What does it require to have a strong and lasting kingdom in the world? I suspect if most of us were making a list of what is required we would come up with things like, strong leadership, fair and equitable laws, guiding principles which hold people together and a strong army or defense to keep enemies from coming in from the outside to destroy us. We might even say that it takes an effective police department that can maintain the peace and protect the people from crime and from the people who are bent of destruction. If one looks at the kingdom of God it is clear that some of these things are there but some of them are totally absent and others aren’t there in the sense we would think important. More than that, there are things about the kingdom of God that are emphasized as important which wouldn’t have made our list at all.
God’s kingdom on earth certainly has great leadership if you are considering the fact that Jesus reigns as the one king of kings and Lord of Lords. He is the one who declared “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” So the ultimate leadership is strong and dependable. But with any kingdom it requires more than just strong leadership at the top. A great kingdom has many people who operate as leaders in given areas. If the second layer of leaders isn’t wise, strong and effective the whole kingdom will be in jeopardy quickly. Often we’ve seen in the United States that men are elected as the President of the country who haven’t been very wise in their choices of the second layer of leaders and their effectiveness as a leader of the nation has been undermined by their own choices to work with them. What about the leadership in the kingdom on the second and third layers? The kingdom of God manifest itself through local churches around the world. Some of those churches have some form of central government or leadership that may help to lead them but the truth is that most of the work of the kingdom is done on that local level and led by the people in those churches that are trying to follow God’s will.
The truth is that God’s kingdom often grows and accomplishes great things in spite of the fact it doesn’t have the kind of dynamic and strong leadership that we would think necessary. Think of the twelve men Jesus chose as his apostles that would lead the kingdom during those formative years of existence. Would you have considered them great leaders? Would you have considered most of them leaders at all? Most likely you wouldn’t have, yet the kingdom of the Lord spread like a field on fire during the first century. Before the kingdom had been in existence fifty years Paul would write to say that the gospel had been preached to the whole world. Our sense of leadership and God’s sense of leadership are often very different from each other.
Something that God laid out in his list of characteristics of His kingdom that wouldn’t likely have made our list at all was priest. In Revelation 1:5-6 it says, “From Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father – to Him be glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Some translations have, he made it a kingdom of priests and other that we are kings and priest unto our God. One thing is certain the kingdom of Christ is made up of people who are called as priest of God.
Unlike the Old Testament kingdom that had people who were set apart as priest for the people, the kingdom described in the New Testament is made up of priest. In I Peter 2:5 it says, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” In verse 9 he said, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Every member of the church Jesus built is a priest unto God. We all serve under Jesus the great high priest. But we are priest to offer to God the spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. The first of such sacrifices is the offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). But our lives, our worship and our devotion to God are all sacrifices to him.
At least as significant is the fact that as priest of God we don’t need to go to someone else to approach God on our behalf. We are priest and can go directly to God through the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Since we are priest we are to be about carrying the message of God to others and carrying others to God in prayer and in passion. As priest I can study and learn the word of God for myself. I don’t need someone else to tell me what to believe and teach. God gave his word in simple, clear language so we can study and learn for ourselves his will.
God’s kingdom is best protected by his people serving as the spiritual priest who keep the devotion turned to him to learn and grow for him. When we are on the mission of hearing and following God’s will and offering ourselves to him fully it will be impossible for God’s kingdom to be overthrown by the devil. When we lose our sense of mission and try to turn the work over to a few people serving as professional priest the kingdom is in deep trouble. If you are a Christ follower, you are chosen by God as one of his priest. Are you functioning as the priest? Why?