The Theology & Practice of the Kingdom of God

We are looking today at the first Vineyard Core Value and perhaps the most important of the five; The Theology & Practice of the Kingdom of God. And, if you remember, we are going to see how when we say to someone the seven words, "Can I pray for you, right now?", how that reflects each one of these values.

Bert Waggoner says this about Vineyard and Kingdom Theology:  

When the Vineyard talks about the kingdom, we are talking about the kingdom of God as a dynamic reality that is now present in the world, but that will not come to the fullness of expression on the earth until the second coming of Christ at the end of this age. - Bert Waggoner -

Kingdom Theology is a holistic biblical concept that goes beyond the individual and mere personal salvation.

Proposition:  Kingdom Theology is God’s sovereign rule breaking in over all Creation.  It includes the active role of the Spirit and Word addressing poverty, the environment, social injustice, healing, and demonic power encounters.  It acknowledges the tension of spiritual battle we live in, as well as our own personal salvation and spiritual transformation.  It does not speak of a dualism between the physical world and spiritual world, but realizes that God’s rule embraces all aspects of life; both spiritual and physical.

Question:  What does it mean to have a Kingdom Theology?

That is a question that I cannot fully answer in a 30 minute talk, however, we can start the conversation today.  In short, Waggoner continues:

The focus of the Vineyard has always been on the manifest presence of the kingdom in the Spirit revealing Christ and empowering believers to heal the sick, cast out demons, feed the poor and be instruments of God in social justice. Vineyard is informed by its theology of the kingdom, but it is much more than theology. It is the manifest presence of the kingdom in the person of the Holy Spirit who exalts Jesus among us by signs and wonders. - Bert Waggoner - 

The Kingdom of God can be seen in the idea of ‘The Already & Not Yet’.  To illustrate that point we can look back to an illustration we have used before here at Six:Eight; the beach at Normandy in WWII.  The allies established the beach head at Normandy, France, which many believe to be the move that won the war.  The war was not over at that point however, and the day was dubbed ‘D-Day’; the day the war was won.  Yet, ultimate and final victory would not be established until ‘V-Day’; the day of final victory.  And that day remained in the future as the battle went on.  Jesus’ coming was for us D-Day, yet ultimate fulfillment and victory will be established upon his return; our V-Day.  Therefore, the Christian life now is lived in a tension between the already and not yet.

This explains to us why all who are evangelized are not converted, all the sick who are prayed for are not healed, or why some are healed but still get sick and die.  It explains our triumph in Christ, and our continued struggle in the flesh as well.  If we break that tension, what we are left with is: 

  1. Cessationism; God does not work miracles today 
  2. Triumphalism of Perfectionism; God always works miracles if we have enough faith to believe him.  

- Don Williams, PhD - 

Paul writes:  "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God, the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet." 

1 Corinthians 15:22-25

What we are looking for is Luke 4:18 Christianity in which the good news is preached to the poor, prisoners are set free, the blind receive their sight, and the oppressed are released.

We are walking away from the Platonic Dualism that has been so pervasive ‘within the history of conservative evangelical churches, where there is a tendency towards selective obedience or dualistic ethics. While some parts of the church focus entirely on "spiritual" aspects of the Christian life, such as evangelism, conversion, personal sanctification, prayer and the spiritual disciplines, other parts of the church focus entirely on "social" aspects of the Christian life, such as compassion for the poor, community transformation, social justice and political advocacy. The former is often described pejoratively as "pietism" and the latter as "liberal" Christianity or the "social gospel." One can trace this dualism in the whole history of the church, and the evangelical church in particular.’ (Derek Morphew, The Kingdom: Healing the Dualism of Personal and Social Ethics)

For example, a friend of mine attended a small church growing up that only focused on the spiritual aspects of life; evangelism, conversion, personal sanctification, prayer and the spiritual disciplines.  This church had classes all the time on evangelism, but never anything was said about the poor, social injustices, or the available power of the Holy Spirit; it was pietistic.  Yet when they went to a Mennonite school they found themselves only in classes addressing poverty and social injustice, but never a class on evangelism or personal spiritual growth.  It was a liberal theology or the social gospel.  Both had aspects of the Kingdom expressed in their theology, however they were both incomplete.  However, we must clarify that this is not to say all Mennonites are liberals.

