Posts Tagged Luke 8: 1

The New Kingdom

Romans 14: 17

The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has already established his kingdom here in the earth. He called it the Kingdom of God and it is mentioned no less than 51 times in the gospels. It is said that Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God (Luke 8: 1) but what are the characteristics of this kingdom? We get different segments of that answer in the New Testament, especially in the gospels but also in the letters. In today’s verse Paul writes about the values of the kingdom.

I have read many English versions of this verse and in so doing arrive at a much clearer understanding than in reading only this, the New American Standard Version. For example, the New Century Version reads, “In the kingdom of God, eating and drinking are not important. The important things are living right with God, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The picture begins to reveal itself. Paul is defining what has value in the Kingdom of God. The Passion Translation reads, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of rules about food and drink, but is in the realm of the Holy Spirit, filled with righteousness, peace, and joy.” The Kingdom is not all about rules. In the Kingdom what is most important is that we follow God, follow His ways. The Kingdom is not about works of the flesh or self-stylized righteousness. In Jesus’ Kingdom, legalism falls at the feet of love and devotion to God and our fellow human beings; even in devotion and kindness to all of God’s creation including the animals and the earth itself. Further, the Kingdom of God is living in the realm of the Holy Spirit. That is what the kingdom is and in that place there is ever-abiding joy, peace and righteousness.

There is a difficult lesson in this. This verse flies in the face of the law. Sometimes we separate God made law from the man-made laws which has so imprisoned us. The problem here is that there were laws about food which were given by God. Food and drink choices were a major separation between Jews and all the other nations. Now Paul writes that the rules about food are not important in the Kingdom of God. Other laws fall as well because Paul is revealing that living in Christ is the key, not legal adherence to rules of law. Living right with God is righteousness, being in your right place with Him and that trumps law. This teaching would have been a major challenge for the first century church who stood upon the law. It challenges us as well but let us look at another translation.

The God Word Translation brings the image of the Kingdom of God into even greater clarity, “God’s kingdom does not consist of what a person eats or drinks. Rather, God’s kingdom consists of God’s approval and peace, as well as the joy that the Holy Spirit gives.” Do you see that the Kingdom of God is not a work-based realm? The right to live in it is not earned either. Our right standing in God, or living right with God, was purchased by Jesus. When we live in Him and the Spirit rather than in the work of our hands and minds, then we are in the kingdom and to live in the Kingdom means you automatically have God’s approval. You do not have to earn it. You do not have to measure yourself by a book of rules, and you do not need to worry. God is for you. He approves of you just as you are. Isn’t that a refreshing concept? You have favor with God.

Jesus established His kingdom in the Holy Spirit. He came preaching this kingdom which depends upon living in the Spirit and the Spirit living within you. Jesus’ message confounded and infuriated the preachers of his day because membership wasn’t earned and, equally important, because he consistently spoke about us in him and him in us, and his being one with the father, all of which was crazy talk to them. The same is true today, really. Revelation still tends to blow the top off our heads but that is Jesus’ way. As soon as you get a handle on one thing, he stretches you over to the next mountain top. But, truly, it is a fun way to live and we see from this verse that when we take the giant leap of faith to live in and by the Spirit of God, there is complete peace, shalom. Paul also lets us know that if we are not in joy, then we are not deep enough in the Spirit. Joy is in the Spirit of God. Remember that Jesus said he left his peace here for us to live in (John 14: 27). Then he gave us his Spirit. Therefore, it is an easy conclusion to reach that joy and peace are ours in him.

In Him, then is the Kingdom of God. And in the Kingdom there is complete approval, joy and peace. Is that good news? If you have ever felt left out or unaccepted it is time for your joy to come to full measure because in Jesus’ kingdom, the Kingdom of God, you are accepted. It is no longer about the rules but rather about seeking the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and leaning into him daily.