Historically, kingdoms grow and expand their territory by conquering other nations- usually by force. In the Kingdom of Heaven, however, the people of God expand the kingdom by the word- by practically loving and caring for others. Pastor David ends “The Kingdom: What It Means” series by explaining the importance of evangelism.
part 23 the word not the sword
If you survey history and consider the memorable kingdoms of the world you will find that they were usually kingdoms that expanded. They expanded in size both numerically as in the number of citizens in those kingdoms as well as geographically; they expanded in the size of the territory they encompassed. And the means by which those kingdoms expanded is ultimately the sword.
Through military might a Kingdom would expand. A king would lead his armies into battle and force his enemies to either submit or surrender or face the sword. If you die, and your people die, we get to expand our territory into your territory. If you surrender, you become a part of our Kingdom and we expand numerically. You become our slaves, our servants. You do all the labor, all of the work, while we spend our time doing things like philosophy, scientific experiments, study grow in intelligence and technology becoming an even smarter and more sophisticated, greater nation, ever expanding. In fact, now, you also become part of our army at war time so now we have an even larger army and more force, more might.
If a king had a big bad army and won most or all of his battles, other nations caught wind of it. They would avoid going into battle with him. There is no way that our little army could defeat his army. One option would be to pay tribute to this king in order to keep him from destroying you and your people. They can use that money they receive as tribute to build themselves up or employ extra man power to defeat other neighboring nations and they increase numerically by the sword. They increase geographically by the sword. If they defeat other nations, they take over that territory.
Another option would be to create an alliance with him and say hey if you guys go to war with the neighboring kingdoms, we will be on your side against these other guys. If other nations join hands with them, their territory could be annexed to increase the geographical borders of that kingdom.
Either way, the biggest baddest kingdom continues to get bigger and badder than the others – numerically and geographically.
Consider why a kingdom would want to expand. Often times it is pride. I want to have the biggest kingdom and make my name great. Beyond pride, there is a practical reason to expand your kingdom – security. If your kingdom is puny, you lack security. You are an easy target for a bigger, badder kingdom to come and destroy you and take your people as slaves and annex your territory.
The sword is not the only way by which a kingdom expands numerically. Having babies is another way. A family within the kingdom has four children, the kingdom just grew by four people. However, women and children were not always counted when it came to a census because they can’t fight in the army. Again, expansion of the kingdom and security comes back to the sword.
In the end one of the goals of a kingdom is expansion, both numerically and geographically; and the means has typically been the sword.
We know from our studies over the past year that the Kingdom of Heaven is also to be an ever expanding Kingdom. We read that in Dan 2, Daniel the prophet had a dream in the 6th century BC in which a rock grows and becomes a mountain that fills the whole earth. This rock represents the Kingdom of Heaven. It starts out very small with a rock and grows and grows until it fills the whole earth. The Kingdom of heaven was to be an ever expanding Kingdom. Then we studied the parables of Jesus. In Matt 13, he told a parable, saying that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[b] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
So we know from the prophets and from Jesus that the KOH is to be, like kingdoms throughout history an ever expanding Kingdom.
We know it is to expand. We know it is to grow. As we have noted, the KOH is an upside down kingdom. So as you might expect, our Kingdom does not expand through the same means that a typical earthly Kingdom expands. While the kingdoms of this world have expanded by means of the sword, the KOH expands not by the sword but the word.
We have defined the kingdom as the community or territory over which Christ reigns as King. We don’t have to be concerned about expanding our territory in a geographical sense; the Kingdom of Heaven is a heavenly Kingdom a spiritual Kingdom not defined by geographical borders. We don’t bring the sword to kill others in order to acquire their territory and thus expand our Kingdom because in our Kingdom geography is irrelevant.
But our Kingdom does expand in terms of community, we expand numerically. In a sense, we do take those who are not citizens of our kingdom and expand the community over which Christ reigns. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we bring them under submission to the King as servants. The difference is that we don’t bring them in as our slaves to serve us. Rather, we bring them in as servants of Christ so that they serve alongside us. We are not their masters but Christ is both their master and ours and together we humbly serve Him.
So the Kingdom of heaven expands not by the sword but by the word. Let’s flesh that out some.
