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Preaching the Kingdom of God

By Ryan Baltrip

Preachers should teach their listeners that they are to be a part of God’s present, real, and active rule on this earth. Preachers should explicitly equip their listeners to see where and how their lives fit into the realm of God’s kingdom rule. A preacher who deals with the ten tensions presented here will foster a Kingdom vision for their lives. While every preacher strives to preach the kingdom, a preacher who negotiates between and examines these ten tensions will hopefully gain a better perspective from which to proclaim the kingdom of God.

1. Ideology vs. Person

The kingdom of God has been predominately proclaimed as an ideology. Throughout the early 20th Century, the kingdom of God was taught as an idea. Liberalism made the kingdom a utopia brought about by social reforms and by fighting for social causes, while the person and work of Christ were minimized. In contemporary 21st Century, some theological undercurrents once again cast the kingdom of God as a utopian ideology that masks the person and work of Jesus Christ. Maybe not meaning to, they elevate the idea of the kingdom over the kingdom in a person. From such a perspective, the kingdom of God becomes an ideological idol that replaces Jesus Christ.

Preaching the kingdom must never be separated from the person of Jesus Christ. Preaching the kingdom must announce God’s reign through Christ. In other words, the kingdom of God now has a name and a face. It is not an abstract idea; it is the person of Jesus Christ (he autobasileia — the kingdom in person).3 He has established His rule through His crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus calls all those who would follow Him to surrender their lives to His Kingly rule and to participate in His Kingdom by obeying His teaching. Kingdom preaching that does not focus on the person of Christ creates a kingdom ideology, as mentioned above.

As Leslie Newbigin writes, “when the message of the kingdom is divorced from the Person of Jesus, it becomes a programme or an ideology, but not a gospel. In Pauline terms, the preaching of the Kingdom then becomes a preaching of the law.”4 Preaching the kingdom must never be reduced to a law, a program, or an ideology. It must always be the good news of the kingdom that has come in a person.

While preaching the kingdom must emphasize the person of Christ, people must also understand the concept of the kingdom in biblical revelation. Teaching people about the kingdom’s progressive revelation in Scripture is vastly different than preaching the kingdom as an ideological utopia, program, or social cause. Preaching the kingdom should teach the ideas of the kingdom, how the Old Testament laid the foundation for the coming King, how the New Testament proclaims the fulfilled Kingdom in Christ, and how the church presently lives as a sign of God’s effective and actual rule on earth.

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