Thursday, June 14, 2012

Righteousness, Peace, and Joy in the Holy Spirit

"For the kingdom of God is…a matter…of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." ~Romans 14:17

I mentioned this verse in my post on Christ's Kingdom and I would like to expand upon it a little. One way to define the Kingdom of God is God reigning in our hearts by the application of Christ's saving work by the Holy Spirit. Thus the fruits of the Holy Spirit (in this verse boiled down to righteousness, peace, and joy) are the manifestations of the Kingdom. This is a package deal. With the Kingdom you get righteousness, peace, and joy, not one of the above. With only one (or two) the others are defective. 

Some might focus on righteousness to the exclusion of peace and joy. They might be very learned on how to apply God's law to all of life and very enthusiastic about submitting the world around them to God's standard, but they then cause church and family splits by a lack of forgiveness and patience and never rejoice over the blessings that we can enjoy but always focusing on what is wrong and what we are going to do about it. Of course this is not really righteousness.

Others might focus on peace to the exclusion of righteousness and joy. They say things like "doctrine divides" and call for everyone to set aside their differences and "coexist." They end up with a society that tolerates all kinds of wickedness and is without real unity to rejoice over. At best, they merely coexist (though sin will not even allow that); at worst, they all die from unrestrained sin. Of course this is not really peace.

And others might focus on joy to the exclusion of righteousness and peace. They are the happy-go-lucky libertines that can't stand peacefulness or righteousness. "Dude, who cares about being righteous, we're under grace. It's party time!" Well, God cares about righteousness, and this reminds me of the people who "sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” and 23,000 of whom were killed in one day (1 Cor. 10:7-8). And thus the peace that they might dread is the peace of standing before a God that condemns them, so they must distract themselves with more entertainment. Of course this is not really joy.

It is very interesting to see what Galatians 5:19-21 says are the "works of the flesh" (opposed to the fruits of the Spirit): sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, (i.e. against righteousness) enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, (i.e. against peace) drunkenness, orgies, (i.e. against joy) and things like these. And Paul warns the Galatians, as he warned them before, "that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Of course, unpeacefulness and joylessness is unrighteous, and triple vice versa.

And so the answer is to manifest all three traits. If we see that we lack one of these things, then we should stop and reconsider what we are doing as what we are building might not be the Kingdom. Note that it is not to have none of them, but it is to have all of them, exceedingly. Apathy and lukewarmness is not an option. We must strive to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Eph. 4:1). Let us have the righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees (Matt. 5:20), the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7), and the joy that causes us to sing on our beds (Ps. 149:5). Of course this is only possible with Holy Spirit, and so let us pay very close attention to the Word of God, the sacraments, prayer, etc... and thus let us live for Christ's Kingdom.
"The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." ~Romans 13:12-14

Thursday, June 7, 2012

John Calvin on Singing and the Glory of God

From the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin,

"Hence it is perfectly clear that neither words nor singing (if used in prayer) are of the least consequence, or avail one iota with God, unless they proceed from deep feeling in the heart...Still we do not condemn words or singing, but rather greatly commend them, provided the feeling of the mind goes along with them. For in this way the thought of God is kept alive on our minds, which, from their fickle and versatile nature, soon relax, and are distracted by various objects, unless various means are used to support them. Besides, since the glory of God ought in a manner to be displayed in each part of our body, the special service to which the tongue should be devoted is that of singing and speaking, inasmuch as it has been expressly created to declare and proclaim the praise of God. This employment of the tongue is chiefly in the public services which are performed in the meeting of the saints. In this way the God whom we serve in one spirit and one faith, we glorify together as it were with one voice and one mouth; and that openly, so that each may in turn receive the confession of his brother’s faith, and be invited and incited to imitate it." (Book 3, Chapter 30, Section 31, emphasis added)

Every part of our bodies ought to display the glory of God! God has redeemed us and we are His, thus we should offer all that we are to the glory of God.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What is "Christ's Kingdom"?

"For the kingdom of God is…a matter…of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17)

I have recently realized that I have had this blog titled "For Christ's Kingdom!" for almost two years without ever really defining what this means. So here I will try to lay a foundation for doing this. It is very hard to summarize, but I hope this helps.

Christ's Kingdom is also called by other names, such as the "kingdom of heaven" and the "kingdom of God," that emphasize some aspect of the Kingdom, such as its source, the God in Heaven. It is called Christ's Kingdom to show His authority that He has been given to reconcile and redeem this kingdom to God. As Joe Morecraft has said, "This mediatorial kingdom was given to Christ in order to secure and apply the salvation of His people and to administer all the promises of the covenant of grace" (Authentic Christianity, vol. II, page 136). As God, Christ has always had sovereignty over all creation, but as our Redeemer He comes specially to put this sinful world into subjection to God. Thus the end of redemption is subjection. As R.J. Rushdoony has said, "The goal of atonement, of redemption, is the rule of God over a kingdom wholly subject to the law of the covenant, and joyfully so....Without the dimension of law, life is denied the meaning and purpose of re-birth."(Institutes of Biblical Law, page 73) See Revelation 5, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Colossians 1:15-20, etc…

This Kingdom is not "from this world" (John 18:36), meaning that it does not derive its power from this world but from Heaven (thus it is called the Kingdom of Heaven). This Kingdom comes by the giving of the kingdom by the Father to the Son on the basis of His redemptive work, and is applied to us by the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Kingdom is a matter of "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17), in other words, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:21-24). This Spirit works primarily by the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). Thus we advance Christ's Kingdom primarily by proclaiming God's Word, as well as the right use of the sacraments, prayer, etc…, relying on the Spirit's work in applying Christ's saving work, and manifesting the fruits of the Spirit in everything we do.

It is good to add that the visible Church has a vitally important (may we say, central?) role in the Kingdom (for example, its ministers hold the keys of the Kingdom, Matt. 16:19), although the Kingdom is not limited to the visible Church. As Louis Berkhof says,
"The visible Church may certainly be said to belong to the Kingdom, to be a part of the Kingdom, and even to be the most important visible embodiment of the forces of the Kingdom…In so far as the visible Church is instrumental in the establishment and extension of the Kingdom, it is, of course, subordinate to this as a means to an end. The Kingdom may be said to be a broader concept than the Church, because it aims at nothing less than the complete control of all the manifestations of life. It represents the dominion of God in every sphere of human endeavor." (Systematic Theology, page 570)
As for its extent and growth, look at the dream and interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:31-45, especially with regard to the rock. The rock is the kingdom that God will set up in the days of the kings of the iron and clay (i.e. the emperors of Rome). It will shatter the kingdoms of man and will fill the earth. It will never be destroyed. The New Testament parables also tell of this irresistible growth and eventual universal impact (i.e. Matt. 13:31-33). And in the parables of the wheat and weeds (i.e. wheat and tares) in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, the field is the world at the beginning (vs. 38) and the wheat that is sown is the sons of the kingdom (vs. 38). The weeds will mix with the kingdom until the final judgement when the kingdom will be completely refined (13:41-43). But by the end, the field (that the wheat and weeds are taken from) is already the Kingdom (13:41).

For Christ's Kingdom!