unhappy in closet

In this series of articles, we are investigating scriptures which many of us Christians have misunderstood, passed over, or just simply ignored. Perhaps this is not true of you, but it is sadly true of me.

Jesus spoke two very startling truths in two parables in Matthew 13:44-46—startling in a way that you and I might not expect:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” 1

You may say, “This is not startling. We Christians understand that Jesus and the salvation He brings is the most precious, most desirable thing we can obtain in the world.”

I cannot argue that point, of course. But read these verses again. Where within them is any mention of salvation? This parable only informs us about one characteristic of what it means to obtain the kingdom of heaven.

I—and you, perhaps—have thought, partially correctly, that obtaining the kingdom is the same as salvation by grace and faith. Well, it is, but sometimes it isn’t.

The primary verse for the first understanding is John 3:3–5.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”

Jesus’ statements about the kingdom here are in response to Nicodemus’ statement, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).

Nicodemus’ understanding of the reality of Jesus’ presence fell short of the truth of what was happening, and it makes one wonder how Jesus could have exhaustively explained that reality to Nicodemus, due to his limited understanding. So Jesus, in a way that should not surprise us if we are familiar with His answers to questions, said that a person cannot see the kingdom of God nor enter it unless he or she is born again (or from above) and of water and Spirit.

Surely, this response must have left Nicodemus scratching his head as he walked away.

We would have left in a similar way, I think.

In fact, we still are. I have found that many Christians have very little understanding of the nature of the kingdom of heaven.

That includes me.

However, I am slowly understanding that there is more to seeing and entering God’s kingdom than becoming a Christian alone, as we will soon see.

The kingdom of God arrived with Jesus, has continued to this day, and will continue in a supernatural yet earthly manner until Jesus returns. However, this kingdom concerns more than salvation alone, although it is absolutely true that one cannot even see it or be enabled to enter it unless one is a Christian. So, we are faced with several other passages about the nature of His kingdom, one of which is from Matthew 18:1-4:

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”

Let’s look at this. Think with me. Jesus’ disciples came to Him asking a question about greatness in God’s kingdom. In response, Jesus told them that unless they turned—repented—changed their way of thinking—and became like children they would never enter that kingdom. Children in Jesus’ time were powerless, little better than slaves. So, we see that part of the understanding about entering the kingdom of God is about denying the world’s conception of greatness and power. If the reader were to search for and contemplate other teachings in the New Testament, he or she would discover other truths to confirm this. I would encourage the reader to do so.

We will look at other scriptures next week.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Advertisements