and plumb line by which to measure the justice, morality, and practice of all human endeavors in all jurisdictions—individual, voluntary association, family, church, and civil government.
We deny (a) that the Bible and its view of reality bind only those who voluntarily claim them as their own and are irrelevant to those who reject them, and (b) that unwillingness relieves anyone of the duty to believe and obey the Bible.
This is one of the major points the average Pietist and dispensational Christian cannot seem to swallow. Frankly, it is a rather new thought to most of us who are now proclaiming it boldly, because most of us had to rethink this and come to conclusions which were different than what we were taught coming out of Pietistic, non-involvement, dispensational soil.
But now many of us, who believe we have awakened from a tragic 160-year theological sleep, have come to realize that God gave us the commands and principles and values of the Bible to be the unchanging, non-negotiable, absolute standards for all of life and that God now intends that those commands and principles should be obeyed and lived out by all humans, for all time, in all places, under all conditions, whether those humans think of themselves as Christians or not. That some humans are not voluntarily Christians does not relieve them of their absolute duty to obey the God who created them.
This point is one of the major battles with which we must deal in debating what is the proper view of the Kingdom of God on earth now. It is frankly revolutionary. By this we mean that when one properly understands what Jesus and the apostles meant in their teaching about the Kingdom of God, it expands and explodes and energizes the Great Commission far beyond what we ever dreamed it entailed.
19. Cause and Effect of Kingdom Principles
We affirm (a) that when people—individuals or societies, Christian or non-Christian—generally follow, consciously or unconsciously, the moral, economic, and practical commands of the Bible, they tend to reap earthly blessings as a result, and (b) that when people generally fail to follow the moral, economic, and practical commands of the Bible, they tend to reap earthly judgments as a result.
We deny (a) that God will forever allow people to sow the wind without reaping the whirlwind, and (b) that obedience guarantees the believer whatever he claims from God.
If we believe rightly that the same God who created the universe and built man’s soul and programmed his life also inspired the inerrant writing of each sentence of the Bible, it should not surprise us that, when men (any men, saved or unsaved) for any reason tend to obey the principles of the Bible, those men or women find that their lives, their relationships, and their activities are flowing with the "flow lines" of the universe and the "flow lines" of their own soul. And the converse is just as true. Their lives will end up either better or worse, happier or sadder depending on how closely they are living within Biblical principles. This should make perfectly logical sense to any thinking Christian. This is the basis of what we call the "Cause-and-Effect" nature of the universe. The moral, spiritual, legal and ontological laws of the universe (built in by God) function just as truly as the physical laws of the universe such as gravity. These laws are impartial and universal.
Thus, evil tends to bring with it, eventually, its own punishment, and righteousness tends to eventually bring on its own reward to the person choosing either good or evil. And this functions during this life to a large degree regardless of what rewards or punishment awaits that person in heaven or hell.
Once we can see this, it puts us on the aggressive side of encountering our non-Christian fellow humans in the fields of law, government, business, education, communication, science, etc. in this way. When deep within our hearts we know that the Bible holds the basic, workable principles for how all these fields of life are supposed to work, then we can confidently offer answers to all their problems which they desperately need and crave. This has to be done in a spirit of humility and servanthood.
20. Suffering as Part of Kingdom Living
We affirm that suffering and persecution are a normal part of the Christian life by which the believer participates with Christ in His sufferings, in selfless service for the advance of the Kingdom.
We deny (a) that suffering is always a sign of God’s judgment or displeasure with sin, and (b) that suffering adds to the work of Christ in redemption.
This is another article which will receive very little criticism from most of the Church. We felt it was incumbent upon us to make a comment about this, not because it is a great debate going on between our critics and us, but because it appears there are some misguided teachings about this matter, some of which are associated with Christians who promote the Kingdom of God.
21. Continuity Between the Testaments
We affirm that there is continuity between the personal and social moral principles of the Old and New Testaments.
We deny that the moral principles of the New Testament are different from the moral principles of the Old Testament, whether individual or social.
This is a simple and short affirmation. Most Christians would find it difficult to argue with what this affirmation actually says. However, this affirmation touches on a very basic debate that has been more or less continual since the rise of Dispensationalism in 1825 and that has been around since the Anabaptists of Luther’s time.
As most theologians would agree, there is both continuity and discontinuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The debate deals with whether the continuity or the discontinuity is greater. The Dispensationalists and earlier Pietists have contended that the discontinuity is far greater than the continuity. On the other hand, the Reformed theologians and those standing with the mainstream of the Church’s theology of 2,000 years argue that the continuity far surpasses the discontinuity between the two testaments. This in turn is a question of hermeneutics, that literary science dealing with how one interprets historical documents or literature. One of the basic differences is this hermeneutic distinction. The Reformed theologians claim the Old Testament commands are "maintained unless
modified" by the New Testament, whereas, the Dispensationalist theologians claim the Old Testament commands are "repealed unless repeated" by the New Testament.
How much of the Old Testament social law in Exodus through Deuteronomy does God want us to try to implement into public policy during this century? For the record, it can be said that there is definitely no monolithic consensus about this question at this time. There is a wide spectrum of opinion about this within the Reformed and Kingdom of God camp. We mention this so the rest of the Body will not automatically miscategorize any of us.
22. The Kingdom in the Old Testament
We affirm (a) that the Old Testament Kingdom of Israel was brought about and shaped by the acts of God in history; (b) that this Kingdom was to be based on the principles and laws given by God, but the people fell far short of the ideal and righteous Kingdom that those laws prescribed; and (c) that the development of the Davidic Kingdom was God’s way to prepare His people for the coming Messianic Kingdom.
