Book Review: The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God by John Bright, 1959

This book is fantastically written. Although it reads like the audience should already know what the Kingdom is, the author isn’t pained to define what it is – but mostly what it isn’t. Fortunately it wasn’t the Kingdom of Israel, and it isn’t the Church. The people that make up the Church, the Body of Christ, are the people of the Kingdom, naturally. Unfortunately, the Kingdom is somehow here now, and at the same time, still coming. I find this language very cumbersome, and uneasy. It doesn’t help to convey meaning – I’ve written before on this topic. Steven Baugh has a helpful way to talk about this subject with his phrase “the Kingdom proper”.

However I wanted to highlight certain passages in the conclusion that I found very stirring

Saving faith is that a man cast himself upon God made visible in Christ and, however little he may have of untroubled assurance, that – because his very being desires it and the highest is his nature summons him to it – he submit to the yoke of Christ’s Kingdom and to it surrender himself, his tools, and his will. In that act he finds righteousness, for in it he recognizes his Lord and turns his back on all false masters. It is to this act of saving faith in Christ and his Kingdom that the Church must summon men.

And if we are that [New Testament] Church, then we have no program but its program: to be and to produce in the world the true Israel of God’s purpose, the covenant people of His Kingdom. But if we are not that Church, then nothing the New Testament has to say of its destiny or victory has anything to do with us – we are an ecclesiastical organization under the judgment of history like the temple cult on Mount Zion.

The church which “sticks to the gospel” and utters no word of judgment or exhortation to society’s sin, is no prophetic church and, what is worse, is preaching an incomplete Gospel… In any case, God help the church that so blends into society that there is no longer any difference!

Whoever, therefore, offers us the victory of Christ at a minimum of inconvience to ourselves has suggested the worship of a false God!… The Cross is still to us offense and folly; it is not at all the victory we had in mind. To be sure, we have no intention of abandoning the Corss. It is the pillar of all orthodox faith. We enshrine it in the stained-glass window and in doctrine; we bow before it in prayer. But we want no part of it. We are possessed of the notion that the Cross is for Christ, a once-and-for-all thing of the past tense with little relation to the destiny of the militant and victorious Church. Indeed, we feel it to be the business of church and religion to keep crosses far away. So our faith in the crucified Christ becomes to us a sort of charm to protect us from life’s adversity. We wish the victory of God’s Kingdom in terms of ecclesiastical egrandizement, so that we may by energetic action win men to a cross now no longer a symbol of sacrifice but of established progress. We wish of God and religion what old Israel wished: protection for ourselves and our country. Let God with his great power defend us who are his people! Let the Cross march forth against hammer and sickle! Let the Church crusade for Christ, hurl its prophet word, organize its programs of advance, that Christ may be victorious – and that there be no crosses for his servants! It is essential that we understand that no such victory will be given us, nor does the Christian faith promise it.

Still less are we to imagine that the mere bearing of our suffering bravely is synonymous with the Christian cross. On the contrary , we are to la hold upon something very essential, and essentially shareable, in the cross of Christ. For that Cross was not so much wood and so many nails – the thief’s cross had these. Nor was it the mere fact of painful death – thousands have died equally brutally, ad we are not redeemed thereby. Before the Cross was erected, there was another, inner, crucifixion whereby that Cross was accepted. It took place when the very righteousness of God surrendered itself without limits to serve the purpose of God in history. In Gesthsemane, having prayed to escape the Cross, it said., “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt”. In In that hour the Cross was manufactured; without it, it would have never been. That will be our Cross too. For the Cross is essentially a fact to be known, which demands participation, in which – metaphorically speaking – the self is crucified and, in that crucifixion, is redeemed.

In a word – submission

Advertisements

2 responses to this post.

  1. John,

    In your intro you commented, “Unfortunately, the Kingdom is somehow here now, and at the same time, still coming. I find this language very cumbersome, and uneasy.”

    I have also struggled with understanding Christ’s statements about the kingdom as at times they appear to contradict each other. I think the answer is that the kingdom of God in its application has varied over the centuries. It is one kingdom, but it’s manifestation varies. For example, at the end of the millenial reign of Christ, He turns over the kingdom to His Father. At that time the invisible God will be seen by all face to face. Until that time He is invisible and only seen as we are in the spirit.

    Where is the kingdom of God today?

    Luke 17:21 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (KJV)

    If the kingdom of God is within us, then today it must be invisible. A kingdom is a place where a king rules. The kingdom of God is wherever God reigns over the lives of His subjects.

    God is not visible – hence the kingdom of God is today not visible. It is a spiritual kingdom, not seen by human eyes. In the invisible kingdom of God, everything is subject of God’s power instantly with no question. But in the present world which is visible, there is resistance to God’s will.

    The kingdom of God is eternal and invisible in our midst. When we as Christians, sons of God through Jesus Christ, in truth and love do the will of God then the kingdom of God is at work in us.

    For more on this follow this link –

    http://www.holyspiritguidedministry.com/The_Kingdom_Of_God_and_Our_Responsibility.pdf

    Reply

  2. John, some great quotes there. As the kingdom pilgrims now in America, Russia, etc. our mission and standards must come from the king of the coming Kingdom. For the church to establish its own rules and standards apart from the teachings of its King is indeed not Christianity.

    As was quoted above “Whoever, therefore, offers us the victory of Christ at a minimum of inconvience to ourselves has suggested the worship of a false God!…”

    John Piper says something like the following “to come to Christ is not easy, but it is satisfying.”

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: