How Near Are You To The Kingdom Of God? (conclusion)
The last article examined Jesus making the statement, “You are not far from the kingdom of God,” to a scribe who had agreed with His answer to the question, “Which is the great commandment of the law?” Matt.22 :37-38; Mk.12:32-33. Then some examples were given of people who were not far from the kingdom of God as recorded in the gospel accounts, the scribe, the rich young ruler, people who believed, but would not confess Jesus. These people had not entered the kingdom but were near. Later, we learn from Acts 2 that after Jesus’ kingdom was established on the day of Pentecost, many entered, but others would not.
Here is my question to you: “How near are you to the kingdom of God?” There are a lot of people today like the rich young ruler Matt.19:22 and the believers in the synagogues Jn.12:42-43. They know who Jesus is and believe He has the answer on how to be saved and enter into His kingdom. They are near, to entering the kingdom, but have not been truly “born again” which Jesus taught as the way one enters the kingdom of Christ.
During His personal ministry, Jesus explained to a Pharisee named Nicodemus that one must be born again to enter His kingdom. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Many people stop with Jesus’ statement here in Jn.3:3. But they need to read what else Jesus had to say. Jesus’ remark puzzles Nicodemus so he asks Jesus to explain how one can be born again, so in Jn.3:5.Jesus explains how the new birth takes place, “I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Take note that Jesus is teaching that one can neither “see” (acknowledge) v.3 or “enter” (gain entrance into) v.5 His kingdom, the kingdom of God, without being born of “the water and the Spirit.”
What does it mean to be “born the water and the Spirit”? Using the analogy of a physical birth, two things are involved in a birth; a begettal (conception) and a birth. The begettal occurs when one is begotten by the Spirit through His word. This happens when one hears the word of God, the gospel, “the power of God to salvation” Rom.1:16. If one’s heart rejects the word there is no conception. But, if one receives the word (hearing and believing it) conception takes place in the heart and one is begotten 1.Thes.2:13; 1.Cor.4:15. This reception of the word, hearing and believing it in the heart Rom.10:9-10 leads one to be buried in baptism in water and raised to a new life in Christ Rom.6:3-6; Gal.3:27 “which completes the idea of being “born of what and the Spirit.”
The words of Peter show this combination as he writes. “Since you purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” 1.Pet.1:22-23. He further explains this in 1.Pet.3:21 when he writes, “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Christ.” The conclusion of this is that when one hears, receives (believes) the gospel and is baptized one has been “born again,” begotten by the Spirit’s word and rising out of the waters of baptism into a new life in Christ 2..Cor.5:17.and thus enters into the kingdom of Christ/God.
We can see this also illustrated when Philip went to Samaria to preach the gospel of Christ. We are told that when the Samaritans “believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” Acts 8:12. By Philip’s preaching about the kingdom the Samaritans had obeyed the gospel and entered into the kingdom of God. They were near by the begettal, but they entered the kingdom only after they were baptized.
Let me use one more example to show that it takes more than just hearing and believing the gospel if one enters the kingdom of God. I have been pointing out that people must not only receive (hear and believe) the word, they must obey it (be baptized) in order to enter the kingdom of God. On the day of Pentecost, after Peter had finished his sermon, the Bible says the people “were cut (pricked) to the heart” Acts 2:37. They had been begotten by the gospel and wanted to know, “what shall we do?” Many people think that once they believe the word and say they believe Jesus is the Savior that they are saved. Peter didn’t think so. When they asked Peter what to do, he doesn’t tell them they didn’t need to do anything else. He knew their hearts had been begotten by the gospel, but he also knew they had not yet completed the new birth to enter the kingdom. They were near but had not yet entered. So, he tells them “repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins…” Acts 2:38. He then continues to testify and exhort them to save themselves. In response, “those who gladly received his word were baptized, and that day about three thousand souls were added to them… and the Lord added to church daily those who were being saved” Acts 2:39-47. God had added the saved to the church which Christ had promised to build which means they had also entered into or been conveyed into the kingdom of Christ/God Col.1:13-14. To be in the church is also to be in the kingdom for the church and the kingdom are the same group of people spoken of under two different aspects.
How near are you to the kingdom of God? Have you entered by the new birth, believing and being baptized, or you just standing here but not in the kingdom?
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