Tag Archives: Inaugurated Kingdom

A Kingdom Leadership Paradigm

 

In our Lord’s earthly ministry, there is much that could be commented on from the records that we have in the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of John.  In fact, it is this latter gospel account that informs us that had everything about Jesus’ ministry been written down, there wouldn’t be enough books to contain them.  However, there is one particular theme about Jesus’ ministry that touches everything else He had to say and came to do, a theme that we’ll summarize as a Kingdom Paradigm (pair-a-dime).

A paradigm, in it’s most common meaning and usage, is defined as a clear or typical example, properly speaking an archetype or pattern.  Under the administration of the Old Covenant, there were certainly patterns and examples as well, but those reach their completion in Christ Jesus.  Not only did the Lord come to fulfill those old patterns and examples, but by establishing a kingdom paradigm, He came to upset or alter how we view this world and each other in His Kingdom.

Perhaps more than the other gospels, Matthew is intent upon describing and defining the Kingdom of God (properly, the “Kingdom of Heaven”).  This is summarized with the verse highlighting the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”  Additionally, the founding principles of this Kingdom Paradigm are found in Matthew 5:1-7:29, which is commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount.

By the time we reach Matthew 18 in the account of our Lord’s ministry, we are given the Kingdom Paradigm regarding relationships in the Christian Community.  One aspect of these relationships that’s specifically addressed is leadership and authority within the community.  The baseline for this particular facet of the Kingdom Paradigm comes by way of a question asked by the disciples, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt. 18:1)  Depending on how Jesus answered this question, would define for us the paradigm, or pattern, of the kingdom.

Notice our Lord’s response below

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of themand said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-4

This instruction on humility, as the entrance requirement into the kingdom, sets the tone for the next three chapters which outline and describe the nature of kingdom relationships, including kingdom leadership.  Likely because Jesus had yet to fully open their eyes to this unfolding paradigm, the disciples fail to grasp the simplicity of this reordering, that one must become like a child, and are given second opportunity to comprehend it in the chapter that follows

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”15 And he laid his hands on them and went away. Matthew 19:13-15

Reiterating the statement made earlier on a humble child being the greatest in the kingdom, on this occasion the disciples were given a tangible example, but again failed to fully comprehend the message.

A third example for the establishment of this new Kingdom Paradigm, comes by way of a parable, but nevertheless brings us to the same conclusion.  This parable, referred to as the “Laborers in the Vineyard” is found in Matt. 20:1-16 and addresses the principle of equality in the Kingdom, regardless of when someone enters.  Jesus’ concluding statement on this parable serves again to highlight the paradigm we’ve been discussing, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:16

A fourth example for this re-ordering of cultural structure and one which lands more clearly on the nature of leadership in the Christian community, builds on both the two earlier passages where Jesus indicates that that one must become like a child to enter the Kingdom and the third passage, where last is first and first is last.  This particular example comes from Matthew 20:20-28

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?”They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Such a request from a misguided, albeit well-intentioned mother, harkens our minds back to the opening question in this section from Matthew’s gospel account, “Who is the greatest?”  This question had already been answered, those with the humility of a child are the greatest.  The low are high, the high are low.  The rich are poor, the poor are rich.  The last are first, the first are last.  This is the Kingdom Paradigm and it most certainly applies to leadership, the servants are the leaders.

While we will look at this particular passage from Matthew 20 in greater detail in a follow-up post, suffice it to say that the Kingdom leadership paradigm, outlined here by our Lord, was  contrary to the nature of worldly leadership then, “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority” and it is contrary to the nature of worldly leadership now.  Summarily, kingdom leadership is not top-down, authoritarianism, but bottom-up, servant-hood.  This, as we will see, is not the same thing as the popular, modern notion of a servant leader, or more clearly that  leaders serve.  Instead, it is that your servants are your leaders.

Jesus’ Kingdom Paradigm is intended to cause us to view the world through an upside down or inverted kingdom lens.  What the world perceives as the proper ordering of society is power, class, or wealth.  And what they perceive as the proper ordering of leadership is authority and domination.  What Jesus establishes as the paradigm for the Christian society is to be like a child.  In kingdom leadership it is humility and service.  The very pattern for this is His own life-giving service (deaconing = [diakoneo] – more on this later) which stands as the ultimate paradigm for the kingdom and the model for how we relate to one another in our Christian communities.

 

 

Christ as Son is King

 

Hebrews 1:5-9

As I’ve studied through Hebrews chapter 1, it has struck me that in all my readings I’ve possibly been looking at it the wrong way.  Isn’t it fascinating how God can continually reveal new things about Himself through His Word when we give ourselves to diligent study and allow for more than just a passing glance.

Previously when I arrived at verse 1:5 and read, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” my mind immediately went to the incarnation of Christ, i.e. John 3:16 “only begotten Son”. Skipping over the second half of verse 5 and landing on verse 6, I gathered confirmation for my interpretation by the phrase, “he brings the first born into the world”. Finally, in further support of reading this passage as speaking of the humanity of Christ in His incarnation the second half of verse 6 reads, “Let all God’s angels worship him,” clearly in reference to the angels at Christ’s birth right?  Together then, chapter 1 of Hebrews is simply a declaration of Christ’s incarnation, literally His first advent in human flesh, or so I’d concluded.