The KOH movement began with the arrival of Jesus, the King. I would say that Jesus is that rock from Daniel 2. Jesus preached the word, the gospel, the good news of the arrival of the KOH. He preached this message to the Jews. He gathered 12 men known as apostles whom he sent on his behalf to preach this message, the WORD, the gospel or good news, expanding the Kingdom numerically. Every time someone believed the message, someone was saved and entered into the kingdom.
Again, the sword wasn’t the only way to expand a kingdom. Child birth was another way. In the KOH, children are not born into the KOH through natural childbirth, biological birth, but by being born again, born from above.
We read in John 1:9-14 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
There it is. How are people born into the Kingdom? Through the Word. We don’t bring forth children of the Kingdom through physical seed and biological birth but through preaching, faith, and people are born again, born from above through the word.
Cool thing about this: in typical earthly kingdoms, women and children weren’t able to expand the kingdom in terms of the sword. But in the Kingdom of Heaven, women and children are just as instrumental as men in Kingdom expansion because our kingdom expands through the word, not the sword.
The gospel message spread from Jerusalem to all Judea to Samaria and then to the entire Roman empire in the territory of the Gentiles. You can read about this in the book of Acts chapters 1-10. Paul the apostle is messenger that God used to bring the Word and expand the Kingdom throughout the Gentiles. You can read about his story in Acts beginning in Acts 8.
Let’s read together from a letter that Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome.
Rom 10:1ff Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. He wants his fellow Israelites to enter into the Kingdom. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. They were trying to achieve righteousness through obedience to the LOM instead of submitting to God and believing in Jesus. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. The new covenant has arrived in Jesus and there is righteousness for everyone who believes, not just the Jew, but also the Gentile.
5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:
What is the WORD? What is the message of faith? V9
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
If one enters the Kingdom by calling on the name of the Lord, how can they do that if they haven’t believed in him? (I believe he is referring to the Gentiles to whom he was sent) How can they believe in someone of whom they have not heard? Paul was breaking ground here. The first century audience to whom he was preaching had never heard of Jesus; they didn’t know the message of the Kingdom. How can they hear about this one that they must call on if nobody preaches to them? They can’t. The Kingdom cannot expand numerically unless someone preaches the WORD.
How can someone preach unless he is sent? That is literally what the word apostle means: sent one. Jesus is the apostle of God; God sent him. The twelve were apostles of Jesus. Jesus sent those twelve and then Paul.
Now, here is where we have to remember the first century context. If the Kingdom has arrived, Jesus has come to establish and rule over the long awaited Kingdom of Heaven and oh, good news, Gentiles get to come in also and the message is simple, believe on the Lord Jesus…how was that good news communicated to the world?
Bill O reily here with a special fox news bulletin. The long awaited Kingdom of Heaven has arrived. An unsuspecting man named Jesus of Nazareth has been proclaimed the Messiah of God and the King of the restored Kingdom of Israel.
No…no fox news no CNN. No facebook, no text messages. No phones! No telegrams. No fax machines.
If you wanted to convey ground breaking news, you had to send someone to go and physically tell them with his mouth or send him with a scroll. You can see this throughout the OT. If there was a war, a messenger would be sent back to the people to share the news. Now, you didn’t want to be the messenger who brought bad news. You wanted to be the messenger who came back with good news. Hey, we won. Or hey we are winning.
So Paul uses this language of one sent to share good news. He says, “I’m that delegate. Jesus sent me to share with you the good news. The kingdom has arrived. You are invited.” The message is not: surrender to the sword, but believe in the Word.
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
The kingdom expands by means of the word, not the sword.
This word about Christ is good news, it is the gospel. Gospel is a word that means good news.
We hate to be bearers of bad news. But we love to bring good news. Our hearts are bursting to share good news. When you have a gift or a surprise for someone are you not counting down the days until you get to give it to them? Are you not excited? But when you have bad news, aren’t you dreading the moment when you have to share it? Aren’t you looking for a way to avoid it?
I remember when they built a Carl’s Jr in Cedar Park and we were thinking: It sure would be great if they built one in Georgetown. When my friends found out they were building one by chick fil a, they told me right away: good news they’re building a carl’s jr in Georgetown!