Jesus is in the middle where the holistic Kingdom of God is preached without a far leaning on one aspect over another.  Like we said last week, one thing that excites me about the Vineyard is the desire for balance and completeness.  We can see this dualism happening in various situations in the world.  Derek Morphew, a Vineyard writer, theologian, and director of Vineyard Bible Institute, writes this account of Apartheid in South Africa:

Those who lived through the apartheid era in South Africa will know the debilitating effects of such dualism with particular pain. Apartheid completely divided the witness of the church. The churches associated with the South African Council of Churches were at the forefront of public resistance to the system and perhaps partly out of desperation, almost succumbed to neo-Marxist ideology (social gospel/liberal theology). The evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic churches mostly succumbed to the ideology of the apartheid state, refused to confront the system and withdrew into "spirituality," not that such a withdrawal can be truly spiritual at all (pietism). Eventually the Rustenberg Confession became a cathartic moment where the whole church, "left" and "right" repudiated the system, confessed their own sin, and committed themselves against the ideology and its socio-political agenda. Later The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa was one of many organizations that made confession to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on their failure to make an adequate response to Apartheid. Those of us who lived through this time have a story to tell. The theology of the kingdom proved to be a wonderful source of sanity in this turbulent time.’

I think the Kingdom was also evident in the theology of non-violent protests of African Americans under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well.  Preachers like Dr. King not only held to the ethic of a personal salvation, but also saw themselves as people that would fight, non-violently, against social injustices that were contrary to the Kingdom of God - their faith went beyond just a personal faith ethic.  Neither was his faith defined by that ‘one social issue’, which would have translated to a mere social gospel.  However, neither did he retreat into a false spirituality, and just hope for the future Kingdom to be established without any realization of it now.  

In his famous letter from the Birmingham Jail, Dr. King addresses his detractors that want to guard the status quo and urged him to ‘wait’.  They questioned why he had to act, why he couldn’t just pastor people and ‘let God work it out‘ in his time.  Yet, Dr. King was driven by a Kingdom Theology that urged him to do something about an injustice now; he was following God’s heart.  

He said, “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.  ‘Wait’ almost always meant ‘Never’... ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied’” (Dr Matin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait p91).  He states also that the greater stumbling block to the African American at the time was not the KKK member, but ‘the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice...who constantly tells the African American to wait for a more convenient time.  Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.  Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.’ (p97)

He continues to say, “time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively.  More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will.  We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.  Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.  We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.” (p99)

In other words, the time is always ripe to do Kingdom!  ‘The kingdom of God is not simply about having "Jesus in your heart" or having his Lordship "within you", a popular definition based on Luke 17:21. Neither is the kingdom of God merely about the eternal rule of God "up there" in heaven where he is enthroned.  The kingdom is an event. It is about God "coming" in the eschatological moment when the powers of the coming age break into the present, in Jesus, in Pentecost and in the history of missions, finally to be manifest when we arrive at the "end of the end." Jesus is the personified focus of this kingdom event. He comes announcing the kingdom and demonstrating the kingdom and then enacts the kingdom through his death, resurrection and ascension.’ (Derek Morphew, The Kingdom:  Healing the Dualism of Personal and Social Ethics)  

Within Kingdom Theology the duality, or the separation, of personal and social ethics is not possible; neither is the separation of physical and spiritual.  When John the Baptist sent his delegation wondering if Jesus was ‘the one’ Jesus reply was to evoke the language of Isaiah.

Vineyard Core Values