A kingdom is not just the people ruled by a king, but all the economic, legal and social institutions that support their lives. The fall corrupted all human institutions, so as the Kingdom comes, they will need to be restored. When people receive the gospel, the institutions that make up their society will need to be transformed to align with God's will.

This means that Jesus' authority expands in two ways.

  1. People Coming to Faith in Jesus

    The Kingdom of God grows one person at a time, as the gospel is preached to the world. When people receive the gospel, they are born again into the Kingdom of God (John 3:3; Rom 6:17,18). When Jesus sets them free from evil and restores their authority over their lives, the Holy Spirit transfers them from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God (Col 1:12,13).

    Once a person has received the gospel, they must learn to live in the freedom that Jesus has provided. They need to learn how to do the will of the Father by listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God grows as those who are born again submit their lives to Jesus and learn to live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God expands as people are born into the kingdom.

  2. Institutions Coming under Jesus Authority

    The Kingdom grows as authority in the institutions of the world shifts back to people submitted to Jesus. This authority shift takes place in three ways.

    • Christians being appointed to positions of authority.
    • Christians being promoted to positions with greater authority.
    • People in positions of authority choosing to follow Jesus.

    These three ways will be explained in the next three sections, but first a warning. Christians serve a different King, so we can only use Free Authority. If we are offered authority by people who trust us, we can accept it and use it to advance the Kingdom.

    If we are offered Delegated Authority, we should have a good look at the person delegating it. Delegated authority comes with rules, instructions and a requirement to submit to the person delegating it. Christians should not accept delegated authority, if the person delegating the authority will expect them to do things that oppose the Kingdom. We should be careful about submitting to Imposed Authority to get Delegated Authority, as we might find ourselves opposing the Kingdom of God.

    Christians should be careful about roles that require the use of Imposed Authority. Positions in government bureaucracies are dangerous because the person with delegated authority will be expected to impose their authority on other people. They will often be required to force people to obey the government. Christians who understand the nature of authority will not do that because Imposed Authority undermines the Kingdom of God.

    Joseph was appointed to an extremely powerful position, but it was Delegated Authority. He had to obey Pharaoh's Imposed Authority. God used Joseph to protect his family through a famine, but he was required to enslave the entire Egyptian nation. They lost their land and their freedom. Wise Christians would not want Joseph's authority.

Appointment to Positions of Authority

Christians should be prepared to take up positions of authority, if God provides the opportunity. When a Christian is appointed to a position of authority in an institution that was previously held by someone in the world, the Kingdom of God expands. If they exercise authority in accordance with the will of God, the part of the institution under their authority comes into the Kingdom. Christians have tended to avoid positions of authority because they want to stay free from the world. This ambivalence towards authority has backfired because it has slowed the advance of the Kingdom. If the conditions are right, Christians should accept appointments to positions of authority.

Promotion to Greater Authority

If a Christian is promoted higher in an organisation, their authority increases. Provided they are free to exercise that authority in obedience to Jesus, the Kingdom of God expands. If the Christian just follows the ways of the world as they exercise authority, the Kingdom of God is diminished.

Those at the lower levels of an institution have very limited authority. As a Christian is promoted higher in an institution, they gain more authority with fewer limits on it. They will have greater freedom to obey Jesus as they exercise authority. Christians should be promoted frequently because they are:

In a world where many people are dishonest or unwilling to take responsibility, Christians should rise above the rest for their superior wisdom and reliability.

Christians have access to all the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, so the world should be amazed by our wisdom. The Queen of Sheba came from the ends of the earth to see Solomon's wisdom (Luke 11:31). In the same way, Christians should be invited to places of authority because they have greater wisdom than others.

Christians should be studying God's teaching on law, justice, economics and banking, so they can reveal his wisdom to the world. Daniel revealed insights that amazed the leaders of Babylon, so they gave him great authority. One reason for the slow advance of the kingdom is that God does not have enough people who have learned to exercise authority wisely in their families, churches and businesses. When Jesus told the parable of the talents, he said,

You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things (Matt 25:23).
God cannot send Christians straight to the top because they would not handle the responsibility. Joseph learned about authority as Potiphar's servant and as the jailer's assistant. Had he gone straight from "rich kid" to "ruler's right-hand man", he would have been a disaster. God often allows his people to suffer before exercising authority. Experiencing bad authority is a good way to learn good authority.

