God’s Word for You
Luke 17:20-21 the kingdom of God is within you
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, November 15, 2018
20 Once when he was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, he gave them this answer, “The kingdom of God does not come with careful observation. 21 People won’t even say, ‘Look, it’s here!’ or ‘It’s there!’ For look, the kingdom of God is within you.”
This account of the Lord’s reply to a question from the Pharisees continues through verse 37. Was it a genuine question? Did the Pharisees really want Jesus to teach them about the coming of the kingdom of God? Whether they were sincere or not isn’t important. One or more of them may really have been asking and not simply testing him. But given any opportunity, the Lord gave an answer. First of all, it won’t be observed, even by people scrutinizing what they think are every single one of the details that seem to be important about the coming of the kingdom. For the signs of the coming are within, not outside the body. The trouble is that people don’t understand what the kingdom of God is. The disciples of Jesus were still not really sure even up to the ascension (Acts 1:6). But it was soon revealed to them that the kingdom of God, the way God rules and reigns in his church, takes place in the heart. Jesus says: “It is within you.”
The true church, therefore, is invisible. It is not one denomination, or one synod, or one congregation. It is every single Christian, and God alone knows all who belong to it. God told Elijah, “I reserve seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18). Also, “The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19). But does that mean that no human being can ever determine what is a congregation or a church body which is true to God’s word? Not at all. God the Holy Spirit guides us truly through the maze of denominations when he says through Paul: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:4-5). Our Confession summarizes this point and the marks of the true church when it says: “The church is the assembly of saints in which the Gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly” (Augsburg Confession article VII). The article goes on to point out: “It is not necessary that human traditions or rites and ceremonies, instituted by men, should be alike everywhere.” So, two congregations might meet on different continents, worship in different languages, sing different hymns or spiritual songs, and have little else in common on any individual day of worship—even the day on which they worship—but if the Gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered correctly, they are both the true church of God. Therefore, it is not membership in a particular denomination that saves, but faith in Christ, for only in Christ is there salvation.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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