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THE CHURCH: ITS RELATION TO THE KINGDOM OF
Man was excluded from the kingdom of God at his expulsion from Paradise : his restoration to that kingdom has been the grand end of all God's subsequent dispensations. This restoration, according to the divine plan, was to be accomplished through a mediatorial kingdom, of which the God-man Jesus Christ should be King. Under this kingdom of the Mediator the universe should no longer be governed immediately by God, but mediately through the God-man, all power in heaven and in earth being given unto him. The special end of his reign should be the accomplishment of human redemption, for which, under his sway, all the resources of the universe will be employed. When this end shall have been attained the mediatorial reign will cease and the sovereignty of the universe will revert to God; when the Son, having "put all enemies under his feet," "shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father," that thenceforth “God may be all in all.”
I. In the Old Testament period this kingdom appears as future, the grand hope of the world, toward which the longing desire of all true souls is directed; and its outlines are adumbrated in type and prophecy. In type, it found clearest expression in the ancient theocracy, especially in the kingdom of David, of which the invisible Jehovah was the true and ever-living King; and hence, in the later language of the Old Testament, the throne and sceptre of David often designate the reign of the Messianic King; and the triumphs of David, the triumphs of this coming and mightier Monarch. In prophecy, this kingdom is more clearly revealed.
Its king shall be the God-man. He is the child of the race; yet “his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isa. ix. 6, 7). "All people, nations, and languages shall serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. vii. 13, 14). His reign shall fill the world with righteousness and peace and happiness (Isa. xi. 1-9). Bethlehem is indicated as the place of his birth (Micah v. 2), and the time of his coming shall be at the end of seventy weeks of years from the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem after the Captivity (Dan. ix. 23– 27). And as the ages advance, all the lines of history, alike in Israel and in the heathen world, are seen converging toward this predicted period as the epoch of deliverance for the race.
In the fulness of time Christ the King appeared ; and his kingdom, after his earthly humiliation and suffering, was fully inaugurated at his ascension, when he was enthroned in heaven. God “set him at his own right hand
in the heavenly places, far above all principality and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. i. 20-23).
II. The kingdom of Christ “is not of this world :” it has no visible, earthly throne, no great outward earthly organization; yet it is absolutely universal and all-comprehending, since to him is given “all power in heaven and in earth.” Hence the dominion of the God-man appears in Scripture under several aspects : 1. He reigns as mediatorial King on the throne of the universe, swaying the sceptre of universal dominion. All the powers of the spiritual world, "thrones and dominions, principalities and powers,” are under him and execute his behests. All the forces of the material universe, throughout immensity, are subject to his control. He is “King of kings and Lord of lords," "the. Prince of the kings of the earth,” ruling with absolute power among the nations of the world. And over this mighty realm he reigns as “Head over all things to the church,” controlling the infinite resources of the universe for the accomplishment of the work of redemption. 2. He reigns in the invisible, spiritual church, enthroned, as the supreme object of love and homage, within all redeemed souls in heaven and on earth. A free and joyous submission of the will to this invisible Sovereign and faith in him are the initial acts in every Christian life, and loyalty to him becomes the mightiest principle in the soul-a bond binding each believer in eternal allegiance to Christ. The throne of Christ is the spiritual magnet of the universe, toward which all true souls, in every power of their being, are drawn with irresistible attraction. And the effect of his
reign within their hearts is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. xiv. 17). 3. He reigns in each visible, earthly church as its sole Lawgiver and Head. All its powers are derived from him. he ascended up on high, he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. iv. 8–13). And as of old the revelator saw him, in glorious form, "walking amidst the seven golden candlesticks," so, through all the ages, Christ rules among the churches on earth, their Head and sovereign Lord, his word their only guide, his will their only law.
III. The subjects of Christ's kingdom are visibly distinguished : 1. By their character. They possess a new spiritual life ; for“ except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." They have passed from death unto life," and "have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son." They exercise the holy affections which flow from this new life—"love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” In heart and life they are loyal to the will of Christ. 2. By their baptism, the formal, outward symbol in which they avow their allegiance to Christ. Jesus said, “ Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John iii. 5); “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark xvi. 16). Baptism is the initial, public act of submission to him, the sacramentum, or oath of fealty to his kingdom; and hence this ordinance, which is commonly initiatory to the church, was administered to a believer, even where there was no local church, as the symbol of submission to the heavenly King (Acts viii. 26-40).
The church is the visible, earthly form of the kingdom
of Christ, and is the divine organization appointed for its advancement and triumph. Organized and governed by the laws of the invisible King, and composed of the subjects of the heavenly kingdom, who, by the symbol of fealty, have publicly professed allegiance to him, the church fitly represents that kingdom. Hence the apostles, in receiving authority to establish, under divine inspiration, the form and order of the church, received "the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Wherever they gathered disciples they organized a church; and at their death they left this as the distinctive and only visible form of the kingdom of Christ on earth. Thus divinely constituted and inspired, the church is God's organization, in which the Holy Spirit dwells, and from which divine, spiritual forces go forth to transform the world from sin to holiness and subject it to the sway of Christ. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it;" but through it, as the medium of God's power, the grand visions of ancient prophecy, predicting the triumphs of the Messianic kingdom, shall find realization in human history.
THE CHURCH: MEANING OF THE WORD.
Ekklesia, translated church, is derived from ek-kaleo, a verb signifying to call forth; hence it denotes an assembly summoned or called out, a select body separated from the mass of the people. Its usage may be traced as follows:
I. THE CLASSIC USAGE. It is defined by Liddell and Scott“ An assembly of the citizens summoned by the crier; the legislative assembly.”