The Coming of the King

As you know, this blog is devoted largely to studies about the kingdom of God. I am fascinated with the central idea of the gospel as the coming of the King into the world to mediate the rule of God over all nations. But the coming of the kingdom happens in stages. It does not happen all at once. This is what Israel missed in the days of Jesus, and it is what we often miss today. The kingdom of God will come slowly rather than suddenly, and it will come spiritually rather than violently, which means that the kingdom will come by the indwelling of the Spirit rather than be imposed externally by force. This is what Jesus means when He speaks of the kingdom being “spiritual.” He means that it comes into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit rather the power of Israel’s armies.

The kingdom comes into the world through the transformation of the human heart. The kingdom comes gradually because the kingdom comes individually. However, what Jesus does not mean is that because the kingdom is “spiritual” it has no affect on the physical world until after the resurrection. That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the coming of the kingdom that must be corrected. The kingdom is spiritual because it comes through the gift of the Spirit, but the spiritual kingdom affects the physical world.  

The physical effect of the spiritual kingdom is really not that hard to grasp. Just think of how God sanctifies an individual. He fills him with the Spirit. The kingdom comes in his life spiritually. But we do not for a moment think that the new believer can go on living physically unaffected by the coming of the kingdom. He cannot live in sin physically while claiming that Christ rules him spiritually. No way. We fully and rightfully expect that the spiritual kingdom that dwells within the new believer will begin to transform the physical life of that believer. Holiness inside and outside.

The same is true of the coming of the kingdom in the world. When God transforms believers through the coming of the kingdom in their heart, the rule of the King begins to spill out into everyday life. This means, since all people are social, that the kingdom will have an effect on society. It is impossible to sow the power of the gospel into a believer and it have no effect on the world around him. You may as well ask salt not to affect meat. Or, ask light not to affect darkness. It is impossible to stop the kingdom from changing the world! 
 
The kingdom comes in stages. The kingdom started coming into the world through the incarnation of Jesus as the Mighty God in Christ. Then, the kingdom continued its advance through the ascension, through the coming of the Spirit of Christ at Pentecost and the evangelization of all nations in the mediated person and presence of Christ in the church. The kingdom will reach its full denouement at the Second Coming when the resurrection shall gather together all things as one in Christ. 
 
Not only does the kingdom come in stages, but when it comes, we shall rule with God in Christ over all creation. God’s people, the elect of God, the redeemed children of Abraham, will rule as kings with the King. Our destiny is to rule with Him. He is not only coming to be King, for God has always been King over the nations. But He is coming to reveal Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, as King and the sons of men as kings with Him. This is the heart of the gospel, and it is an important point. The message of the kingdom is not just that God shall rule through Christ, but that God shall rule through Christ and through us. Jesus will exalt all who overcome to sit with Him in His throne ruling over the nations.  

Now, this is important. We tend to think of our rule with Jesus only in terms of ruling with Jesus over our heart. We have radically privatized and personalized the rule of Jesus and our rule with Him. If I were to preach a sermon on the rule of Jesus, most of us would fall on our knees to pray that Jesus would rule our unruly heart. All the while singing, “I Surrender All.” And perfectly correct, as far as it goes. But the scripture teaches that we shall actually rule over the nations with Jesus in the coming kingdom. We shall rule over the physical universe. Think about that for a moment. There is an important point to consider here: our rule with Jesus includes our rule over the world around us. God did not call us just to rule over our heart, though that is certainly where the rule of God begins. But He called us to rule over the physical world that He has given into our oversight. 

We shall rule with Jesus over the physical world. Our rule in the world to come will not just be ruling over our heart. That is point number one. But the rule of God has already broken into the world. That is point number two–and it must not be missed! We shall rule with Christ over the world to come, and the rule of Christ has already broken into the world now in first fruits form. This means that we should already start ruling now over whatever area of life God places in our charge.
 
We must not spiritualize the kingdom and postpone its dominion until after the Second Coming. The kingdom of God begins in the heart of a believer and then flows out into the physical world that the believer inhabits. The kingdom that is coming starts working its power in the life of the believer, and his world begins to be transformed. God gives the believer dominion over his heart and over his life, and this dominion affects his family, his job  and his neighborhood. Everything that the believer shall be in the world to come starts working already in seed form in the present world.

