From the moment man was created by God it seems that Satan has worked to drive a wedge between man and his Creator. Yet, even before sin entered into the world (Gen, 3:1-5; Rom. 5:12, KJV), God had purposed the plan by which man, who is separated by sin (Is. 59:1-2), could be redeemed from sin and reconciled unto God who knows no sin (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 5:17; Eph. 2:12-16; 1 Pet. 1:18-21). Just as the cross was according to God’s eternal purpose, another essential component of God’s eternal purpose is the church (Eph. 3:8-11).
According to scripture, the church is: according to purpose of God, the prophecies of inspired prophets (Is. 2:2-3; Dan. 2:44), the proclamation of John and Jesus (Matt. 3:1-10; 4:17), the promise of Jesus (Matt. 16:13-19; Mark 9:1), and it was purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:23-26). Scripture also provides a number of designations for the church such as, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:19-22; Col. 1:18-20), the household of God (1 Tim. 3:14-15), the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17), and the vineyard of God (Matt. 20:1-2). Also used within Scripture, and the designation that will be used throughout this article, is the kingdom of God (Acts 8:12; John 18:36).
Concerning this designation, brother Rex A. Turner, Sr. observes, “In short, the Lord’s people have been called out of the world. Just so, the term kingdom emphasizes the government feature of the Lord’s people. Christ is their King, and His people are His subjects. Christ’s kingdom is an absolute monarchy. Christ is the King, and the will of the king is the law. Every citizen in His kingdom is under a divine obligation to obey the law. Ignorance of the law does not constitute a defense for the violation of the law, or for a failure to comply with the law.”
From the moment the eternal kingdom was established on the earth, the kingdom of God has been confronted with challenges. From without, the kingdom of God was, and continues to be challenged by persecution (Acts 8:1; Rev. 2:10, etc.), postmodernism, and pluralism. While challenges from without is expected, it is the challenges from within that are the most discouraging, divisive, and destructive. For instance, consider the internal challenges that confronted the church at Corinth as addressed in First Corinthians. Internal challenges caused by personalities (1:11-16), and pride (5:1-13; 11:17-34) were the foundation for discouragement and division at Corinth. Just as internal challenges confronted the kingdom of God in the past, so it is that internal challenges continue to confront the kingdom of God today.
Challenge #1: Ignorance. Historically, one of the things that have challenged the people of God has been ignorance. One is reminded of Judges 2:10 which declares that following the death of Joshua and the generation that outlived Joshua, “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, not yet the works which he had done for Israel.” As it relates to ignorance, one is also reminded of words spoken by the prophet Hosea as declared about the people of God, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hos. 4:6).
Of great importance is understanding that knowledge is not only a matter of intellectual, but it is also a matter of intimacy. For instance, John declares, “Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). God’s desire is not for His people to merely know about Him, His desire is for His people to know Him. Sadly, just as ignorance often confronted the people of God throughout the Old Testament, ignorance often confronts the kingdom of God today. Such ignorance, whether willful, or otherwise, will often lead not only to division among God’s people, but more so division among God and His people.
- Ignorance concerning the existence of the kingdom (Col. 1:13).
- Ignorance concerning the essence of the kingdom (Heb. 12:28).
- Ignorance concerning the entrance into the kingdom (John 3:3-5).
- Ignorance concerning the eternality of the kingdom (John 18:36; 1 Cor. 15:24).
- Ignorance concerning leadership in the kingdom (Matt. 18:1-4; 20:20-28; Luke 22:24-27). Note: Leadership in the kingdom is not a matter of position and power, but a matter of humble service.
Sadly, while the list could go on, it is imperative that we not be content in our ignorance concerning the kingdom of God, but rather we seek to understand and appreciate those things concerning the kingdom of God. Beloved, let us seek ways by which members of the kingdom of God will be better equipped to tell the lost world about the eternal King and His eternal kingdom.
Challenge #2: Indifference. Another matter that has long challenged the people of God is indifference. By definition, indifference means having a lack of interest, or having a lack of concern. While it a great enough challenge to confront those within the world who are indifferent toward the kingdom of God, an even greater challenge is confronting those within the kingdom of God who are indifferent. Among the areas where an indifferent attitude is seen are:
- The purpose of the kingdom of God (Eph. 3:8-11; Matt. 28:18-20).
- Worship in the kingdom of God (John 4:24; 1 Cor. 11:23-29; Eph. 5:19).
- Discipline in the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:15-19; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Cor. 2:7-9; 2 Thess. 3:6-14).
