Three Characteristics of the Kingdom Gospel
by Bill Hull
In my post, "The Kingdom Gospel," I shared the nature of the Kingdom Gospel of Jesus. In this post, I’d like to draw out three characteristics of the kingdom gospel to show why it is unique.
The kingdom of God grows by investing in a minority population. Jesus describes the kingdom of God through parables and claims that those who have spiritual insight will understand. Those who are not inclined to hear cannot understand. “For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand” (Matt. 13:13 NLT).
Using a parable of sowing seed, Jesus explained how the word of God receives a variety of responses. His audience was observant Jews who were expecting a political and military revolution but who were not inclined to believe a rural, untrained rabbi. So Jesus told them that some who hear the message will not accept it. Others will respond but be lack luster, nominal, or casual. But the good news was that others hearers would respond and produce a harvest of their own, reproducing from a third to a hundred times as much (Matt. 13:18–23).
We could argue the parable gives the impression that a majority will either not respond or will fall away and produce no fruit. So Jesus may have been implying to his disciples here that they should focus on nurturing the minority who respond positively. In this they would be following their Lord, for he spends his time where his efforts with produce fruit. The fact that he spent most of his time recorded in the gospels with these few men is evidence. As disciples of Jesus, we should not fret over those who refuse to follow him but focus our energy on responsive people who will grow.
The kingdom gospel teaches us to obey God by living intentionally in the middle of diversity and ambiguity. Jesus uses another parable to liken life in the kingdom to a farmer who planted some wheat, but then weeds grew up with the wheat. The wheat and weeds were so intermingled that the farmer couldn’t pull the weeds without destroying the wheat. To get any harvest, the two had to be allowed to grow up side-by-side and then separated at harvest time when both were cut down. Jesus explains that the wheat plants are his followers and the weeds are the disciples of the enemy. In the end the angels will separate the two, and off to their respective abodes they will go, wheat to heaven and the weeds to life without God (Matt. 13:36–42).
Following Jesus requires us to live next to those who do not believe or follow our King. It also means we have an obligation to love them as Christ has modeled for us. We are not charged with determining and declaring who is in the kingdom and who is out. Only an omniscient being is able to do this, and we are clearly not qualified. We are simply to live and love, pray and tell, and some of those weeds will develop ears to hear. The strategy is that if we live among them, we have access. The institutional church does not have the same degree of access or opportunities that its members have every day.
The kingdom gospel reminds us that growth is slow but will ultimately permeate everything. Jesus uses two illustrations to explain how his plan is in all of life, a mustard seed and yeast in bread. A mustard seed is small, but it grows so large that it can provide birds with shade and even a home. This illustration reminds us of many Christians who started with only a helping hand but went on to build orphanages and hospitals. The mustard plant is like the Red Cross, or Christians who help when disaster strikes, or those with a Christian legacy.
Yeast, of course, permeates an entire loaf. Jesus’ point is that like yeast, his word spreads in a quiet way, but once it does, it cannot be stopped any more that yeast can be removed from a loaf to keep it from rising. Like yeast, the King’s disciples must be worked into the middle of the community to have the greatest contact and impact.
This excerpt has been adapted from Conversion and Discipleship.
Image credit: Shutterstock.