This is why the believer remains in the world. This is why the Second Coming is taking so long. Jesus is working out His rule in the world in a first fruits sense until His authority over all nations reaches critical mass and His enemies are subdued under His feet. The delay of the Second Coming is not an administrative snafu. It is deliberate. Jesus is working out His kingdom plan in the world. And He is doing so through you and me.

If we are going to rule then, we must rule now. And we must rule now as we shall rule then, at least in foretaste if not in fullness. In other words, we must not reduce the rule of the King to just presiding over the court of our heart. We must release the rule of Jesus into every realm of life where we have been given influence. Do you rule with Jesus? Do you rule with Him over your heart? This is certainly where the rule of Christ begins. This is why the kingdom is spiritual. But, if Jesus has called you to rule the world with Him in the age to come, and if the age to come has already broken in upon the present age through the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Spirit to dwell within us, then your future rule must become your present rule in first fruit form. You must rule over your world and not just your heart. 
 
We are called extend the rule of Jesus from our hearts through our hands into our homes and from our homes into our world. Do you rule with Jesus? Do you rule over your emotions? Do you rule over your appetites? Do you rule over your words and deeds? Do you rule over your money? What about your hobbies and entertainment? Does Jesus and you rule, or does Hollywood? Do you rule over your education and work? Do you rule over your career? Do you rule over the areas of responsibility that God has given you in the world? Do you rule over the tasks that your boss assigns you? Do you rule by serving on your neighborhood watch committee, or in local politics? Do you rule as a Christian by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked? Do you rule by supporting causes that help rescue victims of human trafficking and modern slavery? Do you rule by volunteering at your local hospital or homeless shelter? If not, why not? Is it because we have reduced the rule of Jesus to ruling over our heart? As the man said, if you have Jesus in your heart, let Him out!

Jesus has called us to rule with Him as kings. This means that we are called to be leaders in the world. Does the world you inhabit look to you for leadership? If you serve on your school’s PTA committee, are you just a wall flower, or does the wisdom and love of Christ elevate you to inevitable leadership? It is a shame that often Christians are the last ones the world looks to for leadership. But we should be indispensable to our work and other public realms of life. We should be like Daniel and Joseph. We should be the ones ruling with Jesus over areas of public and private responsibility. The kingdom that is coming has already come, and we should start living now like the children of the King. 

What does the world look like under the rule of King Jesus? Then, that is what we should pray that our present world will start looking like now. When unbelievers ask for our idea of what the world should be like, we should be so full of the vision of Christ’s kingdom that we can immediately and passionately set forth a vision of what the world should be like. How does King Jesus feel about abortion? How does He feel about homosexuality? How does He feel about slavery and sex tourism? How does He feel about divorce and the abandonment of children? Our vision of the world is not a merely pragmatic “whatever works.” No, our vision of the world is defined by the rule of Jesus. What does the world look like under the rule of Jesus? That is the question we should ask everyday in every situation. 

I struggle with the fact that much of our preaching on the kingdom remans theoretical and future. But if we can ask the question every day, “What does the world look like under the rule of Jesus?” then we can take the preaching of the kingdom out of the realm of the theoretical and into the realm of the practical. Then, we can explore practical solutions to everyday problems. We can offer gospel centered solutions for the problems of life. Thus, our kingdom preaching becomes essentially practical.

Christians should ask this question of themselves and of one another. We should have constant discussions about how to apply the values of the coming kingdom to present life. These questions should shape conversations that we have with one another on a daily basis. We should work carefully and prayerfully on how to live out the implications of the rule of Jesus in everyday life. We cannot simply leave it up to the preacher to tell us how it is done. There are countless kingdom scenarios that the pastor will never discuss on Sunday. Bt if the church is discussing these things daily, then we will develop a “kingdom mindset” that will regularly evaluate life and its problems in light of the glorious rule of Christ. We must develop the framework and worldview that causes us to develop these questions and answers in our own particular and personal situations.

The King is coming. But He will come in us daily long before He comes in the sky. This is what Pentecost is all about. If we long to see the King–and we do!–then we must allow the King to come in our daily life so that the advance of His kingdom in every day life becomes the catalyst for the Second Coming. Even so, come Lord Jesus!  

