One kingdom? Two kingdoms? How are the kingdom and the church related? Such questions bounce around in books, exchanges of articles, and blog posts. I was recently reminded of a foundational, very helpful work: The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church, by Geerhardus Vos (P&R Publishing, reprinted 1972).
In a side discussion during a committee meeting a few weeks ago Richard B. Gaffin quoted the late Ned B. Stonehouse as telling his students, “Every minister of the gospel ought to read Vos’ The Kingdom and the Church once a year.” Although I have read the little book (about 100 pages) a couple of times, and have used it more frequently as the Scripture index has been helpful in finding sections dealing with preaching texts, I was motivated to take Stonehouse’s counsel. The advice was well taken, I discovered, and I commend it to any who read this. A few excerpts to whet your appetite:
“The conception [of the kingdom] is a God-centered conception to the very core. In order to appreciate its significance, we must do what Jesus did, look at the whole of the world and of life from the point of view of their subsurviency to the glory of God.” pp. 49-50.
“He [our Lord] once more made the voice of the law the voice of the living God, who is present in every commandment, so absolute in his demands, so personally interested in man’s conduct, so all-observant, that the thought of yielding to him less than the whole inner life, the heart, the soul, the mind, the strength, can no longer be tolerated.” p. 61.
“. . . the kingdom is the supreme embodiment of the divine gracious purpose.” p. 71.
“. . . every view which would keep the kingdom and the church separate as two entirely distinct spheres is not in harmony with the trend of our Lord’s teaching. The church is the form which the kingdom assumes in result of the new stage upon which the Messiahship of Jesus enters with his death and resurrection.” pp. 85-86.
“On the one hand, his doctrine of the kingdom was founded on such a profound and broad conviction of the absolute supremacy of God in all things, that he could not but look upon every normal and legitimate province of human life as intended to form part of God’s kingdom. On the other hand, it was not his intention that this result should be reached by making human life in all its spheres subject to the visible church.” p. 88.
I notice that Amazon carries a Kindle edition as well as the traditional print on paper.