Not so fast.

Two particular resources helped open my eyes to the reality of what is actually being described in this passage: William Lane and Tom Schreiner, both of whom have written excellent commentaries on Hebrews with the former’s being a classic effort and the latter a new, helpful arrival.  They pair together nicely especially when a more succinct answer is desired over say, John Owen, whose commentary is magnificent, but may take days to read his exposition on just one verse.

Let’s work through the passage verse by verse and see what it is that they caught and I missed originally.

5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?

In this verse, the author picks up on his “hook-word” from verse 4, namely angels, and begins to develop more the idea set forth that Christ has been given a name far superior to angels. The argument begins with a quotation from Psalm 2:7, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” Is this then a reference to the incarnation? Not according to its Old Testament context. Turning there we find a messianic Psalm in which David, the king of Israel, is waxing eloquent under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit concerning his own enthronement by the very word of God, “The LORD said to me.” In context, God then refers to David as “son”. This is keeping with the concept of Israel as God’s “son”, but in our passage from Hebrews we see that the reference to son finds its ultimate fulfillment in The Son, Jesus Christ. It is this Sonship of Christ that gives Him superiority over the angels, grants Him the name that is greater than theirs, and forms the basis for His Kingship.

Schreiner points out that this Psalm refers to the installation of the Davidic king who fulfills the “promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the entire world be blessed through one of their offspring.”[1] It is with that context in mind that the author of Hebrews quotes the passage, only in reference to Christ, THE King of Israel and the ultimate fulfillment of all the promises of God. Christ is enthroned as the King par excellence, the King of Kings.

Following on in the passage from Psalm 2, we find that the theme shifts from enthronement and inheritance to vindication of the kingship, “you shall break them with a rod of iron.” It would be difficult to assert that the incarnation is in view from the Hebrews citation, given the contextual background of Psalm 2:7. Some have concluded that the incarnation is not in view here, rather a doctrine known as the eternal generation of the Son. Schreiner comments,

“The reference is not to the eternal begetting of the Son by the Father, though this reading is rather common in the history of interpretation. Nor is the reference to the virgin birth. The author of Hebrews actually interprets the verse in light of the entire message of Psalm 2. In context, the verse refers to the reign of the messianic king, which Hebrews sees as commencing at Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Jesus is greater than the angels because he now reigns as the messianic king.”[2]

Further evidence of the use of Psalm 2 in reference to the resurrection and subsequent ascension of Christ to assume His throne may be found in Acts 13:32-34a where we read Peter stating boldly, “And we bring to you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption….” Again we see the connection between Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and enthronement with Psalm 2 as the backdrop of the promise.

In the second half of verse 5 we read, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” Again the theme of Father to Son, but as in the first half of this verse, the incarnation or eternal begetting of the son is not in view. This time the author of Hebrews chooses 2 Samuel 7:14 to buttress his thesis. Here we find ourselves in the middle of the Davidic Covenant given to King David, so once again our attention is drawn to kingship. In its Old Testament context, God is promising an eternal dynasty to David. By quoting this passage, Hebrews not only brings our attention to the relationship of Father and Son, but again to the relationship of Jesus’ Sonship to His Kingship. Lane writes, “Although Jesus was the preexistent Son of God…,he entered into a new experience of sonship by virtue of his incarnation, his sacrificial death, and his subsequent exaltation.”[3] In this citation it is again clear that the latter, namely Christ’s exaltation, is in view here.

That said, the next verse in the passage from Hebrews would seem to counter everything written above regarding the Kingship of Christ and would instead seem to support the concept of Christ’s incarnation from this passage. In other words, it would appear to be talking about Sonship-Incarnation rather than Sonship-Kingship. However, we need to be reminded of our context thus far in Hebrews 1) The Superiority of Christ over the Angels by way of His Sonship 2) The Kingship of Christ is specifically related to His Sonship. With that in mind, note verse 6 below:

6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Again Sonship is brought to the forefront of the passage by way of the phrase, “when he brings the firstborn into the world”. It would appear at first glance to support the incarnation perspective, and as most translations have pointed out this is not a clear quotation of an Old Testament passage, but is instead an allusion. The only explicit quotation occurs in the second part of the verse and it comes from Deuteronomy 32:43, but that doesn’t mean that the first part of the verse has no Old Testament basis. In Hebrews, and much of the New Testament for that matter, the authors are not only fond of using direct citations of the Old Testament, but allusions to it as well, as is the case in this verse. A dictionary definition of allusion is helpful here, “a passing or casual reference; an incidental mention of something, either directly or by implication.”[4]

In the example allusion from our verse we find correspondence in Psalm 89:26-27

26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ 27 And I will make him the firstborn,the highest of the kings of the earth.

