Kingdom of God and the Church’s Mission: Ten Theses
The church’s mission is her glad response to God’s kingdom come among us in Jesus Christ. In furtherance of that mission we, the faculty of Wycliffe College, proffer the following theses for discussion and debate. Commentary.
1. The Old Testament describes God’s rule as King over his people. The narrative of Scripture traces the shape of this rule—from the first human community in Eden, through Israel’s monarchy established on Zion and her bitter exile and subjection to Gentile powers, to her promised messianic redemption. Israel’s hope may be summarized in the prophet’s victorious declaration: “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7). Commentary.
2. The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ constitute the decisive coming of God’s reign among us: “Jesus is Lord.” Origen thus rightly called Jesus the autobasileia, God’s kingdom in person. We have no claim on the kingdom apart from him. Theology has the task of reminding ourselves and the world of this fact. Commentary.
3. God sends the church on mission. She proclaims the gospel to all nations, gathering them together into one body by the one Spirit. By word and sacrament the church both celebrates Christ’s presence in her midst and strains forward (Phil. 3:13) to his coming again. By her witness she declares to the world that it is God’s possession, destined to become “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Rev. 11:15). Commentary.
4. The church prays to the Father saying “your kingdom come!” She thereby acknowledges that she is not the kingdom, but only its “firstfruits” (James 1:15). Nor is any political, cultural, or social movementto be identified with the kingdom, however much we may find this or that cause to be worthy of our devotion. All cultures and ideologies are subject to the measure of Christ’s truth. Commentary.
5. The gospel of Jesus Christ is decisive and urgent for every human being. As the gospel is preached and received, the hearer is “rescuedfrom darkness and transferred to the kingdom of [God’s] beloved son” (Col. 1:13). There can be no valid wider account of Christian missionapart from such proclamation and conversion. Woe to us if we do not proclaim the gospel. Commentary.
6. The kingdom of God is “righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). It is therefore not the product of our human efforts. Yet just as works are the expression of faith, so the church’s concrete acts of mercy can be signs and parables of God’s love poured out on the world in Jesus Christ. Commentary.
7. Thus, as stewards of the earth we are granted the gift of participating in God’s act of gathering up “all things” in Christ (Col. 1:20); our ministry to the lost, the poor, the wicked, and the sickattests Christ’s concern for “the least of these” (Matt. 25); while the church’s questioning the unjust ordering of human society points to the coming of God’s justice on earth. Commentary.
8. Christians are called to find apt ways to shape their proclamation in each culture so that, by God’s grace, it maybe heard. But those who come to faith must die to their old life in baptism so as to come to the Lord’s banquet.Conversionimplies catechesis and formation. Discipleship involves suffering in the way of the cross. Commentary.
9. Because God’s kingdom is universal, the church is catholic in its scope, a “great multitude” called out of “all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9) to worship the Lamb. Our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world have much to teach us about this. The imperative of Christian mission is at the same time the imperative of Christian unity. Commentary.
10. The increasing marginalization and dispossession of the church in our time is an opportunity to realize afresh its true nature as “elect exiles of the dispersion”(1 Peter 1:1). In such a moment witness will involve both existing congregations and the planting of new ones. Not success, but faithfulness is the measure of the church’s mission. She lives by the Lord’s promise “lo, I will be with you till the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).