When we found out that Anika got accepted into Gateway, Bre texted everybody and their mom: good news – Anika got into Gateway.
It just comes naturally to us. We love to share good news. Now I don’t know about you, but in my humble opinion, there is no greater news than the good news of Jesus Christ and reconciliation to God through him, that because of his blood shed on the cross, through faith in him my sins are forgiven and I become a citizen of the Kingdom and a child of God. That’s not good news. That’s great news. That’s not just great news; that is the greatest news I have ever heard!
Now if we really believe that, shouldn’t we be ready and eager to share that news?
Now there is a difference between the context of Paul’s evangelism and ours. Paul didn’t show up to a town where there was a church on every other street corner where people were meeting every Sunday morning. But that’s where you and I live. Most people have heard about Jesus in some way, shape or form. So does that mean that we shouldn’t share the gospel?
No. I don’t believe so. I’ll tell you why. Though there is a church on every street corner doesn’t mean that everybody has heard the gospel. Many people who now live in the Bible belt have moved here from places like California where the gospel has never been preached and all the heathens live.
In fact, I believe that many people who dwell in our corner of the world, in the Bible belt have either only heard bits and pieces of the gospel or they have heard an outright fospel. For those of you that are new to NCF, you’re welcome. That is a Jesse-ism meaning false gospel or fake gospel. Just remove the first consonant, add F and voila, you have the un version, the false version, the antithesis. For example: Barnabus means son of encouragement. If you’re busting on someone and being a jerk, you might just get called a Farnabus.
Some people have heard this version of the gospel: How would you like to become a Christian. It’s great. Here’s how it works: you get to stop drinking, smoking, cussing, dating, dancing, watching rated R movies, listening to secular music. You have wake up early on Sunday, give your money, sing songs you don’t like. Here is a list of dos and don’ts. In other words, do this and live. Welcome to slavery; it’s a heavy yoke, but hey, gotta earn your way into the kingdom and nobody ever said it would be fun or easy. Wait. That’s not the gospel of the new covenant. That is the fospel of the OC.
Or how about the fospel propagated throughout Christian history? One word: Crusades. In fact, go home today and get on youtube (don’t do it on your phone right now) and look up “Kingdom of heaven movie trailer.” This is a movie entitled The Kingdom of Heaven. How does the Kingdom of heaven expand? The word or the sword? Count the number of swords you see in that movie trailer. That is a movie about the crusades. Here is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article on the crusades: The first crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1095 with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and nearJerusalem. This led to an intermittent 200-year struggle to reclaim the Holy Land that ended in failure.
Really? In 1095? The Holy Land? Fospel! This Biblical concept of expanding the KOH through the Word, not the sword flies in the face of the actions of our predecessors. After the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and the establishment of the KOH, guess where the Holy Land is? You’re in it!!! The kingdom of heaven is not defined by geographical borders. That definition of Israel was part and parcel of the Old Covenant, not the New. And Christians fought with the sword over a plot of dirt in the Middle East, calling it Holy Land?
Still today, so many people focus on that Land? If you open up Biblegateway.com there are banners with adds to donate money to protect the Holy Land because the Jews are God’s people – if you are a citizen of God’s kingdom at all, then…second class. Fospel.
The KOH is not a geographically defined earthly kingdom to be defended and expanded by the sword, but a spiritual and heavenly Kingdom to be expanded by the word – the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ – not a message of bloodshed but of peace (between God and man and between man and his fellow man – as we have seen, Jesus’ words in SOM declared love toward one another not just those who love you, but love even your enemies).
How many people respond to a church invite or a religious discussion with, “I’m not into religion because more blood has been shed over religion than anything.” And they are sorta right. A lot of blood has been shed in the name of religion. But is that the gospel? No…fospel.
So, yes, Paul was breaking ground and sharing a new unheard of message to his first century audience and our context is different here in the Bible belt 2000 years later. But we cannot assume that everyone has heard the true gospel. So many people have only heard the fospel!
