Spies, espionage and state secrets seem to be prominent in the news once more. China is so exercised about foreign espionage that this week it launched a website encouraging people to report national security threats. Sometimes we get a glimpse of the extent of the hidden world of intelligence agencies in gathering information about foreign countries. The controversy surrounding Facebook and the covert use of data is another dimension of how far attempts to obtain prized information may go. What do we know of the secrets of Christ’s kingdom? It’s a different matter altogether of course. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world and therefore those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. But are governments and organisations more diligent in gathering their secret information than we are in searching into the mysteries of Christ’s kingdom?
Alexander Henderson says it is our necessary duty to make this our study. If this sounds a little strange, consider that Christ says that the secrets or mysteries of His kingdom are given to His disciples to know (Matthew 13:11). The matters of the kingdom of heaven are mysteries which none can understand until this is given to them from God. There are also those to whom God does not purpose to give understanding of His mysteries. Henderson opens this up in a sermon which he preached before the House of Lords in 1645 on John 18:36-37.
1. Understanding Christ’s Kingdom
(a) The Greater Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom
Since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world but is a spiritual kingdom, it is a necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom. The kingdom of Satan and sin have many depths and secrets. The kingdoms of the world have their secrets of politics and government. The kingdom of Christ has greater secrets and more hidden mysteries.
Those who are great in the world know many things about the mystery of iniquity and the secrets of the kingdoms and states of the world. Yet, the truth is that many of them are ignorant of the mysteries of the kingdom of Christ. The princes of this world (whether princes in knowledge or in power and greatness) do not know those mysteries. Had they known them they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). When the apostle Paul says that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man understood the things that God has prepared for them that love Him, he is speaking of the kingdom of grace in this world (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
(b) The Secret Means Used in Christ’s Kingdom
Natural reason requires the right means and well-prepared materials for every work. But the apostles were neither noble nor learned, but poor and simple. The world altogether unprepared to receive them, it was at that time (as much as at any time before or since) full of learning, power, and politics. Yet they went on, subduing, conquering and bringing everything to the obedience of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(c) The Secret Laws of Christ’s Kingdom
The laws of this kingdom were:
- instead of revenge – love your enemies;
- instead of lust – do not look on a woman to lust after her;
- instead of covetousness – forsake all;
- instead of ambition – deny yourselves.
Yet these supernatural laws, by the Spirit and power of the great law-giver, were established and written in the tables of men’s hearts. The promises of reward were not worldly pleasures or ease, but let everyone take up their cross and follow me.
(d) The Secret Wisdom of Christ’s Kingdom
Everything in this kingdom is above the reach of natural reason. The spiritual man, however, by a new faculty created by God, knows the deep things of God and judges all things (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).
Some theologians have observed seven things in the sufferings of Christ that are altogether contrary to the reason of the natural man:
- the greatest impotence and weakness in Him who was omnipotent;
- the greatest suffering in Him that was impassible [incapable of suffering]
- the greatest foolishness (according to the judgement of men) in the deepest wisdom;
- the greatest poverty in the God of all riches;
- the greatest shame in the greatest glory and majesty;
- the greatest forsaking in the most perfect union;
- the greatest severity of the Father against His Son in the greatest love of the Father to the Son, in the very time of His suffering.
Many more things might be added in the administration of the kingdom of Christ after His ascension into heaven. This might be observed both at the first planting of the gospel in the earliest times and in the time of the Reformation of religion in various kingdoms and nations.
If we will acquaint ourselves with the secrets of the gospel and the way the kingdom of Christ progresses, we seem to be transported and carried to another world. We are forced to acknowledge and confess to the glory of God, that flesh and blood cannot reveal these things to us.
2. Join Christ’s Kingdom
When the Lord has opened the eyes of our understanding to behold something of the secrets of this spiritual kingdom, we are to join ourselves to it and become the subjects of Jesus Christ.
(a) Acknowledge Your Natural State
We must first know our condition by nature, we are all by nature subjects (slaves indeed) to the kingdom of sin and Satan.
(b) Acknowledge Christ as King
Acknowledge Christ to be king and Lord of His people, putting our confidence in Him because He has all sufficiency for life, liberty, salvation and every good thing. We ought to seek to feel the kingdom of God within us and His sceptre set up in our souls which were formerly tyrannised over by strange lords.
(c) Submit to Christ’s Will
We must submit ourselves in all humility and obedience to do His will. His subjects are a willing people or a people of willingness (Psalm 110:3). If every one of us had many wills, we ought to sacrifice them all in a willingness to serve Him. If we would consider what we are without Him, what we may be through Him we would willingly offer ourselves in this day of His power.
3. Advance Christ’s Kingdom
We must all be zealous in using all good means (according to our abilities) to advance and establish the kingdom of Christ. Beware of selfishness, indifference, division, procrastination, discouragements, imprudence, and inconstancy. Give yourselves to sincerity, zeal, unity, diligence, selflessness, prudence, and perseverance. Thus you may be the choice and blessed means used by God to establish the kingdom of His Son, our Saviour in the land.