I Will Make You Fishers of Men

This weekend we were privileged to experience iGo Workshop, an evangelism seminar presented by Jason Varnum and Joey Campetella. It was incredible, and that is a pronounced case of massive understatement. Check out the videos at the media archive on http://www.cornerstonefortworth.org. It is worth your time. 

Anyway, one thing that really struck me about evangelism as I listened to their presentation was Jesus’ statement, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” There are two things that demand closer consideration here, and I plan to do so later on. But for now, just a highlight of two things:

First, Jesus said to follow Him. This means that evangelism must be done imitating Jesus and being led by the Spirit. We must try to do evangelism the way He did, though, of course, in our own unique way. And this means that we must be led by the Spirit as we follow Him. You can dwell on just that for hours and still find new ways of thinking about evangelism. Try it.

Second, Jesus promised that if we would follow Him–that is, do evangelism as He did it as we are led by the Spirit to do in our unique personal style–that “I will make you fishers of men.” The key phrase here is “make you.” This is so incredibly important! We can only become the witnesses Jesus called us to be as we are made, as we are fashioned, shaped, formed and developed, by the Spirit to be fishers of men. 

This hit home with me in a powerful way. My prayer today is that Jesus would “make me” a fisher of men. That He would gift me and compel me, that He would teach me and train me, that He would empower me and embolden me, that He would make me a fisher of men. I cannot make myself a fisher of men; I need Him to do it for me, in me and through me. Anyone else care to join me in that prayer? 

Five Questions About the Kingdom

As should be apparent by now to those who follow this blog, I am fascinated with questions about the kingdom of God. Recently, in a sermon preached at Cornerstone, I attempted  to narrow the discussion down to five central questions about the kingdom of God. Here they are in summary:
 

1. What is the coming of the kingdom?


It is the restoration of the mediated rule of God over all creation through man as the image of God. It is the restoration of the dominion blessing first given to Adam but lost through sin. The dominion blessing was later promised to Abraham as a blessing for all nations through his children. Then, the dominion blessing was secured by the crowning of Christ as King of kings through His resurrection and ascension as a glorified man to the throne of God. Finally, the dominion blessing is mediated by the Holy Spirit through the church into all nations culminating in the resurrection as the universal reign of God through Christ and the church in all creation.


2. Where is the kingdom coming? 


It is coming in this physical heaven and earth renewed by fire in the resurrection as the new heaven and new earth. It is coming in the real world, in the world where we all live. It will affect every realm of present life as the advance sign of the eternal reign of Christ over the renewed creation. “Thy kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven.” The gospel of the kingdom is preached in all the cosmos, the entire created order. There is no realm of life, politics, culture and society, that shall not come under the rule of Christ. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord in all creation. 


3. How shall the kingdom come? 

 

The kingdom shall come through the slow advance of the rule of God through the mediatorial ministry of Christ in the church through the Holy Spirit. The church is the means of Christ’s advancing rule in the world through its preaching, prayer and praise. The kingdom shall come as the church is salt and light in the world. The kingdom comes through love and not violence. The kingdom comes into the world through conversion and new birth, not through social action and political will, though we do not deny that the church shall affect society and politics. The kingdom shall come through the subduing of Christ’s enemies in every nation, the Powers that strive frantically to prevent the salvation of God’s elect, and it shall arrive in its fullness through the return of Jesus to consummate His victory over the Powers. 


4. When shall the kingdom come? 


The kingdom shall come in its fullness when the discipling of God’s elect in all nations is complete; when the enemies of Christ have been sufficiently subdued under His feet and the church has been built as the holy temple of God; and when all this culminates in the resurrection of all creation at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Yet, we must be clear that the kingdom that is coming has already started coming in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Jesus rules as King of all the kings of the earth now in this present age just as He will in fullness in the age to come. This present age is the age of kingdom conquest; the age to come is the age of kingdom peace. 


5. Why is the kingdom coming?


So that God may share His glory with us. We were created to rule over all creation as the image of God, to be crowned with glory and honor. The coming of the kingdom is not about God regaining His dominion, for He never lost it. But it is about Him regaining His partnership of dominion with us as man is restored to his destined rule over all creation. 
 
