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It’s clear from the Gospels that Jesus’ primary purpose was to preach “the good news of the Kingdom” and that He commissioned His disciples to continue preaching this message.

It might seem strange then that in a letter that has been described as “the Gospel according to Paul” – the letter to the Romans – there is no mention at all of the kingdom. On the other hand, while Jesus rarely used the word “grace” we find it is one of Paul’s favourite subjects. In Romans Paul used the word “grace” at least twenty times, although never using the word “kingdom”. Did Paul preach a different message? This is hardly possible, especially since we read in Acts that while in Rome he “boldly and without hindrance preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:31).

We get a very specific statement from Paul himself about this. While speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus he said that “the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus” was “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God”. And then in the next verse he says “I have gone preaching the kingdom of God” (Acts 20:24-25). So to Paul “the gospel of grace” was the same as the gospel of the kingdom.

In teaching about the grace of God Paul was picking up on the central message in Jesus’ gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus taught that the Kingdom would be a gift from God (and “grace” – charis – literally means “a gift”): “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

“Grace” is one of Paul’s favourite words because it describes God’s abundant generosity in giving us salvation. The message here is clear: the Kingdom of God is a gift. We cannot earn it. We do not work for it. It is not a reward for services rendered. It is a gift. It is so important that we understand this that Paul writes his “Gospel” – the letter to the Romans – to spell this out clearly.

Jesus’ message was also a “gospel of grace”. John says that “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17) and “from the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (1:16). Luke said “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words [or words of grace] that came from his lips” (Luke 4:22).

Consistently throughout His preaching we find Jesus teaching about God’s abundant generosity to us – even though we are sinners and undeserving of His favour. He taught about doing good to others when there is no possibility that they can repay us – doing good to others without expecting to be rewarded for it. This describes perfectly how we are to imitate God’s grace. We cannot earn salvation by good works. We cannot do anything for God which would ever repay what He has done for us.

No wonder then that so many of Jesus’ stories are about celebrating: wedding feasts, banquets, and celebrations are a common theme in His stories. God’s free gifts of salvation and a renewed earth are worth such celebration that even when one sinner repents and sets out on the Kingdom-path as a Kingdom-person that the whole of heaven celebrates! (Luke 15:10).

2 Responses to “The Kingdom of God is a gift!”

  1. on 09 Sep 2007 at 6:04 amSean

    I think that grace is so often tied to the cross that it will take some real rewiring of our theological brains to think of the end times kingdom as grace (though you have undoubtedly made the point clear). One question I have is, “what is the connection between past tense salvation (i.e. having all sins forgiven on the basis of Christ’s death for us) and future tense salvation (i.e. resurrection and entering the kingdom)?”

  2. on 09 Sep 2007 at 7:55 pmRich

    Steve
    Thanks for tying the concepts of grace and the kingdom together. As we seek the kingdom of God, and strive to enter in, it’s good to remember that we do not enter the kingdom because of our good works, but because of God’s grace!

    Rich

  

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