The gospel of the kingdom begins with God, not man. God’s need, not man’s need. The object, focus, and primary beneficiary is God. This is because the kingdom is the kingdom OF GOD.
The gospel of the kingdom, the church, and the kingdom of God are all intrinsically related. The gospel of the kingdom produces the church, which is the reality of the kingdom (Rom. 14:17). Then the church is taught to pray for the kingdom to come in its manifestation (Matt. 6:10).
This presents two conditions then for the kingdom of God to be realized- the gospel and prayer. And both of these not just in a general sense but with the kingdom in view. If all we have is a man-centered gospel or mechanical recitation of the Lord’s prayer, will the kingdom of God still come?
The Centrality of the Kingdom
Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near. –Matt. 4:17
This is the first recorded sentence of the Lord’s public ministry. This is the gospel that the New Testament opens with and the gospel that dominates the ministry of the Lord Jesus and the early apostles. The kingdom of the heavens is the special characteristic of the first gospel, Matthew, which mentions kingdom more than any other book in the Bible (57x). The gospel of Matthew is deserving of the first slot among the 4 Gospels not primarily because of its date of composition (some disagree that it was the earliest written and place Mark first) but because of its emphasis.
The move, ministry, and commission that launches the New Testament is the kingdom of God (specifically the kingdom of the heavens). This is because the fundamental issue in the universe is rebellion against the authority of God. So, in this sense the gospel begins with a need on God’s side.
A History of Insurgency
The story of humanity is tersely summed up in Luke 19:12-14,
He said therefore, A certain man of noble birth went to a distant country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return… But his citizens hated him and sent an envoy after him, saying, We do not want this man to reign over us.
Ever since the first man fell, this has been the general attitude of humanity towards God’s rule. The individual strands of resistance and rebellion were woven together and pulled taut by the time of Genesis 11 at Babel. At that time human government openly rebelled against God’s purpose by building a tower to make a name for themselves, replaying the cosmic tragedy portrayed in Isaiah 14 and Ezekial 28.
At certain periods in history this attitude lies dormant, but it is there beneath the surface as the great catalyst, fomenting insurgency. This rebellion can take different forms- political, philosophical, spiritual, moral, etc. To deal with this situation God has stepped in and has made an official, public proclamation to all humanity called the gospel, in which He charges all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
Proclaiming the Kingdom
Recently, I have been setting aside 30 minutes a week, on Thursdays, to practice speaking the gospel to people around me. I firmly believe that the gospel is not a profession carried out by specialists. It’s the ordinary responsibility of every Christian. During these 30 minutes I simply walk around the university with a fellow Christian and we talk to whomever we find. Since I’ve been practicing this, I have run into more than a few people who are more intelligent than I am. At times like this, I have focused on simply proclaiming the gospel, not arguing, overpowering, or out-reasoning. The gospel is the PROCLAMATION of Jesus Christ (Rom 16:25) and this Person Himself IS the kingdom (Luke 17:21).
This aspect of the gospel particularly deals with God’s enemy but at the organic level it is the growth and development of God as the seed of life. Both of these aspects can be seen in Mark 4, where the sequence is not merely a matter of literary style but is inspired to present a composite and unfolding revelation.
- How Does God Move? (lifeandbuilding.com)