No doubt there are a thousand questions that must be addressed in all the details summarized above. But it helps to narrow down the basic questions: what, where, how, when and why? And all of this is more than theoretical theology. How we view the coming of the kingdom affects how we live here and now. 
 
The simple reason why I keep harping on kingdom issues is that we must break free of the suffocating idea that the kingdom will not come until the Second Coming, or that the kingdom is only “spiritual” until the Second Coming and has no present effect on the “physical” world. (This “spiritual/physical” dichotomy is a fundamental misunderstanding of New Testament teaching on the kingdom that we must discuss another day.) It is true that kingdom will not come in its fullness–in its total victory over all nations–until the return of Christ, but the kingdom has already broken in upon the world in the resurrection of Jesus.

This is why the resurrection started with Jesus as the first fruits of the dead in the middle of history and not at the end of history as everyone expected. It happened so that His resurrection could sow the kingdom of God like a mustard seed in the ground that it might grow to great size in the earth. It happened so that the resurrection of Jesus could hide the leaven, which is inarguably the kingdom of heaven, in the three measures of meal (which I think are the three realms of creation, heaven, earth and hell) until the whole earth is leavened (permeated with the gospel). If we miss the present role of the kingdom in human history, we miss the point of the middle-of-history resurrection of Jesus. And if we miss that we have missed the point of the gospel, for the gospel is “the gospel of the kingdom,” the kingdom that is coming but has already come. 
 
As you might imagine, we shall talk about this more later on.

Mastering Anger, Lust and Greed

Some time ago I stumbled my way through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and an idea kind of caught my sleeve in a vague sort of way. I have been trying to get this idea on a leash for some time, but it keeps wandering away. But this week, as I studied and prayed on the topic of anger, it crept back into my head and curled up on the porch.

I should get an award or something for that spaghettini of overwrought metaphor. Lordy. 

Seriously, I am concerned with the topic of anger because I am mastering my temper by the power of the Holy Spirit. And as a pastor, I want to help men and women share in this victory. If you have no problem with anger, then browse on by. But if you struggle to tame this beast, then stop with me for a moment and think about Jesus’ teaching here.

The thing that stood out to me in the Sermon on the Mount was that Jesus addressed three primary topics: anger, lust and greed. Now, that is not too hard to see, but the next thing that grabbed me was that this seems to me to correspond to three stages of maturity and development. Think about it now:

1. The first ten years of a man’s life is given to mastering anger, if done right. Self-control in childhood is mostly about controlling the temper and learning self-denial.

2. The second ten years of a man’s life is mainly about gaining control of sexual desire. Again, if done right. Which is rare. This is why dating before marrying age is such a disaster. 

3. The third ten years, a man’s twenties, is given to mastering money–once again, if done right. Of course, we do not wait until a man is in his twenties before we teach him to manage money. But it is in his twenties that all we have taught him is put to the test, and he must learn stewardship for himself. This is the decade of college and career, marriage and work, on and on. 

Anger, lust and greed. Think about how much trouble we get into because we were not trained to master these things while we were children. I wonder what could happen if we started using this outline of personal development in childrearing? What if we started praying for grace and began teaching our children to overcome anger during the first ten years, to control sexual desire in the second ten years, and to manage money wisely in the third ten years (assuming that our adult children will want our wise counsel during their twenties)? 

Not sure I have all that figured out, but it seems to me that Jesus’ teaching could be applied this way. This requires more consideration, I think.

Comments welcome.

New blog site!

For those who have followed my blog at stevepixler.com, we are moving things over to WordPress. For now, my blog is titled “Pixelated” just for the fun of it: “Random, totally unfocused blogging by Steve Pixler.” That’s me, folks! So I hope you are okay with unpredictability. Subscribe and join “The Pixelation Nation”! 🙂

The Tapestry of Creation

In Romans 1, Paul speaks about the fragmentation of humanity, and in Romans 12-16, he speaks about the re-integration of humanity in the body of Christ. The thing that Paul is showing is that humanity has fallen apart in the fall through sin and death and that the only way to be brought back into one whole human family is through the work of Christ through the Spirit. This means, as Paul is careful to show, that this wholeness cannot come through the law. The only way the righteousness of God in Christ can come to mankind and re-integrate the human race is in the new humanity that is formed from the glorified humanity of Jesus Christ that is poured out and shared in fullness through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Lawless humanity seeks to re-create the human race through their own law. This is humanism. Utopians are obsessed with creating their own rules and regulations that impose their own self-centered version of righteousness on the world around them, upon those over whom they gain dominion. But this experiment is doomed to failure. They seek to be righteous apart from the indwelling power of God in Christ, and they cannot attain it. The only way that the tragic fragmentation of humanity can be transformed into the re-formed oneness of Romans 12-16 is through the spirit/Spirit indwelling of Romans 8.