People with Authority converting to Christianity

When people in positions of authority come to faith in Jesus, two things happen. They are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. That is great, but if they are discipled correctly, they might be able to bring some of their authority over to God's side too. If they obey Jesus when making decisions in their sphere of authority, it comes into his kingdom with them.

If the person coming to faith in Jesus holds Delegated Authority, they might not be able to change very much. If the people who delegated the authority are evil, the new Christian might find their situation untenable and need to resign. A Christian centurion would find life tough because he would be strictly controlled by the empire. He could be commanded to do evil things that would be wrong for a Christian. If the new Christian holds Imposed Authority, they might be able to change it to Free Authority. If they learn from their elders and the Holy Spirit, they will be able to exercise their authority better. This will change the situation for everyone submitted to them.

The Bible urges us to pray for kings and people in authority (1 Tim 2:2). Paul was keen to preach the gospel to King Agrippa because he had authority in the nation (Acts 26:28). He longed to visit Rome (Rom 15:23,24). I presume he wanted to get to the centre of the Roman Empire because reaching the people with authority who lived there could be a great leap forward for the Kingdom.

Be Prepared to Teach

The Kingdom of God expands when key political leaders, business leaders, judges, media commentators and journalists come to faith in Jesus. Before reaching out to these people, we must be ready to disciple them and teach them to exercise their authority in obedience to Jesus. This task is not easy, so the church should be preparing now.

The church has not done this very well, but has tended to tell people in positions of authority that they should renounce their role and come out of the world. When Constantine, the Roman Emperor became a Christian, the church was not ready to teach him how to exercise his authority in obedience to Jesus. Despite the harsh judgements of many historians, the conversion of Constantine was a good thing. The church was not ready to teach him how to use his Imposed Authority, so it was used unwisely.

A tremendous opportunity for the kingdom was wasted because no one was ready when a man with immense authority became a Christian. Christians must always be ready to disciple people in authority who come to faith in Jesus.

Hold Authority Lightly

Christians must not be power seekers. We should only take authority that is freely given to us, or authority that comes with positions to which we have been appointed. Daniel did not seize authority, but was appointed by a heathen emperor. Authority does not flow to power seekers, but to those who are willing to serve and be accountable for their actions.

Christians with authority should hold it lightly. Rather than serving their own interests, they should obey the Holy Spirit. They should look for trustworthy people who can share their authority. They should train them to exercise it in obedience to Jesus. Authority should be pushed down and spread around.

Jesus is a good example. When he received authority, he immediately passed it on to his disciples.

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority (Matt 10:1).
These are amazing words. Jesus had all the wisdom of God, but his disciples were a mixed bunch. He did not say, "I am in charge, do what I say". He gave them authority and sent them out. In the Kingdom of God, authority will be spread as widely as possible. Most people will have a little, and no one will have a lot.

Christians should not just accumulate authority for themselves, but transform it into Free Authority. They should push it down to people who can be trusted to exercise it in obedience to God. When Christians gain authority, they will give up even more. This is the mystery of the Kingdom. All authority will be handed over to the saints of God (Dan 7:18), but they will give it away to others. Authority is more blessed to give than receive.

Christians must not be like the teachers of the law that challenged Jesus. They had moral authority, but they used it to load people up and weigh them down.

You load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them (Luke 11:46). We must use our authority to set people free.

Authority from Below

Note this very important point. As the government of God expands in each of the ways described above, the authority must always be Free Authority. Christians must only take authority that is freely given to them, or take authority that comes with positions to which they have been appointed. They must not use Imposed Authority.

God will never force people to obey him. The maximum force that God will ever use to force a person to obey him is the Holy Spirit working in his heart to draw him to the Father. The most force God will ever use is prevenient grace. He wants people to freely choose to obey his authority. He will not force them to obey. In the same way, God wants his people to take back the authority of the world that has been lost, but we must never take it by force. As the Holy Spirit works in the world and draws men to himself, authority will be freely given back to God's people.

Time for the Kingdom

After 2000 years, the church has started to become very successful at sharing the gospel. Following on from this success, it is now time to put more effort and emphasis on the second part of the great commission. Jesus said,

All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.

He then commissioned the church to make that statement a reality.

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