Monday, January 20, 2014

Mathew 12: A Tale of Two Kingdoms

Matt 12:22-32 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, "Can this be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons." Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.  And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?  And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.  But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. ESV

Matt 12:46-50 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.  Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"  Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

Jesus describes this world in terms of two kingdoms: Satan's kingdom and God's kingdom: "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?... But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matt 12:25-28). St Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo (364-430), wrote his magnum opus, City of God, which he started in 410 and completed in 426. In it he describes the world in terms of two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. The City of Man is the domain of Satan but the City of God is domain of the Spirit of God.

If we keep this two-kingdom paradigm, we will be able to understand many of Jesus' teachings. In this chapter alone, we see the conflicts of these two kingdoms in various realms:
  • Law: The conflict here is not between Law and Grace but between Law of Moses and the Law of the Kingdom. The Law of Moses was a temporary provision for people still living under Satan's domain, to curb sin. The Law of Christ was the new obligation for people living under Christ's domain in the Kingdom of God to set people free from sin. So, when Jesus broke Moses' Law of the Sabbath by plucking grains from the field to eat (12:1-8) and healing the man with a withered hand (12:9-13), he was demonstrating that He no longer operated under the old City of Man with its obligations to Moses' Law but He now operated under the new City of God with its own obligations to the Spirit. What the Holy Spirit dictates is now the new Law. We walk by the Spirit (Christ's Kingdom life), not by the flesh (Satan's Kingdom life). Therefore, Jesus was under obligation to the Holy Spirit always and where this led to conflict with the Law of Moses, the new Law of the Spirit prevailed.
  • Demonization: The City of Man is the realm of Satan's domain and where evil spirits have a free hand to inflict diseases and illnesses whenever human sins open the door to their entry: "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.  Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order.  Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation." Jesus uses the expression "this evil generation" to refer to the City of Man where demons roam and reign. In contrast, where the kingdom of God is, demons will be disabled and cast out: "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matt 12:28).
  • Blasphemy against the Spirit: The realm of the Kingdom is one of of freedom from spirits, sins and sicknesses. It is also the only realm where we can experience forgiveness of sins and redemption. The way in is through faith in Christ. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit bars us from entry and therefore the spiritual blessings that come with membership, viz., forgiveness of sins: "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:13-14). If we are not able to gain entry into the kingdom, our sins can never be forgiven: "every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven" (12:31).
  • Kingdom Relationships: When told that his natural mother and brothers were waiting to speak to him, Jesus gave a rather odd reply: "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"  And then pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (12:48-50). In the City of Man, natural relationships take priority. But in the City of God, kingdom relationships supersede all natural relationships. The priority of relational obligations and responsibilities is no longer defined by loyalty to our natural family but to the spiritual Family of God in Christ. Once we are members of the Kingdom, the Spirit within cries out to God as "Abba, Father!" making Christ our Brother and all believers our brothers and sisters. 
So, keeping this two-kingdom paradigm before us will help us live a lifestyle that is consistent with the realm we are in, and not wavering between two kingdoms. Our earthly priorities is defined by kingdom reality--the City of God, not by this world which is the City of Man. Like Jesus, let us live and conduct ourselves as children of the Kingdom: "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to  the word of life" (Phil 2:14-16, ESV).

Father, deliver us from this world's systems and spirits. Set us free to live like children of the Kingdom of God, demonstrating righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit so that those who are outside might want to get in. Amen. 

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