Reflecting on the Kingdom of God -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 12:1 (Spring 2008)
Article: Reflecting on the Kingdom of God
Author: Stephen J. Wellum

Reflecting on the Kingdom of God

Stephen J. Wellum*

*Stephen J. Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Wellum received his Ph.D. degree in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has also taught theology at the Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary in Canada. He has contributed to several publications and a collection of essays on theology and worldview issues.

No one can read the Gospels without being struck by the centrality of “the kingdom of God,” especially in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. But unfortunately, in spite of its importance, over the years there has been a lot of confusion regarding what the kingdom of God precisely is, how the kingdom relates to the church, and how we should live in light of the coming of the kingdom. For example, the Roman Catholic Church identified the kingdom with the church as if they referred to the same thing. Most acknowledge today that this is an untenable position. Even in the Reformed tradition, though in a modified form, the kingdom and church have also been closely identified, particularly in appeal to Matt 13:24-30, the parable of the weeds. Here the argument is made that the church is not necessarily a regenerate community because she is comprised of both believers and unbelievers, due to the fact that the kingdom of God is a “mixed” reality of wheat and tares. But, as has been repeatedly pointed out, this interpretation greatly misunderstands Jesus’ own commentary on this parable where he clearly distinguishes the kingdom from the church. Other examples could be multiplied, whether it is Dispensationalism’s sharp distinction between the “kingdom of God and heaven,” or, more recently, the Emerging Church’s emphasis on the kingdom which views it more in terms of contemporary social activism than biblical teaching. Suffice it to say that there is still a lot of confusion and misunderstandings over that which is so central to our Lord and the entire NT.

It is partly due to this ongoing confusion as well as the importance of the subject in its own right, that we have devoted an entire edition of SBJT to this theme. It is imperative that we reflect rightly on what the kingdom is. All of our articles as well as the Forum are devoted to thinking biblically and theologically about the kingdom so that, in some small way, we are better equipped to handle the Word of truth for the glory of our King. In the remainder of this editorial, I want to sketch out six points that give a mini-biblical theology of the kingdom. The reason for doing so is to set the stage for the articles and Forum, thus providing a basic frame...

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