THE PRIVILEGE OF CITIZENSHIP IN GOD’S KINGDOM/FAMILY

The God of heaven has a kingdom. The prophet Daniel foretold that the Lord’s kingdom shall never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44). What is His kingdom and what is so special about being a citizen of it?

To say that the Lord reigns as King means He rules in the lives of humans. Under the new covenant, in this era the Lord’s kingdom is His church. Jesus promised to build His church, then in the next breath, so to speak, He promised to give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:18,19). It would not make sense for Jesus to talk about a building project, then give Peter keys to something entirely different, would it? The keys were for the church, which is the kingdom. The church is the realm in which the Lord reigns as King. If one is in the Christ, he is in His kingdom, and vice versa (Colossians 1:13,14).

What about the family concept? Paul wrote a letter to Timothy so the latter would know how to conduct himself “in the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15). God’s house/family is His church. That would mean God’s family and His kingdom are the same, too. God adds saved people to His family/church (Acts 2:47).

How does one become a member of God’s kingdom/family? Not by biological birth, not by prayer, not by giving a financial donation to God’s work, and not by attending worship services. One must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus said so (John 3:3,7). He also told Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). So, getting into God’s kingdom involves being born of water and the Spirit. In the context of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus about being born again, our Lord did not offer an explanation of the water or the Spirit’s role in the new birth, so we must look elsewhere in the Bible to find the meaning.

Peter reminded first-century Christians that they had purified their souls “in obeying the truth” (1 Peter 1:22). He went on to say that those same saints had been “born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23). They were born again (1:23) when they obeyed the truth (1:22). It came about through the seed, which is God’s word. The Holy Spirit provided that seed/truth (John 16:13), and the word of God is the Spirit’s sword (Ephesians 6:17). Through that sword/word/seed, God’s Spirit causes people to be born again.

What about the water our Lord mentioned as part of being born again (John 3:5)? Look in the book of Acts, and you will find your answer. The eunuch from Africa asked Philip, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). We then read about the evangelist baptizing the eunuch in water (Acts 8:38). Following that, the eunuch rejoiced (Acts 8:39). Why was he a happy fellow? Because he had been born into God’s family, having his sins washed away by the blood of Jesus. The purpose of water baptism is to wash away sins (Acts 22:16), so when the eunuch was immersed, he was saved and the Lord added him to His family/kingdom. According to the Bible, a person has newness of life, that is, is a new/born- again person after being baptized into the Christ (Romans 6:3,4).

Those who have been born into God’s family/ kingdom are so blessed! There are great spiritual blessings which Christians enjoy in this life as citizens in God’s kingdom. All spiritual blessings are available to us in the Christ (Ephesians 1:3). In Jesus, we have the privilege of prayer. As “sons of God” in the Christ (Galatians 3:26,27), we can call God our “Father” (Galatians 4:6) and come before His throne with our praise, thanksgiving, and requests (Philippians 4:6,7). In Jesus, we have redemption/the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14). As citizens in the kingdom, we can ask for forgiveness as we continue to walk in the light (1 John 1:7-9) and repent of our sins (Acts 8:21,22). As God’s people, we can “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

As members of God’s kingdom/family, Jesus’ followers also are bonded together by great relationships with other Christians. We are blessed to have brothers and sisters in the Lord who take to heart and carry out the Lord’s instructions to love one another (1 Peter 4:8), be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:9), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), comfort and edify one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13), pray for one another (James 5:16), as well as bear with and forgive one another (Colossians 3:13). Friend, the relationships we enjoy with the caring children of God are priceless! Such selfless people make it easy for us to follow this charge of God: “Love the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17).

Those who are citizens in God’s kingdom further enjoy an optimistic outlook about the future. Why would we not be optimistic?! As God’s children, we are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), “heirs of the kingdom” (James 2:5). Because we are heirs, we have hope . . . hope of an eternal inheritance in heaven (1 Peter 1:3,4). Heirs . . . Hope . . . Heaven. It does not get any better than that!

— Roger D. Campbell

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