Again in this passage we find our corresponding filial relationship (Father-Son) speaking of God to David and a reference to the firstborn, not in terms of begetting or being born, but in terms of kingship. Firstborn in Psalm 89 carries with it the idea of rank or authority. It is a term of preeminence. Similar usage of the word firstborn is found in Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” If we were to default to a view of Jesus’ incarnation in this passage, we’d have all sorts of exegetical difficulties because Adam was actually the firstborn of all creation. The Apostle Paul is using firstborn here to speak of Christ’s rank or authority, as in our verse from Hebrews. We may also note that in Colossians 1:16 immediately following this declaration is the assertion of Christ as Creator (pre-incarnate), supporting our conclusions thus far.

Returning to Hebrews 1:6 we can safely conclude that firstborn, in keeping with our context, is another reference Sonship-Kingship; but what are we to make of bringing the first born “into the world”? Wouldn’t this be the little baby laid in a manger? No, because again we must remember our context. There’s been nothing to change that so far and to change it here would make nonsense of the passage.

Instead, the author of Hebrews likely has a heavenly world in mind, as he does in Hebrews 2:5, “For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.” This is not indicative of the present material world that would’ve corresponded to Christ’s incarnation, but has the heavenly “world” in view; Christ’s session at the right of the Father which will be brought to earth in the New Heavens and New Earth (2:5). “Of which we are speaking” clues us into the prior usage of “world” from 1:6 and its intended meaning.

This brings in the objection that perhaps Christ’s second coming is in view here. The possibility for this exists, but it would seem to contradict the author’s flow of thought that Christ is NOW superior to angels. To argue for the future supremacy of Christ would negate the entirety of this section and thus undercut the basis for the exhortation coming in chapter 2 to continue believing in what has been heard concerning Christ. It seems more fitting to conclude that the “world” being mentioned here refers to Christ’s exaltation at His ascension (post-resurrection) where He is seated at the right hand of the Father. Lane agrees with this conclusion writing, “The context requires that [world] be understood as the heavenly world of eschatological salvation into which the Son entered at his ascension.”[5]

Turning our attention to the second half of verse 1:6 above, we find an Old Testament reference either to Psalm 97:7 or to Deuteronomy 32:43, or perhaps even a conflation of the two verses. Deuteronomy, which is within the context of the Hymn of Moses, reads this way:

“Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him, all gods, for he avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries. He repays those who hate him and cleanses his people’s land.”

Our English translations miss the connection here because of the phrase, “bow down to him, all gods.” Remember that the author of Hebrews is familiar with the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint or LXX) and sometimes there are words and nuances that are different, this being one example. The LXX translates the phrase “Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him”

Similarly, Psalm 97:7 reads, “All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!”

Again, keep in mind the connection between the Greek OT and our English OT and realize that the author of Hebrews is drawing on the former, which is a reference to angels (gods). Regardless of which Old Testament reference might be in view here, two conclusions may be drawn: 1) OT passages that refer to Yahweh are often made reference to Christ in the NT; this affirms the equal status as deity yet maintains the separateness as persons of the Trinity 2) Angels are commanded to worship Christ, i.e. the created beings are to worship their Creator. An additional reference to the worship of Christ by angels may be found in Revelation 4 and 5.

Moving on to verse 7 from our passage in Hebrews we read, “

7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

Here the focus shifts to the angels and their qualities in order to set up the contrast that will come in the verses that follow. The citation from Psalm 104:4 highlights for us the mutability or changeableness of the angels. Likewise, it establishes their subordinate role as ministers and servants, the former being the source of our word liturgy or worship.

Verse 8 introduces for us the contrast in roles that the angels have and that of Christ by saying,

8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

If there had been any doubt thus far that the Kingship of Christ was being established on the foundation of His Sonship, verses 8-9 firmly clarifies any lingering questions. In referencing Psalm 45:6-7 the author of Hebrews sets forth fully the enthronement and heavenly reign of Christ. In contrast to the angels who are seen as mutable servants, the Son is seen as an eternal King, unchangeable as verse 12 will assert. It is evident in this passage, which contains such themes as throne, scepter, kingdom, and anointing, that the author of Hebrews has chosen this specific Psalm for the purpose of heightening the awareness of his subject, namely the Sonship-Kingship of Jesus Christ.

For some odd reason, certain theologians refuse to recognize the current ruling and reigning of King Jesus as He sits at His Father’s right hand. Instead they prefer to defer Christ being seated on the throne until His second advent and the establishment of a millennial kingdom. That does not appear to be the majority report of the New Testament witness, as we have seen in Hebrews 1 and in the use of related Old Testament quotations such as those from Psalm 2 and 110. Jesus is King now. He will consummate His kingdom when He returns and establishes His throne on earth for eternity, nevertheless the inauguration of His Kingship has begun.

[1] Schreiner pg 64

[2] Ibid pg 65

[3] Lane pg. 26

[4] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/allusion

[5] Lane Pg 27

*Image credit – www.brojerome.com