The law cannot produce righteousness, whether it is the self-centered, godless “righteousness” of Romans 1 or the religious, ritualistic “righteousness” of Romans 2. All the law can produce is the fragmented humanity of Romans 1. The only answer is to be filled with the Spirit per Romans 8. This is the answer. We must pray in this way to be filled with the Spirit so that we may become the whole, complete new humanity that finds its reality in Christ.

The one thing that we must understand and communicate to our children is that a godless, self-centered reality falls away from what it means to be truly human. Humanists will try to tell us that we can only be truly human if we flee from the image and likeness of God revealed in His Word, if we rebel against the purpose of God for which we were created. But they are wrong, flat wrong. When we flee the image and glory of God and seek our own righteousness, we end up becoming less human, less the person we were created to be. If we desire to be all that we were meant to be, we must discover the humanness revealed in the one perfect human, Christ Jesus. He alone can shape us into the destiny we were intended to become by pouring His Spirit out into us as we pray in the Spirit and are filled with Him in the depths of prayer where we cry, “Abba, Father!” and the Spirit brings us into oneness with Christ through faith.

The fragmentation of humanity is due to sin. All creation was formed around Christ as the center of all reality (Colossians 1). God created everything to be the outworking expression of the image and glory of God. Remember, God made all things to make His invisible attributes visible. All creation was formed, the very DNA of the universe was “written,” to reveal the image and glory of God. Thus, when man sinned, he chose to repudiate the knowledge of God and “create” a distorted reality, a “vain” existence conformed to the idols of the world, which are simply expressions of man’s own proud, self-loving heart. This means, because human existence must conform to its original reality, the reality created in the image of God, that humanity is dehumanized when it falls away from the image and glory of God. When man chooses to seek his own righteousness, he cannot help but fragment into a dehumanized creature.

Man was created as a part of a larger whole. God created a world that cannot express His glory apart from the countless multitudes of creatures bearing His image and sharing His glory. God created a world where countless creatures share in relationship with Him and with one another, and this complex reality of relationships become the mosaic of relational revelation that truly “images” the glory of God. Or, to use another example, God created a world where His glory could only be truly revealed through the countless threads that are woven together into one tapestry revealing the glory of God. When man sinned and created his own fallen reality, the fabric of that tapestry began to be ripped apart. The individual threads of the tapestry began to unravel until the picture of God, the invisible things of Him clearly seen, was distorted, and the image of God was defaced into a lying image of God in the leering faces of a thousand idols.

God’s world was created to be an image of God revealed in the manifold and multiple relationships of individual people brought together by the Spirit into one living expression and manifestation of the glory of God. God’s glory cannot be fully revealed apart from “the number that no man can number,” and this glory was refracted when the tapestry of human relations bearing the image of God was ripped in the fall and the threads of human relations began to be pulled apart. Redemption repairs the tapestry by reweaving the threads back into the beautiful picture of God that the Creator first intended. Romans 1 describes what the unraveled tapestry looks like as the human race begins to become more bestial than human, as it falls from man made in the image of God to fowls, to beasts, to reptiles. Romans 12-16 describes what the repaired tapestry looks like as all humanity is woven back together again into one, God-revealing, God-manifesting human race.

The fall of man had a dreadful effect on man, on nature, on relationships, on health and prosperity, and on all of life. The fall of man yanked man away from God in Christ as the center of creation. Thus, all of creation began to spin wildly out of control, and the threads of the tapestry of creation began to unravel and come unwound from the original picture that God intended. But in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the threads are being re-sewn and re-wound. This does not happen all at once, just as the unraveling did not happen all at once. But the re-sewing of the threads of the tapestry is being done one thread at a time. The key here is that each thread cannot exist within the tapestry apart from the other threads. Every thread exists in relationship with the others. And this relationship begins and ends in Christ. 