I grew up in Newport News VA. According to yellowpages.com there are 1,197 churches listed in Newport News. So, surely I had to know the gospel, right? Nope. I was one of a multitude who only knew the fospel I am so thankful for the beautiful feet of Crystal Hamn, the one who shared the good news with me. In 7th grade English class during a mock presidential debate, the girl who sat next to me, named Crystal Hamn, pulled off a beautiful segue. Hey, speaking of Bill Clinton, do you know how to get to heaven. I said, duh. Be a good person. She said, “How good is good enough?” I said, “duh, do more good things than bad things.” She said, “Actually, you can never be good enough for God. God demands perfection. Are you perfect or have you ever done something wrong?” “I said, my name is on the board right now. Do you know how many times I wrote I will not talk when the teacher is talking? Why do you think my right forearm is three times the size of my left?”
She said, exactly. Nobody is good enough. The only person who ever lived a good enough ie perfect life is Jesus, the son of God. What you need is to have God forgive your sins and you can’t do enough good things to erase the bad things. You must believe in Jesus, place your faith in him and God will forgive your sins.”
Now that seed was planted in 7th grade by a young lady who saw the gospel of Jesus as good enough news to share with me; she did the most loving thing anyone has ever done for me. And I am forever grateful. Then God brought several of His people into my life to corroborate that message and on Mar 9, 2000 it finally all clicked for me and I truly placed my faith in Jesus.
I was born again, born from above and I entered into the Kingdom. The kingdom expanded by one individual and on that day the angels in heaven rejoiced over one sinner who repented. God’s kingdom was expanded – the means? Not by a man with a sword, but a child, a little girl and the WORD.
One of the most rewarding moments of my life was the day that my phone rang and it was a long distance number that I didn’t recognize. I answered and the voice on the other end said, “Is this David Boone?” I said yes. He said, “You may not remember me, but I sure remember you. My name is Robert Tagnelo and I was at the bus station one day a few years back and I was downcast and hungry. You shared a meal with me and you shared the gospel with me and you gave me your Bible. And I just wanted to say thank you. My life has been forever changed.” I couldn’t even talk – I was so overwhelmed with joy. For Robert I was his Crystal Hamn. To him, I had beautiful feet.
I don’t know how many people I have shared the good news with, but Robert is the only one who ever called to thank me. Perhaps he is the only one who ever actually believed the message and if that’s the case, I’m okay with that. If statistics are right, most people will not. And in fact, most conversations in which I shared the gospel, the other person didn’t respond with faith.
But one thing that I think we should consider is that while we don’t expand the Kingdom by the sword, there is the temptation, perhaps, and even in some the tendency to attempt to expand the Kingdom with the militant mindset of the sword. We may not have a literal sword in hand saying surrender or die. But, I can remember plenty of conversations that I had with people in which I might as well have had a sword in hand. Because my words were like daggers and I was embodying the second coming of Jesus with a sword hanging out of my mouth – all out verbal assassination. My words were far from charitable or kind and rather than having a pleasant dialogue, I presented a militant monologue. I learned something over the years. You cannot argue someone into the Kingdom.
It is simply my role to share the good news. It is not my job to make them believe. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. In sharing the good news of Jesus in attempt to expand the kingdom by the word, the old proverb is more than applicable. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. In this case, you can lead a person to streams of living water, but you can’t make him drink.
So over the years, I have learned that the process by which I share the good news is just as if not more important than the news I am sharing. Hey I would like to invite you into a Kingdom of love and peace and patience and kindness, while I’m turning red in the face and getting angry with you and being a jerk to you because you don’t believe me. That doesn’t work. So while we don’t have a sword in our hand and we seek to expand the kingdom with the word, let’s be careful to ensure that we don’t do so with the militant mindset of the sword and be careful not to let our words resemble the sword.
We have good news to share and sharing it is our duty. We cannot argue anyone into the kingdom and attempting to do so is more likely to be counterproductive and rather than being drawn into the Kingdom, they may end up saying, “if that is the kind of people and those are the ways of this Kingdom, no thank you, not interested.”
One final word of encouragement. Paul says the following in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service.
So like the first century apostles, let us take up the task of expanding the Kingdom through evangelism. Let us do our part as co-workers in God’s service. Our role is to share the WORD of the gospel. Our job is to sow the seed. God’s job is to make it grow. You can lead someone to streams of living water, but you can’t make them drink. Let’s play our part. Let’s be those with beautiful feet. As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”