We deny (a) that the Old Testament Kingdom of Israel is to be understood only through naturalistic and nationalistic principles and had nothing to do with God’s eternal principles and laws, and (b) that anyone could properly understand or anticipate the Messianic Kingdom apart from Old Testament history and the Davidic Kingdom.
This article will also probably not generate much disagreement. Most Christians would agree with our statements in Article 22, but like similar non-controversial statements in Articles 1, 12, 15, 17 and 20, we felt that a well rounded and somewhat complete formal statement on the Kingdom of God required us to make some comment on these points.
23. Church and State
We affirm (a) that the biblically proper relationship between civil government and ecclesiastical government in any nation consists in each freely conducting its affairs in obedience to God’s laws in creation and the Bible, without usurping the other’s lawful jurisdiction; (b) that civil government is to enforce on all people laws of civil justice revealed in creation and restated in Scripture, with the physical sword, while ecclesiastical government is to enforce on the church redemption laws of personal and social morality revealed in Scripture, with the spiritual sword; (c) that the state must maintain religious liberty for its citizens without attempting to define correct religious doctrine; and (d) that religious liberty does not grant anyone the right to harm other people physically in their persons, liberty, or property.
We deny (a) that the church ought to rule over the state; (b) that the state ought to rule over the church; (c) that separation of church and state means separation of state and religiously motivated activity; (d) that it is even possible to separate religious motivation from activity in any sphere; and (e) that the church may properly use the coercion of the physical sword.
This statement is of major importance since there is so much confusion and fear regarding the Biblical view of the proper relationship between Church and State. For the most part, it can be said that most people are fearful and confused about these four items.
A. They think falsely that we who are politically active from a Biblical motivation wish to institute a theocracy or a "Church-controlled state" such as we had in the Middle Ages. And it is our opinion that none of the committee preparing these articles wish for that or are working toward that end.
B. They think falsely that the Founding Fathers who wrote the U.S. Constitution did intend to make a "separation" wherein the state was not to be under obligation to govern by Biblical morality or to be influenced by the Church’s input about what is right and what is wrong in God’s eyes. This is a sheer fabrication. The Founding Fathers of America, though not all conservative Christians, were either serious, praying, born-again Christians or were consciously committed to the Bible’s view of morality, society, law and reality in general. The phrase "separation of church and state" does not occur in the U.S. Constitution though it did occur in the communistic Soviet constitution.
C. They think falsely that America was not founded as a Christian or Biblically-oriented nation and that it was not clearly considered to be a Christian nation. The falseness of this view also has been discussed and proven over and over again by men on our committee and others, thank God. There is more evidence to prove this point than most people care to realize.
D. They falsely think that there are more than two options before us at this time. They fail to see that the choice before us at this point in history is for either a Biblically-oriented law base to govern the nations of the world (including our own nation) or an anti-Biblically-oriented law base to govern the nations of the world. At this point the thinkers of the world are fairly well agreed on both sides that those are our only two options. And that is the struggle politically, legally, economically and educationally (and in the media, arts, science and family matters) in a nutshell. People who do not see this overriding, all-encompassing fact are not prepared to make good decisions at the polls or anywhere else.
We believe these statements in Article 23 will bring understanding and peace to many confused people.
Below is a chart which will help explain how America’s Founding fathers, and before them, Samuel Rutherford, John Knox and John Calvin, saw the relationship among the Church, the State and God. Though this will alleviate the fears of some, it does not give the militant, atheistic humanists any comfort.
24. The Kingdom Transcends All National Entities
We affirm that the Kingdom of God transcends all national, political, and ethnic boundaries, uniting all believers in its King, Jesus Christ.
We deny that the Kingdom of God can be identified or equated with any geographical, national, political, or ethnic entity.
By this we mean that the Kingdom of God, and the definition of God’s people and God’s plans for His people, includes men and women from each nationality, race, and ethnic group on the earth. The Kingdom of God is not subject to physical boundaries; its domain extends to all nations, geographical locations, and cultures of the earth. The Kingdom of God, as it was
inaugurated by the Man Jesus Christ in the First Century, is not linked in any special way to the land of Israel or America or Europe or any other geographical location on the earth. Further, the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with genetics, bloodlines, or race whatsoever. For in the Kingdom: "There is neither Jew, nor Gentile, Barbarian,
Scythian, bond or free, but Christ is all and in all."
25. Historic Orthodoxy Supports These Affirmations
We affirm (a) that the Kingdom of God is a central teaching of the New Testament and cannot be neglected without loss to the Church and the Church’s influence upon society; (b) that millennial issues flow from the understanding of the Kingdom of God rather than vice versa; (c) that it is more important strategically for the Church to engage in building the Kingdom of God on earth than for it to resolve its disagreements about the millennium; and (d) that the foregoing affirmations and denials are consistent with the mainstream of historic orthodox Christianity.
We deny (a) that orthodox Christianity has ever adopted a universally accepted position regarding eschatology or regarding the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, and (b) that Christians should make views such as premillennialism, amillennialism, or postmillennialism a test of orthodoxy.
Views of the millennium have never been used as a test for orthodoxy of
Biblical doctrine up until the past 100 years, when some churches and
organizations mistakenly thought they should do so. Also, we should not try
to make the Kingdom of God fit in around our views of eschatology and the
millennium. Rather, we should first clarify what is the Bible teaching on
the Kingdom of God, and then adjust our view of eschatology to fit that
Biblical view of the Kingdom. It is our opinion that people who decide what
they are going to believe about the Kingdom of God based upon their view of
the Millennium are going at it exactly backwards.
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