A Feast For All Nations

A few Sundays ago, I preached on the equality that the Lord’s Supper brings to those who are baptized into Christ. We spent some time considering how eating stratifies society both in Bible times and now. We considered how God enacted and emphasized the exclusivity of Israel by giving them a “kosher” diet, which illustrated the uncleanness of the Gentile nations in a daily and practical way, and how that the cleansing of food in the ministry of Jesus, Peter and Paul shows that the uncleanness of the nations has been purged in the baptism of the cosmos in Christ, and that now all nations eat together at the Lord’s Table.

The communion that God has inaugurated among the nations is demonstrated in the ministry of Jesus, as He ate with sinners; of Peter, as he preached to Cornelius; and of Paul, as he preached the equality of slaves and free, men and women, Jews and Gentiles. Thus, when the church at Corinth observed Communion in a way that divided the body of Christ, Paul rebuked them for failing to “discern the Lord’s body.” The entire point of Communion is that God is forming a new creation community where all walls are broken down.

Also, we considered the correlation between circumcision and baptism as the initiatory rite of Judaism and Christianity, respectively, while highlighting the very dramatic difference: circumcision was designed to set Israel apart from all nations as a covenant people while baptism was ordained to bring all nations together as a new creation in Christ. There were three principle markers of Jewish exclusivity: circumcision, Sabbath observance, and food laws. Paul specifically shows that these markers have been fulfilled in the New Covenant as baptism, the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper, and each of these now function as instruments of unity within the Christian community, which presages the final reconciliation of all things in heaven and earth into one, unified creation in the resurrection of all things at the last day.

A Feast for All Nations

Isaiah declared that all nations would come to eat on the mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 25). Jesus declared that His Father’s house, which is the Temple of the Lord upon the mount of the Lord, should be a house of prayer “for all nations.” Thus, Communion is no longer a feast of exclusion where only ethnic Jews may feast at the table of the Lord, but now all nations are called to come and eat at the table of the Lord. God once used food laws to demonstrate Israel’s exclusive covenant identity, but now He uses the table of communion to show that all people have been made one in Christ—which means, of course, that they must be in Christ through baptism before they can eat at the table. But if they will be made one body in Christ, then all may eat together with all boundaries broken down. Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, men and women, Greek and barbarian—all may eat together, as Peter learned on the housetop. 

The Lord’s Supper is a feast for all nations that signals the unity of all nations in Christ as the head of the new creation. Meals have spiritual significance. We have largely lost the meanings of meals in our fast food age, but remnants of the deep, primal idea remain. We all know on some level that eating together signifies communion. We include and exclude people from fellowship by the means of meals. We refuse to eat with those we exclude, and we are eager to eat with those we include. This is universal.

There is a long history of eating together in Scripture from the ministry of Christ and His conflict with the Pharisees to the ministry of Peter and his experience with Cornelius to, finally, the ministry of Paul and his conflict with the Judaizers. The Lord’s Supper is a meal where Christ invites all nations to eat together in anticipation of the resurrection when all things shall be made new. Everywhere the church goes, we eat a meal together as we gather together for worship. Indeed, this is one of the fundamental reasons why we gather, to eat together. Eating together is listed in Acts 2:42 as a fundamental ritual of corporate worship (along with doctrine, fellowship and prayer). Paul makes it plain by the implicit assumption in I Corinthians 11 that the church gathered for the purpose of eating the Lord’s Supper. Thus, the meal that we eat together is a proclamation of new creation: by eating, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” And by eating together with all nations—as Gentiles—we proclaim the power of the Lord’s death and resurrection for a new creation extended into every corner of the world. This meal, then, signifies the invitation for fellowship and oneness of all people in every nation.

This may seem insignificant to us at first glance because we have been inured to the spiritual significance of table fellowship, but if we can see by the Word of God what the meal means, then we shall regain its power in the present, fast food age. “Come, whoever you are! Come to the table! You all, every one of you, are invited to eat at the table of the King!” This is what we proclaim when we eat the Lord’s Supper. Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, Greek and barbarian—all are invited to come and eat at the table of the Lord, to enjoy “A Feast for All Nations.”