- Repentance in the kingdom of God (Luke 13:3, 5; 17:3ff; James 5:19-20).
- Reconciliation in the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:23-24; Matt. 18:15-35; Gal. 6:1-2).
When members of the kingdom of God possess an attitude of indifference toward these and other matters of Scripture, it should not surprise us that the world would be indifferent toward such matters.
Challenge #3: Identity. To some extent, the first two challenges lead to the third challenge—a challenge of identity. While the religious world often seeks a denominational identity, member of the kingdom of God must not fall in step with seeking that same identity. Sadly, in a world where the overwhelming religious mottos have become “one church is as good as another,” and “attend the church of your choice,” for members of the kingdom of God to embrace such mottos is reflective of either ignorance, indifference, or a “spiritual identity crisis.”
“Identity crisis” has often been a challenge to God’s people. So often the children of Israel wanted to be identified with the world while at the same time remain in fellowship with God (1 Sam. 8:5). Sadly, the children of Israel often found themselves in captivity as a result of their failure to maintain their identity with God by walking with God. For instance, the book of Judges contains a number of instances when, because of rebellion (Judg. 2:7-11), the children of Israel would go into captivity, and as a result, God would raise up judges to deliver them. Not only were the judges raised up to deliver the children of Israel from captivity, the judges were also seeking to restore the identity of Israel through reconciliation with God.
Not only did “identity crisis” challenge the children of Israel within the Old Testament, an “identity crisis” seemed to be something that also challenged the church at Corinth as evidenced by the book of First Corinthians. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds them of the identity they are to bear as a result of being sanctified in Christ Jesus (1:2). Further, he declares not only the demands of bearing such identity (1:10), but also how that identity is distorted by division that is among them (1:11-17). Throughout the book, Paul calls the Corinthians to repentance in order to be reconciled unto God, but also in order to restore an identity that is distorted by sin.
Today, just as in times past, knowing and appreciating our identity as the kingdom of God often presents a challenge to many in the kingdom of God. As result, we need to often be reminded of the need and nature of maintaining our identity as the kingdom of God.
Challenge #4: Involvement. It may very well be that the challenge of involvement is the result of ignorance concerning why one is a member of the kingdom of God. Specifically, for what purpose does one become a member of the kingdom of God? Often, the answer given to the question, “Why did you become a Christian?” is “So that I can go to heaven.” While such an answer is true and good, it does miss an essential component as to why we are Christians.
The apostle Paul declared, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). The phrase “walk in them” denotes that the life we are to live as those created in Christ (i.e. members of the kingdom of God) is to be life of good works. This includes, but is not limited to, evangelism (Matt. 28:18-19; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:4), exhortation (Heb. 10:24-25; Heb. 3:13), and entreating the erring (Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:19-20).
Often involvement, or lack thereof, becomes a challenge to the kingdom of God because of a “That’s why we have a preacher and elders” mentality. Sadly, when such a mentality is embraced and enabled, many are robbed of the joy of being involved in the work of the Lord, but more importantly, many opportunities are neglected to have others added to the kingdom of God (Acts 2:47).
Challenge #5: Immorality. Perhaps no challenge has confronted the kingdom of God more throughout history than immorality. Such was a challenge to the people of God in the Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament. While there are many forms of immorality, the term essentially has reference to sin. Immorality presents a challenge to the kingdom of God because it not only separates the individual from God it can also result in many others being separated from God (Is. 59:1-15).
Another reason why immorality presents a challenge to the kingdom of God is because in many instances immorality goes unaddressed and undisciplined. Take for instance, the immorality addressed by Paul in First Corinthians 5. In this particular instance, not only was fornication among them, it was such that is “not so much named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1). However, along with fornication, the church at Corinth had been “puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from you” (1 Cor. 5:2). Because of immorality that had gone unaddressed and undisciplined, at stake were the perpetuity of the soul of the sinner, as well as the souls of those who approved/consent of such immorality (Rom. 1:32), and the purity of the church (1 Cor. 5:6). While there are many objections today concerning addressing and disciplining those who refuse to repent of immorality, Scripture is clear concerning the attitude and actions that the kingdom of God must have toward such (2 Thess. 3:6-14; Gal. 5:19-6:2).
Yes, there are also many challenges that exist within the kingdom of God. The aforementioned challenges are among those from within which we must address and overcome if we desire to be part of the kingdom when Christ presents it to His Father (1 Cor. 15:24). May we have the humility to do so!