Unity, Community and the Lordship of Christ against Idols

There is something tugging at the back of my mind here. I know that Paul referred to the oneness of God when speaking about the oneness of Jews and Gentiles among the people of God, which implies the oneness of all nations—the Gentiles—in the new creation. In other words, the oneness of God casts down the pluralistic worship of false gods throughout the nations. The proclamation of God’s oneness as the basis for the oneness of the people of God says this: God is one—thus, His creation is one—and the pluralism of false worship is a lie that is exposed by the oneness of God. If there is only one God, then all of the gods of the nations are frauds. They are not gods at all. To tolerate and perpetuate the ongoing division of the nations—as Judaistic-Christian exclusivism did—is to abandon the nations to a damnable fate, to miss the point of Israel’s mission in the first place, and to deny the basic message of the Shema: God is one, thus all creation must be made one in Him.

We must grasp this. The Lord’s Supper is the supper of the Lord. We eat at the table of the Lord. We are celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, which leads inexorably to His ascension and exaltation as Lord over all the cosmos. When we eat, we are declaring that Jesus is King of all kings, and we are His people. Thus, Communion celebrates that the one God rules over all as the one true God and that all other gods are frauds. All nations are called, then, to worship this one true God. And as we worship Him, we are all called to feast at the table of the King.

Remember, there were three things that marked the Jews off as separated people from the nations: circumcision, Sabbath observance and food laws. These things were given by God as temporary measures to ensure the distinction and preservation of Israel from among the nations of the world. This is why Paul asserts that the Law was “added” until the time of Christ. The Law was given to mark Israel off as separate from the nations. But now that the faith of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed to all nations, the marks of distinction are no longer needed. In fact, they must be removed, though it is acknowledged that this is a process that will take time and growth from the initial unity of the Spirit into the full-fledged unity of the faith (Ephesians 4). The marks of distinction have become a hindrance to the universal vision of God. If the Jewish contingent of the church insists that Gentiles are not fully Christian unless they become Jewish proselytes, then the church can never attain perfect unity, which means that the nations, indeed, all creation, will never attain the fullness of perfect unity for which it was created. The only way all things can be reconciled into one is if the one true God is worshipped properly by the one true people of God, made up of Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, male and female, Greek and barbarian. When the one true people of God worship the one true God in unity, then all nations will be brought to worship Him (John 17), and the idols of the nations will be exposed as the frauds that they are. All of this, however, is based on the oneness of God being lived in oneness by the people of God. A divided church perpetuates a divided world.

This is why the Lord’s Supper is so important. The most practical sense in which the church was divided was played out at Antioch when the Jewish Christians refused to eat with the Gentile Christians. People who can eat together can grow together in perfect unity and fellowship. Thus, Paul was absolutely insistent that the church must not be divided at the Table. He raised this point again to the church at Corinth. The church cannot be divided in its observance of the Lord’s Supper. The church must be brought together into one body by the indwelling Spirit, and one of the primary ways this is done is at the Lord’s Table. The Spirit makes us one as we eat together. And as we are made one, as the church is brought into eschatological unity, the entire world is brought into one reality together, fully consummated in the resurrection when Jesus comes again.

Thus, we must go into the world eating together at the Lord’s Table and inviting all nations to be baptized and join us. Now, certainly we do require that pagans leave the table of demons before they come to the Table of the Lord, and this decision is made in baptism; but we must not forget the significance of the “Feast for All Nations” when we eat together.

In the gospel something new and wonderful has happened. The Old Covenant marks of separation made Israel an exclusive people until God would safely bring Messiah into the world through Israel. The feasts of Israel shut out the world. God wanted His people to have no fellowship with pagans. But when the Spirit came at Pentecost, a new reality broke in upon the world that resounded from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the uttermost parts of the earth. This reality has new signs: baptism, Lord’s Day and Lord’s Supper. Moreover, these new signs are spiritual signs of a new universal mission, a new cosmic reality that has broken in upon the world. Now, all nations are called to be baptized confessing that Jesus is Lord, to be filled with the Spirit and to feast at the Lord’s Table. “Come all who hunger; come and be filled!”

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